After a somewhat shaky launch with the Crown Store breaking for a few hours, we dived in to Markarth, the final chapter of the year-long Dark Heart of Skyrim story which included the addition of several new dungeons, as well as the epic Greymoor expansion set in Western Skyrim. Zenimax Online Studios (ZOS) has worked tirelessly through the pandemic this year to bring Skyrim to the world of Elder Scrolls Online and with two new zones, rewards & achievements, delves & dungeons, and a new solo arena to complete, The Elder Scrolls Online: Dark Heart of Skyrim’s big finale takes place at an all too familiar location.
Elder Scrolls Online: Markarth is free for ESO Plus subscribers, but there are also two bundles which can be bought through the Crown Store. The standard Markarth DLC costs 2,000 Crowns (~$16 AUD) while the Markarth Collector’s Bundle will gift you a Chaurus Egg Chaser’s Horse mount, Teacup Chaurus Chitterling pet, and a pack of experience scrolls as well, at a cost of 4,000 crowns. This prices it at around $35 AUD which is perhaps a bit steep for a horse with a bit of a unique cosmetic/animation and a matching pet, but worthwhile if you absolutely love the lore around Chaurus bugs.
Players will find a new solo arena, the first of its kind, called Vateshran Hollows which will test even the best PvE’er. There are three bosses to take on in the new arena, each rewarding you with unique items and achievements if you’re able to slay them. You can also choose your own path through the arena, but there is a clear final boss out of the three available. We found the first two bosses to be straight forward if you understand the mechanics, but the final boss was quite difficult even on normal mode. We wouldn’t be surprised if ZOS nerfs this in the near future to make it more accessible to the casual player, as ESO’s community tends to be quite diverse with many people playing the game for different reasons.
Lying south-west of Western Skyrim is, as we said, an all too familiar location – a new Elder Scrolls Online zone called the Reach which is filled with canyons, streams, rivers and falls. In the west of this western zone looms the city of Markarth – the capital of the Reach and absolute western point of Skyrim. Underneath the Reach is Arkthzand Cavern (or just ‘The Caverns’ as players were calling it while we were there), another part of the huge gaping chasm that sweeps across all of Skyrim (and beyond) known as Blackreach. Here lie ever-nocturnal dwelling creatures ready to pounce on you from the shadows and drain your soul. There are a few new Great Lifts to travel to and from the new zones, and we found that they were easy to locate if you follow the main story quest.
Speaking of the main story, without spoiling anything most players can assume how the Dark Heart of Skyrim storyline will end. While Elder Scrolls Online: Markarth’s main story is intriguing with some challenging encounters, its finale stands out as a memorable experience. On top of that, if you have completed both the Greymoor and Markarth storyline then a final quest becomes available which, once completed, will reward you with the title Hero of Skyrim, a new non-combat pet, and a couple of other goodies. It’s a fitting end to this year’s Elder Scrolls Online content, and we’re excited to find out what part of Tamriel the game takes us to next.
Along with the new story DLC, ZOS has released Update 28 for all players which includes a bunch of quality of life implementations. The most noteworthy of these is the new ‘reconstruct’ system, where items can now be stored in a new ‘Collections’ menu and then reconstructed later using transmutation crystals at a transmutation station. This new update should free up a whole bunch of inventory and bank space for players that like to hold on to special items and gear, giving players of ‘Fashion Scrolls Online’ everything they need to become the best looking character in all of Tamriel. For more on Elder Scrolls Online Update 28, head to the official forums for the patch notes.
Voice acting has always been something that makes the Elder Scrolls series that much more immersive than a typical RPG, and the new Markarth expansion is no exception. All quests have solid voice acting, and ZOS has actually gone and hired Jonah Scott (Beastars, One Punch Man) to redo all of the in-game voice acting for Count Verandis Ravenwatch ahead of his main role in the Markarth story. Jonah Scott’s work isn’t the only exceptional voice acting however, we found lots of unique voices and accents as we traveled throughout the Reach and below, including a particular moorish region where everyone spoke like Scots.
Elder Scrolls Online: Markarth isn’t a full expansion and so we shouldn’t forget that the amount of gameplay to be found in this DLC is limited. That said, if you play ESO and played Skyrim (who didn’t?) then you’re not going to want to miss this new location. Expect about 10 hours of questing gameplay, including completing the delves and finding a few of the secrets such as the new Skyshards. The arena itself might take a while to conquer, and you may find you need to tweak your gameplay and gear if you’re going to beat it alone. While this final chapter of the year-long Dark Heart of Skyrim wraps up the story, we can’t help but crave more.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Elder Scrolls Online: Markarth on Windows PC with Crowns provided by the publisher. It is also due to launch on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on November 10th. For more information, head to the official website.
- More Skyrim! - Some more amazing voice acting - New QoL update once again prospers.
- A bit small for its price, unless you’re a subscriber - PVP and other team-based content somewhat neglected.