High Isle review feature image. Image by bethesda softworks/zenimax online.

Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle review – Feels like deja-vu

Not for you if:

  • None of the new feauters look appealing.
  • You are waiting for a huge combat overhaul.

This year we got a sponsored key for this High Isle review. I’m guessing our sponsor AVEtech read my Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood review and liked it. While Blackwood left me disappointed with the meager story and ending of it; Blackwood still let us explore a beautiful zone and introduced companions.

Does High Isle live up to Blackwood? Well, Blackwood set the bar pretty low when it came to story and content density. Let’s figure it out in this High Isle review. As is usual for my chapter reviews, I started a new character with unspent Champion Points to emulate a new player experience for this High Isle review.

Elder Scrolls Online – High Isle review – Content

The Elder Scrolls Online chapters come at a hefty yearly price. I’m not only talking about the price of the Chapter but the added optional subscription on top. While it’s not mandatory, it starts feeling mandatory the longer you play and the fuller your inventory gets. Especially when the Blackwood story continued in the paid DLC’s that were released after the chapter.

High Isle story review – Bigger, better but very familiar

The prologue quest line – free for everyone

The story starts off with the free prologue quest line where you help out Lady Arabelle and her entourage and help set up the initial preparations for the Tamriel peace talks.  Preparing invitations in the form of personal medallions for the guild masters and leaders of the three factions of Tamriel.

Things go awry and the Ascendant Order is introduced. An order of faceless knights that oppose the peace talks, their motive unknown and the true purpose of their deeds for you to discover in the High Isle chapter main quests. The prologue quest line introduces all of the NPC’s you will be dealing with during the main story in High Isle. Lady Arabelle Davaux, Guild Scholar Valessea and Jakarn. Straight off the bat you can tell Zenimax is trying to sell off Jakarn as the new Razum-Dar with his witty comments and confident attitude. But Jakarn will always live in the shadow of the best Elder Scrolls Online character, Razum-Dar.

High Isle main quest – spoiler free

The main quest takes you on an investigation into the Ascendant Order and their hidden motives to sabotage the peace talks. As the factional leaders and guild masters disappear before their arrival on High Isle, you set out with Lady Arabelle to discover their whereabouts or free them from the Ascendant Order.

You quickly uncover the Ascendant Orders plans have gone awry and are also looking for the lost leaders. Lady Arabelle uses all her contacts on High Isle to pry information from Nobles and common folk alike. This includes you going undercover at a Noble party, breaking and entering into a mansion and working with Breton Druids for any clues. All while racing against the Ascendant Order that outnumbers you but vastly lacks the expertise and skill your crew possess.

Overall I found a lot of similarities with the Aldmeri Dominion main quest line. The political stage with betrayal and intrigue, figuring out who is out to thwart the peace talks and eliminate the leaders. It all felt so familiar, a bit of a reskin of the story with new characters and in a new zone. While later on in the story it starts ramping up as you begin your crusade for the head of the Ascendant Order. It really makes up for its slow start. And I definitely enjoyed it more than the story that Blackwood offered, probably because it has a lot of similarities to an already established story.

High Isle islands – A true noble vacation island

The High Isle island is a retreat for the Breton nobles. Their vacation manors and extracurricular activities like Tales of Tribute and exorbitant drinking. It also houses Breton druids of the old ways, worshipping nature and maintaining its balance. Mostly to prevent a huge volcano off the coast from erupting.

Amazing scenic places like the spriggan statue in High Isle. High Isle review.

High Isles or Dream Isles – Simply beautiful

The High Isle islands are simply beautiful to behold and explore. The first of two islands feature a beautiful mix of ruins covered by nature and exquisite estates from the nobles. The Second island is a prison island and has a jungle aesthetic to it. Its colour palette is a bit more blue and purple to replicate the dark dampness of a jungle. Some of the exotic plants we first saw in Blackwood make a return here, sadly as 1:1 copies with the same effects.

I would have loved to see some completely new plant life, as the prison island of High isle is an almost closed ecosystem. Just how Vvardenfell is an island with a completely different ecosystem that evolved on its own and it is clearly visible. During my High Isle review I did not see that many new assets used in the world.

Tales of Tribute – I never imagined murdering people for cards

Tales of Tribute was the thing I was most excited for in this Chapter Expansion. Let’s not beat around the bush and admit that Tales of Tribute is 99% based on Hero Realms. That was really one of the reasons I was so excited about it, I love Hero Realms. And to be honest I spent quite some time playing Tales of Tribute during my High Isle review time. I won’t go over the rules and how to play in this High Isle review. Have a look at the Bethesda Softworks video if you want that.

The way Tales of Tribute is integrated in the game is really well done. You have a society of nobles and servants on a luxury island. They have more time on their hands than our lord and saviour Warrior-Poet Vivek. A guild is set up and through a quest line and some NPC battles you are shown the ropes. After that you can complete daily PVE and PVP quests to advance your rank in the guild and Tales of Tribute.

Expand your library of cards.

You start off with four patrons and their decks. By finishing the main quest you unlock another patron and his deck. The other three decks have to be discovered, by doing delves, completing achievements and attaining master rank in the Tales of Tribute guild.

Not only do you unlock more decks to build with but you can upgrade the cards you already own. When you participate in World events, open chests or tribute reward chests there is a chance for a card clue to drop. That clue will send you across Tamriel to find an upgrade to a card you already own. As a new player this can result in a lot of running around and time wasted for a simple (but usually strong) upgrade.

Friends for the solo-player – Extra companions

High Isle introduces two new companions to discover and recruit. I say discover but just like in Blackwood they are tied to introductory quests. These quests are longer than your usual side-quest and work as introductions to their skills and personalities before you recruit them. For my High Isle review I didn’t actively seek them out, I encountered the quests pretty naturally when I was exploring or questing along the main quest.

Just like the companions in Blackwood you can tailor them to your liking within their class. High Isle adds Ember and Isobel, a sorcerer and templar and for my High Isle review I mostly used Isobel. Because two templars charging at something and dissing out holy justice is just plain scary. Both companions have their likes and dislikes and unlock an additional quest when you max out the relationship. I hope we can use the companion system Star Wars: The Old Republic uses. It still remains one of the best systems I ever used for companions in an MMO.

Companion sidequest with ember, leading up to fireworks near a wizards tower.

High Isle is filled with side-quests and world events to discover and complete. For the High Isle review I spent my time doing the main-quest and playing Tales of Tribute. I only picked up the side-quests that immediately stood out and I have no regrets. I set out on a quest to rescue a sheep from the clutches of crab like creatures, uncursed a noble that was taken over by the spirit of a foul mouthed pirate and the quests relating to Tales of Tribute. Some side-quests are your run of the mill pickup and deliver quests or associated with the dungeons or delves, easy for grinding through and getting that exp and skill point.

More smash for your creditpass- High Isle review conclusion

The biggest new features are mentioned above. But every chapter brings with it so much more. From achievements to collectibles and new armor sets for crafters and players alike. I have to admit that for my High Isle review I was perplexed at the content of this Chapter, it feels worth its asking price.

The Elder Scrolls Online is reaching that point where they will have to change in order to keep players around. High Isle is a step up from Blackwood but not big enough as a step up for The Elder Scrolls Online. High Isle is a good purchase and good chapter and if you are on the fence, go for it. Solving the issues of The Elder Scrolls Online is a topic for another time, and not done in just one chapter.

Stijn Ginneberge

Posts published: 129

Gaming for me is about experiencing their stories, overcoming challenges, living in fantasy worlds and exploring alien planets. You can also find me in the local game store or on an airsoft field.