The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood hands-on preview

The Elder Scrolls Online's newest expansion is one of its best yet.

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The developers at ZeniMax Online Studios will be the first to tell you that The Elder Scrolls Online wasn’t in the best shape at launch. While many criticized the game for lacking in content and feeling unrefined, the developers went to work making the game as good as it could be. Several massive updates and game-changing expansions later, ESO is a bustling MMO RPG with a strong following. The game’s latest expansion, Blackwood, looks to further build upon the game’s strong foundation. I got to play an early build of Blackwood and learn a little more about the project from the team behind it.

Journey to new worlds

The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood continues the Gate of Oblivion saga, further expanding on the story and taking players to new locations. Speaking of new locations, Blackwood introduces ESO to Leyawiin, a city players will recognize from its debut appearance in The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion.

This is one of the things I really enjoy about The Elder Scrolls Online. In many ways, the game feels like Tamriel’s greatest hits, uniting some of the most beloved places and creatures from The Elder Scrolls franchise. Blackwood is no different, as the expansion adds past locations while telling a story of an evil Daedric prince.

With the events of ESO: Blackwood taking place several centuries before Oblivion, the developers also had the opportunity to go in and tell new stories using familiar locations and creatures. It builds on the already rich Elder Scrolls lore in a fresh and interesting way.

Never travel alone

Playing ESO back when it first released, I felt like my experience was bogged down by the fact that I didn’t have friends who were playing the game. ZeniMax Online Studios finally gave a solution to players like myself with the addition of companions in Blackwood. Now, players can select a companion to travel alongside them.

Having a companion made questing and battling along much more enjoyable. Having an AI partner with a unique combat style means I’m able to be more creative in my own playstyle. Players can also chat with companions, as both of them have unique dialogue and interesting stories to tell. There are two distinct companions available in ESO, though I’m hoping that the team at ZeniMax Online Studios plans on adding more to the game down the line.

Torn between two sides

The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood features a massive new zone covering a couple of regions. for players to explore. This new area of the game features new creatures to battle, as well as some fascinating side stories. The developers described Blackwood to me as “a melting pot” of cultures in Tamriel. Specifically, we find the Argonians and Imperials at odds in this new land. Very distinctly different species, the tense relationship between the Argonians and Imperials is at center stage in this expansion.

I thought it was really neat how diametrically opposed two of the major new areas in Blackwood are. On one hand, you’ve got more of Cyrodil, the home to the imperials. On the other, there’s the swampy and dark Black Marsh, from which Argonians hail.

To Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood is an ambitious expansion that looks to expand on series lore, while also making sure players have plenty to do. The new companion feature makes adventuring more exciting, while fresh new locations will surely keep players occupied for quite a while. The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood launches on PC and consoles this June.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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