The Elder Scrolls Online - High Isle: Legacy of the Bretons - Mystery and Card Games
Venture with me to the city of Gonfalon Bay. Surrounded by pristine ocean and fields of green, there’s little wonder why it’s the holiday destination for the Breton nobility. But beneath this picturesque exterior, a vicious battle for power bubbles away. What side will you be on when it reaches the surface?
Such is the question my Breton nightblade and I asked ourselves as we made our way to High Isle to experience the latest expansion in the Elder Scrolls Online series.
I have played the same Breton character for years, and I love her dearly. As I slowly worked my way through all the expansions, learning about all the different races and cultures, I found myself asking “when is it going to be our turn?” finally it is.
The High Isle story poses no huge Daedric, world-destroying threat; choosing rather to focus on the political power play happening within the city. Hoping to bring an end to the conflict between the three factions of Tamriel, peace talks were scheduled in the idyllic town of Gonfalon Bay. As the leaders of the three nations made their way to High Isle, a mysterious storm blew their ships off course, and now they are nowhere to be seen. So it’s up to us as adventurers to uncover the mystery of the missing leaders and restore peace.
This would be an easy feat if this expansion didn’t include so much extra side content that kept distracting me from the story. The most noticeable distraction was, of course, the inclusion of the new card game, Tales of Tribute.
Oh my gosh. When I say I am obsessed with this card game, I am not kidding. It got to the point where my partner had to come into the study and tell me off for not doing anything else in the game. There were volcanic vents bubbling up all over the place, spewing lava monsters into the world, but all I could do was watch, helpless, as I played my 57th game of cards. Not since Triple Triad have I been this obsessed with a card game, and I appreciated that rather than just jamming it into the expansion and calling it a day, there’s a whole storyline around it – which is surprisingly touching. But if you can tear yourself away from Tales of Tribute, there’s a lot more that this expansion has to offer.
The main story of High Isle sees us meet up with some old favourites (such as our dashing rogue friend Jakarn) as well as introduce ourselves to some brand new friends, like the protagonist of this chapter, Lady Arabelle. Though the story starts a little slow, by the time it reached its crescendo, I was all in. This particular storyline is more of a slow burn compared to previous expansions, but much like any good mystery novel, it keeps you wanting more the whole way through.
The Ascendant Order, as the antagonists, were an interesting group. At first, they seemed like quite the upstanding order of knights, fighting for freedom and liberation. But as you delve deeper into their motives and actions, you realise they are not all they seem to be. It was a refreshing change of pace to have a villain that made some strong arguments, as opposed to the usual headlines of ‘Daedric jerk kills people, wrecks world’.
I should also mention that this expansion involves a lot more topless table dancing than the one before it, so… you know. Get on it.
Between the story quests and playing cards, I spent a lot of time exploring Gonfalon Bay and its surrounds. Something that the team have really nailed with this expansion is making the world feel alive as you run through it. As you explore you’ll find lots going on; one day I left the city and found a poor man being harassed by crabs. After I helped him fend them off, Mama Crab burrowed out of the ground and smushed him dead. Another time, I was wandering the coast when I was approached by a ghost ship and its captain, who attempted to recruit me into the crew of the damned. These are such small occurrences but they really make High Isle feel like a living, breathing world.
Within this living, breathing world lies a horrible secret to the north, known as Amenos. On this island jungle, the nobility of the High Isle sends their prisoners. No matter the crime, Amenos is where you do the time. There are no cells here – prisoners are free to wander the jungle as they please. But the plants, the animals, the other prisoners… all of them are deadly and dangerous. As much as I like the orderly and beautiful tranquillity that Gonfalon Bay offers, the reckless and ruthless nature of the pirates and criminals that populate Amenos also draws me in. After all, my character is well acquainted with the Thieves Guild. If it weren’t for her frequent displays of heroism and world-saving, it could well be her stuck in this tropical hell.
Fortunately for my Breton adventurer, she gets to leave Amenos and see the rest of what High Isle has in store; which is great, because this expansion is truly a fascinating chapter of the franchise. It delivers a solid story, excellent gameplay, a stunningly beautiful world, and a freaking excellent card game. Though this iteration lacks the ever-present threat of a world-ending bad guy, I found it quite refreshing to make my way through a story that held more intrigue than doom. High Isle is a living, breathing world with a company of characters, side quests and gameplay that is as charming as it is entertaining. This is definitely one of my favourite expansions in the series, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapters have in store.