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Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor Preview -- Lore & Story

I’m not a fan of vampires (or werewolves, for that matter), I’ve played a ton of TESV, and Rivenspire wasn’t my favorite part of the Daggerfall Covenant. So, when this year’s big chapter was revealed to focus on vampires in Skyrim, I wasn’t anywhere as excited as I had been for Sload and Psijics in 2018’s Summerset, or Khajiit and Blades in last year’s Elsweyr. At the same time, I’m a huge fan of Elder Scrolls in general, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity for more content based solely on marketing.

So, does Greymoor hold value for someone like me? Short answer: yes.

The upcoming Chapter has plenty to offer fans of vampires, werewolves, and general gothic spookiness, but if you’re ambivalent towards all that there is also tons politicking, many references to pre-Eight Divines Nordic religion, Reachmen, Dragon cult(s), and no less than four books on cheeses. The Antiquities system (which I wrote about in detail here) and the Bard’s College offers even more for the lore-minded player and roleplayer, and, as always, Western Skyrim is full of distinctive, larger than life characters for fans to fall in love with.

Click through below to read my full first impressions of this new Chapter.

 

A quick note on spoilers: while I will discuss some of what you’ll do and who you'll encounter in Western Skyrim, I'm going to be vague about any specific plot revelations. Nonetheless, if you want to be completely surprised, you may want to skip this preview.

Click here to read more!

 

First, a little about my playthrough. I spent most of my time on doing the main quest, including the prologue, but also devoted a few hours to exploring the Antiquities system, the Bard’s College questline, and clearing random side quests around (and below!) Western Skyrim. I did not dive into the new Trial or the upgraded Vampire skill line. Overall, I estimate that I got to play about 10 hours of the Chapter, and I think I completed somewhere between half and two thirds of the main quest.

The main story of Greymoor continues the year-long story of the collaboration between Reachmen and Vampires introduced earlier this year in Harrowstorm. If you’ve not had a chance to play those dungeons, or just need a refresher, check out Benefactor’s excellent lore primer before diving into the chapter. The player finds themselves in Western Skyrim, a kingdom independent from -- and at war with -- Jorunn's Eastern Skyrim and the Ebonheart Pact. Alongside Lyris, they must attempt to persuade King Svargrim to muster forces against the looming threat. In addition to Lyris, we're joined by Fennorian, a vampire from House Ravenwatch whom we've previously met in the Unhallowed Grave (and who is tailor-made to become your next husbando, if he isn't already); the young and rebellious Princess Svana of Solitude; and Old Mjolen, a Clever Woman of the ancient Nordic tradition. As usual, the quests take you to every corner of the land, as well as below it, into the cavernous depths of Blackreach.

 

Blackreach deserves its own paragraph. According to Zenimax, it makes up about 40% of playable landmass in this chapter. It is easily the size of an overland zone, with tons of verticality and multiple biomes to keep things interesting. In addition to the glowing blue mushrooms we’re familiar with from TESV, Blackreach also features a biome lit up by golden, coral-like fungi, and one whose rocks are full of glowing purple geodes. The sense of scale works even better here than it did in 2011 -- if anything, the zone might be a little too big for those of us who are navigationally challenged. Besides the expected Dwemer ruins, this incarnation also contains a large mining town, at least one Nordic tomb, and gigantic gothic castle (full of vampires, natch).

The cave system is well and truly massive, consisting of three large caverns linked at multiple points with narrower passageways, and accessible from multiple parts of Western Skyrim. It is so big that it has its own Harrowstorm (this Chapter's group PvE content, equivalent to Dark Anchors in the base game or Summerset's Abyssal Geysers). Like any proper zone, it is full of points of interest, dungeons, and side quests (one example: setting up ghost traps for a grouchy paranormal investigator and her overly enthusiastic assistant). It's also got its own set of fauna, including these adorable striped deer things, which I hope make it into the Crown Store sooner rather than later.

 

Let’s get back to the main quest for a bit. The first half or so focuses primarily on gathering allies and convincing people that the Gray Host are a threat and finding out what the Harrowstorms actually are. The second half (at least what I’ve played of it) centers on actually stopping the threat. While the quests touch on a lot of interesting information about tangential topics, remarkably little is revealed about the Gray Host themselves that we did not already know from the base game or from the Harrowstorm dungeons. Although this can easily be explained (no time to worry about where the threat came from while you’re trying to save the world), I was disappointed to be fighting a group whose origin, motivation, or even ultimate goal I knew nothing about. It’s possible that this is explored later on in content I did not reach, or that it is being saved for one of the later DLCs, but I hope that Zenimax does eventually address it.

(Note, for anyone wondering: Serena, Harkon, and the Volkihar do not come up. Another prominent vampire bloodline does, however).

That’s not to say that the questline doesn’t have a lot of lore content. There’s good stuff to be gleaned about the relationships between various bloodlines of vampires and houses of werewolves, as well as tidbits on the nature and power of souls that deserve some pondering.

 

We also see and hear about politics and culture in this part of land. While the several characters describe Western Skyrim’s Nords as “colder” than their Eastern counterparts, I found the portrayal to be overall much more nuanced and less reliant on stereotyped shorthand than some of the base game’s Skyrim content. The presence of two scholarly institutions --  the Antiquarian Circle (a group of archaeologist scholars from the famous University of Gwylim who introduce you to the Antiquities system) and the Bard’s College (a consortium of musicians who send you to collect a series of historical instruments) -- also serves as a nice balance to the idea that Nords are all about drinking and fighting.

Those fans who were disappointed by TESV’s lack of ancient Nordic religion will be happy with Graymoor. The names of Kyne and Shor are frequently on people’s lips, and several new books talk about the totemic gods and their worship. Old Mjolen, the Clever Woman mentioned above, also plays a large part in another quest (and sounded like she might have other dialog as well).

While the supernatural definitely permeates both the main storyline and the many of the sidequests in Greymoor, I found much of the Chapter to be remarkably grounded compared to the world-ending Daedra invasions of Morrowind or Summerset, or the Gods-and-Dragons storyline of Elsweyr (though each of those also undoubtedly had their character-centric moments). The main quest is just as much about Svana’s relationship with her parents and her royal title as it is about stopping soul-sucking storms, and a large sidequest that at first seemed to be about stopping mysterious zombies instead turned out to be a tale of young infatuation and motherly love. There’s also plenty of humor and hijinks, for fans of that sort of thing.

Even with the limited time we were given, and unfinished state of much of the game, Greymoor really exceeded my expectations. Although fans of Tamriel’s vampires and werewolves will get the most out of this expansion, it also offers tons of interesting content for the rest of us. I look forward to exploring (and thoroughly documenting!) more of Western Skyrim when Greymoor comes out, and learning more about the Gray Host and their schemes as the year progresses through the Dark Heart of Skyrim storyline.

The Greymoor preview quest is available now. For those of you who have not yet given Elder Scrolls Online a chance, a Free to Play event will be happening on all platforms April 1st through 13th.

Thanks again to Zenimax Online for hosting this preview event, and giving me a chance to check out this content early! If you’ve not yet read my overview of the Antiquities system, head there next, and keep checking back during the week for even more of my hands-on impressions.

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Joined: 04/24/2020

Okay, this sounds satisfyingly interesting. Still, do we get any hint about the relationship between Greymoor in Blackreach and Greymoor Fort in Whiterun?