The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle Preview: New Lore, New Locations, and NPCs

The Britons, the “Sea-Man” race of The Elder Scrolls lore, have long been the preferred choice for roleplayers looking for a capable wizard who isn’t an elf. But, among the standard races in Bethesda Softworks’ fantasy universe, the Britons’ homeland of High Rock was overdue for a close-up. He gets one with The Elder Scrolls Onlinethe next major expansion of , Upper Island, launching on June 6.

“This is probably the most accessible content we’ve added to The Elder Scrolls Online in terms of people who know the franchise,” said Rich Lambert, MMO Creative Director for Zenimax Online Studios. “Morrowind [which got a huge expansion in 2017] is very alien and, you know, it has these weird mushrooms and things like that. When you look at Blackwood [last June’s big expansion] like, it’s a big giant demon coming, and if you don’t know who Mehrunes Dagon is, you don’t necessarily know or care.

“But with that, it’s kind of your traditional medieval fantasy storytelling,” Lambert added. “It’s focused on the noble houses and the politics involved in it, and the knights. So it’s super accessible and super easy for everyone.

High Rock (the name of the province; High Isle is a place there) was a playable space in The Elder Scrolls Online since the MMO launched in 2014, but it hasn’t received the full chapter treatment so far. In THESEthe Daggerfall Covenant faction, comprising Orcs, Britons, and Redguards, controls Highrock, and so missions there advance the lore of that alliance as a whole, rather than the Britons in particular.

Upper Island, Lambert said, pivots on the Three Banners War, which is the factional conflict that underlies THESE; in the expansion, a High Isle Peace Summit brings the noble Society of the Steadfast and the chaotic Ascendant to the table, and players must uncover the true motives of both sides as they navigate the main arc of the expansion’s history.

Lambert acknowledged that the Arthurian legends, and their aesthetic as traditionally presented, inform much of the set design and activities in high island. Britons, after all, are taken as analogous to Britons even though they are half-elves. (In Elder Scrolls lore, “Breton” comes from a dead language and means “half.”)

“We wanted [the setting] feel more like a resort than anything else,” Lambert said. “To the team, when I was crossing [the backstory] I said, ‘This is where the nobility goes, this is where the money goes, this is Las Vegas meets Roman times.’ How can we make this as pristine and beautiful as possible? And the team just jumped on it and started digging into it.

Asked about his favorite must-see place that Elder Scrolls fans should make sure to visit high island, Lambert mentioned one of the expansion’s two new follower NPCs, Ember, a Khajit Street survivor with a knack for magic. “She’s such a cool character, and the story and her goal of unlocking her is so well done,” Lambert said. “I think the players are going to really appreciate it and this goal.”

The other companion to unlock is Isobel Velois, a Breton knight. She’s not just a Brienne of Tarth lift from The iron Thronebut if this is how players relate to his role within high island, Lambert sounded good with it. “She could be one of those takes,” Lambert said. “She and her family are knights. And her focus is on what she sees as right and wrong and how she wants to do good for everyone. She’s not, sort of, your stuffy, pompous, ‘I’m a knight, so, you know, worship the ground I walk on.’ She has her own traits and flaws and so on.

In terms of gameplay, a notable new feature is Tales of Tribute, a tavern game that evolves as a deck-building diversion for playing against NPCs and human players. With Tales of Tribute, players will be able to unlock cards, decks, and other pieces, with leaderboards to track progress.

closeup of a card on a gaming table in a deck-building game

Tales of Tribute is a deck-building game mode where The Elder Scrolls Online players can battle NPCs or other players.
Image: Zenimax Online Studios/Bethesda Softworks

Considering that High Rock and High Isle are such unfamiliar lands for an Elder Scrolls video game – other than In lineits last appearance as an explorable video game world was in 1996 The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall – Lambert agreed that this expansion effectively put him in charge of a huge piece of canon for the series, which turned 28 on March 25.

“But one of the things we’ve established over the years is that sense of trust; [Bethesda Game Studios] trust us with the IP – we’ve been working on this game since, you know, for me it’s 2007, but it’s been live since 2014,” Lambert said. “And we treat intellectual property with respect. We work very closely with them, every time we do something. And they gave us carte blanche to do whatever we want with High Isle. It’s good.”