Only recently have I been a fan of the Dark Brotherhood. I managed to play through Skyrim and Oblivion without getting very far in either game’s Dark Brotherhood quest line. However, after playing through (part) of both games’ quests, and seeing the newly-released DLC for Elder Scrolls Online, I had to at least give it a try.
First, I will say that it was great coming back to Cyrodiil and seeing locations that were previously seen in Oblivion (Anvil and Kvatch). After playing the DLC for a little bit, I had to open Oblivion back up and compare the two games to see how similar they are. I was amazed to see how similar the two are! Sure, ESO’s version of the cities is bigger and the buildings have been wonderfully revamped (and Kvatch isn’t a burnt pile of rubble), but the layouts are very similar. Walking through a town in ESO is similar to walking through it in Oblivion.
These two cities aren’t the only places ESO stays faithful to Oblivion’s world; I was amazed at how well-crafted and thought out the landscape was. There were at least two Ayleid ruins in ESO’s world, both of which I thought were specially crafted for this game. When I opened up my Oblivion save to compare the two, I found both ruins in the same spots as in ESO. Even more surprising, I went inside one of the ruins and found that the ESO developers/designers duplicated the dungeon’s layout pretty accurately. Not every building in the expansion is like this, but I had a blast seeing content that was similar to that in Oblivion.
Of course, there was plenty of fresh, new content to make things interesting and to keep my mind wandering through the centuries of Elder Scrolls lore. Various dungeons, boss fights, and other buildings scattered across the countryside kept me entertained, even to the point where I went back to the Gold Coast after completing the main Dark Brotherhood quest and explored some more. This isn’t like me; I don’t usually go back through a game or DLC if I’ve completed its main quest, so the fact that I did this time means I really enjoyed the experience.
Speaking of the main quest, the base Dark Brotherhood storyline is excellent. Right from the beginning, you’re invited to join in the happenings of the Brotherhood, and the action doesn’t stop once it starts. You play the role of a fresh new assassin who investigates the mysterious murders of Dark Brotherhood members. Throughout the quest, many new and interesting characters are introduced, and your character is sent throughout Tamriel to investigate. Throughout the entire story, I felt engaged and interested. I wanted to find the person responsible for the murders and preserve the lives of my brothers and sisters. And at the very end of the main quest, I felt an immense amount of satisfaction when I received my reward. I even got some chills up my spine. It has been a long time since I felt this satisfied with a game/DLC ending.
Of course, part of the reason it was satisfying was because of the work required to get to that point. The main quest itself was relatively short; however, it was stretched out by requiring me to continuously rank up my Dark Brotherhood skill line to proceed from one quest to the next. The way to do that was to complete contracts or Sacraments; after a certain number of them, I could move on and everything would be fine again.
The contracts are repeatable quests you can perform infinitely; you pick up the quest, go to a location, assassinate your mark(s), go back and receive your gold. It’s a relatively simple process, and it’s a quick way to earn some gold. However, these quickly got repetitive and draining, as the game kept sending me to the same locations and even assassinating the same people (seriously, do you know how awkward it is to assassinate someone when their corpse is already on the floor next to them?). If the targets were randomly generated and the locations were more varied, I probably would have enjoyed the contracts a little more. As they are, though, they feel more grindy than anything.
Sacraments are similar to contracts, but as far as I can tell they’re not repeatable, and the rewards are greater. However, they easily feel just as repetitive as the contracts; you go in, try to sneak around, kill the target, try to escape before it’s too late, get your reward. Over and over again. It’s frustrating, but the rewards are decent and they move the plot forward.
The Dark Brotherhood skill tree is basic, but helpful for carrying out your contracts: from the beginning, you get the Blade of Woe, which allows you to sneak up and instantly kill an NPC at the expense of some XP. Some of the finishing moves are fun to watch, and it’s nice to have the ability to (perhaps) instantly take out a potentially bothersome target (or a hapless citizen). Some of the other skills and perks in the tree are helpful for assassin-based characters, but they’re not very useful outside of the Dark Brotherhood’s line of work.
A couple of other notes:
- This expansion easily has the most beautiful Dark Brotherhood sanctuaries I’ve ever seen in an Elder Scrolls game. They’re huge, and they feel like the perfect home for a brooding servant of Sithis.
- There was a short segment spent in Black Marsh… wow, the landscape was gorgeous. I definitely felt more of a sense of awe and adventure while progressing through that portion of the story.
In case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend The Elder Scrolls Online’s Dark Brotherhood expansion. It’s well worth the price; it’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s a treat to longtime fans of the series. I’m looking forward to finding out what else is in here, and I’m certainly getting impatient for the expansion coming in August. Get this expansion.
If you’re on PC/Mac, feel free to leave your in-game name in the comments so I can find you! I’d enjoy a chance to team up and explore Tamriel with you.