July 05, 2016

The Elder Scrolls Online - Dark Brotherhood Review

When the Elder Scrolls Online first launched, it was missing a lot of things that made it fit within the world of the other games in the series, but as time has passed, more additions have come to it and now the Dark Brotherhood is once again at play in Tamriel.

When you add the expansion to your game, you will hear word of a group out in the gold coast who are being secretive and upon arriving there, you meet a young woman who is looking to join the Dark Brotherhood. She tells you that you need to kill an innocent, in order to be noticed by the group, so you can select any person living in Anvil and take their life and once done return to her. However, when you do, she is not there, but a messenger gives you information about heading to a lighthouse, and a piece of paper, with a single black hand pressed upon it.

Once you venture to the lighthouse, you meet Terenus, the speaker of the local group and he tasks you with breaking into an estate and killing the owner, an imperial noble by the name of Quintus Joral. You are given information about the target and his location, if you so ask for it, but outside of that, everything you do is up to you, including how you gain access to the property. I used the smugglers tunnels, made my way through the estate and took down my target, upon returning to the Terenus, he grants you access to the local sanctuary for the Dark Brotherhood and here it is where you will get all of your contracts and meet with the leader of the sanctuary as well as many of the other members who call it home. Once you have proven yourself with a few simple missions, you will be tasked with removing the leader of a group who is actively seeking to destroy the Dark Brotherhood and this leads into a quest that is far more enjoyable that I would have expected.

The biggest problem with the Dark Brotherhood expansion is twofold, firstly, it is very hard to be a stealthy assassin, taking down marks without being noticed, only to have two or three other people crouching around town, attempting to do the same. Given the nature of the mmo genre, I understand it completely, that you will see other players, but it really breaks the immersion. A prime example would be the first mission Terenus sent me on, I made my way into the estate grounds and saw it was teeming with guards, so I started to make my way around the property, attempting to avoid fights where possible, only to have another player, at a much higher level, simply run past me and kill the guards by the door. This left me with an easy in, because there was nothing between me and where I needed to be, which really broke the feel of the mission, something I did not even think possible for a quest related to the Dark Brotherhood.

The other big issue is that, for a society of killers, whose motto is basically to strike from the shadows, seeing a parade of character going in to and out of the sanctuary is very strange. Even when you are in town, not on a mission, you know who is, because you will see players crouched around, trying to remain unseen. This is not really an issue so much, when your target is away from Anvil and Kavatch, but around the Gold Coast, seeing players everywhere, crouching and killing really does a disservice to what the Dark Brotherhood is meant to be. Actually killing someone is pretty easy, you can and will likely encounter it often, just break out into a standard fight, but if you manage to remain hidden, the prompt will appear to begin the kill. The only thing that really confused me is that it would state I was detected, which the first few times had me thinking someone had seen me, but it was the person I was killing. Something that made me a little worried the first time it happened was that I was tasked with killing someone in Kavatch, which I did without too much hassle, but after venturing out to other parts of the world and taking on various missions, I returned to Kavatch for another mission, only to see my very first target alive and walking around, like nothing had ever happened. Given the nature of MMO’s it is harder to keep actions permanent, but this was perhaps the first time in any MMO that I noticed the glaring inconsistency with the world.

Of course, the big addition for the game is the inclusion of the gold coast and its two major towns, Anvil and Kavatch, but what makes this special, not that they are from Oblivion, but because this is the first time we can actually explore a living city in Kavatch. If you remember Anvil, then not much will surprise you, shops and such are in different locals, but the town layout is the same as it was; Kavatch on the other hand, is something else. The town is teeming with life, people heading about their daily tasks, priests of akatosh slandering the dark brotherhood in the streets, it really is something else.  Wandering around the country side, outside of those cities, you can discover some ruins and smaller estates, but also creatures like lions and minotaurs, it really does offer up a very different feel to anything else I have seen within the Elder Scrolls Online to this date. What makes everything stand out more, is that when you get a mission to kill someone out in another area, depending on where you go, things are usually going to be darker and even if the area is not dark, returning back to the gold coast, feel brighter and warmer. The music itself even reflects this with lighter and more upbeat tunes, but again, as this area was featured in Oblivion, the music also has call backs to that area, which was nice.

The Dark Brotherhood expands on the promise of the Elder Scrolls Online by, bringing back a core part of the series, sadly however, the overall promise of The Dark Brotherhood is not really fulfilled within the MMO setting. Being a secret group, but having dozens of people going in and out of your secret base and just as many people ‘sneaking’ around town, really breaks that immersion. The actual main quest provided by The Dark Brotherhood is one worthy of the experience and might give you some doubts to events you thought you knew. 

Thanks to Bethesda for supplying the expansion for review.

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