SEATTLE – When I heard that Bethesda would be showing off a new Elder Scrolls Online expansion called Dragonhold, I assumed there would be plenty of opportunities to fight dragons – and I wasn’t disappointed. Dragonhold will complete the yearlong Season of the Dragon story arc in the popular MMO, introducing new locations to explore, enemies to defeat and quality-of-life improvements to enjoy.
I attended a press session about Dragonhold at PAX West 2019, which included both a hands-on demo and a presentation about what the next few months hold for the Elder Scrolls Online in general. There wasn’t anything earthshaking in either half of the event, but what’s coming next will almost surely please Elder Scrolls Online fans who dream of slaying gigantic dragons and saving high-fantasy worlds from doomsday cults.
My demo began in the Khajiit city of Senchal, located in southern Elsweyr. This coastal city, with its surrounding lush hills and mysterious sea caves, represents just one of three new biomes that Dragonhold will introduce. Since the expansion is still a good two or three months out, the area wasn’t complete yet. Some monsters didn’t have textures, there weren’t that many NPCs to talk to and every major character had a robotic placeholder voice. But I did get a pretty good idea of the quests that will kick off the Dragonhold plotline, and they seem pretty exciting.
I encountered Sai Sahan, a forward-thinking general who believed that Senchal had to be proactive and defeat the encroaching dragon menace before it could threaten the city. As such, he sent me on a quest to bribe various city officials to facilitate a meeting with a local ruler. This was a simple matter of learning my way around Senchal (there’s no minimap in ESO, so exploring new areas is a key elements of gameplay), but the ruler ultimately refused to lend his support.
That meant it was up to me to find my own ship, and gather allies to crew it. Along with Sahan and a few other NPC helpers, I raided a pirate camp, sneaked through tunnels underneath Senchal and eventually faced off against a slaver admiral. The quests moved along at a brisk clip, and it helped that ESO’s real-time battle system remains fun to play after all this time.
I arrived at an island where the showdown with a dragon would eventually occur, but that seemed to be a few more hours away, and I elected to leave it for another time. (I also imagine that it might take quite a few players to topple an enormous beast of that nature, and there were only a handful of us in the demo.)
The main draw of Dragonhold will be bringing the Season of the Dragon story to its conclusion. Players have been following this arc ever since ESO’s Wrathstone expansion in March, followed by Elsweyr in June and Scalebreaker, which just launched. But there will also be a few mechanical updates to the game, including a reworking of how the game handles RAM, and a complete overhaul of the looking-for-group system. Bethesda will also lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive combat overhaul over the next two years.
Dragonhold doesn’t have an exact release date or price yet, but November seems like a reasonable bet, as does about $15, since that’s what the Scalebreaker DLC costs. If you haven’t tried The Elder Scrolls Online yet, it’s got plenty of content – just be aware that both the core game and all the expansions cost money, so you’ll eventually have to pony up some cash.
Be sure to follow our Pax West 2019 hub for the latest news and impressions out of Seattle.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.