The Elder Scrolls Online is a home, a place to meet and have fun together, to immerse yourself in a huge world as your favorite character. The addition of the Skyrim map has certainly made all players happy, who could not wait to return to set foot in the northern lands of Tamriel. What was really attractive, however, is the new narrative arc that takes the name of "The Dark Heart of Skyrim“: The conditions, as well as the expectations of the players, were really very high. However, the narrative gets lost all too often in moments that are even boring and that - even worse - make the user experience at times as repetitive as boring, pointing the finger especially in the story that defines the destiny of the lands of Skyrim.
A sad return to Markarth in The Elder Scrolls Online
After playing Greymoor and the two Stonethorn DLCs, the narrative sector is thus expanded with the addition of the Reach, and with it the entire area of Markarth. A portion of Skyrim less affected by heavy snow than in Solitude but, as we will discover, also threatened by a clan of vampires. We will thus be catapulted into highly familiar environments but with a great scenic impact on the player. Suddenly finding yourself in huge caves filled with equally large luminescent mushrooms has its own unique charm, and it was an effect that often left us speechless. The lands of the Reach, on the other hand, are not as memorable as they may have been years ago in The Elder Scrolls V, given that we have often perceived a feeling of "already seen" (also due to the similarity with north-western Skyrim).
Political issues are thus overshadowed (finally, we would add), leaving more space a a more yellowish story and that benefits from the presence of charismatic characters, intrigues, conspiracies, betrayals and interesting twists. It is no coincidence that the first half of the DLC plot will immediately lead us to the discovery of the main factions of the story, including the jarl Ard Caddach, the vampire Count Verandis Ravenwatch, the beautiful Lady Belain, and the leader of the Gray Host Arana, all characterized very well.
It must also be said that not all evolve in the same way, mind you. Ard Caddach, for example, will sit on his throne in Markarth most of the time and will never really be of much help to us. Count Verandis Ravenwatch, instead, it is among the characters that we loved the most thanks to the High quality voice acting by Jonah Scott, who has already lent the voice to Jojo cheese and to the fantastic Legoshi from the Beastars anime. Overall, though, we have no problem claiming that Bethesda and Zenimax Media have done a great job with the key figures in Markarth's DLC.
“Talk to Arana”, collect useless items, repeat
The first problem we want to highlight is certainly the pace of events, not at all balanced and in line with the standards of The Elder Scrolls Online. The first part of the story will make us understand who the antagonist is and what his intentions are, leading us all too often to perform mundane tasks and, worse, constantly talking to Arana or Count Verandis Ravenwatch. The second half, however, comes to the conclusion of The Dark Heart of Skyrim too hastily, leaving the player with a bad taste in his mouth.
Quests, on the other hand, have their strengths and weaknesses: while they can count on a compelling and interesting storytelling, full of good characters, also boast of a good delineation and diversification of environments, as we have already said. However, the quality and quantity of the missions are far from being honored. There lack of a correct balance between gameplay and dialogue phases it goes alongside a confused management of quests and which - even worse - comes to a conclusion too quickly. What really perplexes us, however, is the absence of an effective closure of the narrative arc of The Dark Heart of Skyrim, which instead comes to an end leaving an essential unfinished business. We put our hopes in the next updates of The Elder Scrolls Online, as they may offer additional quests to complete the conclusion of the Markarth DLC. If this whole scenario seems unfortunate, it is because it actually is.
Although the final boss - without giving you spoilers - turned out to be very easy to defeat, we must admit that Zenimax and Bethesda had a lot of imagination in making an addition to the gameplay that goes to offer greater complexity both to the fighting and to the exploration and the puzzle solution, although the latter are excessively easy. Let's talk about bring them towards which we can teleport by pointing the cursor on it. Simple and intuitive, are in our opinion an introduction indeed intelligent, above all because it is an essential part of the final battle.
An aggravating factor is undoubtedly the choice of rewards for the player when completing the quests, not at all satisfying or at least valid to get him to play the storyline. It must be said, however, that the DLC has brought a good dose of additional content: starting from the area and the missions, up to many supplies, collectibles and unreleased sets. However, a glimmer of salvation is the new arena, Vateshran Hollows. Located in the southeastern corner of the Reach, this single player activity involves the completion of three challenges by the player, who must enter three differently colored portals. Once inside, we will have to complete short dungeons until we reach the final boss of the area, which will not be weak at all and, on the contrary, will always require a precise strategy in the battle. This arena adds a good dose of variety to a flat DLC, offering both a great challenge and the chance to get brand new rewards.
But, let's face it, without this arena Markarth's expansion would have been very minor indeed than the others released previously. The comparison with Greymoor is a must and the qualitative and quantitative differences are abysmal, so much so that once we reached the conclusion of the story we looked around in the Reach to see if we missed any quests. Ending in such a hasty way a story arc that instead would have had scary potential is certainly the aspect that has disappointed us most of this DLC. Much, much more could be done, especially to reach an epilogue worthy of the lands of Skyrim. Our hopes are therefore pinned on the events and content coming with the next updates, given that Markarth has offered us far too little so far.