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Season of the Dragon Review (Minor Spoilers)

Tags: #ESO 
  • Member
    December 10, 2019

    With the Dawn of the Dragonguard event over and the New Life Festival approaching in which we look to the new year and adventures yet to come, this feels like a good time to reflect upon 2019's Season of the Dragon. In retrospect, the year was aptly named for it has been a chaotic, turbulent and destructive year on a mechanical and technical level, and I fear those things have slightly overshadowed the incredible content we have gotten.

    As I look back to the beginning of the year and remember the hype and speculation for the new Chapter, Northern Elsweyr, and the new Necromancer class, I recall all my own hopes and things I really wanted to see explored. The biggest things I really wanted was an in-depth look at Khajiiti culture on par with that which Orsinium gave us for the Orsimer, and a fresh take on Dragons that would give us new insights into the dov and how they are seen by a people other than Nords. For instance, I remember wondering whether the Khajiiti view on Akosh as "just a real big cat" from Varieties of Faith would get explored, or if we'd get more insights into that same source's assertion that the  Riddle'Thar co-opted the worship of Alkosh and what that meant for the cats. After all, we'd met Rid-Thar-ri'Datta in Reaper's March and can consider ourselves as friends with the prophet. However, I was concerned at the departure of Loremaster Lawrence Schick and what that meant for the year ahead.

    As I progressed through Season of the Dragon, my hopes multiplied by the score. I remember playing the Elsweyr prologue quest, The Demon Weapon, and my excitement at meeting Abnur Tharn again. Voiced by the incredible Alfred Molina, Tharn had long been affectionately named by this community as the arch-troll of The Elder Scrolls Online. Hearing his familiar voice and instantly being impressed once again by one of the best characters in the game, the prologue quest really felt like old times and it was nice to see time had not dulled the old wizard''s wit:  "You know, the legend of Khunzar-ri is more interesting than I remember. It must be Moon-Singer Mizbina's delivery. Marginally entertaining."

    I was also excited by the new character from the trailer, a Khajiit named Khamira. Voiced by talented Emily O'Brien, Khamira gave me the uncomfortable experience of being slightly turned on by a cat.

    As Tharn and I journeyed across Tamriel and pieced together clues by listening to Khajiiti Moon-Singers, my questions and hopes multiplied. Who was Khunzar-ri? Was this another example of a cultural hero accomplishing larger-than-life exploits as we have previously seen with Ysgramor or Rajhin? Will we learn more about this Khunzar-ri in the Chapter? Who the hell is this sexy cat lady?

    When we join up with Khamira and venture together into the legendary Halls of Colossus, the banter between Abnur and the mysterious Khajiit had me laughing: "Well done, cat. I barely regret your presence now." "Imperials. They think the moons shine only for them."
    I remember being amazed by the architecture in the Halls of Colossus and being really excited at seeing the carvings depicting dragons and the stories I had just heard the Moon-Singers telling me. They were reminiscent enough of TES V Skyrim's Hall of Stories as to get my blood pumping in anticipation my initial hopes would be realised, that we would get to see a different cultural take on something familiar. In retrospect, I should have realised at the end of the quest that Season of the Dragon was ultimately Abnur Tharn's story.

    Fast forward a few months to the release of Northern Elsweyr, I dived into it with so many hopes and expectations. I'm honestly glad to say that each and every one of those was checked off, as well as many more things that I didn't even anticipate. Like, I didn't expect to get such rich Akaviri lore or to visit a town comprised of Akaviri-descended Imperials whose culture appears ripped from the pages of the PGE.  I didn't expect to get such deep insights into the nature of souls and such exact definitions on Khajiiti afterlife that challlenge our familiar concept of The Sands Behind the Stars. I definitely did not expect Sir Cadwell of Codswallop. I remember Lawrence Schick answering a question ages ago about Cadwell's past with something like "what makes you think Cadwell is anything other than what he says he is?" So I had long ago ceased any speculation regarding the knight. His story was unexpected and powerful.

    Elsweyr truly is a treasure trove of lore and absolute purrfection for any fan of the Khajiit and dragons. We finally got to see and interact with the different furstocks in a modern TES game, had the ambiguity of which breed of Khajiit we play cleared up, experience many times more of their unique cultural mythology delivered in their familiar allegorical and metaphorical way, and get to see the rise of a dragon cult which offers precious insights into familiar yet vague concepts. I'm thoroughly chuffed that the Khajiit have had such a detailed and in-depth revison, taking them from their already deep and complex level to even greater yet more accessible depths and with a spirituality unrivalled by any other culture we've seen.

    All that said, I can't overlook the technical changes and bugs that put a damper on the Season of the Dragon. I'm not by any means a regular end-game content player, work and real-life make establishing regular playtimes an impossibility, and so I only rarely participate in trials as and when an opportunity presents itself. However, I was on a winning streak in Battlegrounds and had recently gone through Sunspire with the aim of doing it again right before the game went through a couple of big changes with the Scalebreaker patch in August and then Dragonhold in November. Even though I feel some of those changes are a step in the right direction, I was knocked back a bit overall. I was pretty proud of finally parsing 35k DPS on my go-to Nord Warden dungeon runner, and getting some good victories in BGs with my Imperial Templar. The changes, in quick sucession of each other, are things I still haven't quite adapted to. I think it contributed to a sort of communal burnout, which is understandable considering that hitting one's personal goals can represent a lot of hard work. When the goalposts change, you can't help but wonder "what was the point?" I took a step back to basics and decided to just focus on the things they had done right once Dragonhold and Update 24 had rolled out with Southern Elsweyr.


    I'm quite glad of that decision as I may have missed out on enjoying what is possibly the most rewarding zone to date for the solo quester. The new grappling mechanic is interesting and changes exploration in applicable areas in a refreshing way, while more collectables and titles to unlock through simple questing than I think I've seen before give the zone a longevity previous Q4 updates don't have. Subtle details like new enemy combat animations may go completely unobserved if the zone is steamrolled through, and Southern Elsweyr more than any other area feels like it has continuity with reasons to go back, along with the feeling that the Dragonguard I've helped to reestablish is an active force in the world. Still, I'm puzzled why Update 24 didn't fix the Necromancer's Blastbones skill.
    Dragonhold saw the return of Sai Sahan, and I think he's used really well in guiding the player towards combating the threat of the dragons. The new Dragonguard lore expands on things we've only ever read about before, such as the temples mentioned in Rise and Fall of the Blades, and the storyline itself gives us the biggest amount of dragon lore we've seen since TES V.

    Season of the Dragon reveals itself as being Abnur Tharn's story, though, when the arch-troll returns with the final questline - which only unlocks once both Northern and Southern Elsweyr's main quests have been completed. When viewed as a whole once the traditional end of quest ceremony has been concluded, I definitely feel like the story is complete and in thoroughly satisfactory style. The dragons remain a threat, but not one beyond the skills of the heroic  Dragonguard, and ultimately I'm left feeling that the world persists after I leave it in a way it hasn't felt like before.
    In terms of story, lore, great use of returning characters and wonderful and memorable new ones, Season of the Dragon nailed it. In delivering solid changes to performance and stability... not so much. If ZOS can give us the former and find a way of better implementing the latter in 2020, I'm certain next year will be the best year-to-date!

    And we still have one more trailer to come...

  • Member
    December 12, 2019

    ...And it's here: