ESO: The Gold Road Review – Stunning but Flawed

Review of ESO: The Gold Road – stunning visuals, innovative gameplay, lackluster story.

The Elder Scrolls Online: The Gold Road Review – About the Journey, Not the Story

This review contains minor spoilers for Elder Scrolls Online: The Gold Road.

Having played Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) on and off since its launch, I’ve spent the past decade exploring its vast world and unraveling the intricate tales of its diverse lands. From the dark depths of Coldharbour to the dragon-infested skies of Elsweyr, and the harrowstorms of Western Skyrim, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of Tamriel. The stories and adventures have brought me elation and heartbreak, joy and frustration, all driven by the game’s wonderful storytelling and occasionally, its frustrating mechanics.

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However, as I delved into the latest ESO expansion, The Gold Road, I found myself feeling only one thing: disappointment. Despite the stunning landscapes crafted by Bethesda, the narrative of Gold Road falls flat. The story is bland, the characters lack depth, and the dialogue feels uninspired, almost as if it were generated by AI. This harsh criticism stems from a place of love; ESO is one of the few MMOs I cherish for its storytelling rather than its social aspects. While previous expansions have had their ups and downs, I’ve always hoped each new iteration would recapture the magic of the original. Unfortunately, Gold Road did not meet these expectations.

Set in West Weald, the expansion follows a group of Bosmer, known as the Recollection, who seek to restore a Daedric Prince to glory, hoping it will help them reclaim lands lost to the Imperials. The story has potential with its political drama, mysterious deaths, and a new Daedric Prince, Ithelia. However, the plot is predictable, the characters are uninspired, and the voice acting is lackluster. When the narrative attempted to deliver a dramatic moment involving the supposed deaths of two characters, I felt nothing. Their lack of development left me indifferent to their fate.

The Story and Characters

The main storyline of The Gold Road centers on West Weald, a region steeped in political tension and supernatural occurrences. The Recollection, a group of Bosmer seeking to restore the glory of a Daedric Prince, drive the central conflict. This premise, laden with potential for intrigue and high-stakes drama, ultimately falls short. The plot unfolds in a manner that feels both rushed and shallow, with twists and turns that are foreseeable from a mile away. The narrative lacks the depth and complexity that made previous expansions so engaging.

Characters in Gold Road are, unfortunately, one-dimensional. The heroes and villains alike are devoid of the charisma and nuance that make for compelling storytelling. The dialogue feels stilted and unnatural, failing to breathe life into the characters or the world they inhabit. A pivotal moment in the narrative where two characters are presumed dead falls flat, not because of the event itself, but because of the lack of emotional investment built up over the course of the story. Their demise feels inconsequential, a testament to the underwhelming character development throughout the expansion.

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The Setting: West Weald

In contrast to the lackluster narrative, the new region of West Weald is a visual masterpiece. Bethesda’s talent for creating immersive and beautiful landscapes is on full display here. The region is a tapestry of diverse environments, each meticulously crafted to evoke a distinct atmosphere. The city hub of West Weald is a marvel of Imperial architecture, with grand structures that echo a rich historical narrative. Outside the city, players can explore lush jungles, sprawling vineyards, and desolate wastelands, each area seamlessly blending into the next while maintaining its unique identity.

The attention to detail in the environmental design is nothing short of spectacular. From the intricate patterns on the buildings to the vibrant flora and fauna, West Weald feels alive and dynamic. The transition from the bustling city to the serene vineyards and the foreboding wastelands is executed flawlessly, creating a sense of wonder and curiosity that compels players to explore every corner of the map. The aesthetic beauty of West Weald is one of the expansion’s strongest points, offering a visual feast even when the story fails to captivate.

World Events: Incursions

A standout feature in The Gold Road is the introduction of new world events called Incursions. These events are a refreshing addition to the game, bringing a level of chaos and urgency that was missing from previous world events. Incursions are large-scale battles where enemies and environmental effects spawn over a wide area, creating a sense of immediate threat that demands player intervention. Unlike previous world events, where players could often ignore the chaos around them, Incursions make it impossible to pass by without getting involved.

The design of Incursions encourages cooperative gameplay, as the sheer number of enemies and the environmental hazards make it challenging for solo players to handle alone. The dynamic nature of these events, with enemies appearing from all directions and the landscape itself turning hostile, makes each Incursion a thrilling and unpredictable experience. The first few times participating in an Incursion can be overwhelming, with chaos erupting all around, but this unpredictability is what makes them so engaging. The sense of accomplishment from successfully repelling an Incursion is immensely satisfying, making these events a highlight of the expansion.

Combat Mechanics and Boss Fights

One area where The Gold Road excels is in its combat mechanics and boss fights. The expansion introduces mechanically engaging story bosses that require more than just a hack-and-slash approach. These bosses have unique abilities and attack patterns that demand strategic thinking and careful planning. Players need to learn and adapt to the mechanics of each boss fight, which adds a layer of depth and challenge that is often missing in other MMOs.

The story bosses in The Gold Road are some of the most mechanically complex in the series so far. They challenge players to think on their feet and use their skills creatively to overcome the encounters. This shift towards more intricate combat design is a welcome change, modernizing ESO and pushing players to engage with the game’s mechanics more thoughtfully. The satisfaction of defeating a tough boss after multiple attempts is a rewarding experience, showcasing the potential for future expansions to build on these innovative combat mechanics.

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Quest Design and Variability

Quests in The Gold Road show a commendable attempt at introducing variability and new mechanics, although not always successfully. One notable quest involves repairing ballistas to stop an advancing army. The concept is intriguing, adding a layer of tactical gameplay to the questing experience. However, the execution falls short as the quest guarantees success regardless of player performance. Missed shots result in enemies standing idle at the gates, waiting to be dispatched, which breaks immersion and diminishes the impact of player actions.

Despite these shortcomings, the attempt to diversify quest mechanics is a positive step forward. It demonstrates a willingness to experiment with new ideas and move away from the traditional fetch and kill quests that can often feel repetitive. The introduction of more varied quest mechanics, even if imperfect, is a sign that the developers are listening to player feedback and striving to enhance the gameplay experience.

The Highlight: Scribing

Another significant addition in The Gold Road is the new skill, Scribing. Unlike traditional skills, Scribing is leveled through quests rather than grinding, offering a unique progression path. This skill introduces a myriad of new abilities and spells, opening up new possibilities for class builds and playstyles. Scribing allows players to break away from the established meta and experiment with different combinations of skills that complement their playstyle and character concept.

Initially, Scribing can seem daunting with its complexity and the number of options available. However, as players become more familiar with the mechanics, it reveals a depth of creativity and customization that adds a fresh dimension to the game. The introduction of Scribing has the potential to shake up the game’s meta, encouraging players to think outside the box and develop innovative builds. This newfound flexibility in character customization is one of the most exciting aspects of The Gold Road, promising to keep the gameplay experience fresh and engaging.

Exploration and Environmental Storytelling

While the main storyline may disappoint, The Gold Road excels in its environmental storytelling. The landscapes of West Weald are rich with hidden details and lore that reward curious players who take the time to explore. From ancient ruins to secret groves, every corner of the map is filled with stories waiting to be discovered. This sense of discovery and the thrill of uncovering hidden secrets adds a layer of depth to the exploration experience.

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The environmental design not only serves to create a beautiful backdrop but also enhances the storytelling. The contrast between the opulent city hub and the surrounding wilderness tells a story of a land with a rich history and a tumultuous present. The attention to detail in the design of these areas helps to immerse players in the world, making it feel alive and dynamic. Even when the main questline falls short, the environmental storytelling ensures that players still have a reason to explore and engage with the world.

The Verdict

The Elder Scrolls Online: The Gold Road ultimately left me disappointed. It has certainly paved the way for more dynamic gameplay and interesting battle mechanics, but the shallow storyline and lamentable writing were hard for me to overlook. While I won’t be in any hurry to redo the story with my other characters, the new skill and world events, plus the fact that you can now pat the dogs, do make the game worth picking up when it goes on sale.

The expansion’s visual beauty, innovative world events, and new skill system showcase the potential for future developments in ESO. However, to fully realize this potential, future expansions must prioritize compelling storytelling and character development. The Gold Road is a step in the right direction in terms of gameplay mechanics, but it needs to be matched by a narrative that captures the heart and imagination of players.

In summary, The Gold Road offers a mixed bag of experiences. Its breathtaking landscapes and engaging world events are overshadowed by a lackluster narrative and uninspired characters. While it introduces exciting new gameplay mechanics and customization options, it falls short of delivering a compelling story. For players who value exploration and

innovative gameplay, The Gold Road is worth exploring, but those seeking a deep and engaging narrative may find themselves disappointed. The future of ESO looks promising if it can build on the strengths of this expansion and address its narrative weaknesses.

FAQs about The Elder Scrolls Online: The Gold Road

1. What is The Gold Road expansion for Elder Scrolls Online?

The Gold Road is the latest expansion for Elder Scrolls Online (ESO), set in the region of West Weald. It introduces new storylines, quests, world events, and a new skill called Scribing.

2. What is the main storyline of The Gold Road?

The main storyline centers around the Recollection, a group of Bosmer attempting to restore a Daedric Prince to power to reclaim lands lost to the Imperials. It involves political drama, mysterious deaths, and supernatural occurrences.

3. How does The Gold Road compare to previous ESO expansions?

While The Gold Road offers beautiful landscapes and innovative gameplay mechanics, it falls short in terms of narrative depth and character development compared to some previous expansions.

4. What new gameplay mechanics are introduced in The Gold Road?

The expansion introduces new world events called Incursions, which are large-scale battles with dynamic enemies and environmental hazards. It also adds a new skill, Scribing, which allows for new abilities and spells.

5. What are Incursions in The Gold Road?

Incursions are chaotic world events where enemies and environmental effects spawn over a large area. They require player intervention and encourage cooperative gameplay due to their challenging nature.

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6. What is Scribing, and how does it work?

Scribing is a new skill in The Gold Road that players level up through quests. It provides new abilities and spells, allowing for greater customization and creativity in character builds.

7. Are there any notable quests in The Gold Road?

While the main storyline may be underwhelming, there are notable side quests that delve into the lore of Ithelia, the new Daedric Prince. These side quests offer richer storytelling and character development.

8. How are the new story bosses different in The Gold Road?

The story bosses in The Gold Road are more mechanically complex, requiring strategic thinking and careful planning to defeat. They offer a fresh challenge compared to previous encounters in ESO.

9. How does the environment in West Weald enhance the gameplay experience?

West Weald is a visually stunning region with diverse environments, from the Imperial city hub to lush jungles and barren wastelands. The attention to detail and distinct atmospheres create an immersive exploration experience.

10. Is The Gold Road worth playing for long-time ESO fans?

For long-time fans who enjoy exploration, new gameplay mechanics, and customization options, The Gold Road offers enough to be worth playing. However, those primarily seeking a compelling narrative might find it lacking.

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11. Can you customize your character with the new Scribing skill?

Yes, the Scribing skill opens up new possibilities for class builds and playstyles, allowing players to experiment with different combinations of abilities and spells to suit their preferences.

12. What are the main criticisms of The Gold Road expansion?

The main criticisms are the lackluster narrative, one-dimensional characters, and uninspired dialogue. These elements detract from the overall experience, despite the expansion’s strengths in other areas.

13. How do world events like Incursions impact the game world?

Incursions create a sense of urgency and danger in the game world, requiring players to engage with them to prevent chaos. They enhance the feeling of a living, dynamic world that responds to player actions.

14. Are there any new collectibles or achievements in The Gold Road?

Yes, The Gold Road includes new collectibles, achievements, and rewards that players can earn through exploration, quests, and participation in world events like Incursions.

15. How does The Gold Road pave the way for future ESO expansions?

The Gold Road sets a precedent for more dynamic gameplay and complex battle mechanics. If future expansions can build on these strengths while improving narrative quality, they could offer a more well-rounded experience for players.


The Gold Road expansion in Elder Scrolls Online brings a mix of highs and lows. Its breathtaking environments and innovative gameplay mechanics showcase the potential for ESO’s future, but its narrative shortcomings highlight the need for stronger storytelling. For those who relish exploration and fresh gameplay challenges, The Gold Road is a worthy addition to their ESO journey. However, players seeking a deeply engaging story may find themselves left wanting more.

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