The next chapter in the Elder Scrolls Online story will take players to a place that has never been seen in an Elder Scrolls game before – High Isle, the largest of the islands in the Systres Archipelago. Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle will be the second part of the “Legacy of the Bretons” year-long story that kicks off with the Ascendant Tide DLC releasing in Spring 2022.
In an interview with Game Rant, Leamon Tuttle, Loremaster for Elder Scrolls Online, and Bill Slavicsek, ESO‘s Lead Writer, fielded questions on the Chapter’s new locations, the history of the Bretons, the new card game Tales of Tribute, and everything else players can expect from the High Isle Chapter.
High Isle and the Systres Archipelago
The next Elder Scrolls Online chapter takes place in the far-off Systres Archipelago, an island chain southwest of the Summerset Isles. It’s a location that’s only been mentioned twice in all of Elder Scrolls history so the lack of concrete lore surrounding High Isle gave the ESO team lots of room to create something completely their own. According to Leamon Tuttle, the Loremaster for ESO, the team focused on “making sure it feels like a real place, even though we’ve never visited it before.”
“It’s a really cool mirror to High Rock itself – the terrain is kind of similar in terms of it being forested, rolling hills on High Isle itself,” Tuttle said. “Then, when we get to Amenos, which is the prison island, it’s more of a jungle… Just like every other place in Tamriel we want it to feel lived in and real, and have something everyone can sink their teeth back into.”
The Systres Archipelago includes both High Isle and its mirror, Amenos. While High Isle is a vibrant place that attracts nobles from High Rock and beyond, Amenos is a dense and hostile island that has historically been home to criminals and prisoners. Bill Slavicsek, lead writer for ESO, described Amenos as being “kind of like Skull Island from King Kong.”
According to Tuttle, the history of High Isle and the Systres Archipelago goes back to the early years of the Akaviri Potentate, who took over the rule of the Empire after the assassination of Reman III at the end of the First Era. The Systres Archipelago is deeply connected to the rest of Tamriel and will offer “tons for (Elder Scrolls) history buffs to chew on as we go forward.”
“There’s a very long historical document that I wrote, that will be available as a Lorebook as well,” Tuttle said. “In broad strokes, when the Akaviri Potentate took over they needed someplace to send all the Reman malcontents. So it began as an Imperial holding and changed hands a couple of times. The people in the Colovian estates ended up selling it to the Bretons for a while, then it was re-acquired by the Empire, so there’s a lot of bouncing around.”
High Isle and Amenos won’t be the only two locations added to Elder Scrolls Online in 2022, though. In the interview, Slavicsek confirmed that a future DLC for Elder Scrolls Online will add another two explorable islands to the Systres Archipelago.
Politics, Peace Talks, and the Ascendant Order
Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle steps back from world-ending narratives of the past to present a story that feels more political than apocalyptic. The best comparison is the Orsinium DLC, which followed King Kurog and his efforts to unite the orcs. This was an intentional decision that aimed to “shake things up and change the pace.”
“We’ve just gone to Daedric planes and saved the world, so let’s come back to Tamriel, to Nirn, and just focus on the people for this year,” Slavicsek said. “What better people to focus on than the Bretons? We decided to go somewhere new – and we wanted to go somewhere new. We wanted to show the audience something they hadn’t been seen before.”
The High Isle Chapter doesn’t just bring Bretons into the spotlight, but it also expands the story of the Three Banners War. High Isle is so far from mainland Tamriel that it is the perfect setting for secret negotiations and peace talks between the leaders of the Daggerfall Covenant, the Ebonheart Pact, and the Aldmeri Dominion. Whether the High Isle Chapter will bring much-requested updates to Elder Scroll Online‘s PvP, which follows the story of the Three Banners War, is not known. All that’s been confirmed is that the three factions will play a major role in the story of High Isle.
Peace talks aren’t the only political aspect to the High Isle Chapter, though. The Ascendant Order, led by the Ascendant Lord, is one group that stands to benefit from the ongoing hostilities during the Interregnum. As such, they serve as the main antagonists in the High Isle storyline. According to Slavicsek, the Ascendant Order has “what they consider to be a noble purpose… it’s just a matter of how you interpret what they’re doing.” Leamon Tuttle went on to describe the Ascendant Order as “a pan-Tamrielic movement”, not a group restricted just to High Isle.
“Because it’s Breton-influenced, they liken themselves to a Knightly Order, though most of the other Orders think of them as a rogue order,” Slavicsek said. “They don’t reveal their identities, they wear their helmets all the time, and in some ways, they act like terrorists as they try to go about achieving their goals. They have what they consider to be a noble purpose… it’s just a matter of how you interpret what they’re doing and the fallout it causes.”
Bretons, Pirates, and… Sea Elves?
The High Isle Chapter brings Bretons back into the spotlight. The Bretons are a race that has not been explored too deeply in Elder Scrolls games aside from Elder Scrolls Online and Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. They are the descendants of both Man and Mer, a heritage that gives every Breton a basic aptitude for magic. According to Leamon Tuttle, High Isle will explore the roots of this feudalistic race, exploring their magical ancestry both Elven and otherwise – namely, Druidism.
“This is something that was mentioned very briefly in Arena, and it was one of those things like, ‘What are the druids of Galen? What’s that all about?'” Tuttle said. “We never really had an answer, but High Isle is giving us an opportunity to dig into these really ancient roots of Breton culture that are related to, but separate from, their time with the Direnni… we wanted to lean into some aspects of Breton culture that haven’t really been messed with, including the magic part.”
The Systres Archipelago is far from mainland Tamriel, and as such is just as tied to the Bretons as it is to the ocean itself. Bill Slavicsek said there will be “a lot of seafaring elements” and said players will need to take a boat to get to the Archipelago in the first place. He then teased two noble Houses on High Isle that embody its naval influences – a House of Shipbuilders and a Trading House. The new seafaring setting includes a lot more than just noble Houses, though.
“It’s an archipelago, so you’re gonna run into Pirates of all stripes, but maybe even some Sea Elves – maybe I said that, or maybe I didn’t,” Slavicsek said. Tuttle elaborated and said, “when you get close to Summerset, you’re getting close to Pyandonea… we always want the place to feel authentic to what it is, so anything that you would imagine you would find southwest of the Abecean Sea is gonna be there – including Sea Elves.”
When asked about the possibility of pirate ships being added to Elder Scrolls Online as player homes, Tuttle chuckled and said simply, “no comment”. Later, Tuttle cryptically said, “people who are into housing will be happy with the offerings we come out with.”
What To Expect From Tales Of Tribute
In addition to the explorable zones of High Isle and Amenos, two new companions, and a political storyline featuring the major players of the Three Banners War, High Isle adds another new activity for Elder Scrolls Online players to check out: the collectible card game Tales of Tribute. Tales of Tribute is an in-game CCG that emphasizes an equal playing field and can be played pretty much anywhere in Tamriel amongst players and NPCs alike. Leamon Tuttle described Tales of Tribute as “a huge undertaking” that offers players “a lot to chew on.”
“So from the lore perspective this is a fairly new game, drawn from the traditions of Tarot and things like that, just like in the real world,” Tuttle said. “The idea of the game, Tales of Tribute, is that they’re stories of some kind. The story might be the beginning of an organization, or a particular historical event, and all the cards in that deck will relate to those themes.”
Like the Antiquities system of Greymoor and the Psijic Order of Summerset, Tales of Tribute comes with its own questline. This story takes players across Tamriel and beyond to meet (and beat) a variety of Tales of Tribute player chapters – Tuttle teased that players “might even track down the people who originally invented the game.” Tuttle also confirmed that there will be rewards like Furnishings and other cosmetics as well as in-game leaderboard integration, “so you can make fun of your friends for not being as good at it as you are.”
“The themes are pretty diverse, which gave the art department space to stretch their muscles a little bit and come up with different types of art,” Tuttle said. “I’m seeing this stuff come in every day and it’s really, really neat, I think people are going to dig it.”
The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle releases for PC and Mac on June 6, 2022, and for PlayStation and Xbox systems two weeks later on June 21, 2022.