It is now a known fact that Zenimax and Bethesda, before starting to publish the great expansions or, as in this case, huge narrative strands, offer users prologues with which to start immersing themselves in the new setting. Stonethorn was last year with Markarth, where the DLC set itself as a foretelling of the events that would later take place with subsequent expansions. It goes without saying that with the announcement of the historical arch Gates of Oblivion everyone expected a continuation of this strategy. The Elder Scrolls Online thus continues to follow the release of additional content months away from each other, with secondary DLCs that aim to offer new dungeons and lay the narrative foundations for the largest expansions. It is the case of Flames of Ambition, the most recent downloadable in-game content of The Elder Scrolls Online which, like the previous ones, introduces some novelties in terms of narration and gameplay in the MMORPG of Zenimax and Bethesda.
In fact, the DLC comes together with update 29 which, for obvious reasons, is what adds more news. Before analyzing in detail all the components that make up the two new dungeons, Black Drake Villa e The Cauldron, and the way they introduce us to the story of Gates of Oblivion, we make an important premise: Update 29 makes some radical changes to the stability of the game, as well as to the skill system itself and even the Champion system. In fact, many players, when the patch was released, found themselves without active skills assigned and with all skill points reassigned. This is a precise choice by the development team who previously encountered a bug that prevented the correct assignment and management of skill points. A double-edged sword, given that many will have to manually reassign all the points spent previously, but that will give them the opportunity to reuse them in a different way, perhaps in case they decide to change builds.
Beyond this change there are further changes to the perks that significantly change the balance of the game. For example, daggers can now have a bonus chance to deal critical damage, which means inside dungeons we will often see players using two daggers with magical effects, when this setup was not very popular with enthusiasts. However, this was only one of the many changes that have been made with Update 29, which highlight a great care in the balance of The Elder Scrolls Online by Bethesda and Zenimax.
But it is useless to go around it: the real protagonists of the Flames of Ambition DLC are the two new dungeons, Black Drake Villa and The Cauldron. Both have the goal of lay the narrative foundations for the Gates of Oblivion narrative strand, but only one of them really succeeds. Black Drake Villa, although at first glance it may seem disconnected from the darkest events ofOblivion, instead, it presents a particular element that could be decisive for the narration of the upcoming expansion. We will not go too far to avoid spoilers, but we advise you to play this dungeon to find out what it is. The place where we will meet will, in fact, be a huge villa that hides an equally large library inside. We will meet Eveli Sharp-Arrow, an adventurer who was there just to look for this secret place, but without revealing the exact reason. Once inside it we will discover that also a criminal group, called True-Sworn, he was trying to gain access to the library. The events will thus lead us to a series of clashes with more or less demanding opponents and an interesting final boss.
Although the premises may seem trivial, already seen, where the guiding element of the narrative is only a small detail of the story, two aspects are instead particularly valid. The first is undoubtedly the setting, never predictable and very variable among the various macro-areas, especially in lights, colors and architecture. We were very pleased to find ourselves fighting in always different and perfect places to give a visual context to the events. Also interesting is the level design which makes use, albeit late, of the possibility of launching the protagonist forward and then skipping some otherwise long phases, or even to escape from the powerful attacks of the final boss. We cannot fail to mention the presence of many puzzles and hidden passages inside the Black Drake Villa, which almost always require more players to work together to uncover their secrets. The problem with the latter, as you can imagine, is therefore the compulsive and now characteristic rush of The Elder Scrolls Online, which instead weighs on what could be more satisfying experiences. We also mention theexcellent balance of the clashes, which may not only require you to continuously attack a particular boss but which instead must necessarily be studied, in order to adopt an approach that does not involve a quick death.
This is undoubtedly the only aspect Black Drake Villa has in common with The Cauldron. As happened with the Stonethorn DLCs, Flames of Ambition also offers us two different dungeons, in which one is extremely valid, varied and fun while the other appears devoid of any particular creative twist. We will not try to hide our displeasure in finding out that The Cauldron, unlike Black Drake Villa, it is particularly simple and standardized to what are now the stereotypes of The Elder Scrolls Online. Unfortunately, it doesn't enjoy the same level design, environmental variety and dungeon battles that we talked about earlier, and as a result we find it very difficult to find praise for it. However, we could find some in the final battle, which it requires constant attention and organizational collaboration with all the members of the team (and that kept us busy for a long time, intent on trying to defeat the boss). Some particular elements make this battle very interesting and equally challenging, unlike everything else in the dungeon. The narrative sector is very uncertain, so much so that we also encountered some difficulties in understanding what the links to the history of the Oblivion Gates would have been. We will probably be able to better understand the way in which the events will intertwine with each other only with the release of the first part of the great narrative vein, which will begin precisely with Blackwood.
Black Drake Villa and The Cauldron, however, are interesting introductions to the already extensive list of dungeons, and we can only be happy with their presence. The biggest problem is there again lack of unprecedented mechanics and dynamics, which may somehow offer more variety to The Elder Scrolls Online. We are tired of always having to be forced to complete dungeons as quickly as possible, just as we don't want to have to inform ourselves online about changes that make the game even more difficult to understand. Although Flames of Ambition aims to revise the skill system, introduce new dungeons and other changes, its biggest flaw is the inability to still be unable to differentiate itself among the others already released. In any case, our hopes are pinned in Blackwood, the first major expansion of The Elder Scrolls Online that will introduce the events of Gates of Oblivion, we hope, in a more concrete way.