Spoilers For Blood, Books, and Steel in ESO High Isle
I sat at my PC, shocked at the way a quest in the recent Elder Scrolls Online chapter, High Isle, ended. After spending thirty to forty minutes running around the public dungeon, chasing a delightfully eclectic knight and a menacing Bloodmage, the quest simply…ends. No major encounter, no huge reveal, no real boss fight to give the chase some resolution. Just…an end.
This is an unfortunate end to one of the most memorable experiences in the whole of High Isle completely soured the time leading up to its conclusion. As a friend and I sat there, dumbfounded, we both couldn’t believe that ZeniMax’s story writers would end the encounter this way.
It’s a shame, too, as until that point the quest that takes you through one of the Chapter’s two public dungeons, the Spire of the Crimson Coin, was shaping up to be my favorite quest. The crazy thing is – the abrupt and completely sour ending of the encounter changed the course of this editorial. Before I had planned on writing how Dame Madach, one of the main characters throughout this quest, really needed her own storyline and more encounters with the character in future updates.
Now I’m writing about how ESOs best quest of the chapter turned into one of my least favorite.
Squire Rayan and Dame Madach Are A Fun Duo
The quest starts with the Squire Rayan asking the adventurer for help dealing with a Bloodmage, as well as finding his master, Dame Madach, who has been determined to end the necromancer’s reign. It’s a quest we’ve seen in The Elder Scrolls before: a lich needs dealing with, so we need to take out its phylacteries and then deal with the lich itself. However, to destroy the phylactery, we needed to craft a special hammer imbued with the magic coursing around the Spire.
The star of this quest is the eclectic and energetic Dame Madach. From the first time you encounter her in the opening moments of the quest battling the Bloodmage to the end of the quest itself, she shines completely. Her outfit, a black steel set of Breton armor complete with what Sir Rayan calls a “ridiculous hat,” sets her apart as one of the most original knights on High Isle that I encountered throughout my entire journey in the Breton isles.
It helps too that the voice actor bringing the lively Dame to life is incredible. ESOs voice acting has always been pretty good, with some exceptions, but Dame Madach’s character actor has to be one of the favorites in the 8 years of the MMO.
Squire Rayan, in contrast, is more reserved and bookish, clearly inspired by his master but lacking some of the go-get-’em attitude Madach oozes. His earnestness in trying to rid High Isle and Nirn of a Lich is endearing, and he very obviously cares for Madach.
Also, I really hate his glasses.
The Spire Is A Fantastic Backdrop
Throughout the journey, you’ll encounter the typical dungeon bosses of a public dungeon in ESO† These bosses aren’t really tied to the plot of the quest, though they are thematically related. A rather haughty wizard’s apprentice takes up residence in a hedge maze, expecting you to have a harder time finding him than we ever did, while the first boss, a Blighted Carapace, exudes the ooze and necrotic energy I typically associate with run-down, lich infested castle towers.
The real star, aside from Dame Madach herself (seriously ZeniMax, let me buy her as a housing visitor), is the Spire of the Crimson Coin itself. The dark, dour tower is wonderful. The necrotic energy that pulses throughout the tower makes it feel electric, and the plethora of dungeon bosses to encounter kept me engaged the whole time.
Traveling through the run-down castle town, chasing the Bloodmage and Madach brought serious energy and pacing to the whole encounter. The aforementioned hedge maze wasn’t required to make your way through for the quest, but I enjoyed running around, dodging magical traps and automatons as I made my way through.
The central tower where the Lich has placed his phylactery is menacing, and walking into its antechamber brought an audible “wow” out of my mouth as I was faced with a giant, beating heart and necrotic tendrils making their way around the area.
Everything the quest had been driving to was coming to a head. We had forged the hammer needed to destroy the phylactery and deal with the Bloodmage. We were gaining ground on Dame Madach and the Bloodmage. The energy was palpable.
Sweeping Its Own Legs
For some reason, though, the giant encounter with the Bloodmage wasn’t in the cards. Dame Madach stares down the lich in a final encounter, who kills the knight in front of her Squire and trusty helper, and then slips away, taunting me to find him if I dared.
We destroyed the phylactery and with that the quest was done. Sir Rayan – now ordained as a knight – thanks you for your help and says he will deal with the Bloodmage on his own.
Everything we had done up to that point to take out the Bloodmage and help Dame Madach felt like it had been for nothing. There was no final confrontation, even though the lich was taunting us to do so. Dame Madach herself, who had become one of my favorite new characters, wouldn’t be avenged by us at least, and the whole encounter fell flat at the end. It’s as if ZeniMax swept the legs out from under its own incredible storytelling, closing the book on the quest with such an anti-climactic whimper.
I left the Spire completely disinterested to keep going for the day in High Isle† I really felt let down by the end of what had to that point been the most fun I’d had in the expansion so far. While Dame Madach’s fate helped drive the story (though it could have distilled down to the fact that it’s another example of a trope where a woman dies to further the quest of a man), I also would have loved to fight alongside her to help defeat the Bloodmage as her final act. If she has to die in the quest, sell it more meaningfully.
In the end, it doesn’t take away from the awesome work the ZeniMax team did building the Spire of the Crimson Coin. But finishing the quest, its ending specifically, definitely sourced what was otherwise an exceptional experience.