The Elder Scrolls Online is an MMORPG that invites exploration and experimentation. While the game is littered with a variety of quests, sweeping storylines, NPCs with wild backstories, and plenty of dungeon crawling, you don’t really need to do any of that. I’m a big advocate for jumping into the game, and spending your time however you like – wandering fields, admiring roses, collecting quests you’ll never complete – but a recent media preview for the game’s Lost Depths DLC made me realise I was missing one of life’s greatest joys by committing to the ESO nomad life.
That joy is, of course, being absolutely trounced by a giant rock monster while your over-levelled mates watch on and laugh. This unfortunate event occurred while playing through the game’s latest DLC dungeon pack, which contains two new locales: Earthen Root Enclave, and Graven Deep.
The Elder Scrolls Online is littered with dungeons, each themed after particular locales, factions, themes, or goals – and despite being very optional, they usually tie into game’s main story with special NPCs and quest givers littering these biome maps.
Dungeons tend to be for higher-levelled players, or those travelling in packs – but there are also ‘beginner’ dungeons for those just starting out, or those who prefer wandering to levelling. Earthen Root Enclave and Graven Deep, though? They’re absolutely not for the nomads amongst us.
I hopped into these dungeons alongside local reps for Bethesda in a media event, in order to test my mettle against a range of eldritch bosses. Graven Deep was up first and even in its opening, it was filled with surprises. For one thing, the dungeon contained a brand new attack mechanic: poison spit, which can be absorbed and expelled before it goes off like a bomb.
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In your quest through Graven Deep, you’ll come across packs of Pangrits – small, shark-like creatures that spit poison acid at you. Their trails are easy enough to avoid, but you’ll actually want to get spat on in the fight against the dungeon’s first boss, as this spit can be used to close summoning geysers.
The Euphotic Gatekeeper is the first major battle of Graven Deep – and unfortunately, it’s not optional. To advance through the dungeon and make your way towards untold rewards, you’ll need to contend with this insect-like beast, and his horde of creatures.
This was my first touch of death in the Lost Depths preview.
While the Euphotic Gatekeeper doesn’t have an unreasonable amount of health, my little troop of three wasn’t able to get past him – thanks to frequent poisonings, hordes of Pangrits being set on us every few minutes, and the various hordes of creatures that flowed from the summoning geysers.
After a final blow to our team leader that meant we had to move on (mostly for time), I became suddenly aware of the appeal of The Elder Scrolls Online dungeons. Sure, a victory would have been nice – but even running through this gauntlet, screaming over a headset about being spat on and dying, was extremely good fun. Various cries for ‘please, oh my god, help!‘ and ‘move or I’m gonna spit!’ were ear-shattering, and side-splitting.
Earthen Root Enclave, to which our team decided to retreat, was equally gnarly – but for other reasons. Where Graven Deep is more focused on seaside coral reefs and drenched monsters, Earthen Root Enclave is mountainous, and filled with rocky golems.
Even with a level 600+ hero on board, the fights in Earthen Root Enclave were nearly insurmountable. Stone Atronachs dotted these hills, and each had a power-blasting attack that meant even dodging and rolling was useless. The only way to stop yourself from being constantly rocked is to shatter each Atronach – and with multiple along the path to the first boss, it’s an extremely difficult task.
My crew wound up taking it in turns – someone would go for the Atronach, while the others fought off the roaming druids and giant bears – which, by the way, are absolutely terrifying – eventually clearing the way to the Corruption of Stone, aka the giant rock monster which also, unsurprisingly, trounced us.
The Corruption of Stone went right after our highest-level hero, and the rest of us simply had to play catch up, knocking away at the Stone’s health until we’d almost got it to a reasonably low level. (‘Get back here!‘ ‘Why is it coming after me???‘) Unfortunately, a late-stage resurrection was quickly ruined by a swift crunch to the head that left our entire dungeon party in shambles.
I learned important lessons on my trips through Graven Deep and Earthen Root Enclave. The most important was that The Elder Scrolls Online is much harder to conquer than I thought – but I also swiftly learned that dungeons can be just as rewarding as picking flowers in a gorgeous field. With a regular group of ESO players, even biting the dust against impossible odds is a fantastic experience. Conquer the dungeon, and you’ll get a range of solid rewards. Fail spectacularly, and you’ll still have a great time, as long as the right crew is flanking your side.
Dungeons are terrifying, horrifying places in The Elder Scrolls Online – but the risk of journeying beyond the map and getting out of your comfort zone brings great, and often extremely funny, rewards.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Lost Depths DLC is now available on PC and Mac (free for ESO Plus subscribers, available on the Crown Store for everyone else). The dungeons will be available for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on 6 September 2022.