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Blades of Woe on the Gold Coast

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Ah, the Gold Coast. So bright and sunny and nostalgic.

Also:

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Oh right.

That black hand comes courtesy the Dark Brotherhood, the famed and feared assassin’s guild that prowls the back alleys and subterranean ruins of the world of the Elder Scrolls. They were, as you recall, introduced through a fantastic questline way back in Oblivion. And they know what you did.

The guild has reared its shrouded head again – as of yesterday – with the release of the Dark Brotherhood DLC for Elder Scrolls Online (PC and Mac only, so far – console releases haven’t happened yet).

It doesn’t take too long after being dumped out of the wayshrine at Anvil to dig them up. Turns out they’re recruiting, too, which is a pleasant coincidence.

Soon enough, you’re invited back to their cozy sanctuary, with its patrolling skeletons and candle-lined stairs and skulls and screechy, creepy string music. It’s there that the main quest Dark Brotherhood quest begins to unfold – I’m very, very early in, but it involves someone or something hunting down the guild members. You can also pick up random contract missions, which send you to the far corners of the world to assassinate people, as assassins do.

And you know, it’s pretty darned fun. The big change here is the addition of a backstab mechanic – which, I gather, is similar to how vampires feed, although I haven’t tried that – that allows you to creep up on unsuspecting npcs and bloodily dispatch them like so:

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I’ve gotta say, it marks a welcome return to my favourite Elder Scrolls playstyle – lurking in the shadows and taking advantage of all that fancy bonus damage by attacking people when they can’t see you. I mean, it’s not QUITE the same, but close enough.

And for those assassins who lean more toward the pacifist end of the cold-blooded murder scale, the new story missions seem to – seem to, as I haven’t played through too many yet – bring with them more hiding places, be they shelves and stuff to hide behind or barrels to dive into. So you don’t absolutely NEED to kill every guard, because some of them are just trying to pay for their education or provide for their families or send some coin back home to their moms and, really, they’re just doing what they’re told to do by the guy you’re REALLY after.

But then again, those guards may well blunder in at the worst possible time and interrupt something important, so better safe than sorry, right?

And there is consequence for being spotted. If you’re dungeoning, the guards will call reinforcements, which is straightforward enough. Push your luck with the Blade of Woe out on the streets, however, and the guards may well turn outright hostile.

Scofflaws getting chased and beaten by duty-bound guards isn’t a new Elder Scrolls feature by any means. Still, it does add a nice bit of tension, forcing you to resort to slinking through back alleys and hoping you don’t round a corner and come face-to-face with one of those proud protectors of the realm. They are, after all, pretty tough.

The DLC includes some other changes – new delves, skills, bosses, etc. – and I may be crazy, but the game itself seems to load a lot faster now, so that’s pretty great.

I’m thinking I’ll probably be updating this as I play through more of the story quests. I’m also thinking I’m missing out by not picking up the Thieves Guild DLC – if anyone wants to chime in on that, that’d be just wonderful.

On the whole, the Dark Brotherhood is worth picking up. If you don’t have one of those all-in ESO subscriptions, it’ll run you 2,000 crowns.

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