The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road Review | Showing Signs of Age

It's a whole lot more ESO. For better or worse.

10 years later, The Elder Scrolls Online is still alive and kicking and with the recent release of its 8th expansion, Gold Road, the game is still trying to keep its presence in the MMORPG genre. With the draw of bringing players back to the beloved locations of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a new spell crafting system, and even more customization options, does Gold Road do everything it needs to bring in new players, keep existing ones happy, or entice those who have left already? The Elder Scrolls Online Gold Road is certainly jam packed with content, a lot of which are addressing community concerns, but it’s not all a home run.

As someone who considers Skyrim as one of the best games all time, I thought that ESO would be the title that would keep me engaged for years on end. It’s set in a fictional world that I love, it’s a near endless amount of interesting lore to get lost in, and all within a massive multiplayer sandbox. It’s everything I could’ve hoped for. I was keeping tabs over the years, but I couldn’t fully get into the systems. But as soon as I heard that this expansion was not only bringing in a way to customize spells, something that the player base has been begging for since launch, and introducing a Daedric Prince, all to mark the 10th anniversary, I knew I had to log back in.

After dozens of hours, I can say that Gold Road may have earned its value in terms of content quantity, it doesn’t necessarily back it all up with the quality. It’s more of what you love about ESO. But it’s also more of what you don’t.

A long time ago, in a story far, far away

This expansion brings players to West Weald, a region on the borders of Cyrodiil, the Gold Coast, and Valenwood. Here, players are caught in a story centered around the return of Ithelia, a Daedric Prince never before seen in the Elder Scrolls series. Her entire schtick is that she wants to change reality itself. On paper, that’s an extremely cool premise. I was expecting Doctor Strange levels of trippy levels. But something tells me that either the age of the game itself can’t keep up anymore with what the developers want to do, or they didn’t really push as far as they could’ve.

While the idea of introducing a brand-new Daedric Prince is compelling, the narrative itself falls short. Despite the potential, the scenarios feel predictable and formulaic, following a typical good versus evil trajectory without taking the risks necessary to keep it fresh and engaging. Ithelia is probably the biggest missed opportunity. Her motive to change reality is ripe with creative possibilities, but the campaign never fully capitalizes on it. It’s definitely not the worst story in ESO, but it doesn’t live up to the hype of being the expansion that releases alongside the 10th anniversary.

I will say however that visually, the new levels are great from an art direction perspective. I’ve always enjoyed how ZeniMax presented the world of Tamriel. I have heard from Oblivion veterans that the areas that came back aren’t necessarily great in comparison. But in my opinion, they’re not that bad. I definitely lost hours just trying to explore the environments. If there’s any reason why you should pick up this expansion, it’s the new locations themselves.

Gameplay wise, it’s definitely filled up

In terms of the moment-to-moment gameplay, Gold Road doesn’t really do much to shake up the formula. It’s great news for veterans but maybe a tad disappointing for those who have been clamoring for changes, namely in the combat department. However, I feel like this is a battle that players have already lost. If ZeniMax wanted to do a combat overhaul, they would’ve done it by now.

The biggest draw of Gold Road is Scribing, which allows players to change magic by collecting and tailoring special skills to refine their builds and enhance gameplay flexibility. This brings Grimoires, new skill types for existing lines, which can be customized beyond their basic functions to suit players’ specific needs. You do have to chug through a questline to unlock it, which mostly just involves running around and talking to people. The usual MMO busy work. Once you finally do get access to it, it’s an entirely new rabbit hole to get into.

Scribing is essential for those seeking deeper personalization and depth in their gameplay. It does open so much more doors for build diversity which will be particularly important for group activities. I can see a number of the abilities you get here will be non-negotiable for those trying to optimize runs. But with great power, comes greater grind. You have to work through a lot to reach a viable point with this system. While it is extremely rewarding in the end, there was a point where I felt like they could’ve maybe toned down the prerequisites.

On another perspective, I get it. It is an MMORPG after all. Grind is the name of the game and the developers wanted to make sure that it’s a system that players have to work for. But with complexity comes the risk of losing interest from both old and new players.

My absolute favorite thing has to be the new 12-player activity, Lucent Citadel, a long-forgotten Daedric vault in Fargrave. The boss fights are some of the most fun I’ve had in ESO in a while. They may not be the most challenging in the game, but they’re definitely mechanically interesting to play with. Do not miss out on this.

The Elder Scrolls Online Gold Road Review Final Verdict – 7.5/10

The Elder Scrolls Online has been a staple in the MMORPG landscape since its launch in 2014. Over the past decade, it has carved out a loyal fanbase thanks to its rich lore, expansive world, and continuous stream of updates and expansions. 10 years later, Gold Road attempts to be a celebration of what came before while opening new possibilities for what’s to come.

Is it worth jumping into blind? Definitely not. This narrative continues after the cliffhanger ending of the previous chapter, Necrom. If you’re someone who cares about narrative consistency, you’ll definitely want to try and catch up. But if you’re just someone who’s looking for great looking new levels, and new stuff to grind for, Gold Road is a great pickup. The Scribing system is a heck of a thing to work towards and I can see it fundamentally shift the way builds are made moving forward, especially in endgame content and PvP.

It’s even more of what you already like about ESO. I only wish that there was more value for those looking for stronger reasons to jump back in or start a new adventure altogether.

This review was made using a game code for the PC provided by the publisher.


The Elder Scrolls Online Gold Road does bring a lot to the table in terms of content but not all of it hits the mark. While the new 12-man activity is a definitive highlight in terms of endgame group content, the new Scribing system demands a lot from the player before it provides significant gameplay value that is sure to be a staple for any and all late game content moving forward. What you lose from its narrative weaknesses, you gain all back from the hours you'll spend grinding away in the new interesting looking zones.