Blackwood, the next chapter of The Elder Scrolls Online, will be out in June

It comes with a new Companions system for recruiting NPC allies.

During the latest reveal event for The Elder Scrolls Online, which was delayed to avoid clashing with the US presidential inauguration, Bethesda and Zenimax announced various details of the MMO's year-long adventure for 2021, the Gates of Oblivion. 

It kicks off in a DLC pack called Flames of Ambition, due on March 8, which contains two PvE dungeons, and will involve attacking a shrine to Mehrunes Dagon, the daedric prince of destruction and the villain behind this year's storyline. Presumably you'll beat up a lot of cultists of the Mythic Dawn, as depicted in the slick, action-packed trailer that makes me wish the game was actually like that.

The chapter, which is what ESO's fuller expansions are known as, will be available on June 1. It's called Blackwood and the zone it adds includes Niben Forest, the Blackwood Bog, and the city of Leyawiin as seen in Oblivion. (You may remember it as the place where you get sent to gatecrash a party and cast a spell that makes everyone's clothes vanish. At least, that's what I remember it for.)

Blackwood also adds a Companions system, which will let you recruit an NPC party member "complete with their own stories and character", as well as skills you can level up, and gear and combat behaviors you can customize. These Companions can be used outside Blackwood in "almost all of your adventures".

Other additions coming in Blackwood are a 12-player Trial called Rockgrove, more delves, public dungeons, world bosses, stand-alone quests, and world events in which portals to Oblivion open. That's giving me more flashbacks to Oblivion the singleplayer game, although maybe that should be flash-forwards since The Elder Scrolls Online is set 800 years earlier? I don't know.

The Gates of Oblivion storyline will continue in a dungeon pack and a story zone DLC in the second half of the year. The latter is set in the Deadlands, Mehrunes Dagon's home realm, but that's all we know about it so far.

Blackwood is available for pre-order now, with incentives including a Nagahide Welwa Ravager mount and a pet Nightmare Bear Cub, though the 'mare bear is only available until March 17. If you're really dedicated, you'll be playing it while sitting in your Elder Scrolls chair, of course.

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