The Elder Scrolls Online's nuanced new collectables are tempting me back

eso antiquities leads
(Image credit: Bethesda)

I've always been a sucker for collectables. Give me a progress bar and some hidden trinkets with which to fill it and I often can't help spending time with a game long after it's stopped being fun. Sometimes I recall just how much time I spent scouring Assassin's Creed's Holy Land to find some pointless flags, and feel a bit ashamed.

Where to next?

Grand Theft Auto 5

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

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MMOs, on the other hand, I tend to have less time for. I think it's something to do with the completionist instinct that drives me to tick off collectables: dungeons don't feel complete if I kill an enemy, only for them to reappear behind me moments later. 

Anyway, The Elder Scrolls Online is one such game I've bounced off on a few occasions, despite my affection for the universe generally. However, the Antiquities system introduced in the new Greymoor chapter could be just the collectable time sink that gets me to return, and maybe even stay.

That's because antiquities are much more than just empty extras: These valuable items, including mounts and furnishings found across most zones, are arduously acquired after various steps have been completed. After you've kicked off the tutorial quest in Solitude, Western Skyrim, you're given a special tool, and a few leads, which are little hints that point you towards your next antiquity. You can get them without owning Greymoor, but you need to buy the new chapter to use them.

Then, once you've settled on the lead you want to pursue, you need to 'scry' it. Scrying, along with excavation, is one of the two mini-games you'll need to get to grips with before you can lay your hands on your lovely loot. Scrying gets pretty complicated—budding archaeologists should check out Alcast's overview—but, in short, it's how you turn leads into specific dig sites on your map. It essentially reduces the number of fake dig sites, and you have limited moves with which to narrow them down.

This Stained Glass Window found in antiquities leaves cool a reflection on the floor, I was just hoping the window would make it brighter. from r/elderscrollsonline

And then you need to excavate the dig site—if you're not at the right one, you might still get some treasure anyway. To get digging you need to get through layers of an invisible grid to get to the antiquity you're looking for. Like scrying you have a limited number of turns, but you can invest in the skill lines of both to make your treasure gathering simpler.

In other words, gathering these special collectables looks like more than just a side activity or casual distraction, but a system in which hours and hours could be invested. Players are, too: the new system is proving a hit as experienced antiquarians show off their fresh cosmetics and resplendent house furnishings on the TESO subreddit.

The Elder Scrolls Online has been mostly off my radar since I last gave the Elsweyr DLC a go in May last year, but this new, and surprisingly involved, collectables system is tempting me back. Now I can devote many hours gathering secret goodies and actually have fun doing it. Working hard to improve at scrying and excavating looks like it makes acquiring treasures and pinning them in my house rewarding—y'know, once I actually own my own virtual home.

Harry Shepherd

UK — After collecting and devouring piles of print gaming guides in his younger days, Harry has been creating 21st century versions for the past five years as Guides Writer at PCGamesN and Guides Editor at PC Gamer. He has also produced features, reviews, and even more guides for Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and Top Ten Reviews. He's been playing and picking apart PC games for over two decades, from hazy memories of what was probably a Snake knock-off on his first rig when he was seven to producing informative guides on football simulators, open-world role-playing games, and shooters today. So many by now he steadfastly refuses to convey information unless it’s in clickable online form.