The Elder Scrolls Online

Creating ESO: Dark Anchors

Learn more about how we made Molag Bal’s world-rending constructs into huge, memorable encounters.

In The Elder Scrolls Online, the diabolical Daedric Prince Molag Bal has plans to pull all of Tamriel into his Oblivion Plane of Coldharbour, enslaving the souls of the innocent in the process. He has created the Dark Anchors, magical constructs of immense size, to rip through the planar boundaries, spewing forth Daedra and pulling Tamriel ever closer to its doom. As you explore, you’ll see the massive Anchors throughout the world. If you team up with allies, you might just have a chance to send them hurtling back into Oblivion.

When we set out to create the Dark Anchor encounters, we had specific goals in mind. We wanted them to be an immediate, obvious reminder that Tamriel is in danger—something you could see in the world to make you realize just how dire the situation is. We also wanted to include more challenges for small groups and provide more options for gameplay activities. When you see a Dark Anchor, it gives you the chance to say, “Oh! I’m going to go check that out,” explore a little more of the world, and experience a formidable encounter that will encourage you to team up with allies. From there, who knows—maybe you'll go back to what you were doing before, or maybe your newly-formed group will go on to adventure together some more.

In our first few iterations, the Anchors were smaller than they are now and much more local. As we continued working on them, we felt they didn’t have the impact that world-threatening magical machines should, so we started taking on some difficult technical challenges to give them the huge scale they deserved. We wanted you to see them from a long distance, and the closer you got, the more we wanted you to feel like the world was ending. We really cranked them up, creating an impressive cultist summoning event and scaling up the art and effects to enormous proportions.

Of course, sound is a critical part of the Dark Anchor experience. What does it sound like when a huge Daedric construct tears a hole between Tamriel and Oblivion? Our Sound Designers knew they had to get it just right, and they worked to carefully combine sounds to get the perfect “oh-no-it’s-the-end-of-the-world” soundscape. After seeing a Dark Anchor, you’d expect to hear metallic sounds like heavy chains, and you will, but you might not expect the sounds of pitched-down tubas and freight trains in the mix! Their goal was to create a strong emotional response by making the sounds loud, heavy, and dangerous, and we think you’ll agree that they hit the mark when you hear one in-game.

There’s more to the Anchors than just the intimidating sights and sounds, though. Massive chains drive into the ground, and Daedra pulled from Oblivion pour from the inter-planar space, causing chaos in the vicinity. To loosen the grip of the Anchor, you’ll have to gather allies and drive the monsters back, but it won’t be easy. Dark Anchor encounters feature a huge amount of variations, and you never know exactly what you’ll be up against. To give them even more flavor and challenge, we added a selection of randomized special bosses. You might even find yourself facing one of Molag Bal’s own generals as you fight to send the Anchor back to Oblivion. The whole experience, from the frightening sounds to the chaotic battle, is complemented by Molag Bal himself (voiced by Malcolm McDowell) taunting you—daring you to defy him and laughing at your feeble attempts to defeat his champions.

No encounter would be complete without great rewards, and we do have some that will keep you hunting down Anchors throughout your adventure. We don’t want to ruin the surprise, but you’ll have plenty of reasons to send the Anchors back to Oblivion, from helping out the Fighters Guild to a set of achievements, special cosmetic gear, and more. It’s important for us to make sure you get a sense of both accomplishment and worthwhile rewards.

Dark Anchors can be found everywhere in Tamriel, so get ready to grab a few friends and beat down some Daedra! We hope you enjoyed this quick look at the creation of the Dark Anchors. Now that you’ve heard all about them, check out this short video for a taste of what you’ll see in-game:

Thanks for reading, and keep your eyes open for our next Creating ESO!

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