Investigating the Illumination Academy in ‘Elder Scrolls Online’

Elder Scrolls Online is so dang good, you guys. It handles all sorts of themes using the Elder Scrolls lore in ways that make me so happy. I’d like to talk about one quest from the Summerset expansion that really captured my imagination.

On the way to a town on the northwestern coast, we are called over by an Altmer woman who speaks in an unusual accent for the region. She is very clearly impersonating a Nord, but to what end? If we’ve learned anything from our time in the Summerset Isles, High Elves are not exactly fans of other races.

So we head on up the road she came from to figure out what exactly is going on. Because something must be wrong for a distinguished resident of Summerset to even consider Nords as having an important faith.


Those familiar with some of the mythology of the Elder Scrolls series’ Nords may know that Sovngarde is the land of the honored dead, with Tsun being the guardian before the whale bone bridge that leads to the Valhalla’ish place. She seems to believe you are on a battlefield with the long dead snow elves?

As we enter this beautiful campus, we start to notice some things are off. It’s almost as if we wandered into ‘play pretend’ time at school. There’s one man commanding a group of chickens, while others are sitting in a tree as if it was a pirate ship.


Finally we are approached by a lucid-seeming man who is terribly worried because his best friend isn’t acting quite herself. When we talk to the friend she just grumbles that we’re “ruining the moment”. So off to try and help others in this madhouse.

First we find a man sitting on a blanket surrounded by empty bottles, begging anyone walking by for coin. In front of him are three books, one of them called The Begger Prince. Upon reading the couple of pages of Beggar Prince available, we learn the story of a man who begged Namira, the Daedric Prince of Disgusting Grossness to make him rich. Namira did so, by making him so pathetic that everyone would give coin to the beggar.

So we talk to the dude, and when he asks for gold, we get the option of giving him some, or saying nope. When you say nope, he gets all confused.


Who could possibly refuse this poor beggar?

“You must be the Daedric Prince, Namira!” he cries, getting all sorts of excited. “Otherwise you’d be giving me all the gold in your wallet!” he reasons. So you can either tell him “yes but I cure you” or “no you’re really not that gross” and it will snap him out of the delusion.

After that we cure a couple more victims of whatever is going on. Pie is involved. We learn that a spirit has escaped a forbidden book accidentally opened by a student. So we go into the library’s book dungeon to fight it. As we go we encounter a number of moments where we must read the books given, and file them away into the proper section of library. Eventually we fight the spirit, send it back to the book, and everyone’s back to a nice healthy humiliated normal.

The coolest thing about this quest is that just about everything was old assets. No new gameplay mechanics were introduced, and even most of the books existed in the game before it. The Illumination Academy quest was really just a genius way to take advantage of the existing lore, and quest design mechanics of the game. It makes me glad to continue playing new content, because it feels upwards from here.


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