Posted at 15.31 on 5th December
Time played: 10 hours
Neloth tells us he's located the next Black Book in Nchardak, a nearby Dwemer ruin, but it's currently sealed away. We follow the wizard as we trek over to the ruins, fighting Lurkers and Ash Spawn on the way, which makes us grateful that we have two characters fighting alongside us at the moment.
TIP: Always loot the bodies of defeated Lurkers as they contain plenty of gold, in addition to valuable rings and jewellery which provide stat boosts.
After dealing with a group of bandits outside the ruin and liberating a set of Nordic Carved Armour from their leader, Neloth unlocks the entrance with a special control cube he found on a previous visit and we head inside. We can see the Black Book in the reading room here but as it's sealed away we can't access it just yet.
Instead we head deeper into the ruins where it's revealed there are a number of other cubes to recover, and activating them with control pedestals opens doors and changes the water levels in flooded caverns below. This leads to several puzzle sections where we have to raise the water level to swim up to previously inaccessible areas and lower it to get through underwater doors.
These physics-based puzzles add an interesting twist to our exploration here, and make a welcome change from the usual dungeon exploring we're familiar with. By solving them all we achieve our objective of activating the boilers, to provide steam to the reading room so we can recover the latest Black Book.
With the mechanism activated and the Black Book released, we read it and are transported to Apocrypha once again...
Posted at 12.26 on 5th December
Time played: 8.5 hours
After arriving at the Wind Stone and using our new Bend Will shout, the construction being built around the stone glows then erupts in an impressive explosion, unleashing a tough Lurker enemy for us to fight. Once it's defeated, we find the folk of Skaal Village are now free from Miraak's control and can head home.
Returning to Skaal Village and speaking to the Shamen, we're tasked with using our new shout to cleanse the remaining stones. There are six in total but one is protected within Miraak's new temple, leaving us four to deal with. The Shamen also tells us to speak with Dark Elf Neloth to learn more about the Black Books, starting another quest.
TIP: From this point on Frea can be recruited as a follower, by speaking to her in the Shamen's house in Skaal Village.
We make our way around Solstheim cleansing the stones, which are spread the length and breadth of the land and remind us of how big this new map is. Along the way we encounter dwarf-like Rieklings and Bristleback boars, both of which were originally seen in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
We also defeat several dragons on our travels, receiving a Dragon Soul the first time but losing the second one to Miraak who appears and steals it again, suggesting this is going to be a recurring theme.
With all of the stones cleansed, we arrive at the organic mushroom-like tower where Dark Elf Neloth is based and look for information about the strange Black Books...
Posted at 10.32 on 5th December
Time played: 7 hours
After reaching the end of the Temple of Miraak and dealing with skeletons, a Deathlord and a large rockfall, we find another Black Book titled Waking Dreams. Activating this whisks us off to Apocrypha again where we find ourselves faced by Miraak himself. After revealing his plans to control Solstheim he climbs aboard a dragon and flies off - the first time we've seen dragon riding in Skyrim.
Back in Solstheim we head to Frea's home in Skaal Village where the last few citizens have raised a magic barrier to protect them from Miraak's power. The Elders of the village instruct us to find a word of power to destroy the effect of the nearby Wind Stone and free the people.
We make our way towards the Word Wall marker, noting the terrain on this side of Solstheim is much different to the scorched lands we've seen previously. Snow covers the ground here and waterfalls run through the area, giving it a peaceful feel.
At the Word Wall we find and kill a Blood Dragon, but at that point Miraak appears and steals the Dragon's Soul from us. This could prove a pain if it keeps happening as we need those souls to unlock our new shouts! Luckily we have a Dragon Soul in reserve and use it to unlock 'Earth', the first word of the Bend Will shout.
The description for this new shout says that when powerful enough we can use it to get dragons to do our bidding - whether this just means they'll fight on our side or will lead to us being able to ride dragons ourselves, only time will tell but it's exciting to have new powers to work with. For now, we're off to see what the first level of this Bend Will shout can do...