Outlevelling content in ESO

Yesterday i mentioned being level 25 with Nuria Solstrum in Elder Scrolls Online. One thing that’s becoming clear right now is that i can hit level 26- the recommended level for continuing in the main story as well as guild quests, easily and a good while before finishing all there is to do in Grahtwood. Elder Scrolls Online is designed to give huge amounts of questing content and it doesn’t fail here.

After researching a bit, i’ve found that there are many players facing the problem of outlevelling content in Elder Scrolls Online. It’s an easy thing to do if you go into dungeons, pvp a bit, take a look at the new DLCs and so on. There are a few suggestions out there on how to deal with that, but they didn’t fit me- the most detailled suggestion was nice enough, but disregarded questing more or less completely.

So into the game i went, to take a look at the achievements and see if they’d provide guidance. I think they do, so i’ll just formulate my own suggestion here and see if it works out in the end- it’s just an idea, basically, and has yet to prove itself. But it’s the way i’m going to approach it.

Preamble

I won’t be chasing each and every quest in a zone, but i also like progress, so i won’t try and stop me from gaining experience or levels. And i respect the variety of content ESO offers- while it’s still mostly combat-based, there are quite a few ways to spend some quality time in ESO: ranging from Delves, Dolmen, Dungeons, Questing, World Bosses, PvP up to the newer DLC. As a sidenote: actually, that’s another reason to look forward to the Thieves Guild DLC- while all the sneaking and stealing usually isn’t my style, it offers something different, at least.

Anyway, i’m going to try and keep variety and freedom in how to approach each zone in ESO. Another thing that should be mentioned: once you get into the Veteran Ranks, you’ll be able to do old quests for Champion Points- so you can still do everything and get some reward later on, even when- if i understand correctly- your alliance’s questing maps won’t be scaled to VR. I think this is a nice thing to keep in mind- even if you’re a completionist, you can return later with two benefits: first, you’ll revisit outlevelled zones, which is a nice thing. And you’ll even get rewarded for doing so.

So this will be the way i’ll try to move through the zones and even “complete” them to an extent while hopefully not outlevelling the zones by much even when diving into DLC from time to time.

Questing

I’ll keep with the quest flow. In Grahtwood, i did the quests in order of the recommended level, but i think i’ll change that up in the next zone and do level-appropriate quests when some of them turn green. My hope is that this way, i’ll see most of the zone i’m questing in at any given moment, which is important regarding the later points in my plan as well as gathering resources and might be good in terms of variety. Also, of course you should do guild quests and main storyline quests as soon as you can get them/reached the corresponding level. In addition, i’ll do the Dolmen if/when they pop up. I’ll stop questing in a zone when i’ve earned the corresponding achievement.

Still a few to go.
Still a few to go.

As you can see, right now i still need to complete 4 quests in Grahtwood to get the Achievement. It is very likely that i’d get to level 26 by doing those remaining quests. But as i said, this is not intended to stop outlevelling altogether but to keep it in check, at least.

I’d also try and finish quests that reward skill points, but it’s actually surprisingly difficult to find a list sorted by location. I think Cadwell’s Almanac covers most of them, but there’s might be others.

Exploration

In the exploration area, i’ll make sure to visit all striking locales- they’re marked as “eyes” on your map.

achievement_striking_locales

Next up will be all the caves (torches on your map).

achievement_caves

Finishing those achievements will grant you a nice meta-achievement and a dye.

Great...it's some kind of brown!
Great…it’s some kind of brown!

Character

When all this is done, i’ll go and look for the missing Skyshards. Regarding Skyshards, in general, i take the following approach:

  • first, i’ll keep an eye out for them while questing and finishing up the other achievements from above
  • then, i’ll look into the corresponding achievement tab- there are hints to the locations of the skyshards. I’ll try and decipher them
  • if i still can’t find them, i’ll simply look them up in the internet

I know there are addons for all this kind of stuff- but using them would rob me of the enjoyment of exploring in ESO- and this is one of the best MMORPGs for exploration out there- i’d even call it the best.

Seeing this now, i think i have an inkling where some of them are.
Seeing this now, i think i have an inkling where some of them are.

Conclusion

Will it work? I don’t know, really. But i think it’ll help me decide on when to move from one zone to the next while also keeping all options open- i’ve put them in this order because chances are you’ll find striking locales, caves and skyshards while questing. You might find skyshards in caves and so on, so it is somewhat efficient. I’ll soon subscribe to ESO and gain +10% XP, so the problem might get worse. If i see it failing, the quest achievement will be the first i’ll drop- i can get back to that later on and treat them as longterm goals, but i will have my dyes and skill points!

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Milestones: Level 25 in ESO and Orsinium first impressions

Reaching level 25 in ESO

I’ve been a bit on the slow side in the last two weeks- with first our family being sick and then doing other stuff in the evenings, i didn’t really get into ESO much. Sure, i’ve done a quest or two here and there, but mostly, it has been about the guild group evenings on fridays. We’ve been to Elder Hollows, the dungeon beneath Elder Root, which is a level 20 dungeon, i think. It has been a nice experience, although with the way dungeon scaling works in ESO it was quite easy to go through.

The big finale
The big finale

Story-wise, i can’t really tell you what’s going on in there. When i’m with a group, i’m not very good in following storylines. Still, atmosphere is something Elder Scrolls Online is doing very well, and this dungeon is no exception. Very interesting to walk and fight through.

Now, level 25 surely isn’t very far into the game and considering ESO is basically the only MMORPG i played this year, it’s becoming quite obvious that i could play ESO exclusively at least for the remainder of the year considering the amount of content in the game. While everything i did in the last couple of weeks is combat-related, i can say that there’s still some variety. We went to Cyrodiil, i did a few quests, we went into the dungeon and we explored the first steps into Orsinium. All these activities were something i chose to do in the sessions when i took part in them- leveling up was a byproduct. For me, this is leveling as it should be: do something you enjoy, the rest will come. Of course, ESO isn’t perfect in this regard- crafting could provide better leveling experience, for instance, and the level scaling in dungeons could be much better. But the game is on the right track here and is only bound to improve with more DLCs.

Right now, my plans are two-fold: on the one hand, i’d like to get Nuria through Grahtwood- she’ll outlevel the zone very soon (the quests leading her to the next area are for level 26), so i’ll try and figure out which parts of Grahtwood to complete and which ones not. At the very least, i’ll try and get most of the zone achievements done- Achievements grant dyes in ESO, so that’s important. And not only that- there are still a few skyshards and locations to discover.

On the other hand, i want to get the other classes going. Mainly for crafting purposes, but i can’t just craft and not play them. As long as the infinite crafting bag isn’t a thing in ESO, i need someone to take care of all the stuff i put in the bank.

Orsinium

Going into Orsinium, i didn’t know what to expect. I heard it was a “snow zone”, and by all accounts i’ve read it would be pretty much “Skyrim Online”. Well, i don’t know about that last part, but i can tell you that i was impressed the whole time we spent in Orsinium. There’s so much that just feels “right” here that it would actually be quite difficult for me to find something i didn’t like about the DLC.

Orsinium - inside the big city
Orsinium – inside the big city

Story-flow and introduction

Let’s begin by looking at the way ESO introduces you to the DLC while leaving out the part in your home city. When you enter Wrothgar, you are sent to catch up with a caravan, which is actually quite easy to do since the caravan was attacked a few metres into the zone.

Well, that didn't take long.
Well, that didn’t take long.

You’ll then go and look for a few merchants (and their goods) to bring them back to the caravan. What i like about this setup is that it makes a lot of sense: someone (an Orc) is rebuilding a city; of course he’ll need supplies and of course there will be somebody else who wants to make a profit with this whole thing- either monetary or in power gain- so while it is a “convenient” event, it isn’t too far-fetched. Also, you’re not “the hero”- it’s made clear that actually, a lot of invitations have been sent.

Landscape

The landscape in this DLC is just breathtaking- and it’s not all snow and ice, which is nice. You’ll have small lakes, waterfalls, a steppe, snowy plains, a huge city that you’ll be able to see from almost all the rest of the map. So despite it being a winter zone, which can be boring or even disruptive (like that snow zone in Rift, for instance), here you have an open zone where you are able to traverse most paths you can see and it’s still very diverse so it doesn’t get boring.

Screenshots don't really do it justice.
Screenshots don’t really do it justice.

World and interior design

Not only is the landscape breathtaking, its’ design is also very good- there’s nothing implausible to find (for now), it gives a realistic impression- and they did strike a nice balance between being too packed so it feels a bit off and being too empty and thereby feeling “realistic” but also boring. It’s the right amount of trees, paths, hills, mountains, lakes, waterfalls that makes this zone feel real while adding a pinch or two of awesome to the experience.

This quality enters buildings, too, by the way, so when you’ll finally enter the city and go to the bathing house, this thing actually looks its part.

Am i interrupting?
Are we interrupting something important?

As do the taverns.

orsinium_taverne

Level scaling

Last, but not least, i’d like to touch on the level scaling. This might seem so minor for some players, but it’s actually a big deal for me and our small guild: the whole zone is scaled…or, to be more precise: the group will be scaled to the zone. This allows us to go in and find challenging/interesting content for everyone and since there’s no level range within the zone, we can join up, go and do whatever we like with whoever will be online. So if someone missed group night, he or she can easily join up the next week without the need to catch up- we’d just find something else to do or go exploring.

Keeping this for all of their upcoming DLCs is a great decision; if anything, the way ZOS made Orsinium, a snow zone, work, makes me look positively towards the desert zone in the Thieves Guild DLC.

But i also hope they’ll improve on the level scaling in dungeons and in zones. I think that’s where they’re going with the removal of VR, but if they were to treat the leveling zones of the other alliances basically like “optional DLC” in the way Orsinium works (with scaling to one, and only one level and giving us the option to do everything in the order we prefer), thereby removing that feeling of having to go through three storylines (that scares me, a lot) while making it worthwhile and also a potential group activity, that would be great. And then, Housing please.

If Orsinium is any indication, they’re on a very good track with that game.

Friday quick notes

This blog

I wasn’t really happy with the layout. In theory, i don’t like to “make” visitors click twice to read anything, but with my posts being quite wordy, scrolling down could be a pain and it isn’t really easy to find a WordPress theme that displays text-walls in a nice way.

It seems i’ve found a solution with this current theme. A visitor still has to click through to a certain post, but if you were visiting the site, i think it now looks more appealing. I’d like to get some feedback, as well- do you like the new layout? Don’t worry, it’s nothing i created – it’s a one-click-installation. Is it bothersome to click through to a certain post? Or do you read this in a Feedreader anyway and only click through if you want to comment or something?

There’s some administrative work to do- i added “featured images” to the posts appearing on the first site right now; it will look different when you click back to the second page. But the first thing, still easy to do with a free blog page here, is bringing my categories and tags in order- they’re a mess and i have too many.

I also don’t like the Blogroll on the right. While i follow those blogs you can see over there, they’re basically just a selection made by WordPress in a way i haven’t looked into yet. I’ll have to look at ways to improve that. One thing i really like and what i’ve seen others do is a list of recently published posts from other blogs. I’d like to look into that, as well as other customization- i like this place and want it to feel like my own.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ve contemplated self-hosting, but that isn’t free. One thing i know for sure is that i won’t upgrade this blog with WordPress themselves. It’s 100$ a year, i can go and self-host 3 years for that kind of money.

The Secret World

I fired it up and decided on one character to continue. Returning is hard, though. A full inventory, mobs taking strangely long to kill, not knowing what stats to look for in equipment and so on. I managed to do two quests and see to my equipment.

Elder Scrolls Online

I’ve done a few quests, killed my first dozen-or-so vampires and their lord (great atmosphere but too easy to kill in the end).

blood_well
Turning water into blood to lure out Vampires.

Nuria’s approaching Level 25, but i think i’ll create my other crafters next. The full inventory on body and bank slows me down more than i’d like, especially with those short sessions i had this week while our whole family was sick.

Tonight, we’ll take a look at Orsinium. I’m really looking forward to that.

Adventures in Tamriel

I didn’t get much time to play since i last posted- nonetheless, a lot has happened in that timeframe.

Heading into Cyrodiil

Our small guild meets up around a loose weekly/bi-weekly schedule to do stuff together. As many of us are “time-casuals”, these meet-ups might be the only time to log in and see others being online. Before we got our first new recruits, we would just continue our Daggerfall Covenant group, but as that group is full, that isn’t an option if we want to invite the new members along. Since we were already eyeing Cyrodiil, we decided that it was time to put our swords in service of the Aldmeri Dominion.

Of course, we’re PvE players, mostly. So running out of our gates to chase down enemies wasn’t really an option. But Cyrodiil has us covered- there’s much to do there for PvE players, as well. At least if you’re willing to take the chance of being attacked by other factions’ players. There are skyshards, open dungeons, Dolmen, even PvE-quests to be found and completed. And i have to say that we had a great experience.

What a lovely inn.
What a lovely inn. (Vlastarus)

As i usually do, i decided to go in mostly unprepared, without doing much research but with just enough knowledge to get us going. So i searched for a village in a seemingly safe area of Cyrodiil, found one and memorized the general direction we’d need to take to get there. I chose Vlastarus and a northwest direction from where we’d spawn in Cyrodiil.

Taking this approach made the evening an event to remember- at least for me. The moment we spawned in Cyrodiil, i felt “free”. Yes, i had a general idea of direction, but we had no goal other than explore, see what the landscape offers, and having fun. So we took out and explored. When a landmark looked interesting enough, we went there- there might be a skyshard, a dungeon, a lore-book or something else worth discovering, after all. We fought some npc’s, opened heavy sacks, took a look and went on in our business.

What lies inside, i wonder?
What lies inside, i wonder?

I didn’t have the impression of Cyrodiil being an extraordinary big zone- it’s big, but it wasn’t awe-inspiring. There’s a difference, though, to the usual PvE zones i explored so far: the landscape is open- there aren’t many mountains to guide your passage, basically you can go wherever you want to go.

And then, there’s that sense of danger- after all, it could happen that a group of enemy players found their way into the same area we were in. So turning around and taking a look was a good idea. I really liked that combination- the vague sense of danger, direction and a goal, later on even tackling (PvE-)quests combined with the freedom to basically go everywhere we liked and do whatever we liked to do. We were in good company and had a really nice evening- and i even managed to level up once.

Our first two victims
Our first two victims in Vlastarus

In the village, we were attacked by two other players- while i’m pretty sure we would’ve engaged them on sight, we didn’t see them first- they attacked us. When it was time to call it a night i saw there was a siege going on close by- maybe it was bloodlust taking over, but after that evening, i wanted to take a look at a larger-scale fight.

I wasn't disappointed
I wasn’t disappointed- Siege in Cyrodiil. The castle’s behind that rock on the right.

Now, Sieges are a very different matter- it’s chaotic, there are many stronger enemies fighting and attacking you, health is going down rapidly and when you want to join up with the force after respawning, there might be stealthed players waiting for you. It went a bit chaotic there, but since it was the last thing we did that evening, it was ok. Sieges are great, but they need a different skillset- for the player and maybe for the character, as well. With my light armor, i was lying on the ground in a heartbeat.

Anyway, Cyrodiil was great fun- in a group even more so, but i’m sure i’ll revisit it solo, as well. It’s open, it’s free and very lucrative, especially in terms of crafting materials- each sack i opened contained 20 items of some resource.

That beacon

Other than that evening with the guild, i’ve only had one chance to play and tackled only one quest- to free Culanwe from her prison in Coldharbor and see if that beacon would turn red.

Taking in the view to Laeloria.
Taking in the view to Laeloria.

Well, it didn’t. Although the quest surely didn’t disappoint me and it might have had a different ending if i had chosen to kill that winged demon. These ruins in Elder Scrolls Online still baffle me- i mean, they often resemble each other in internal and external design and look and it’s mostly sidemissions that lead you in, but for some reason i can’t put my finger on, in ESO i’m interested. Maybe it’s just plain luck that the ingame-time of day corresponds very well with the feelings i have regarding some of those quests.

For instance, the Laeloria quest seemed mysterious to me. There’s nothing really special about some woman being held captive in some place or a cursed building containing a gate to the underworld. Well, at least this isn’t something special in MMO-land. But here, beginning with the quest-giver in that tree-house, everything set the mood in just the right ways.

Where it began.
Where it began.

The whole time i could see Laeloria- i went past it a few times already, but i couldn’t see it in its entirety. There was always that tower looming, though, and i was really excited to explore that place even before i got the quest to go there.

Add to that the story of the imprisoned woman, Culanwe, suffering for a hundred years or longer, in that same prison we, the players, escaped in the tutorial, and suddenly i was game.

There's even a Daedra involved.
There’s even a Daedra involved.

So in i went, in the night, to fight some demons and gain access, first to the basement of that place, then via portal to Coldharbour, to free a woman in a pretty unimportant (i guess) side-quest. And i loved every minute of that experience.

Atmosphere and immersion- it's been a long time!
Atmosphere and immersion- it’s been a long time!

The whole thing took me about an hour to complete. Again, this is one side-quest. But for now, this serves as some kind of iconic place and quest for me, incorporating all the things i really appreciate in ESO right now.

Opening the portal
Opening the portal

Blade&Soul early impressions

I’ve also been playing Blade&Soul from time to time, although my enthusiasm for Elder Scrolls Online got in the way of playing it extensively. So far, i’ve gotten up to level 10 and i have to say that it meets my expectations so far.
Screenshot_160115_009

Starting with the Force Master, i made my way out of Bamboo Village and am in Everdusk, at the moment- my impressions in that early stage.

Artstyle

I like the art style of Blade&Soul- it’s stylized but beautiful. Areas as well as characters look nice and interesting.

Although i have to say it changed from being asian-looking with a bit of a fantasy touch to fantasy with a bit of asian touch quite fast- i hope we’ll return to greener pastures soon, Everdusk is just as the name suggests.

Combat

The combat in Blade&Soul is fun- i can only imagine it getting better in higher levels and/or a different class. I feel like, as with Tera, if you’re going for a caster class, the feel of gameplay isn’t hugely different to what we’re used to. Still, even the Force Master makes use of combos, and i do have a Blade Master waiting and a Destroyer planned. While i’d like to add a Summoner or Blade Dancer to my stable of characters, i won’t play Lyn.

One thing keeping me at bay right now is the possibility that i might end up playing the same quests again with a new class. This year, i’d like to see some mid-level zones in the games i’m playing, so creating new characters and embark on exactly the same voyage is not what i’m after these days. But it could be a good idea to get those other two classes up to level 10 (it doesn’t take long) and see which one is connecting with me.

Maps and Quest progression

While the maps are beautiful, the experience is mostly quest-hub-to-quest-hub. Up until now, there hasn’t been a lot of exploration to do- you’ll visit every inch of the map anyway. That might change later on. It’s also one of these games that give out a trillion quests in a hub- you go out and do them dutifully – one stack of quests will lead you to roughly the same area- and turn them in when going back. What this does, of course, is taking the meaning out of individual quests, leading to strange stories and killing some of my desire to read quest-text outside of the main storyline. I guess Elder Scrolls Online is at fault here, because right now, i really love doing quests over there and experience them as completely as possible by following the dialogue and reading found letters, as well.

Screenshot_160115_011

Leveling is really fast right now- usually, i get a level from one stack of quests. Levelling from 1 to 5 actually took longer than levels 6 to 10, probably because of that introductory sequence and because it took me some time to get used to the pacing of the game.

Feeling lost

There are a few systems at work in Blade and Soul where i’ll have to inform myself on external sources. As far as i know, you’ll keep the weapon you get at level 5 or something up to the current maxlevel (45, i think)- you can and should upgrade it. There was a quest introducing that concept, but i still have to take a look at how that actually works. You can let your weapon take a look of another one if you want to change appearance.

Speaking of appearance- right now i’m not sure of ways on getting new clothes for my wardrobe- i only have my starting gear and two outfits, probably from pre-ordering and the tier of founder pack i bought.

I have some bag expansion stuff in my inventory but i don’t know how to turn them into actual inventory space (update: it’s so easy- simply click on those “rocks” to unlock inventory one row at a time) and i’m still figuring out what the soul shield is. The soul shield is…well, an octagon of splinters you can equip. There are sets that give different bonuses to stats like critical chance, agility and stuff like that. There are set bonuses if you use 3,5 or 8 pieces of the same type.

There is crafting, of course, but i haven’t seen a profession teacher yet. Maybe there’ll be one in the first city?

Screenshot_160115_004

Monetization seems fine to me; maybe prizes are a bit off (15€ for a costume), but there doesn’t seem to be something fishy in the marketplace. One thing that bothers me, though, is that you can only use the wardrobe as a subscriber. That’s…strange, to say the least. On the one hand, this feature might not be enough to subscribe for it, but on the other hand it might be enough to discontinue playing the game when the feature isn’t available anymore.

All in all, it feels strange to me- but i have to say that this is almost always the case for me in asian/korean MMORPGs: i have all this stuff in my inventory and don’t have any idea what it is used for- i have had similar experiences in Aion and Tera. My guess is that for people who are more familiar with those MMORPGs, everything will feel quite intuitive- Blade and Soul seems to be of a high design quality- nothing really “feels strange”, it’s just those systems that aren’t familiar to me.

And finally- i don’t know why it’s always NC’s games- but gold seller spam is huge in Blade&Soul, as well. I haven’t found an easy way to block those other than typing the name into the blacklist, so general chat is mostly useless, even on a german server! I know it’ll calm down- it does so every time, but it’s interesting to see in such an amount that i last saw in…well, Aion.

On other games

But i’ll take it as practice for Black Desert Online, to which i’m looking forward more and more, thanks to a few articles by Ironweakness about the pro’s and cons, choosing a class and end game in Black Desert Online. I’m going to ditch Final Fantasy 14 for now, i really don’t have enough time for it to justify a subscription- i’m totally happy with Elder Scrolls Online and i’m having fun with dabbling in Blade&Soul, Rocket League and Diablo 3. I tried Heroes of the storm for an hour or two (to embrace pvp), but it might be that MOBAs just aren’t my genre. And if want something calmer, i can either pace ESO down or simply play a singleplayer RPG.

Also, i finished "Fit to rule" in ESO
Also, i finished “Fit to rule” in ESO

Meet Nuria Solstrum

…the Nord fighting for Queen Ayrenn in the Aldmeri Dominion.

Nuria_Aldmer_Embassy

I’m still working/thinking about in-character details. To be honest, i’m not really much of a roleplayer, although the concept intrigues me and i might link up with a german roleplaying community in Elder Scrolls Online. Sooner or later, i’m going to need to find an explanation for a Nord fighting for the Dominion. Well, a better one than “i like big swords and the Nord seem to use them quite well”.

Now, what did you say? She’s wielding a staff in that picture above? Yes, that’s right. I just re-skilled her. It took almost all her ingame gold to do that, despite her being an old character and having no skill points set when i restarted playing her after our guild chose to go with the Aldmeri Dominion.

When picking up an old character, or even one i played two weeks ago, i’m always having trouble “returning” – what were their crafting jobs? What were her goals, where was she in game, where did she want to go? So this post is mainly to remind me- and also to share some experiences in the game- and i really can’t tell you how much ESO is growing on me the more i play.

Skills to choose from

Nuria was supposed to be a Stamina-based Templar with a few healing abilities to support and/or self heal. She was supposed to wear medium armor, a two-handed sword and Dual Wield as a secondary weapon choice.

The more i played her, though, the more i felt this wasn’t supposed to be her role. See, all Templar class abilities are Magicka-based. It also started to happen that i would be out of magicka during fights. That’s when i thought that, maybe, the dps/heal hybrid i have in mind would be better served with her being Magicka based.

So i reskilled her and am in the process of re-training her by fighting and turning in quests while using the secondary weapon- a restoration staff, now. For soloing, i’m having two setups now, and for now, they’re both making use of dps and healing abilities.

Nuria_beach

My first choice is the two-handed weapon. I can heal myself just fine with the Templar healing class tree and i’m going with a combination of Aedric Spear and Two-Handed abilities for damage. So one heal, two Aedric Spear and two Two-handed abilities are on my bar for now. The underlying goal of this will be to make her usable in close-quarters combat, not necessarily melee, while starting the attack from range.

Then, there’s the second weapon set- i chose Restoration Staff, to be able to heal our groups through dungeons and whatnot. Right now, i’m using 1 heal from the Templar class healing skill line, one heal from the staff, two attacks from the Dawn’s Wrath skill line and one from Aedric Spear. This is basically a ranged dps/heal hybrid.

What i (theoretically) like about this setup is that it makes use of all three class skill lines- the Templar is the only class where i like all of them- and they all support my will to do different things at times- Aedric Spear is mid-ranged with an option to engage close-quarters, while Dawn’s Wrath is ranged dps and Restoring Light is for healing. The weapon skill lines add melee and further healing ability into that mix.

I hope this way i’ll be flexible enough to react to different scenarios that might come up later: maybe i’ll see that i can’t really make use of the two Stamina-based skills if i use all my attribute points for Magicka. I hope in this case i might react by wearing some medium armor. Maybe i’ll realize i am too squishy- then i might add some heavy armor. In dungeons, i can make use of two separate skill setups- one for damage, one for healing- if i have a dedicated role- or stay a hybrid of sorts. Also, i think in PvP ranged combat might be preferrable when taking part in sieges.

Weight and commitment

Now i don’t know if this is going to happen or if my hybrid builds might work, but what i do like is that i have the option to try it, and it feels like “commiting”. Other games allow you to try, but they make it easy to try again- like Rift or Guild Wars 2, where you can be everything you’d want to be (within your class) in the matter of a few minutes or less if you saved your setup. This is nice, feature-wise, but it doesn’t build on your connection to the character- because she’s replaceable.

ambassador_traitor

I think “commitment” is the keyword for Elder Scrolls Online- every choice i’m making seems to have weight, while still being able to change it later (with a few exceptions). Crafting, for instance. You can try and do all crafts with one character, but it isn’t exactly recommended. So you’ll have to choose. Since inventory size is still an issue (by the way, good tip in keeping your inventories in order: keep everything crafting-related in the bags of characters working in that trade), you’ll have to think about it in one way or the other.

Nuria is the armorer of house Mersault (my character stable that will surely grow), Tailor and Blacksmith. Why? Because that way, only one of my characters needs crafting motifs for armor. I don’t know if the woordworkers have different styles for their bows and staves, but that’s of minor concern for me right now.

Elder Scrolls Online is also really immersive- i love the story and how it plays out- sometimes, you’ll turn a quest in and something will happen afterwards. Like the story of a bard who loved too many women and fell for the wrong one.

Performing for eternity
Performing for eternity

There are chance encounters on the road- i witnessed an outlander being threatened by a guard in Grahtwood for eating a plant – the wood elves really don’t like that. Sometimes, these will grant a buff- with the minimal UI, though (and i refuse to mod heavily), you don’t really know what happened. One time, i saw that my Stamina bar recharged- so lighting that campfire seemed to have an effect on that.

So ESO rewards the player for sticking to it- you’ll be more immersed in the story, because you still know what happened last time you played, get to learn the places and the zones as well as the lore just by playing and paying attention to quest stories (and can dive even deeper with the books and letters found everywhere)- and i’m sure sticking to ESO will have an impact on your ability and experience in trade with other players and others.

So while the business model seems to suggest ESO’s fine with you leaving and returning later, you’ll get more out of it if you stay. I know, this can be said about almost every MMORPG out there, and it is quite difficult to put into words, but this feeling of…weight and the growing bond with my character(s) and immersion really makes me like ESO more and more the longer i’m playing.

Elder Scrolls Online: why i’m confident

They don’t care about us

I remember back before launch, the Massively-that-was staff was quite bemused that Zenimax didn’t go and seek out MMO players. They didn’t even want to call the game an MMORPG, instead, they pushed the thought of CRPG a bit, although we all knew what it was going to be.

While marketing tactics are one thing, i think not listening to your audience- to a degree- is a sign of a “vision” for the game. Even nowadays, there’s a big part of the community still wanting a global auction house- in spite of the existence of trade guilds, guild vendors and guild stores. Talking about that feature, specifically, i think they’re right in saying that this emulates regional markets with prize differences and such- without affecting travel convenience, for instance.

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They also told us we’re “hoarders” if we have full inventories. Now, i really dislike the fact that inventory management is its own minigame within ESO, but they are right about that, as well. I could just sell material i don’t use to craft anyway- when i don’t do that, it’s my own fault.

I mean, take a look at this– we’re really complaining about GMs being able to reserve names before us? What’s next, demanding to see every bit of content the instant it is designed? We have Landmark for that. Oh, and also, please make all your games cost nothing while you’re at it.

When Zenimax does ignore player feedback to keep the game in line with its vision, this is a good sign. And they have a good track record on this.

But they care for us

On the other hand, they provide stuff that the players have been wanting to see- the coming DLCs are about content the community wanted to see since the game launched. They changed many parts of the game to provide a better experience for the players. So it’s not as if they’re not listening to feedback, but they’re not following the screaming of the “vocal minority”. This is a good thing.

The game changed considerably since its PC launch (which was a beta, anyway)- and i’m not talking about the business model, because i believe they never planned to release to consoles with a subscription. We have interesting DLC (with level scaling!), dyes, guild vendors, heraldry and what-have-you. They’re adding in, but they are also smart about it.

Another good sign is that they’re not afraid to scrap planned designs like the second part of the justice system.

Business model

I love the business model of selling content. Recently, when i posted about SWTOR’s business model, there was a discussion in the comments whether this was really a good idea. I really don’t know if it’s good for the devs, but what i do know is this: to get money, the dev has to provide something of worth. To me, that seems like a fair way to do business. I also think that buy-to-play as a business model works much better than subscription or free-to-play on consoles. I don’t know that, of course, it’s just what my gut tells me.

The future of the game

The thing is, while ESO is a pretty nice game and MMORPG, i think there are two areas that need improving: social and non-combat. I think they have this covered, as well – in “The year ahead” Matt Frior mentions stuff like a guild search, nameplates and player housing as well as character customization shop. All of this is necessary and if they get housing out this year, i know we chose the right game for our community.

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To me, ESO seems to be in a healthy state and it’s looking as if this year will bring exciting content and improvements. I’m really looking forward to seeing all this.

It fits my own play-style

For an action-combat MMO, ESO is pretty relaxing. Being story-driven, Elder Scrolls Online slows my pace enough as to make it still relaxing to play. While the combat-centricity is still a problem for me, it’s also interesting to read the stories of quests, sometimes in found books/notes, go exploring or crafting. And that’s still without touching the PvP part of the game. I’m able to slow it down if i want to. It’s much easier to do that in ESO compared to Wildstar.

Furthermore, i like the storie(s) in the game and the use of phasing to show results. For me, the quality of story content is, in general (taking all story elements into account, i.e. filler quest stories) above SWTOR’s and short of The Secret World, which is miles above and beyond everything else in the genre.

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I can also build my character in ways i like to play it- i love being a dps/healer hybrid of sorts and i can do that here. Now, i’m sure many people would say that my character won’t be very good, but they don’t need to play it, so…yeah. I like that ESO makes this possible and aside from some general tipps about how to spend skill points, i haven’t looked into guides or builds at all.

The difficulty and time-to-kill are quite on-point. ESO’s PvE isn’t easy- i don’t mean that standard mobs are hard for me to kill, but there is interesting content in ESO- there are open world dungeons with bosses, there are solo instances/quests and the combat itself is active enough without being hectic.

And then there’s PvP. Open world, three faction PvP- and on that map, there is meaningful PvE content.

The setting

I’m not a TES fan. I used to play Morrowind when i still had the time and inclination to read everything the NPCs said, the lore in the books and so on and i loved it. For some reason, i’ve never done too much in Skyrim (although playing ESO makes me want to take another look), but i do love the fantasy setting. While some innovation would be nice, i think fantasy- and scifi, maybe- is the genre that provides the best foundation for MMORPGs.

It’s not low-fantasy, what i would prefer, but it is “grimdark” enough to make me enjoy the setting, the world and the story – which is something FF14, for instance, doesn’t really achieve.

Our community/guild

We’re there and we’ve made the choice that Elder Scrolls Online will be our main game for the forseeable future, meaning we’re not seeing anything on the horizon of newly released games that could take its place. Sure, we’ll check other games out- i’ll be checking Blade&Soul, other members have their eyes on Black Desert or the Repopulation, but each game only has one or maybe two of us interested, while ESO appeals to all of us.

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“All of us” aren’t that many, really. But a bit more than seen here.

So we’re looking to grow- from the inside as well as from the outside. We ourselves will be looking to join special interest guilds for trade, roleplaying, thieving, maybe pvp or leveling, if the german community provides something like that (not sure about that leveling thing).

From the outside- we have set up our recruitment thread in the official forums. As expected, our doors aren’t being kicked in (who’d want to join a guild of 4, anyways?!?), but i’m still hoping that there are players out there interested in the type of thing we want to create- a “social” guild where members know each other’s first names, share RL stuff and are active more because of the people, than for the game(s) or the content within them.

The most difficult part here is patience. We wait for that first (successful) application, we want to grow bigger- and we know it could be quite easy- join a newly released or beta game and open up the gates widely. The thing is, this way, you’ll grow to 30, 50 members and beyond easily but still wouldn’t know anybody, members would leave the game in droves after a few weeks/months and 5 years later, you’ll find yourself in a forum with 900 users, with 30 of them posting actively and maybe 50 users playing 5/6 games under your banner.

Will it last?

Now, i’m sceptical of my own nature- i tend to change MMORPGs a lot, as you might know from reading here from time to time- while resenting myself for doing so. I think there are a few factors- most of them outside of this game- that will determine if ESO will really become my “go-to” MMORPG in 2016.

  1. The community/guild members actively play this game outside of scheduled activities.
  2. We’ll be able to recruit some new players to our guild/community
  3. My selection of “side games” fits and fills the gaps i feel still exist in ESO (currently i’m going with FF14 and B&S)
  4. Housing / non-combat info as soon as possible, please