Tamriel Infinium: The major flaw in Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind’s PvP
When I spoke to ZeniMax Lead PvP Designer Brian Wheeler a few months back, I was intrigued by the PvP that Morrowind was offering The Elder Scrolls Online. When it hit the test servers, I found it to be exactly what I thought it would be. But because of my playtimes or just the general activity on the PTS, the queues didn’t pop much, so I didn’t get enough of an impression of the Battlegrounds during the test.
However, since the chapter hit the live servers, I’ve been able to spend a good bit of time in the no-Champion Points version of the instanced PvP zones. (As many of you know, I have a heavy aversion to Champion Points, so I apologize that my impressions of the Battlegrounds are only reflective of that.)
Now, I enjoy PvP sporadically. I would not consider myself a hardcore PvPer. But there was a time when I spent all of my game time in both instanced and open-world PvP, so I am not ignorant of the interests PvPers: balanced classes, interesting and unexploitable maps, and strategic and engaging objectives. Of course, there will always be balancing issue when you’re dealing with the number of class combinations ESO carries, but they are relatively balanced. And the other interests fall in line with most other MMO PvP. There is one major flaw that appears effective on paper, but when you factor in human nature, it fails almost every time: 4v4v4.
The basics of ESO Morrowind PvP
I don’t think that there is too much to explain about Morrowind PvP that hasn’t already been said, but let me at least touch on the similarities and the differences between it and other MMO PvP.
Like instanced PvP in nearly every other MMO, ESO Battlegrounds are entered via a queuing system. Currently, there is only one choice of Battleground group: all of them. However, given the design and layout of the Battleground interface, it does appear that we will eventually get to choose something, such as game type or map. This is reflective of what Wheeler told me during my visit to the studio.
The maps themselves are more or less circular and relatively simple. Depending on the map and game type, there is a central area with three points on the outer ring for objectives. My personal favorite map is Ularra, which is an over-grown Daedric worship site. Unlike the other two maps, this one appears to be brighter but also has a lot of places to hide and ambush other players. Foyada Quarry — which was the one used in most of the advertising — is actually the most boring. That being said, none are terrible; I just found that map far too open and the traps far too easy to avoid.
The gameplay modes are as expected: Capture the Flag allows you to steal a relic from the other teams’ zone and carry it back to yours. Team Deathmatch is all about killing the other teams. Surprising to me, Domination was my favorite, even though I lost as many of those matches as I won. I’m unsure what exactly made this map so interesting, but it might have to do with the three-way split.
The fatal flaw
It’s ironic that the biggest thing that sets ESO Battlegrounds apart from other MMO instanced PvP is also the biggest issue with the game’s PvP. The instanced, team-based PvP keeps with the three-faction theme of the base game, but it doesn’t follow the same division as the rest of the game. The teams are more arbitrary. You are assigned to the Pit Daemons, Fire Drakes, or Storm Lords at random. But it’s the fact that they have three teams in the first place that is the biggest issue with the PvP style.
Consider the open-world PvP in the game: It’s three teams, but it features a different dynamic because the team size is varied. Many times the victory belongs to the faction that has the most players on the field at the time. But at the same time, siege tactics can allow a smaller team hold a keep for a long time if played well. It’s just a very different kind of game, and three teams work out really well. It also prevents one team from completely dominating the field all the time.
Instanced PvP, on the other hand, doesn’t work that way.
Wheeler talked about how the dynamic could go multiple ways because the time per match was brief. It could be a very balanced match, there could be one team that completely trashes the other two teams, or it’s possible that the two “weaker” teams could gang up on the stronger team.
But it doesn’t happen. In every match, the weaker team is discovered shortly after the match begins, and like human nature dictates, the two stronger teams gang up on the weaker team. The scoreboard at the end will usually reflect this: Two teams will have about 90% of the points with the last team usually having less than 10%. Of course, the weaker team will not go after the best team; it will attempt to take down the second team. So every match doesn’t become a fight for domination — instead, it’s a battle for second place.
It’s very difficult to judge whether the classes are balanced without statistics on how each build is performing. But what I can tell you is how I was killed and with which abilities. Thankfully, it appears that I was killed by multiple classes using different abilities. At the same time, I seemed to be able to take out a variety of classes using a few different tactics, but stealth does appear to have a bit of an advantage in the Ald Carac and Ularra maps.
I would say that despite the one glaring flaw, ESO Morrowind PvP plays decently and is a good addition to the game overall. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you drop your favorite MMO just to come PvP in Morrowind, but if you like PvP and happen to be playing Morrowind for other reasons, it’s definitely a good distraction from the grind.