tamriel infinium

Tamriel Infinium is an Elder Scrolls Online column by Larry Everett. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

Tamriel Infinium: Eight things you need to know before jumping into Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset

Monday, the Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset chapter went live for early access accounts. For the first time since 1994, players can visit the island of Summerset. And needless to say, 24 years makes quite a difference in the world of gaming. I’m not going to pretend that I ever played Arena, but think its safe to say that things look a lot different and the mechanics of the game have changed, too.

I don’t think that Summerset is as highly anticipated as Morrowind was, but that’s can be a positive for ZeniMax Online Studios because there is scrutiny when it comes to the lay of the land and the storyline. On the other hand, it means less hype for the expansion.

As an MMORPG enthusiast, I’m excited to see MMOs continuing to grow the way ESO has. And I know that you might not be as familiar with Summerset, so I would like to give you my list of what you should probably look out for when you jump into the next chapter.

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Tamriel Infinium: Deep-diving the mechanics of Elder Scrolls Online Summerset’s Psijic Order skill line

Many MMO gamers – including me – are a bit underwhelmed by the next chapter of the Elder Scrolls Online. Although Summerset is not a bad bit of content, I have concerns about the amount of content that is coming with this expansion compared to the last expansion, Morrowind. The island of Summerset is a nice size, probably bigger than Vvardenfell, but there seem to be fewer things to keep people interested for longer than maybe a couple of weeks.

That being said, what it does, it does very well.

I’ve already mentioned in a previous article how gorgeous the island is, especially the extra zone of Artaeum. I was blown away by that. But I didn’t go into depth about Psijic Order skill line. At the time I wrote that article, I really hadn’t had a chance to play around with it. But now I have, and although I can’t say that everything about that skill tree is perfect, there are more than a couple of skills that I will be considering for my live character when the expansion launches.

I’ve broken up the Psijic skill line into three categories: utilities, healing, and passives. Keep reading and I will break it down further. And I would like to caveat before I get into the details, that if I give specific numbers, that those might change before launch, and that my character was Champion Level 750 Sorcerer without any CP spent.

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Tamriel Infinium: First impressions of Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset (mostly without spoilers!)

Over the years, I suspect I’ve made it well known what I find most important in my Elder Scrolls Online gameplay. I enjoy the environments and the quest storylines. I play most of the game solo with very little interaction with any other players. It’s not that I don’t like other players; it’s just that when I started playing ESO, the main storylines in the game where not very group friendly, so that kind of gameplay is what I expected and enjoyed. Of course, that means my primary focus, when playing through the Summerset Chapter for ESO, was story and single-player gameplay.

There are many things added with Summerset that aren’t single-player focused, like the new Cloudrest trial and the Abyssal Geysers, but I’d hardly call myself an expert in those areas. But we solo players do have many things to look forward to in Summerset besides the story quests, like jewelry crafting, a new skill line, and daily login rewards.

For today, I would like to focus on the main reason I play ESO: the story. I’m not going to spoil any major plot points as I describe my playthrough, obviously, but I would like to make mention of key players and things to watch for as you play through the newest chapter.

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Tamriel Infinium: Understanding Elder Scrolls Online’s Mephala and speculating on Summerset

Let me teach you how to understand Mephala the Webspinner. Maybe that’s misleading; she’s a Deadric Prince, and who can really understand the motivations of a god, especially one as complicated as Mephala? That’s also what is really wonderful about the characters in Elder Scrolls Online: They never seem to be all good or all bad. There always appears to be some sort of nuance about them that requires explanation.

If you buy the physical Collector’s for Summerset, you will get a 12-inch statue of Mephala, which might be the first collector’s edition of ESO that I buy, and it’s because of that statue. During the introductory livestream for Summerset, Creative Director Rich Lambert simply said that “she plays a role” in the upcoming expansion but didn’t really go any further than that. But if she’s like any of the other featured Daedric Princes, she’s likely one of the formidable enemies – maybe the main enemy – for the chapter. But if the story falls in line with Mephala’s character up to this point, it’s likely that the story is more complicated than her being the villain for Summerset.

First, we should talk about Mephala’s history in the franchise, but then I have a fun theory that I’d like to share.

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Tamriel Infinium: Where did the Elder Scroll Online Summerset come from?

Even though I don’t believe that Summerset was the best choice for the next expansion for the Elder Scrolls Online, that doesn’t mean that the chapter is without merit. According to ZeniMax Online Creative Director Rich Lambert, Summerset will be bigger and have more to do than Morrowind. It’s hard to believe that the actual island is bigger, but I do believe that there is much more playable area on Summerset than on Vvardenfell because it doesn’t have a giant volcano sitting in the middle of it taking up a lot of room.

Because this island hasn’t been seen since Elder Scrolls: Arena, it’s hard to know what to expect from this land. We know that certain things exist, like the Crystal Tower and the home of the Psijic Order Artaeum, but we haven’t ever really seen some of these places in any games.

Because I’m a lore buff, I’d like to take a few moments to talk about the first settlers of the Summerset Isles, the Aldmer and their “purest” descendants, the Altmer. But really, I’m only going to be able to scratch the surface of this deep and isolated culture.

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Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online’s new outfit system is close to perfect

I can spend hours with an outfit designer in an MMORPG. When APB was a new thing, I literally spent whole game sessions in front of its customization terminals. And I am only slightly embarrassed at the hundreds of millions of credits that I’ve spent on Star Wars: The Old Republic cosmetic armor. I knew it was only a matter of time before Elder Scrolls Online created its version of an outfit designer to steal away my time and money.

When ESO introduced wardrobes and costumes years ago, I believed that we weren’t going to get anything more. However, Update 17 last week added a new layer of character customization. With the addition of the Outfit System, there isn’t really anything else players need to make their character look the way that they want.

ESO‘s designer takes elements from other outfit systems that work and create its own unique way of allowing players to piece together items. In fact, I would say that ESO‘s outfit design is close to perfect.

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Tamriel Infinium: Where will the next Elder Scrolls Online ‘chapter’ take place?

In case you missed it, a couple of weeks back there were a couple of spoilers datamined from the testing files that seem to point in one direction for the next chapter of Elder Scrolls Online. By chapter, of course, we mean the next Morrowind-tier expansion, not just the regular and ongoing DLC and updates. And let’s be honest, we have long suspected that we would eventually see the location mentioned in that article open up as an explorable; it was just as obvious as Morrowind itself. But it’s not the only possibility! There are other more interesting locations that could eventually be on the ZeniMax agenda, either this year or beyond.

As I speculate on the possibilities for the next chapters and what these locations have to offer, imagine what would be the most interesting story and offer the most potential for content. There is also the aspect of nostalgia and attachment to new players that have to be considered, too; after all, one of the reasons that the Morrowind chapter worked so well was because of its strong connection to Elder Scrolls III.

If we look at the map of ESO as it currently stands, thanks to the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, we can see five major areas that have not been filled in yet. Those areas could probably be separated further, like the east and west banks of the Nibenay Bay. The Nibenay Basin and the Blackwood on the east side and Elsweyr on the west. But those are not the most likely areas to open up next. I’ve narrowed my picks down to three.

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Tamriel Infinium: Our 2017 report card for Elder Scrolls Online

All in all, 2017 has been a fabulous year for the Elder Scrolls Online, and although I have been light on talking about the game recently, I have jumped in regularly to explore Vvardenfell and Clockwork City. This year ESO saw its first expansion and dare I say its greatest addition to the game: Morrowind. But that shouldn’t diminish the other great stories in the Horns of the Reach and Clockwork City DLCs. Also, ESO introduced one of the best player housing systems I’ve ever seen with Homestead earlier this year. I really don’t know how ESO is going to top 2017.

Let’s pull apart the accomplishments of ESO this year into my standard for grading MMORPGs: The Bartle Taxonomy. MMORPGs are wonderful because of the breadth of different activities that players can participate in. They draw together many different kinds of players, and Bartle’s Taxonomy breaks these players into four different categories: Socializers, Achievers, Killers, and Explorers.

Most people will be a blend of two or more of these categories. I’m going to measure the merits of the game based each category individually using a scale you’ll often find in American schools: A, B, C, D, and F.

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Tamriel Infinium: First impressions of Elder Scrolls Online’s Clockwork City DLC

It’s hard to know where to start with these impressions because the upcoming DLC for Elder Scrolls Online is significantly more complex, more extensive, and more fun than I originally anticipated. Clockwork City has surprised me on multiple levels. Those who were fans of the Tribunal expansion for Elder Scrolls III will find nostalgia everywhere, and those who are new to this part of the lore will find a world that is similar yet very different from the rest of ESO.

Over the last couple of days, I have been spending my time on the public test server for Elder Scrolls Online where ZeniMax Online Studios has dropped its latest DLC: Clockwork City. This isn’t the first time we’ve been to the Clockwork City, but this DLC will be the first time that we are allowed to freely explore this creation of the god Sotha Sil.

There is no way that I am going to be able to sum up the hours of gameplay that Clockwork City has to offer in just a few hundred words, but let me hit on a few things that were the most important to me: aesthetics, storytelling, exploration, and gameplay.

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Tamriel Infinium: ZeniMax’s Rich Lambert on Elder Scrolls Online content development, past and future

Morrowind was very likely a great boon for The Elder Scrolls Online. Although ZeniMax Online Studios hasn’t released any solid numbers, the staff has over and over proclaimed just how great things have been since the launch of that expansion. In fact, I recently sent some questions to Creative Director Richard Lambert, and when I asked him to quantify the success of Morrowind, he reiterated its success:

Morrowind has been really great for us and a huge number of players are exploring the new content, class, and battlegrounds. We’ve seen an influx of new players and returning players and our existing player base has really enjoyed the addition so far. It’s been a pretty gratifying experience for us.”

But even Lambert would tell you that this upward climb for ESO started long before the launch of Morrowind. And with the launch of the latest update Horns of the Reach, I was able to ask Lambert some questions about how ESO built up to the game it is now and also talk about some of its future — specifically, the Clockwork City update.

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Tamriel Infinium: Impressions of Elder Scrolls Online’s Falkreath’s Hold dungeon, part of the Horns of the Reach DLC

Although the vast majority of my time in Elder Scrolls Online is spent solo, running through the single-player storylines, I raid and have done a lot of group activities in other MMORPGs. So when I was invited to run the newest dungeons with some of the developers, specifically Creative Director Rich Lambert and Dungeon Lead Mike Finnigan , I had to say yes. The actual run was livestreamed yesterday and since posted to YouTube. (I’ll post the video below.) But during that time, I didn’t really get a chance to give my impressions of what was happening, so perhaps now would be a good time to let you know what I thought.

Most of us here are PC players, so you will be glad to know that this dungeon releases on August 14th with the Horns of the Reach DLC for PC, but for those playing it on consoles, you will have to wait another couple of weeks until August 29th to actually play the dungeons. As for the whole DLC itself, it’s much like the Shadows of the Hist DLC: There are new achievements and meta-changes to classes, but for the most part, it revolves around two four-man dungeons. The one I ran was called Falkreath’s Hold.

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Tamriel Infinium: The problem with Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind plot is the twist

I played the Morrowind expansion for Elder Scrolls Online to death when it was sitting on the test server. But oddly, it was a bit more of a struggle to compete on the live servers. Despite this, I believe that Morrowind is a wonderful addition to ESO, and I am looking forward to seeing future content like the Horns of the Reach.

Now that we have all had a couple of months to get through the Morrowind content, I believe that it’s safe to talk about some of the spoilers, especially since the thing that bothered me the most about Morrowind was the main story twist.

This is your warning: Beyond this point, I will probably spoil everything for you. Turn back now and finish the main story for Morrowind or risk being spoiled!

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Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online’s mid-term report card

At the beginning of every year, I give the games that I am embedded in a letter grade centered around the four different player types featured in Dr. Richard Bartle‘s taxonomy. And at in the middle of the year, I like to see where things are so far.

Of course, I know that the paper that the taxonomy is based on is over 20 years old now, and the theories don’t apply 100% to MMORPGs. But I believe that there is enough of a connection between what people want from an MMORPG and the player types from Bartle’s paper that we can draw a connection.

The four different player types are Socializer, Achiever, Explorer, and Killer. For grades, I take a look at Elder Scrolls Online and ask, for instance, “What would an Achiever think of what ESO has done this year?” And then just as important, I ask, “What could be done to improve the game for the Achiever?” Of course, it really just boils down to my opinion, but I’d like to think I’ve been pretty good about putting myself in other people’s shoes in the past and looking at games from their perspectives.

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