Tamriel Infinium: Five reasons to return to Elder Scrolls Online


Gamers rarely give an MMO a second chance. Far too often, a game bears forever the impression it earned the first time we played it. When I first played the Elder Scrolls Online in beta, I saw its potential, but the game was far from anything resembling the single-player Elder Scrolls games that I’d played before. Still, the storytelling was there, and the character models didn’t require any mods to make them look halfway decent, so I was willing to give it a shot. In the end, the reason it turned me away had nothing to do with the game itself; it was the people making the financial decisions for the game. It seemed to me as it did to many people that ZeniMax was using its subscription fee to subsidize the final year of development.

I had to eventually ask myself whether the purpose of the subscription was enough to justify not playing the game. In the end, my answer was “yes.” My subscription fee wasn’t paid by the studio or the site; it was on me, and that’s the way it should be. If a writer doesn’t think the game is worth paying for, then it’s probably not going to be worth it for the reader either.

But now, I am playing and have paid for a subscription for ESO even as the game transitions to its buy-to-play model. I could have, if I’d wanted to, jumped in today without paying for a thing. I’d like to tell you why. Some of these reasons are subscription-related, but most are because the game has truly improved over the year that I was gone. Maybe these reasons will help you in your decision to play too.

1. Thievery

Last week, I talked about my experiences with the whole Justice system as it stands right now. ZeniMax does plan to add more to the system, like player Enforcers, but even as-is, the thievery part of the Justice system is worth the price of admission. The system really makes the game feel like an Elder Scrolls game. Now all ZeniMax has to do is to add a thieves guild and we’ll be golden.

2. New-player experience changes

I cannot find my original statements about the new-player experience now because Massively-that-was is now Frankengadget and I’d rather not link to it now, but essentially, the first part of the game in the “dungeon” of Coldharbour was not a satisfying newbie experience. The crux of my disappointment stemmed from the characters I met in Oblivion. I really didn’t care about any of them, mostly because I didn’t spend enough time with any of them really get to know or care about them. There was zero attachment. With the revamp of the new-player experience, the characters hold a little bit more meaning.

The biggest change starts at when your prison cell is opened. Instead of some random Argonian opening the cell and telling you to run, Lyris Titanborn now opens your cell. This seems like a tiny change, especially given how little time you still spend with Lyris, but it creates enough attachment to the character that you are at very least disappointed when she (spoiler alert!) decides to exchange herself for the Prophet.

3. Animation changes

In most MMOs, animations are fun and help with the timing of actions, but for the most part they are flavor content for a combat system. However, in an action MMO like ESO, the animations have to carry weight. Take a look at The Secret World. It has a wonderful questing system, and the combat system itself works very well with its genre. But its biggest stumbling block is the animations associated with the combat system. The animations don’t seem to hold weight; they’re mistimed against the beats of damage output.

I am not an animator, so I don’t know the specifics of how it’s done, but I do know when animation feels weighty and when it doesn’t. Although I can’t yet call ESO‘s animations perfect, I can say that I can feel the impact better when playing. Without a controller and rumble pack, I can feel when my daggers slice against flesh or metal. I wish I could say that the delay is completely gone, but unfortunately it’s still there — just less so.

4. The Champion system

My in-game personal experience with the Champion system is limited to perusing the system’s passives. But most of what I like about the Champion system is conceptual anyway. I am fond of two things: enlightenment and the proposed elimination of veteran ranks.

The simplest way to describe enlightenment is rest XP, but you don’t have to be in a cantina in order to earn it. Essentially, you earn extra XP on your account at a regular rate if you have at least one character who is above Veteran Rank 1. Of course, just as in rest XP systems in other MMOs, once the Enlightenment is gone, XP is grained as normal.

Although we are looking at a distant change, I do look forward to the elimination of the VR system altogether. It always seemed to be a way for the devs to artificially add levels without admitting that’s what they were doing. VR 1 is actually level 51 because it adds the same things adding another level. Unfortunately, this change won’t actually be in the game for a couple of months.

5. The community team

I tend to have a soft spot for community teams in general, but I think ZeniMax’s community team really does a wonderful job at presenting the positivity of the community. You need only visit the front page of ESO‘s website to see what I’m talking about. Many games — even the most popular ones — will bury community activities somewhere in the forums, but not ESO. The Tamriel Town Crier articles specifically highlight what the fansite and modding community is doing. Tales of the Dead focused on Elder Scrolls fan fiction, and the Tamriel Chronicle highlights other community happenings and fan art. And then there’s the guild spotlight, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Those are my reasons for hopping back in the game, what do you think? Are you going to try out Elder Scroll Online again today? Maybe you’re going to try it for the first time now that it’s “finished.” Hit me up in the comments. Let’s continue the conversation there.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.
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