A couple of weeks ago in Massively Overthinking, we talked about making a game sticky without vertical progression. Although the question was a bit loaded because it kind of assumed that a game couldn’t be sticky without vertical progression, I talked about storytelling ideals, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s storytelling and Neverwinter‘s Foundry. However, one element that I think is extremely interesting for those who like gameplay, not just storytelling, is character growth. Usually, character growth is accomplished through skill points. But what if you could combine storyline with a compelling skill tree. To my surprise, Elder Scrolls Online did just that… with werewolves.
Remember how I told you that I was roped back to the game by the Justice system? How I literally spent hours just trawling the cities in the Daggerfall Covenant stealing from everyone that I saw? The same thing happened when I experienced lycanthropy, or werewolf-ism, in The Elder Scrolls Online. Again, I spent hours upon hours doing things to level up my werewolf skills without even touching my regular skills or questlines, not because I felt that it would make me better at some endgame thing but because it was just fun.
Elder Scrolls lore explains that lycanthropy started with the Daedric Prince Hircine. Hircine stands out from the other Daedra because he’s not viewed as completely evil like most other Daedra are.
Simply put, Daedra are the inhabitants of Oblivion. The most powerful among the Daedra are the Daedric Princes, and all Daedric Princes have their own planes in Oblivion that resemble their personalities. For instance, Coldharbour is the realm of the primary antagonist of the Elder Scrolls Online, Molag Bal. Coldharbour duplicates Nirn, the mortal realm, in nearly every way, but it’s twisted and cold. The Hunting Grounds of Hircine, on the other hand, reflect his personality; it’s full of sport and danger. And that is ultimate destination for anyone looking to become a werewolf.
Hircine is worshiped by a number of different groups of men and mer. The Glenmoril Wyrd Coven of High Rock are known to worship this Daedra. However, chief among the Hircine followers are the lycanthropes. This group actually encompasses a number of different werecreatures. We know of wereboars, werebears, werelions, werecrocodiles, and of course, werewolves. All of the werecreatures follow Hircine’s love of the hunt, and to become a werewolf in ESO, you have to do the same.
There are two ways to become a werewolf in ESO, but both require that you get scratched by another werewolf and become infected with Sanies Lupinus.
I recommend that if you really want to become a werewolf that you do it the way that I did: ask a friend who was a werewolf to scratch you at the shrine to Hircine. Not every player werewolf can infect other players with Sanies Lupinus. There is a level 7 passive skill called Bloodmoon, and the only reason to take that skill is that you plan on infecting other players because that is literally all it allows you to do. Even still, this skill can activate only once every seven days.
But you really want to hear about the fun way to become a werewolf, I suspect.
The first werewolf in the game couldn’t have been infected by another player’s scratch. He had to get scratched by an NPC werewolf to contract Sanies Lupinus. All Daggerfall Covenant players know that there are werewolves all over the place in the Covenant; in fact, you run into your first werewolf in the city of Daggerfall right after the tutorial zones, which could be as soon as an hour into gameplay. However, that werewolf cannot infect you. For this task, you need very specific NPCs.
Nirn — the world of Elder Scrolls — clearly isn’t Earth. You can tell by looking in the night sky. On a clear night you can see two moons, Masser and Secunda. One can assume that the smaller one, Secunda, revolve around the bigger one, Masser. However, in the game itself they appear to hold a seemingly stationary, synchronous orbit with Nirn. The important part of the synchronous orbit is that these moons have phases, just like the moon in Earth’s sky.
Although there has been some reported exceptions to this rule, packs of werewolves will appear around the level 37-43 areas of each faction when the moon is small. For Daggerfall, it’s Bangkorai. For Aldmeri Dominion, it’s Reaper’s March. For Ebonheart Pact, it’s The Rift. If you’re scratched by one of these NPCs, you will be given a quest that will lead you to a woman named Thoreki. She can tell you how to get yourself cured, or more importantly, she can tell you how to become a werewolf forever, pointing you to the ritual site.
Becoming the wolf
At the ritual site, and regardless of whether you’re turned by another player or by an NPC, you will meet Packmaster Songamdir. The Packmaster will lead you through a portal — a solo instance — to the hunting grounds of Hircine in Oblivion. The Daedric prince clearly does not want you there unless you can prove yourself in the hunt. His disembodied voice (which sounds like Optimus Prime’s Peter Cullen, but he’s not credited with doing it) gives you a quest to find the biggest beast in the hunting ground and present it as a trophy to the rest of the pack. Players have been known to fight a giant snake or a four-tusked mammoth. I had to fight the electric lizard called the Wasamu.
As I looked for other player guides to see if perhaps my experience was different from other people, I found that a lot of them say that the beasts in the Hunting Grounds are high-level, in the level 36 range. However, in Update 1.5 many things changed about the class, and the hunting ground became scaled to the level of the player. I was level 10 when I had a friend bite me, and the wasamu that I fought was level 12. It was a decent fight — not super easy, but not obnoxiously difficult either.
Once you and your NPC pack have fed from the beast, Hircine will grant you the ultimate ability of Werewolf Transformation, and you will be able to become a werewolf whenever your ultimate ability is ready.
When the game launched, the werewolf abilities were not that great. In fact, they were kind of worthless. However, since Update 1.5, the werewolves appear to be on par with any other melee skill tree. Bear in mind that when you are full-blown werewolf, you lose all your other skills and they are replaced with the werewolf abilities. Pounce acts as a gap closer. Hircine’s Bounty is a much-needed self-heal. Roar is an AoE stun. Piercing Howl deals damage and knocks down an enemy. And lastly, Infectious Claws deal physical damage as well as a disease DoT. The passive abilities like Devour, Blood Rage, and Call of the Pack all have to do with keeping you or your allies in werewolf form. The Pursuit passive adds to your overall stamina, and Savage Strength increases your overall damage.
I can’t speak to the performance of being a wolf in endgame or in PvP, but for me that’s not important right now. Leveling up and running random quests have stepped into a new level of interesting. The skills play into the bloodlust mythology of the werewolf. Just as in Skyrim, there is a timer that keeps you a wolf. You have to continue to kill to remain a wolf. It becomes its own game to remain a wolf.
I’ve not gone a killing spree in a town yet, but I will soon enough. This game has become so sticky for me right now in a big part to the werewolf system. I’ll keep you up to date on what I’m doing in game, but let me hear your thoughts in the comments below.