Choose My Adventure: Stunning vistas and snotty elves in Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset


Choose My Adventure is slowly becoming a source of delight for me, especially if I’m able to play games like The Elder Scrolls Online. Perhaps it’s the timing, the location of Summerset, or a bit of both, but something about my return trip to ESO this time around has enraptured me in a way that I have been pleasantly surprised by.

Yes, I have played this game before. Several times, in fact. I kept bouncing off of it, mostly due to its generally dull combat model and the fact that character creation was open yet still demanded you follow a meta game with specific build demands instead of rewarding creativity. Those gripes still remain, admittedly, but at least the skill building system has gotten a rework.

I’m referring, of course, to the Skill Advisor option that was introduced to ESO. While this system effectively reaffirms my problem with not really being able to create your own character in the game, at the very least there’s now a clear guide that makes it impossible for you to screw yourself over. Furthermore, the variety of skill lines one can follow based on playstyle preference or even thematic flavor is welcome.

With that mental hurdle cleared, I was left to enjoy the thing that ESO really does best: storytelling. Somewhat hilariously, this MMO does the D&D video game thing better than most official D&D video games: It tells you a story and sees you walk the world but also lets you roam around as you wish and take up whatever adventures you run into. I’ve never really gotten the whine that ESO isn’t a “true Elder Scrolls game” because this literally is what I’ve done with every Elder Scrolls game beforehand. After I got done installing dozens of mods, anyway.

No mods necessary here. ESO feels like the most complete adventure it ever has, whether you compare it to its earlier builds or compare it to the single-player entries in the series. This just feels good.

This good feeling is enhanced by some truly enjoyable writing. The primary quest of vanilla ESO almost bored me to tears and usually saw me ignore Ghostly Michael Gambon in favor of roaming the countryside for other things to do. Summerset, in comparison, has both interesting side stories and a compelling primary story that revels in its form of fantasy. Also, you get to interact with Razum-dar, the world’s greatest Khajiit.

The good times are further enhanced by the drop-in/drop-out nature of partying. One of my favorite mechanics in the modern day MMO is the ability for adventures to stay close to one another to reap scaled rewards together without having to enter a party finder or /shout for help for hours before you were allowed to play, and ESO absolutely embraces this. Running through a delve with lots of people steamrolling things can be anti-climactic, but I’ll take that shortcoming if it means I can happen across a couple of folks who happen to be in the same area and need assistance. This is that whole “emergent gameplay” nonsense that most FFA PvP MMOs wish they had.

Finally, of course, are the views of Summerset. I was expecting a land of High Elves to be pretty, but I was not prepared for how truly gorgeous everything is here. It manages to toe a visual line between trope-loaded Elven gossamer prettiness and Anglo medieval aesthetic, which just feeds my desire to wander around and ignore that big white triangle pointing me in the direction of my next objective.

Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I enter the island of Artaeum and am left positively gobsmacked with high fantasy delight. Seriously, this place looks like a painting from some sort of fantasy-themed power metal band.

As pretty as this all is and engaging as it’s been, there still is the problem with the High Elves themselves. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the attitudes of the race and of the denizens that have lived in a formerly isolationist island, but wow are these people jerks sometimes. And I say this as someone who enjoys Elves.

It’s a good thing, then, that there are people in the Summerset campaign that anchor me to a sense of propriety. Razum-dar and Valsirenn are welcome breaths of social oxygen when in the face of the haughty attitudes and snotty demeanors of most NPCs I’ve interacted with. Of course, this also means that the takedown of villains is all the sweeter, so it kind of balances out.

In addition to these uppity Elves, I’m still finding the combat in ESO to be a bit underwhelming. Maybe I’ve played a few too many action MMOs, but skills just lack a lot of impact and flair. Still, the sights and stories of Summerset and the overall joy the whole thing is bringing really is keeping me fueled. Simply thinking back to the experiences I’ve had thus far is making me eager to log in again, and I really cannot wait for what’s next.

….which segues rather neatly into this edition’s round of voting! On the subject of combat: I’ve elected to follow the Savage Stalker skill line and am enjoying it well enough, but I’d rather open the first round of voting to the question of whether I should follow through or pick a different build. I should mention that I’ve got a whole lot of Crowns, so buying respec scrolls is a dawdle. Feel free to vote away!

What skill line should my ESO character follow?

  • Beast Caller. Because bears. (44%, 60 Votes)
  • Guardian of the Wild. Get tanky and frosty. (18%, 25 Votes)
  • Master Herbalist. The world needs more healers. (16%, 22 Votes)
  • Savage Stalker. Stick with the arrows and the critters. (22%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 137

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The second poll question is really more a matter of flavor than anything, I suppose. Most of the time while playing ESO, I elected to avoid following any of the Guilds on offer simply because I was pretty convinced they didn’t add anything. This time around, though, I’d like to maybe follow up on a couple of different options. Unless, of course, the vote confirms my suspicions about ESO Guild trees.

What ESO Guild should I join, if any?

  • The Psijic Order. Be a Time Lord! (73%, 93 Votes)
  • The Mage's Guild. I mean, you're a mage, right? (11%, 14 Votes)
  • Some other guild. Make a suggestion in the comments! (7%, 9 Votes)
  • Don't join any guild. They're a waste of time and Skill Points. (9%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 128

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As usual, polling will wrap up at 1:00 p.m. EST this coming Friday, February 8th. If you happen to be on the NA megaserver, keep an eye out for a plump Breton by the name of Cedrin Rolael. He’ll be the one staring vacantly at the variety of skyboxes for screenshots. Can’t miss him.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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