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

    
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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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Mark Werenczuk

Would you recommend playing ESO if you are a long-time player of WoW? I tried ESO a couple of years ago and went back to WoW.

Long story short I am pretty fatigued of WoW and the direction it has gone and looking at ESO as a replacement MMO.

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PanagiotisLial1

ESO generally improved a lot since its launch and over the years, has a lot content, fully voiced dialogues and is one of these games you can say is as polished as WoW is. Combat system is totally different, being closer to ES games, but you said you already tried it so it should be easier to adapt.

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Anthony Clark

ESO is my current MMO of choice currently. Bravo!

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PanagiotisLial1

What is wrong with combat system? I personally like it, lol

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Baemir

To me it felt like an awkward in-between sort of deal.

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PanagiotisLial1

Just like most ES games it is designed to be played from first person(third person is mostly for screenshots). Then you need to block if someone tries a strong move, interrupt if he tried to do a spell, avoid big aoes and CC etc. It helps if you set the indications for them to always appear

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Ironwu

Very nice! ESO is currently my go-to MMO as it has the combination of features that I like.

It is possible to do your own, very effective, builds in ESO. But you do have to plan them out carefully if you are going to depart from the ‘standard’ build types. Fortunately, it is always possible to recover 100% from a mistaken build, one is never permanently gimped.

I think you will find that if you focus on the animal skill line, dual wield, and critical hit, that you will find combat to be fast, impactful, and a whole lot of whup-ass.

Good Hunting!

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Eliandal

Glad you’re having fun!! But … Gads! Don’t waste Crowns on respecs :)! ESO literally throws gold at you, save those Crowns for important things, like mounts, pets and HOUSES!!!

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Alex Willis

Call me a heretic, but ESO is in a place right now that I feel it’s better than Skyrim. (I’m not talking about fully-modded Skyrim, because that is hard to quantify.) I’m definitely all-in right now in game, having a blast. (How did I manage to avoid 4-player dungeons for so long? Dailies are totally fun.)

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Hope you find a group that will let you do the storylines.

Usually I get the folks who have somehow gotten themselves into an explosive neck device and if they don’t finish the dungeon in five minutes they will die.

It is apparently an issue in mmo gaming.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

Lol, so true. I am definitely too casual for most other players’ tastes, but it’s great when you meet fellow travellers who are more relaxed and enjoyable to be around.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I actually wander around joining people in ‘lowbie’ zones, all the while rping as a brash Nord warrior.

Having fun is its own reward.

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Alex Willis

Yeah, the Speedrunners are definitely a thing. But maybe I’ve just spent too long in Warframe and it doesn’t bother me as much.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

I find that, as long as you’re not going to try to get into endgame min-maxing, that you have great freedom in your character creation. I’ve had lots of fun trying all sorts of squirrely builds, and while some are clearly more effective than others, they all get me through the main storyline, guilds, and side quests.

It’s only if you want to join some groups for the hardest challenges do you really have to worry. And, if you do want to adjust, only at that point do you have to spend just a few thousand gold (paltry sums when you’re champion 160+) and tweak your build.

In other words, you can spend the vast majority of the time doing whatever you please and then, only if you want to competitively do endgame, do you need to tighten up your skill set. And, now that they let you redistribute one point at a time for skills, attributes, or chamption points, it’s quite painless to do these sorts of tweaks.

So, IMO, best of both worlds. Go wild with fun freaky PVE solo builds, then either get together with casual less-demanding cohorts or do your tweaks only as needed at endgame.

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TheDonDude

…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.

That. That right there describes me and ESO perfectly.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Yah. Combat is underwhelming but then that is a hallmark of elder scrolls games.

Remember swipe your mouse right to swing right, move forward to overhand smash?

They did follow the holy trinity so meta builds are always gonna be a thing. I’ve seen folks tanking with frost staves so I guess you don’t have to bother unless you plan on hardcore raiding.

The pvp folks I have been hanging around have not required specific builds and they seem to do pretty well.

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TheDonDude

Daggerfall was my intro to the series, so I definitely remember swiping up/down/left/right/diagonal.

If there was any game that should have had a soft trinity a la City of Heroes, ESO might have been it.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Yah I think they punted on more unique combat because the MMO industry is so ‘risk averse’.

But they been paring away interesting stuff from Elder Scrolls since Morrowing. Spell creation? Gone. Unique class design? Gone.

They did kinda keep the ‘the skill you use gets better’ for ESO but it still feels limited.

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PanagiotisLial1

I liked item creation too, especially in daggerfall

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

How do you like one of those intro Summerset quests? The one where refugees are taken off and put in cages while the locals complain about them?

So topical.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

Or, later on, Manor of Masques, my fave of the Summerset quests.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I also had a tough time with the Sun-in-Shadows missions in Morrowind.

I wanted to stick my axe through a lot of npc’s.

A LOT.

*grits teeth