Tamriel Infinium: My favorite things in The Elder Scrolls Online

    
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If you’ve been following the Tamriel Infinium column at least since my own arrival at Massively OP, you may have noticed my propensity for lists. Perhaps it’s an easy way for me to break the narrative apart into smaller, loosely coupled segments, or perhaps it’s just how my mind operates.

As we head into the new year, I’m filled with positivity, so I thought it would be fun to think about some of my favorite things relating to the Elder Scrolls Online, particularly now that it’s taken home another GOTY award from our site. I’m going to set aside my critical eye (for now) and revel in some of the best aspects of what has become my favorite MMO – in list form!

The story

I will occasionally peruse the ESO subreddit and am constantly amused at the number of people who start a thread to the effect of “I’m level 50, now what do I do?” I’ve even snarkily replied to them; once, I informed a poster that he’d completed the game and there was nothing more he could hope to accomplish – a sarcastic reply that was thoroughly and rightfully downvoted to oblivion.

I guess it’s just difficult for me to understand the powerlevel mindset in a game with such careful and interesting storytelling as ESO. The Elder Scrolls franchise has always been about the story, at the very least your story, an element that’s carried over into the MMO version. Among the wider themes of spiritual and political struggles throughout the land of Tamriel are numerous smaller stories filled with nobles and townsfolk, each making their own contributions to the larger direction of history – you among them. It’s probably my very favorite thing about the game, so a failure to appreciate it is impossible for me to wrap my mind around.

The characters

While this is closely tied to the story, I think that the characters themselves deserve a special mention. ESO has the benefit of an existing world, with a history that has already been hinted at via the lore books of earlier single-player titles. These breadcrumbs from devs of games past leave us wanting to know more about the events and characters referenced within. Some of these (the Tribunal, the leaders of the factions) make appearances that flesh out what we already knew of them in greater (and lifelike) detail. Other characters were invented specifically for ESO (Naryu, Razum-dar, Abnur Tharn, Lyris) but are so likable that they have spawned dedicated and sincere followings within the playerbase.

The content cadence

One big problem that MMOs of the past faced was the slow release of new content, at that time usually referred to as merely patches and expansion packs. Even the most casual of player would burn through the new content in a matter of weeks, leaving weeks or even months of repeating quests and or/dungeons until the next new thing came along. Many times, players would simply stop playing after finishing the new content and not return to the game until the next major release.

In my estimation, ESO has addressed this eternal MMO problem by releasing four moderately sized updates every single year. This quarterly cadence is frequent enough to keep players in the game throughout the course of the year, yet it allows enough time for the anticipation of the next stage to build. In other words, we get a lot of new content without feeling buried by it.

The crafting bag (inventory)

I know, I know. The crafting bag is accessible only for ESO Plus subscribers, which makes it a prime complaint about the game. But it’s so good that it deserves mention as one of my favorite features.

Personally, I loathe inventory management in MMOs. The last time I decided to get back into LOTRO, for example, I took one look at my full bag and immediately logged back out without taking a single quest. I don’t want to spend my in-game time shuffling items around or searching out the nearest banking location. ESO’s infinite craft materials bag in conjunction with (purchasable) portable bankers and merchants has all but eliminated one of the most annoying foibles of the genre.

Now, if only it weren’t locked behind the subscription…

The landscape

Who doesn’t love a continent thick with every type of biome imaginable? From the swamps of Black Marsh and snowy Wrothgar to the volcanic ash of Vvardenfell, the beauty of this land cannot be overstated. The longer the game is active, the more regions are added to the game – and the more landscape is available for exploration. Iconic locations from the single-player games are realized in fantastic detail. Red Mountain, Riften, and Imperial City (if you don’t mind a little PvP) are all there for players to enjoy and experience in a time period that was only previously rumored in whispers and tomes. Towns come to life with NPCs chatting about some mysterious hero’s latest exploits. Exploring the countryside of Tamriel can be a real treat, with some curious locations providing more questions than answers.

The customization

Some MMO players complain about overly complicated character creation options and prefer to jump right into the action of the open world.

I am not one of those people.

I’ve never met a character creation screen that I’d consider “too complicated.” The more sliders, the better, as far as I’m concerned. I want my MMO characters to feel unique, and the Elder Scrolls Online provides many, many options for both character creation and customization that work towards that end. Costumes and crafting styles, mostly all dyeable, along with personalities, adornments, hairstyles, and body markings provide an almost limitless number of unique looks and styles. You’ll be hard-pressed to find your twin in Tamriel!

The community

In a game as large as ESO’s, you’ll find all types of players. Fortunately, much of my experience with the ESO community has been very positive. Admittedly, the game became much more enjoyable when I found a guild of like-minded people. But even outside of the guild, in-game players and content creators have all been very positive and supportive influences. They understand that different players enjoy themselves in different ways. They appreciate the work that goes into the game and generally seem to reject the “rush to cap” mentality that bypasses so much of the impressive content. Many have been extremely helpful, available to run dungeons for undaunted pledges or to craft training gear for newer players.

For a while, I think ESO suffered from being a mouse-driven game, which made simultaneous interaction with your character and the chatbox a challenge. But the rise of Discord and other out-of-band communication methods has once again injected the social aspect into ESO.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online! Larry Everett and Ben Griggs will be your guides here in Tamriel Infinium on Wednesdays as we explore together the world created by ZeniMax and Bethesda in one of the biggest MMOs in the genre. Larry and Ben welcome questions and topic ideas!

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Viktor Budusov

add to the list scaling, horizontal progression and thievery :)

Allwynd
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Allwynd

For me it’s predominantly the opposite.

Character creation is nice, but still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of facial options, also the thinnes characters look unrealistically thin. I’ve noticed if you strip your character naked in the creation, you will notice their torso is longer than a normal torso, could be something they did for the sake of armor, but naked characters look like monsters from a horror game because of that.

The faces and facial hair also don’t gice you enough freedom to create the type of character you want and what I hate is some facial hairs are locked to some races. For example some Breton has a beard that I want to use on a Redguard, but it’s not available there.

Stupid, stupid, stupid developer decisions.

The story is OK, but only for one playthrough on your first character. The stupid game design now has level scaling which implies you can level in any xone you want, bit if you want to follow the factiob story, you have to go through their zones in the intended order prior to the level scaling. This completely defeats the purpose of having level scaling in the game where story still forces you to visit the zones in their original order.

Again, stpid, stupid, stupid developer decisions.

The combat also feels very clunky and lacking impact. Especially using melee is the worst, followed by ranged spells and staffs and the only type that’s remotely OK is bows and I hate bows. I like melee combat and melee classes this game is showing me the finger for that.

What I hate the most about the game is that i the end it’s just a stupid casual theme park. Finish the story, grind gear for PvP or PvE, do Alliance War or Trials, complete everything uninstall the game. Literally the same theme park trash like Retail WoW. ESO literally feels like TES 5 Skyshit and WoW had an inbred child together.

I won’t lie, I’ve spent over 940 hours in the game, but that’s when I was fresh off the boat. Aroun yhe 900 mark, I started losing interest in the game and started seeing its flaws, and at the end, I was forcing myself to log in and play. Later I was only for ing myself to log in for the daily reward and later I couldn’t rvrn be bothered to do that.

I spent some decent amount of timr on the game, there is no denying it, but ehen I look back, I can’t remember anything and it happened only a year ago. That’s one hell of a forgettable and mediocre experience.

While there are different zones of every biome, they somehow feel the same – mediocre, forgettabtle, copy-pasted. The most fun I had in the game I remember was wall-jumping and trying to leave the boundaries of the map.

I’d say ESO is not worthy of being called a TES game and it’s just a modern day theme park causal MMO intended to appease the masses suffering from short attention spans who want to pretend like they’re playing an MMO. ZOS might as well port it to mobile and add auto-play, it won’t even make a difference.

hurbster
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hurbster

900+ hours to decide you didn’t like the game ?

K then.

Allwynd
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Allwynd

You have reading comprehension issues? I explicitly said that after the 900 hour mark I started noticing the flaws of the game, before that it was OK, but also nothing memorable.

hurbster
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hurbster

Ah, you are just being angry and rude, fair enough.

hurbster
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hurbster

Bit of something for everyone. Huge PvP area, safely locked off from the rest of the game as well ;)

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Darthbawl

Personally, I loathe inventory management in MMOs.

MJ is probably yelling “get out of my head!” 😆

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PanagiotisLial1

I burnt over 4h on it today, which is close to all today’s gaming time for me, but had a lot of fun and I got to agree you are spot on for all these. I think it will continue thriving for many years. Problems will come every now and then like all mmos but I am confident it will eventually be considered the top mmo

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Ironwu

100% spot on here, I think. All of these points are very much strengths of the game. :)

One that was missed, I believe, is the ability of even brand new players to play the game in pretty much any zone and along with any other Level/CP player. Of course, there are Dungeon and Trial (Raid) content that is targeted to more advanced players, but there are hundreds of hours of content a brand new player can engage in before being even close to needing to do higher level stuff.

TESO is really kind of the best of the best when it comes to avoiding the sort of vertical gear grinding so prevalent in other MMOs. Sure there is some questing for specific gear sets, but they are achievable for even new Lvl50/CP160 (the gear max) players.

TESO is very close to being the gold standard for a horizontal progression MMO.

Just my 2c based on my experience and feelings.

Allwynd
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Allwynd

Except if a brand new player plays in any zone they can’t follow the story as the zones are still intended to be played in their original order. For instance AD’s story starts in Kenarthi’s Roost, DC on Stros M’kai and EP on Bleakrok Isle, you have to follow the story from there.

I hear Retail WoW also has scaling now and you can play in every zone, but as far as I remember, the story in Elwynn Forest leads to Westfall, which leads to Redridge Mountains, then to Duskwood and do on.

In both scenarios if you don’t follow the story, you get one jumbled mess that you won’t be able to make any sense out of, like some NPC that gives you quests in ESO gets assassinated, then you go back to the previous zone (thinking you’re going to the next one) only to find the same NPC alive and kicking and still giving you quests about something you don’t even understand. Or imagine going to the last zone where the story’s culmination takes place and then next going to the first… tha’s a lot of stupid decisions of stupid developers right there.

Unless of course you don’t care abouthe story and only care about playing with somebody else.

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Ironwu

WoW is NOT the same thing at all. The Level Gating in WoW is grouped into zone sets. So the Original Game zones are 1-60, BC/WotLK are 1-80, and so on. In addition, dungeons are still staggered so that they become not available as you level up out of their (small) level range. Really sucks actually.

You are 100% correct on the Story aspect, though. Nothing at all to be done about that. However, if one wants to play through the zones in order for the story content, that can be done with full effect. And, your higher level friends can come play with you for full exp and level appropriate loot, even if they have already done the zone.

All in all, ESO has a very superior system, I think. The decision to start everyone out at max level HP/Magika/Stamina with all the MOBs at the same level/health as they will be when the player is at max was brilliant. It really works well.

Allwynd
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Allwynd

The thing is the story content is so easy you can solo it with great ease, so I don’t see a point in asking someone to come play with me. I could ask them to help me for veteran dungeons or trials, but just leveling… meh. For me Warden was the easiest faceroll class I had played. I killed mobs so fast that I felt like I was playing a single player RPG with god mode. The only times where I died, was when I was AFK and went to get something to eat and some groups of mobs spawned right next to me.

The problem with ESO’s leveling content, which is a crucial part of the game considering all the voice acting on everything, is that around 2016, the game was dumbed down severely and made too casual. I remember when I bought it in 2015 and was getting my ass kicked by mobs my lever when I was still around level 10-20. Taking on an Anchor on your own was a suicide mission, now I can solo an Anchor with my butt cheeks on the mouse and keyboard, and when it’s so easy, it just isn’t fun anymore. And this is also why I don’t see a point in asking someone to play with you during the leveling part in the overworld. My gripe with this is that the game is so easy it’s boring.

I’ve suggested on the forums (both for ZOS to see and for me to see how other players react) that there should be added some hardcore mode, kinda like in Diablo 2 where when you create your character, you tick a checkbox and your character is now hardcore. The results of this is that mobs have all their stats like resistances, HP, damage boosted by around 50% and your hardcore character has theirs respectively nerfed by around 50% (the percentage could be more or less). The repercussions are undecided at this point (it can mean once you die, you can’t play anymore or something else) and the bonuses are you get better loot or more XP or whatever. The idea behind is that since they have an already useless level scaling system, they can put that system to an actual good use for once where they can have hardcore and normal characters at the same time where they can play together.

This is why I don’t play the game anymore and why I don’t see a point in playing with someone during normal questing – it’s already so easy, dumb and boring that having other people with you doesn’t make a difference – it doesn’t get easier as it’s already too easy as it is and they aren’t really helping you.

I honestly fail to see how their scaling system is good in any way – it’s the same system in every such game that has level scaling.