Having finally clicked hard with Elder Scrolls Online this winter, I find that it’s difficult to restrain myself from gushing about pleasant discoveries (and rediscoveries) from this fantasy MMORPG. I’ve got my lizard Warden riding a bear and fielding a bear (with a bear vanity pet), carving a legend for myself in this wide-open world of Tamriel.
While nobody can argue that Elder Scrolls Online is cutting-edge in the graphics department and will melt your card to slag, it is a very, very pretty game. Having an attractive world to explore is a big bonus, let me tell you. While I’m more than willing to lower my expectations for visuals in MMOs as long as good gameplay is present, I’m not going to complain when a title feeds me delicious eye candy as well.
The level-agnostic design
I wasn’t that big of a fan of how the single-player Elder Scrolls games would scale content up and down to your character’s level, but in the MMO, it works so well. The One Tamriel change delivered the entire game on a platter to players, giving them the freedom of choice in where they quested and who they quested with, all without having to worry that they’d get in over their heads by wandering into the wrong zone.
My previous forays into Elder Scrolls Online skirted around most multiplayer content. I always get really nervous about going into MMO dungeons until I just gird my loins and do it. And having taken that step in ESO, I’ve found that there’s a lot to like. The dungeons have an interesting visual design and aren’t especially that long, making a random queue part of my daily experience.
Content and questing
The real meat and potatoes of ESO, at least to me, is the enormous buffet of incredible quests that it has. Instead of trying to drown us in a flood of mindless tasks, this MMO’s approach was to deliver fewer quests but to have them be longer, more story-driven, and usually part of an arc. And there are still a whole lot of them, from the main storylines to smaller missions to dailies. I get giddy when I think of how many quests I have left to do, because I know that so many of them will be great experiences.
While ESO’s combat is, in my opinion, the weakest point of the game, at least this title allows me to tailor my character with the flexible mix-and-match skill system. In addition to the main three skill lines of every class, there are so many other lines — guilds, weapon skills, non-combat professions — that making up a build is a lot more interesting than what I first assumed. And while they’re one-trick ponies, morphs are really cool, too.
The big side-system that came with Greymoor last year ended up being a nice net plus to the game’s overall package. Antiquities offers an alternative to questing and dungeon diving as players solve mini-games to uncover dig sites. These hold all sorts of goodies, including vendor trash, housing decorations, mounts, and mythic items. It’s something I enjoy doing when I have a few spare minutes here and there.
ESO continually surprises me with its humor, which isn’t as punny as World of Warcraft’s or as odd as Final Fantasy XIV’s. There are some seriously weird people, daffy situations, and hilarious quotes that pop up from time to time. I was laughing my head off when I got initiated into a guild and the NPCs were making horrible jokes at my presumed imminent death from adventuring.
Something I’ve come to love in MMORPGs is when developers reuse NPCs over the course of a player’s journey. That’s certainly present here, as I continually encounter a recurring cast of characters, from a loony prophet to a thief who keeps popping out of the shadows to a well-intentioned but woefully misinformed ambassador. I feel like I really get to know them this way. And I also love how the scripting in this game brings these characters to life, because they’re not always standing stock-still waiting in desperation for somebody to talk to them.
While I’m not sold on the awkward placement tools in ESO, I’m beyond delighted that the game has a housing system, period. It’s a pretty good one, too, allowing players to purchase all sorts of apartments and homes and outfit them with furniture, pets, and even the occasional follower. And, to my delight, I can own more than one abode at a time!
While there are always bad seeds in any online game, Elder Scrolls Online’s community has been top-notch in my experience. Guilds seem mature and welcoming, and I’ve encountered so many great players who make playing a joy. I haven’t even had a bad pick-up dungeon group yet, which is shocking on a whole different level!