Choose My Adventure: Clearing Elsweyr and settling into tanking in Elder Scrolls Online


I appreciate why there appear to be a lot of Elder Scrolls Online fans who think so highly of the Northern Elsweyr story arc. Over the past few days I cleared this zone’s main story as a primary focus of my activity and really enjoyed the ride all the way up to what was a pretty darn fun final battle. I understand. This was a good little yarn.

It also pretty much made me comfortable with what my character was doing in terms of skill selection and weapon choice. I’m finding myself relying a lot more on the sword and shield more than the two-handed weapon, even if the latter is a bit more fun than the former. All the while, I’m beginning to better process what’s making this game set its hooks in so deeply when it slid right off of my back in prior attempts.

Honestly I’m not really going to say anything better than Justin did with his latest Tamriel Infinium column, particularly since he articulated reasons when all I was doing was wondering why. Still, I am going to remark on a few of the reactions his post brought up, most of which are counter to my experiences thus far.

One of the first ones that always gets trotted out is the combat model, with most people saying that it’s boring. I don’t think this is a particularly incorrect take necessarily, but I also don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people are making it out to be, at least in my view. It could certainly do with a bit more impact and panache, and limited hotbars are always going to kind of suck, but I also have played MMOs with much, much worse combat systems. Still, I’ll admit that a “this is fine” reaction isn’t what I’d call praise, but honestly fine is fine.

Another one that seems to come up a lot is how easy ESO is. Again, I don’t think that’s a completely incorrect opinion, but it’s also one that I call a “hot sauce opinion”: a take that’s all bluster, bravado, and shrieking, with no sense of nuance or flavor. And just like hot sauces in that category, these opinions are easily ignored. I’ve got other games — MMO or otherwise — that I can play if I want to be tested. I like ESO’s whole vibe.

That’s extended into the PUGs I’ve run to this point, as once more my time doing dungeon runs has been both a learning experience and chill overall. Even with the high-speed pace that people move through each dungeon’s encounters, it all still kind of feels weirdly laid back – like you’re riding on a speedboat across mirror-calm water.

I also contend that there’s still some things that I’m trying to sort out that’s helping to keep my interest here. I’ve gotten better at keeping boss aggro thanks to experience and the previously referenced UI addon, but now I’m trying to better suss out when to attempt interrupts and what I should block versus what I should dodge. Things aren’t very taxing for me in this regard, and the penalty for failure isn’t really costly, but it’s still nice to have that little tiny hill to climb.

Also I really need to find this dauntless skill line that everyone keeps referencing.

But as I said, most of what I was doing was finishing up the Elsweyr main story, which saw me fight against even more dragons and help a usurped queen regain her throne. Like every other story I’ve played so far in ESO, it was the purest, warmest RPG cheese, powered by great high fantasy stuff and a suitably heroic-feeling final boss fight. I was relishing the whole thing and came away from it all feeling the same sort of satisfaction I’d get out of a fun and goofy little TTRPG one-shot.

Despite the enjoyment, I am kind of falling afoul of a few patterns I’ve noticed when it comes to ESO’s narrative. Mostly it’s related to the fact that nearly every major plot point or quest instruction is repeated to me over the course of a single conversation, as if I have the object permanence of a fruit fly. It’s a little annoyance and has caused me to blip past the spoken dialogue on more than a few occasions, but it’s not really a dealbreaker.

Also, I did take a moment to get into crafting, but it absolutely didn’t seem to stick. Blacksmithing seems kind of annoying thanks to the style page requirement — a system I appreciate the why of its existence even if I don’t want to engage in it — and switching to alchemy didn’t really provide me with too many more things of interest. I might tinker with the latter a little bitty bit or perhaps read up on the other professions, but by and large I’m pretty certain I won’t do any of it.

Even though I’m running into these nitpicky problems — the slow combat, NPCs that think I’m a dumbass, uninteresting crafting — I can still look past them all and bask in the fun that this game is otherwise providing. And the fact that I can see these wrinkles in the game but ignore them entirely or focus on the fun stuff kind of reaffirms how much I look forward to playing the game again and again. I’m still just in the mid-30s in terms of level, but now I’m considering what long-term goals to go for, such as working towards trials.

But I’ve got some time before then. And new places to go as well.

In the intervening days between this column and my last one, I’ve subscribed to ESO, which means that the whole world of Tamriel is my oyster. It also means that I don’t really know where I should go next. So here’s some of the options that stood out to me:

What zone should I travel to next?

  • South Elsweyr. Continue the dragon fight. (47%, 44 Votes)
  • Coldharbour. Maybe clear this off your quest list forever. (25%, 23 Votes)
  • High Isle. To the archipelago. (17%, 16 Votes)
  • Stros M'kai. See what this sea port has to offer. (3%, 3 Votes)
  • Eastmarch. Into the cold. (8%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 93

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As ever, polling will close at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 17th. In the meanwhile, I’m going to perhaps keep on doing the queue stuff and do some outside research. Maybe there’s a crafting profession that’s much more interesting hiding out there…

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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