End Game: 4/5
Elder Scrolls Online: From the Wikipedia: “The Elder Scrolls Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing video game developed by ZeniMax Online Studios. It was originally released on April 4, 2014 for Microsoft Windows and OS X. It is a part of The Elder Scrolls action fantasy video game franchise, of which it is the first open-ended multiplayer installment.”
Elder Scrolls Online is an online, multiplayer version of the Tamriel world, the same world found in the beloved games Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. I’m delighted to say the current version of the game has captured much of what made Skyrim so playable.
Gold: the standard, in-game monetary unit.
Crowns: Purchase with Real Money at the marketplace. Can be used to purchase vanity items, Downloadable content expansions, and trifles.
Alliance Points: Currently gained from PVP experience, used to purchase PVP potions, PVP things, siege items, and more.
Tel Var Stones: Honestly, I have no idea. I must not have gotten that far yet.
Elder Scrolls Online (Hereinafter referred to as “ESO”), is a “Buy to play” game, with optional subscription and expansion choices. You must purchase the game, either online through the website or through associates such as STEAM, or a hard copy version from your favorite gaming retailer. It runs about 60 US dollars for the basic game. After that, your online experience can be completely free: no monthly subscription needed, and many players choose this. There is PLENTY of content without the additional expansions, especially in the first few months of playing. There are, however, additional purchasing options. You may purchase Crowns with real money, allowing you to purchase downloadable content (“DLC”), otherwise known to most gamers as expansions. These expansions —err, DLC— are forever accessible if purchased via Crowns. The other way you can go is to purchase a monthly subscription – which I have – which grants access to every DLC, for as long as I have my “ESO Plus Membership” subscription. When the subscription ends, so does the access to the DLC. The neat part of this is, your monthly subscription gives you 1500 Crowns! You can save up your crowns and purchase the content if you want to end your sub, but keep the expansion content. There are currently three expansion/DLCs available: The Imperial City, Orsinium, and Thieves Guilds, with a fourth, The Dark Brotherhood, planned for late May.
Elder Scroll Online’s graphics are breathtaking. I expected a shoddier, rougher look than Skyrim, and was pleasantly surprised with the feel and detail of Tamriel. I don’t have a high-end computer, but I can run high graphics without Lag, which impressed me even more. No sacrificing graphic quality for performance! The movement impressed me, as well. The grass moves like grass. NPCs move around like people and have conversations with each other that don’t inlcude you. Butterflies and frogs and fireflies zip around (which you can catch!) adding to sense of a living, breathing world. The zones are intelligent, so you aren’t stepping from desert to arctic wasteland to jungle inside 5 feet. It’s probably the most beautiful game I’ve played.
Sounds and music are above average, with a minimum amount of sound options available. The music background music is neither irritating nor exactly inspiring, but the changes do let you know whether you’re in combat or out, in a town area, or near goodies like thieves troves, so the musical cues do their job well. As near as I can tell, the bards only know two songs, which I call “Red Diamonds” and “Sway as We Kiss.” The game tries to fool you by sometimes playing the songs without lyrics, but those minstrels don’t fool me one bit. I’ve spent enough time in the taverns to know “Red Diamonds” when I hear it! If I had one complaint about the game, the bards’ limited repertoire would be it.
Cons: Red Diamonds!
Currently, the leveling system is: 1-50 regular levels, then 1-16 “veteran” levels, with a “Champion” point system at the vet level. However, vet levels will soon be going the way of the dodo, leaving us with levels 1-50 plus champion points.
During your leveling from 1-50, you earn two sets of points: attributes and skills.
Attributes are health, magicka, and stamina. Like every MMO ever, your health affects how much damage you take before you die. Magicka is both how many spells you can cast, and how effective they are. Stamina is the non-caster version of stamina, for the sword and bow types. You can pick where to put your attributes, which makes for some interesting build choices. Want a stamina sorcerer? Sure, why not. A magicka tank? Anything you want, buddy. You aren’t even limited to what kind of armor you can wear. Put that healer in heavy armor, if you feel like it!
Skill points are something else entirely, and you put them where ever you want to. You can put them into spells, crafts, armor, passive skills, whatever the blast you feel like putting them into. (Pro-tip though, you’re going to want a bunch in your class abilities. You could probably get away with your basic attack, but I don’t recommend it.) While you only get 1 skill per level, you also get skill points for completing certain quests, killing some boss mobs, or you get 1 skill point for every 3 “Skyshards” you find in the world… and there are a LOT of them out there.
Champion points, which you start earning at 50, are extra little perks such as extra resists, faster regeneration of magicka, health or stamina, extra critical power, and the like.
Questing: Yes, please! None of that annoying “Go here, kill X mobs, rinse repeat” from ESO! Like Skyrim, you have objectives, yes, but the mobs you kill are incidental to the objective, and are usually only because they’re in the way. There is lots of talking, and clicking on things to make them go, puzzles to solve, helpless men to rescue… The main story runs throughout, with side quests in addition to alliance quests that run tandem with the overall story arc. I even completed some of the out of order, which gave entirely new spins on what I thought was going on! In one, after doing the level 40 quest line, I tried to kill off a character in an early 20’s level quest, because I didn’t like what the character did later on… only to find out what my choosing that action was what make the …being… so unlikable. I guess even ESO hates a paradox! Well done, writers.
If you hate quests, you may not care for this aspect of the game much. There are map icons which indicate where you should go, but there is no golden path as there was in Skyrim. You’re just going to have to run around and find it yourself. (Hint to non-American players: “Throwing” a lever means you find a switch and push it. You don’t actually throw anything.)
None, but rumors are that player housing is panned for some point in the future.
The dye customization is interesting. You can dye any piece of armor that you like, for free, as many times as you like, but the trick is, you have to unlock the dyes first. You can unlock dyes through quests and achievements.
Trade: In what has to be an MMO first, there is no global auction house, which takes some getting used to. The theory is, when you have a global auction house, said auction houses’ prices and availability of items can be monopolized by one guild or even one person. Instead, ESO uses a system in which you can join up to five player-created guilds at once. Each guild, if it has over 50 members, can have a store. You can purchase from any guild store that you find in the world, but you can only put items up for sale in your own guilds. This has kind of an interesting effect, where you can join a guild or two for social reasons, grouping reasons, or trading reasons, or any combination thereof. I have three guilds I do extensive selling with, for example, with two social guilds, one a rather nicely hardcore group that executes dungeons with precision, and another social guild with lots of chatting and new people (like me) trying to figure out how to just play the game. The guild system fosters a very comfortable gaming community, where everyone tends to get along because there isn’t a whole lot of cut-throat competition for resources or customers. Everyone can be a master craftsman. Just because your guild has one, doesn’t mean you can’t be one, too!
Happy to report that unlike some games, you don’t have to limit yourself to only picking one or two or three things you want to do with crafting, and being forced to level alt after alt in order to pick up the others. The skill points system means you can put points wherever the hell you want to. I was initially advised to only pick two crafts. I blew that advice off, and am now happily crafting clothing, weapons, staves, and enchantments. There is a 1-50 progression for crafting, with one skill point needed every 10 or so levels. Within that progression, there are other skills you can choose to pick up, using your skill points, such as free daily materials, glowy materials in the wild, extra research slots, and more. (Did I mention that gathering is NOT a skill? Gather whatever you want, whevener you want.)
Like most MMOs, your crafting will take increasingly better materials to make increasingly better items. Where it gets better than other MMOs is in the research! There are a number of “sets” available to craft found around Tamriel, but each set requires a number of known “traits” in order to craft. For example, let’s say you want the “Seducer” set to increase your Magicka recovery and max amount of Magicka. You’ll need to have researched at least 3 “traits” from other armor, for each piece you want to make. That’s three for the light helmet, three for the chest, three for the boots, etc. You can learn up to 9 traits, with increased research time per trait. The first is 5 hours. The fifth is five days. (I haven’t gotten beyond five yet.) This is where the community comes in handy! You’re quite likely to run into a crafter who is happy to make whatever you want, for the materials and tip. Your guilds wants you in good armor, and the armor materials themselves are relatively inexpensive. It’s the research time that’s the killer!
You’ll also have fun trying to gather all the different “styles” of armor (because who wants to run around in a robe that looks exactly like everyone elses’?) All in all, its a complex but fascinating system. I’m working on a spreadsheet.
Pros: CRAFT ALL THE THINGS!
Cons: Improving your items can be pricey.
No global PVP. However, there is an entire huge zone of PVP content, in which you fight for strategic points such as lumbermills, and the on to siege the castles and keeps. Bring your healers, your trebuchets and your catapults!
Pros: Balance! I know, I know, I was stunned, too. I woudln’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t (stealthed) watched two max-level dudes try to duke it out for over six minutes without either one of them making any headway. After a while they stopped fighting and sort of walked away together. I like to think they were going for a beer.
Cons: You can ONLY fight alongside your NPC-guild alliance members, so if you’re with the NPC alliance, Daggerfall Covenant, while your PC guildmates are Aldmeri Dominion, forget it. Unless you want to see who can wipe the floor with the other, of course.
I haven’t gotten to the end game yet. I imagine it’s more dungeons and better gear. ESO dungeons so far have been fun , and don’t feel very grindy and boring. The bosses have unique challenges to overcome (you ever tried lockpicking yourself out of a cell while your party mates scream at you to hurry up so you can heal them? Ya. Unique.) They’re also not all the SAME dungeons, with different mobs scattered around. Each feels very different from the others, with different layouts, design, and length.
Community: The community is amazing. My personal hypothesis is, this is not a game where the objective is to screw someone else over, so it isn’t attracting the kinds of players who only play a game to screw someone. *cough*ArcheageEve*Cough* You’re not smashing someone else’s ships, fortresses, castles, or trade supplies. It’s more of a multiplayer get-along-gang game, where cooperative play is actually encouraged. Very refreshing.
As games go, I highly recommend this one. You should try it.