Sunday, April 20, 2014

Elder Scrolls Online - ESO

ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) has been live a little over two weeks.  Yes it has some bugs, lag and unexpected server downtime, but overall, it's been a fairly good launch.  The Imperial (Digital Imperial Edition) gave five days headstart, which was still busy, but worthwhile to save names, characters set up, etc., but not necessarily a gamebreak either.

ESO has been a game that has grown on me over the past six months as the first beta I was in, I thought it was horrible and uninstalled it the first day.  I had it firmly crossed off my play list until a friend talked me into trying it back in early March.  I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't still 'horrible', so really kicked the tires by trying all the start zones, class/race combos, etc.  After that I decided to go ahead and buy the Imperial Edition, but still was at the, 'I'll play it for 30 days, but it's not worth a sub' thought.  Right now, I think I'll likely sub, but it's going to be month to month for now.  I'm not sure how much of a die-off we'll see once that first 30 days of free time is over, but as with most MMO's it's pretty repetative as you level, fun but not OMG this is innovative and oh so different.

Personally, I find it entertaining, not the best game ever, but definitely holding my interest and it's different enough from my main games (WoW, The Secret World and Planetside 2), to have a slot in the gaming lineup for awhile at least!

I will say, going into ESO, I had little to know information regarding the game mechanics, style of play, etc.,  as I was sure I wasn't going to play until less than a month ago.  Much of the lore I'm somewhat familiar with from their other titles (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim), but the combat, all the hidden caves, public dungeons, chests has been rather novel for an MMO.  I have since did more 'research', but have avoided as many spoilers as possible (other than skyshards, once I'm ready to leave a zone, well I want my skill points!), and have been happily leveling and likely distributing my points incorrectly to a min/max type, but I'm having fun!

While researching/absorbing info on ESO, there is a myriad of opinions from reviewers; some I do agree with and others totally disagreed. 

I've a mixed view on that.  I do like it, and the choices you have to make on which abilities to invest points in and which make it to our action bar, but I'd like to be able to store builds, (like The Secret World has) without using an addon. So if I want to switch from a bow/2hander to a dual wield/resto staff I can without, stopping on the side of the road and changing every ability/weapon.  The actual combat, I think is fine, but then again combat mechanics, animations don't bother me alot in games anyway.  I've mostly tried bow, staves, two-hander and dual wield. The sword and board toon is the last to get leveled.

I do like that there isn't an over-abundance of spell effects, some games you can't see what you're hitting because of them.  Keeping your reticule on target while fighting does take some getting use to for those use to tab target fighting, but I find it much easier in some ways switching targets for multiple mobs.

Trade and no AH
Many people complain about the lack of global auction house (AH).  I don't see that as a downside to the game.  You can be in up to five guilds (trading associations), and if you choose large active ones, listed goods sell within 24-48 hours.  Is that the same as having unlimited potential clients no, and as the game a matures I'm sure some of the Trade Guilds will be better known for their higher end goods.  There is also the more interaction in chat with people hawking their wares (would love a separate trade channel for that at times!)
What I do love is the listings last 30 days! No more babysitting the AH (insert happy dance) every 24-48 hours.  The downside, you can only have 30 listings per trade guild.

Megaservers seem to be the way of the future in most MMOs.  It definitely has it's pros and cons.  As it's one server and your account is you (not individual toons), you do have to be a bit more selective on which guild(s) you choose to join.  Every guild will know your on, so the day of the 'hide-a-toon' is gone. 

The good/bad also, is the zones are really busy.  Good that you see lots of people out running around, bad that sometimes there are lots of people running around.

The multiguilding that is encouraged in ESO,  can cause some conflict with guilds that have a firm 'you play with us only or not' policy, as many games you can't police that if your guild-mates don't tell you.  As more games go with the account is you, (easier to catch hackers maybe?) versus alts, it may prove to be an issue for some guilds.

Public Dungeons
Personally I love these.  You can run with other people without having to be grouped, as long as you tag the mini boss you'll get credit.  The downside, you do lose some of the sense of achievement if you go in right after people have cleared all the way to the boss, and you basically run through the instance. 

I had a friend state, he didn't feel he had a sense of accomplishment just running in and tagging the boss, but not having to clear all the way there.  I didn't say it, but was thinking you could wait for everything to respawn!  I've had some that were a slog at the earlier levels and some that were a breeze.  Overall I do like it, but if you don't know about killing the final boss guy to unlock the achievement you may miss that.  I had to go back and do a few in one zone as I hadn't realized my map "icons" although showing the discovery hadn't gone from white to black, indicating I'd completed the achievement.

Another game mechanic people complain about is NOT liking the phasing. That I really don't get.  Every MMO you play, you go save the town and it's still burning or you clear out the bad guys and they respawn ontop of you.  In ESO you save the town and see the inhabitants cleaning up, trade happening again, etc.  The bad guys are gone! It feels like you do affect change in the game, which I totally love. 

Do I love the phasing can mess with quest givers (sometimes they aren't there!),  no.  That can be annoying having to /reloadui and hope or log out in and hope or get frustrated!  I've only had one bug badly that took almost two days to get functioning properly, and one that took eleven attempts to finally get it to progress, but overall the phasing I think is great and wish more games would incorporate that.

What I would LOVE to see changed in ESO...

Storage Space
I wish, oh I wish, they had Guild Wars 2, storage for crafting items.  There are a ridiculous amount of items (and I grab everything!) for the different professions.  Especially for Provisioners, Alchemist and Enchanting.  I have three alts, just to hold materials for the different professions, plus extra gear, the abundance of Treasure Maps, buff food/potions, gear for research, etc.

I've purchased extra bank space, feed three toons horses (they have two each) for extra storage and have bought extra bag space on all of them.  I'm still logging in/out to transfer mats, sell stuff, etc. a few times a day.

Bank space, I'm up to 100 slots with the next ten slots costing a bit over 20K gold.  My highest level pack horse is at 20 extra slots (that character has 100 bag slots when using that horse), so feeling a bit of breathing room, but OMG it is a PiA to keep track of all this stuff with the limited space.

The negative side of me, assumes, this will be the money maker whenever this goes F2P, which I'm sure will happen at some point.  What they'll charge ???, but if it's not a tremendous amount, I'm sure I'll up the bank!

Guild Store (Trade Store/AH)
When you sell something, you'll receive a nice note in the mail and the money, but NO IDEA WHAT YOU SOLD!  Really?  If you were in five trade guilds and listed 30 sales with each (potential of 150 items), it's a pain to try to figure out what is selling and what isn't with out more micro-management than I'm willing to put into it!  Some things are easy, but with a 30 day listing, you get gold and have a 'what is that from' thought.  Stating what sold shouldn't be a major issue, I'd think.

The other change for the Guild Store, a searchable - as in let me type in an item name - search capability.  It's not terribly hard to narrow your search, and other games have just as bad functionality, but I'd love to see that changed.  

Cosmetic Gear
Why every game doesn't launch with a wardrobe slot and/or armor dye is beyond me.  No I really don't want to see someone running around Tamriel in fuchsia pink armor, but just to be able to dye it in suitable to the flavor/style of the game would be great.  There is a 'disguise' slot, so why not have a full wardrobe slot?  I've been passing disguises to my other toons so they can at least appear coordinated.

Fortunately the gear is in subdued tones overall so nothing looks horrific (nightmares of some of the clown gear in WoW before transmogging!), but a cosmetic slot or dye, I do hope is in the works at some point.

There is definitely a love/hate going on with crafting in ESO.  I love it as it's not super easy, but there is a huge difference between leveling Provisioning and Blacksmithing.  I max'd to 50 provisioning before hitting level 15, so now it's just leveling up the skill tree as she collects new materials/recipes in the different zones.  The buff food is better than any dropped so worth it, imho.  Plus the mats sell for zero to one gold, but cooked sells for more just to a vendor (as well as in the trade houses).

Blacksmithing (Woodwork and Clothing too), making, deconstructing, research all are such time sinks and seem to progress so slooooooowly.  I finally made a spreadsheet to keep track of which toon was doing which research so I wouldn't keep duplicating research time. 

Between that and to upgrade an item from white > green > blue, etc., the masts needed are pretty high cost benefit ration for me.  I'm likely going to level those slowly or at a higher level once one of the gang is max level. For now the green or blue quality quest rewards (chest and mob loot too) gear/weapons seem to work fine for me and are readily available.

What I do love is being able to gather to my hearts content (even though my bags are always overflowing), but exploring, questing and gathering/crafting are my favorite things in a game besides PvP.  So being able to combine the first three has been just awesome.  Harkens back to my EQII days (wish it had EQII shared banking/storage though!).

I'm sure I could write a ton more on what I do/don't like as this barely scratches the surface of some of the wonderful things in the game.  Would I recommend it, yes.  IF you like to quest, craft, explore.  IF you need a very theme-park feel quest hub type experience and want to rush through for engame may not.  I do see people doing that, but this is definitely a chat with the NPCs (they do give hints/tips on where to go and what to do), gather, admire the vistas game. 

To me, there are plenty of 'hints and helps' to get you from point A to B while questing, but if you don't roam around, enjoy a bit of spelunking, you miss many fun parts of the game.

Below are some useful links (permanently stored/updated in my Favorite Gaming Links page):
Elder Scrolls Online website
ESO Wiki
ESO Guide
ESOHead - database
TESO Elite
Elder Scrolls Online Info
ESO Forums
Tamriel Foundry - ESO Fansite
TESO Life - ESO Fansite
SpartanJesters - YouTube how to's
Interactive map of Tamriel
ESO Support - server updates
Alliance Campaigns - PvP
ESO Reddit
ESO Fashion - crafting
How To - Vampire
How To - WerewolfAny bloggers out there writing specifically about ESO?

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