ESO – Impressions from Beta

So apparently Zenimax lifted their NDA a day after I speculated why they hadn’t lifted their NDA. Neat. Anyway, now I can post what I wrote about ESO mainly after the second beta weekend I was in.

Fair warning: The maximum level I have achieved is 7. That’s a couple of hours of gameplay. I have absolutely no idea what the endgame is like; I don’t even know what the maximum level is.

Also: I didn’t like Skyrim that much. I thought it was basically a re-skin of Oblivion with an even worse interface. Once I finished the main story I never played it again.

I’m going to start with the things I like about ESO.

I love the way ESO looks. I love “realistic”-looking 3D games, such as we’ve seen in Age of Conan. ESO is in that same vein, so that’s a big plus for me.

I like that it’s similar to other MMOs, but different enough to require some re-learning. I like the variety of Elder Scrolls races. I like that it’s a skill-based game, where you gain expertise by using skills, and you can “customize” your class by choosing different skill paths. I like that you can basically pick up any weapon or armor and use it if you want to. I like that you can follow quests, but you can also go off the beaten path if you want.

One feature I particularly like is that the game will seamlessly move you to a different “instance” of the world as you advance along the quest line. For example, you leave town to go light a torch, and when you come back, the town is in flames and under attack, with no apparent transition. After you save the village, it’s filled with people cheering for you. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s still a neat trick. (I now know this is called “phasing” for some weird reason.)

Another feature I like is that you often don’t have to run all the way back to quest givers. You’ll get a quest in town to go out and do something, and after you’re done, you’ll find the quest giver has followed you out of town to congratulate you and give you your reward. (Why didn’t they solve their own problems, then? Just don’t think about that.)

I like the combat system: It’s active in the vein of TERA, and you have to move around to dodge attacks and interrupt casts. I like that it’s not super fast and twitchy like Neverwinter and to some extent GW2. I like that you have a limited set of abilities to choose from, and not ten hotbars filled with actions you’ll never use. I don’t know how it’s going to hold up in the long run, but at least in the beginning, it suits me just fine.

I like that the interface is “reminiscent” of Skyrim, but it seems more functional.

I like that the inventory is a list of items, not yet another grid of icons. I have come to despise “grid of items” backpacks.

Now the bad.

I don’t like the voice acting for the quest text. I don’t like it in any game, with the possible exception of The Secret World. Not that it’s poorly done, it’s just that I find it really slow and annoying to have things read to me, no matter how good the acting is. Not only that, but quite often I play MMOs while watching Netflix, and I don’t like the MMO talking to me when I’m trying to watch a show. :) I don’t like having to stop my show to listen to NPCs.

On a related note, I don’t like how it zooms in on your character when you talk to someone, or visit a vendor. It’s an unnecessary speed bump.

I definitely don’t like that it’s the same starting place for every new character, and there are only three newbie zones. That means creating alts or starting over will be a chore.

There is no minimap. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. In fact there is very little in the way of a HUD on the screen during gameplay. Only time will tell if this becomes a nuisance or not.

I have already pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition. Why not? It’s cheaper than cable. Does that mean I think this is going to be my MMO “home?” I doubt it. But then I don’t really think of MMOs that way anymore. I play an MMO until it isn’t fun, then I switch to another. It’s extremely rare that I stick to one MMO for more than 3 months. There are so many different ones out now that it’s impossible to think about staying in just one anymore.

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