ESO – The Good and The Bad

Lucky you. Because I can’t seem to post by email during the week any more, you get to read an epic novel of a post put together over the weekend.

Yeah, I made an Argonian alt even though I played one in beta.
Falls-on-Steps. Yeah, I made an Argonian even though I played one in beta.

It’s actually been kind of nice that I haven’t been able to post. I’m having so much fun playing ESO that I don’t want to analyze the game very much, because then I might start to wonder if I’m really supposed to be having this much fun or not. Perhaps I’ve somehow been “tricked” into thinking the game is fun when it’s really not.

Because while leveling in ESO is very satisfying, I worry about the endgame. If it’s just PvP then there won’t be much there for me. Campaign-style PvP is just not that interesting in the long run. So I’m intentionally not hurrying, because in the back of my mind I’m quite aware that leveling might be the whole game (as it was for GW2).

On the other hand, I’m very curious to see the Adventure Zones. It could be ESO’s answer to endgame raiding, which could be very cool.

The Good and The Bad

After a week (now two weeks) it seems like it’s about time to step back and really evaluate ESO’s good points and bad points.

Good: The game is ridiculously addictive. I feel like everywhere you turn there’s something interesting to do or see. Many times I’ve been paralyzed with indecision about what to do next. Not like, “What do I do now?” More like, “There’s five different paths I could take, which one sounds most fun right now?”

Good: Crafting matters. A lot. I might even go so far as to say that making equipment is essential to the leveling process, because as I’ve said before, you rarely get drops that you can actually use.

Good: Variety in building your characters. I love this in any game. I’m sure there will come a time when there is “the” tank build and “the” healer build and “the” DPS build, but it isn’t here yet, so you can experiment all over the place, and almost anything is viable in the leveling process.

Good: Exploration. Good lord. I can’t remember the last game that rewarded exploration so much. I loathed leaving the first zone because I felt like there was a lot left unseen. But then you quickly forget it when you see the massive expanse of new things to do in the next zone.

Good: The bank is account-wide, and crafting materials can be stored in the bank. Very awesome “quality-of-life” features that all MMOs should have now. A shared acccount bank eliminates the need to constantly email equipment back-and-forth between characters.

The game is not all rosy, though:

Bad: Inventory and bank space management is not just inconvenient, it’s downright painful. I love that it’s a list of items, but there just aren’t enough slots and the sorting and organizing options are primitive. You are going to want to save up your pennies to buy more bag and bank space. It’s way more important than buying a horse, in my opinion. You’ll probably need one or more mule characters, too. I’ve basically given up on Alchemy and Enchantment as professions; it’s just way too many ingredients to keep on hand. As if that’s not bad enough, there is only one bank in each zone so far, so it’s quite inconvenient to empty out your bags after questing for a while.

Bad: You have to compete with other players (and bots) for your gathering resources. After GW2 and FFXIV, it feels like a big step backward. On the other hand, I suppose from an economic standpoint I can understand the reasoning. If everyone can loot every node, there’s an unlimited supply of resources coming into the economy. (I’m not an economist but that seems bad if you want to model a real-world economy.)

Bad: Re-playing a zone with an alt is kind of a chore. The second or third time through, you just want to zoom through and level quickly, but it’s not so easy to do that because the zones are designed more for wandering around in a meandering, explorative fashion. On a related note, there are only three faction zones to choose from, and if you want to play with friends, you have to stick to one of them. (To be fair, almost every new MMO has this problem.)

Bad: Quickslots. I don’t like ’em. Or at least, I don’t like only having one available. There should be at least three slots available.

Some things I’m not quite sure about yet:

Undecided: There is no auction house. If you want to get rich by selling your precious farmed loot to other players, you have to join a guild and list your items in a “Guild Store.” Many, many so-called “trading guilds” have sprung up for this purpose.

Undecided: Zenimax’s approach to game maintenence will be vitally important over the course of the game’s lifetime (as with any MMO). How quickly will they fix bugs? How will they respond to exploits? How often will the servers be down for maintenance? It’s too soon to tell. Not surprisingly, it was a bit chaotic through the first week, but I feel like they are mainly focused on the right things.

My Dude, The Templar

In the ESO beta, I played a dual-wielding Nightblade. It was “okay” but I didn’t feel very powerful. (Granted, I was almost constantly below the level I needed to be for the content I was tackling.) Also, thief-type characters are usually my last choice in general.

For my main character at launch, I wanted to go in the opposite direction and play a heavy armor, two-handed sword class. Dragon Knight sounded like a tank class, and Sorcerer sounded like, well, a sorcerer class. So by default I went with Templar.

Rothler admiring the creepy artwork.
Rothler admiring the creepy artwork.

Templar has three class trees: Aedric Spear and Dawn’s Wrath for damage, and Restoring Light for healing. I picked up a couple of healing skills for self-healing, but most of my class skill points have gone into Dawn’s Wrath, which gives me ranged damage spells. (Aedric Spear didn’t appeal to me because it’s close-range magic, and I would obviously be using my greatsword at close range.)

Most of the rest of my points are going into Two-Handed and Crafting skills. In addition to being able to solo, I wanted this guy to be a good crafter.

For my attributes I’ve mostly split my points between Magicka and Stamina, with an occasional point in Health. Magicka so I can cast more spells and Stamina so I can wack away with the sword.

So, my guy wears plate which gives him good survivability, he wields a two-handed sword which is ridiculously fun (he also gets a bonus for being Nord), and he throws around ranged spells and some healing to boot. A good mix for soloing so far. I feel pretty invincible in most situations. (I am not invincible, though, because I die fairly often.)

All in all I’m very happy with my class selection. It’s a durable solo build and I feel like it makes a good “support” role in groups, having some healing and some mild tanking capabilities. It’s probably not the best DPS but it feels like it does a lot of damage.

(I have since learned that people think Templars are overpowered in PvP. I don’t know about that, but it’s irritating to think that I’m playing the PvP flavor-of-the-month class. I usually try to avoid FotM classes.)

Public Dungeons

I find it remarkable that any developer thought bringing back public dungeons was a good idea. Any veteran MMO player should have been able to tell them that they would be exactly as flawed today as they were back in the old days before instances. Well the dungeons aren’t flawed, it’s the players who are flawed.

Here’s how they always go: You walk into the dungeon. There are usually anywhere from one to twenty other people already there, so a lot of the time you don’t even have to kill anything as you walk to the end of the dungeon. Somebody has already looted all the chests and picked up the harvesting nodes, if there are any. So there’s really nothing to see but an empty cave.

When you get to the end, you find that there is already a group of people standing in the last room waiting for the boss. When it spawns, it takes roughly two and a half seconds to kill it with the circular firing squad of doom that is unleashed upon him.

If you’re lucky, you land enough blows on the boss to get some moderately average loot and grab the achievement for completing the dungeon. Then you leave. (There is also usually a Skyshard at the end, so it’s worth it for that.)

My eyes! My eyes!
My eyes! My eyes!

Unless you’re one of the people who stays there for hours on end killing the boss over and over and over again for the loot. Because hey, why look for loot when you know it will spawn in this one spot over and over again. Or perhaps you’re a bot, exploiting the easy loot to ruin the economy.

So yeah, that’s why public dungeons are a bad idea. It’s because human beings play these games, and human beings are all dirty, dirty cheaters. Maybe this will remind everyone why MMOs went to instanced dungeons, and public dungeons will fade back into obscurity where they belong.

Pro Tips

Here are a few pro tips I’ve accumulated during my play time. Mainly in the form of things I wish I’d known sooner.

Setting up your Quick Slots is done in a secondary tab of your inventory. There’s a button in the upper-right that takes you to where you drag consumables to your quickslot circular menu. It took me quite an embarrassingly long time to figure that out.

It is so not worth it to do scouting missions in Cyrodiil. It took me a half hour to get to the spot and back, and you get almost nothing in the way of rewards. Total waste of time.

Speaking of PvP; while you’re in Cyrodiil, you cannot swim across the rivers. You will drown and die. You have to cross the rivers on the big bridges, which are intentional choke points.

Zerging at its finest, escorting a flag carrier.
Zerging at its finest, escorting a flag carrier in Cyrodiil.

Empty soul gems can be purchased from “Mystic” vendors. You then use skills from the Soul Magic tree to fill them up. (You can also buy full soul gems but they are ridiculously expensive.) This is how you resurrect others and yourself.

Learn to temper your use of Wayshrines to move around the map. This is not Guild Wars 2 or Final Fantasy XIV where it costs almost nothing to teleport anywhere. In ESO, you can run yourself out of gold really fast if you carelessly teleport around without a plan. (This just in! If you go from Wayshrine to Wayshrine it doesn’t cost anything. Duh!)

Winding Up

As I’m nearing the end of this missive, I think I’ve figured out one of the things that makes ESO feel different from other themeparks. I feel like it does a great job of making you feel like you’re in control of your movements. In most MMOs you feel like you are following a giant bread crumb trail from quest to quest, and that’s how you go from place to place. There is some of that in ESO, but for the most part, I feel like I’m the one making a choice to go out and find the next quest. When my quest log is empty, I have to go find someplace on the map I haven’t explored yet to find more quests to do. That’s pretty cool.

P.S. Stop calling it “TESO.” Your precious TES franchise is dead and gone forever, muahahaha! (Just kidding.)

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