ESO – Two Good Quests in Rivenspire

1,240 words.

I grouse about Elder Scrolls Online a lot, so I thought it would be fair to point out that I actually had an enjoyable play session yesterday for a couple of hours.

My “main” from the game’s launch in 2014 is a Nord Templar who is now somewhere around level 48 I think. This is the character I keep trying to play, and keep running into frustrations because the game consistently refuses to let me play the way I want to play this character. I wanted to make this guy a heavy armor, two-handed grunt who smashes everything over the head with a huge heavy swing of the two-handed sword. That is apparently “wrong” for a Templar, and the game punishes me all the time for it. It’s very aggravating. I don’t play him very much anymore.

So I turned to my “secondary” character, which is one that I made a year or two ago. This one is a Wood Elf Nightblade that I like to play dual-wielding. It’s a character I like a lot more, because she can actually kill things, but she’s only level 20. Not that levels matter anymore. You can pretty much go anywhere at any level now.

First I had to respec everything. Some time ago, the game reset some of my skill points. I, of course, had no desire or understanding of how to re-spend those skill points, so I just left them unspent. I tried to do a quest. I got killed over and over again. I figured it was finally time to rebuild the character, so I went to the capital and used the statue thingy and just reset everything back to zero. Then I followed the Skill Advisor for a stamina-based Umbral Assassin and spent the points exactly the way the game wanted me to. It took me down a skill path that I probably never would have picked on my own.

In the end, it was different from what I had done before, but not different enough that I had to re-learn everything from scratch. Basically I just left-click on the enemy until they glow red, then I do a Killer’s Blade to finish them off. That’s my basic combat rotation hehe.

Then I abandoned all of the quests I was working on in Stormhaven and went to a completely new zone to start fresh: Rivenspire. I had never been there before. All of the characters I played at launch were Ebonheart Pact characters, so I’ve been though those zones a hundred times, but the other two pact zones are still largely new to me. I used the Zone Guide thingy on the map and began the “Zone Story” for Rivenspire.

This took me into a quest called Shornhelm Divided. Apparently a guy named Montclair is waging a civil war for control of Rivenspire. The leadership is divided on how to handle it. I, of course, being the universal savior in every game, can be counted on to step in and provide guidance and leadership in these dark times, despite being a complete stranger.

It was a fun quest. I particularly enjoyed that there wasn’t a whole lot of combat. ESO is far, far better for me when you don’t have to fight a lot, the combat system being one of my biggest gripes about the game, or rather the way I can’t fight the way I want to fight, and have to turn to some “meta” to figure out the “optimal” way to fight.

I’ve also complained a bit about the voice acting in ESO. In general, I don’t find it all that engaging. But I’m happy to say that the voice acting in Shornhelm Divided was not bad. The female voice actors seem to be consistently better than the male ones, though.

Darien pointed the way. I only vaguely remember him from previous zones.

I then went on to the next quest: Dream-Walk Into Darkness. This quest involved traveling into Count Ravenwatch’s memories to find out exactly why Montclair is so mad at everyone. (You’d think the reasons for declaring a civil war would be abundantly clear, but apparently not in this case.) It was even better than Shornhelm Divided. It was actually… good. I was engaged from start to finish. It was one of the standard ESO doom and gloom and tragedy quests, which I’ve complained about before-there are just so many that it gets depressing and/or tropey-oh who’s wife/husband/mother/father/son/daughter is going to die horribly this time?-but I hadn’t seen one in a while so it was fresh again.

The voice acting was even better than the last quest. I’m almost positive I recognized the voice of the Countess Leila as the voice of Nora from Fallout 4, and Jack from Mass Effect 2, and she hit it out of the park. (I cannot confirm the voice actor because Courtney Taylor is only listed as “Female Breton #2” in IMDB.) I was instantly engaged with her plight because she sold it really well. There was also a vampire named Gwendis who only had about four lines but they were packed full of acting and I hope she reappears later. Again, it seemed the women were putting in a much better effort than the men.

Gwendis, the best character in the quest and criminally underused.

Speaking of voice acting, in light of Roger’s recent post, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I define “good” voice acting versus “not good” voice acting. I feel like Elder Scrolls Online can be a case study for this. Roger’s post partly prompted me to load up ESO again. I intended to find examples where the voice acting wasn’t that good, to refute the claim that ESO has good voice acting. I’ve always found it hit or miss, and mostly on the miss side. But I wanted to pinpoint precisely why. What exactly is the difference between a voice actor who brings a character to life, and one who is simply reading words off a page like a car commercial? Somehow I can intuitively spot the difference, but I can’t really put how into words.

Anyway there are times when ESO has good voice acting, such as those two quests above. Just my luck I ran into good voice acting when I was trying to find bad voice acting. Usually I find the voice acting in ESO imminently skippable. I’m not sure what the difference is. I think it might be the less screen time the NPC has, the less interesting the voice acting. For example, if you meet a random NPC on the road and talk to them, the voice acting sounds just like reading words off a page that neither the actor nor the director cares the slightest bit about. It’s just an info dump.

But if you go on a long string of quests, they put more effort into fleshing out the characters. But only sometimes. And usually just the women. The men are often phoning it in, concentrating more on diction and resonance than acting. It’s weird. I’ll figure it out eventually. There has to be a scientific formula that will define exactly when voice acting is good, and when voice acting is bad. Like the Unified Field Theory.

This is my Blaugust post for July 28th, 2019, the first day of Prep Week. I’m not entirely sure if this is an “official” Blaugust post or not.

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