First I would like to introduce you to my third ESO character.
I had a plan going into the ESO beta. The beta was three days, there are three factions. I decided I would play each faction, in order to do this I stopped playing each character at level 5. You met Zanders ancestor and Syndahls ancestor but I didn’t have someone who could belong to the Daggerfall Covenant so I made one. His name is Xavier Andros, he is a Breton Templar, a distant ancestor of Elspeth Sigeweald (added because Elspeth said I could!) and he turned out to be awesome to play.
I am going to start with a little background on myself. I have been a part of betas including EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. This weekend I added Elder Scrolls Online to my resume. While I hope I get another invite to the next Beta they have, if they have one, I feel I can give a decent review of the game as it stands right now.
Like all MMO betas there are going to be bugs, and glitches, lots of them, so I will not go into great detail on them all. These bugs will get buffed out and polished up before release but there will always be bugs and glitches that get past and go well into the first few months of live; there has never been a smooth launch of an MMO, ever, and I don’t think there ever will be, something is bound to go wrong, glitch out and crash the servers or something, this is to be expected. However, there are a few that need to be resolved beforehand. An example of this is getting stuck in an animation while crafting or stuck staring at an NPC during a quest line and not being able to move or cancel the conversation. These can be resolved with the use of /reloadui for now but that won’t fly for a live game. There are still some quests that need polish and fixing and we can only hope they do.
That being said let’s get started.
Graphics: ESO scores highly in the graphics department, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone. In fact, I would have been surprised had they not lived up to the graphical standard they set for themselves with every Elder Scrolls game produced. The character creation while amazing still left room for improvement. They could have added more hairstyles, face and body markings, different things to make your character a little more unique. I didn’t see a lot of the same faces but I did see some. I was, a little disappointed while looking through the orcs that they didn’t have a lot of customization. Teeth size, ridged foreheads, bone horns, something, they needed something more. That being said I consider those to be non-issues. I only saw a few graphical glitches, missing references, or textures but they seemed to fix themselves quickly. Overall though, the graphics are amazing.
User Interface: The UI for ESO takes some getting used to, to say the least. I got used to just about everything, but it took nearly three days and to be honest I still have issues. The chat system needs improvement. I found it very clunky, I couldn’t figure out how to reply to someone quickly. While in most MMO’s you simply press the “R” key, in ESO you have to press the period key, then click on the name that sent you a message. Also, you can’t simply press the enter key to get into chat, again you have to press the period key to enter chat mode. I am sure it is something that you could get used to in time and you might be able to change the key bindings to make things easier but things like this should be automatic. Aside from that the rest of the UI can be figured out with relative ease. The majority of the UI seemed to be a copy of a mod for Skyrim, SkyUI, and I am actually glad they paid attention to that.
Something I hope they add is a latency meter, I don’t know if it was just me but I found myself getting bad lag and I wouldn’t know it until it was way too late. With a latency meter, I could have monitored the problem and made some changes without losing time in the game. I did find it odd that you could only have a set limit of friends on your friends’ list and once you went over that you would actually crash, I found this out from Gopher, and feel it is worth mentioning, and I hope they fix that I really do.
Gameplay: The gameplay, for me at least, seemed very smooth. Of course, I am used to the gameplay of Skyrim which ESO was based from. If you are not used to this style of play, then yes it will take some getting used to, especially if you are used to every other MMO out there, where you use your mouse to click targets and hit the auto attack button, you will definitely need some time to get acclimated to ESO.
Questing: When I think of quests in most MMO’s I think of fetch quests , collection quests and courier quests. If you have played any MMO you know what I am talking about. Fetch quests, if you don’t know, are quests that involve killing mobs for a set amount of items that are often an uncommon drop from that mob. For example, the quest giver will send you to kill some bears for 10 teeth. Logic tells you, one bear has 10 teeth, but in a normal MMO it could take you anywhere from 10 bears to lord knows how many to complete this quest. Courier quests are just that, they treat you like a mailman. Collection quests are a lot like fetch quests but slightly different. In all those cases your mind goes numb and it gets so very repetitive. This is not the case for ESO, and god was I pleasantly pleased by this. I didn’t experience one, not one of these quests in ESO. The closest I came to a courier quest was lighting a signal fire. I had to break someone out of jail, stop a hurricane, burn books, thwart an evil mage, steal sailing logs from an evil bastard, I got to choose whether or not to let some evil bitch live or die from poison, turn three skeevers back into people, and so much more.
Now let’s talk about the quest log and breadcrumbs. I am on the fence with the quest log, only having one active quest visible at a time was nice but also kind of annoying when I had to look in the quest journal to see what else I had to do. A minor issue but it is an issue I have. Now, bread crumbs. I absolutely hate the extent MMO’s have gone to hold peoples hands through quests, going so far as to just tell you where everything is leaving no real work to complete the quest. ESO does this too, not to the extent other MMO’s go. What saves them on this is I managed to find a few quests that you had to work to figure out. Puzzle quests! That’s right, you heard right, a puzzle quest. You won’t get your hand-held at all for these. One of the quests I found was a search for buried treasure. You had to follow clues in order to complete this quest and I loved it.
Overall questing in ESO is different, yet similar in some aspects to other MMO’s. There are some good points and some bad points, but I feel the good way outweighs the bad. and the bad can be fixed.
Loot: I have to say the way loot is handled is great. I could be wrong but it seems everyone gets loot and has their own loot table. What I didn’t like was the inconsistency of loot. This is best illustrated in the tutorial area “Cold Harbor”. I played three different characters, one for each faction. Now, my first run through this area, I saw chests and crates everywhere, the vast majority of them had items in them and were able to be looted. My second run through, the same chests and crates were there but only a handful of them had anything at all. The third playthrough I again had the same chests and crates had nothing at all in them. It was very inconsistent, and it was rather annoying. I think they need to be more consistent on things like this. But again that is my opinion. I can only hope that higher level boss loot has better consistency than the crap the noob bosses.
Crafting: I don’t know why but the crafting system, for me at least, was easy for me to understand. Granted I didn’t get into alchemy or enchanting as much as I would like but for the most part it I was able to get a good handle on it. The only thing I would really change is the exchange rates. For example, one refined iron ingot cost 10 iron ore to make, this should either be reduced or the number of nodes increased. Same with leather and cloth and wood. I did notice that my blacksmithing was significantly slower to level than clothing or cooking, and woodworking seemed slightly faster than smithing but not by much. As I said I really don’t have any experience with the enchanting or alchemy systems. Aside from that I really didn’t have any gripes.
Skills: The skill system is easy to figure out and from what I could tell every class seemed evenly matched, well except for mages, and I am not qualified to say they are or are not overpowered. I do like how ESO broke all the skills down, and with the limited skill slots, it makes your choices in skills count more to develop your character.
Lock Picking: Why does lockpicking get its own section? Because it is without a doubt the biggest pain in the ass ever. It took me three days and three characters over 200 lockpicks and a lot of cursing to figure out and I am quite certain I didn’t figure anything out and just got lucky a few times. This drove me up a wall, and I was good at picking locks in Oblivion. Something about this needs changing and that is all I will say about that.
Immersion: Currently, and I don’t know if they intend to keep it this way or if it is just for the beta, in chat channels all you see is someone’s UserID and not their character’s name. This is very immersion breaking for me. It is one thing to use someone’s UserID to be able to add them to your friends’ list, but I don’t wanna see someone’s UserID when they are chatting in chat, it breaks the Roleplaying aspect of the game. Other than that I think ESO has some great immersion, and I could see myself spending a lot of time playing.
Cost: 60 -80 dollars for the game and 15 a month seems like a steep price but I think you will get plenty of bang for your buck, but this is a personal issue and everyone feels differently. If I could afford it and had disposable income I very well could see myself spending a lot of time playing the game happily.
Overview: Overall I can honestly say this was one of the best beta experiences I have ever had. ESO, while having its issues, has the potential to be one of the best MMO’s around. It has proven to be so much more than just another cookie cutter MMO. Will it become a “WoW killer”? Probably not, but if Zenimax continues on this path they could very well stand side by side with WoW.
There is my take on ESO, as it stands now, this is likely to change should I get an invite to the next beta, if there is one, as things change so to will my views and opinions. I did get some screenshots taken but only one managed to be any good and I am very glad it was this one that turned out to be a good one.
Meet Majoll, does he remind you of someone? I think he is Mjoll the Lionesses ancestor, but I could be wrong. The other reason I like this pic is the man in the background. His name is Jakarn, and he for a lack of a better comparison is Brynjolf, but better!