Elder Scrolls Online Launch Diary, Pt III

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Hello all,

This is part III and the conclusion of a launch diary covering the first week of ESO, had to post a third blog because ran out of space.

I wanted to create this launch diary about the MMO launch of Elder Scrolls Online for a few reasons. For one, it's an ambitious game based on a highly praised set of solo-play RPGs that have only gotten better with every new release - how would this translate into the realm of MMO? Two, this will be the first MMO that ports to console (XboxOne, PS4 in June) which is very interesting. Third, and this is a personal reason but the most important, I wanted to blog the launch in memoriam of Bali, this (and EQ Landmark) are the first beta's that I've ever done without having Phil in text or in my ear on TS and he is sorely missed for his good-natured banter and fun he had testing games.

With those reasons in mind, I'd like to try to post a day-by-day (may miss a day!) of the first week of ESO, give my impressions of the game while not passing judgement and hopefully provide a brief chronicle of what is either going to be a great addition to the Elder Scrolls universe or potentially a missed opportunity to turn an awesome single-player experience into a community.

Saturday and Sunday, first week done

I didn't get to play much on Saturday but Sunday had made level 10 (once again on a nice questline, saving a village from a vampire pestilence) so decided to join a campaign and try the realm versus realm (or faction versus faction or whatever they're referring to it as in this game) combat. The way PvP works in ESO is similar to past games we've all played like DAOC or even Guild Wars 2. You pick a faction (similar to DAOC, there are three of them) and then select a "campaign" which lasts 90 play-days then resets itself (similar to Guild Wars 2). You character has a skill line tied to PvP that "levels" up as you advance through killing other realms, capturing or defending spots on the map, etc. Even when the campaign "resets" you skill maintain whatever skills you gained in the previous ones, the reset I think is to just kinda refresh the map and leaderboard. The leaderboard feature is new to this kind of team-PvP since the leaderboard tracks achievement points of all players in PvP and whoever sits at the top is considered the "Emperor of Cyrodiil" during the 90-day campaign period. I'm not entirely sure but I think whoever is Emperor also has some special abilities.

It was late night eastern so there were only about 14-20 fellow AD players in Cyrodiil - once again I was struck by how detailed the lands are. I ended up in a gulch that I didn't know at the time was impossible to climb out of but had a cool little cave at the end with a book to read called, "The Greatest Hiding Place". Eventually I found my way to the other players and joined their raid group (cool part of this - you can see players through the environment, they appear as little symbols that change if injured or are in combat so it's easy to find your way to the group). They were attacking a castle that the Daggerfall Covenant had captured from us and it was under the control of a guild on that side and defended by only about 10 Daggerfall folks.

It really felt like DAOC when a group of castle guards ran by my position and attacked me, they were level 50 so I thought I was toast but it turns out you must be raised to level 50 in terms of your attributes when you enter PvP zones because I managed to take down one of them and run away from the rest. I didn't have any but the rest of group had siege gear and did manage to take down a side wall but we were short the folks needed to run the gauntlet with defenders and NPC guards inside the garrison.

As for the combat, we fought some small group skirmishes and they were fun, I have the assassin ability that phases you to your target and when I got close did a lot of damage so that was good to see. What's very interesting is all classes have the ability to stealth. When you're near another player with low stealth, you get an alert on your screen and can make them out a little bit. It will make for some interesting class combinations (like stealth mage) for sure.

Last night I was running around Cyrodiil (which is also a blast to explore, it has it's own set of monsters as well as resources, etc) when a nightblade had snuck in through an exposed hole in the wall and stole the daggerfall covenant Elder Scroll and got guided back to our keeps by a raid group which earned the nightblade the title "Queen". Was neat, I wasn't running with the zerg because only had a little time and was exploring. Zone chat was filled with praise. Like with DAOC, the AD faction now has bonuses because we control a second Elder Scroll (similar to relics).


Despite misgivings I had about how this game would pan out, I find myself pleasantly surprised by the final product. Maybe that's the best way to not be disappointed? By managing your expectations?

Character creation is great and although there are 4 base-classes, the system feels like you could grow in many different directions. A lot like Elder Scrolls and their system. Game is still very new so not sure we'll see a lot of cookie-cutter classes develop but there appear to be more options for characters than there were in Rift (which had a really diverse class system but still "funneled" players into certain areas or roles).

I find the quests to be the most story-like of any other MMO, I think the voice-over discourages the typical clicking-through quest conversations and then just looking at the summary to find out what you need to do. The way quest hubs aren't the typical way of building a list of quests is also a bonus for ESO since it encourages exploring the map outside of being "told" to go somewhere as a way of discovery. This doesn't change the fact that areas are specific to levels so it may seem like you're in an enlarged quest-hub, it's still a nice difference. Anchors are a nice edition that encourage group play outside of solo questing. I do hear that later levels quests are best done by a group but didn't experience that. I also never got the chance to check out the solo dungeon explorations (I think they're like instances) that exist.

The PvP is nostalgic of past games that did it very well (like DAOC) but I got that feeling that I had in GW2 - will it be diminished by no real difference in the battling teams? As others have written about and what I also find true, DAOC's success was based on the realms all being distinct in some manner (like specific classes, races and spell effects) while ESO has any race, any class, etc making up the teams. The basics of PvP combat and the need for stability they seem to have gotten right but can the realm versus realm tell a story? I hope with the live leaderboard and Emperor titles in the campaigns provide the storyline and give players something to strive for that builds some competition because without it, you don't see the community-side of PvP form. For instance, in DAOC, the server bulletin board were full of cross-talk and challenges, it was a lot of fun. Since that time, I've always used server bulletin boards to gauge a games survival - if they are wastelands of activity or eventually get taken down, it usually doesn't mean well for a MMO.

Hope you enjoyed my launch diary! I will probably write another about ESO at either mid-level or end game. I think the answer to my early question is that the game is a nice addition to the Elder Scroll universe, they've done well with launch and created an entertaining MMO. Ending with a pic of the last day of ESO Beta (dance party in Daggerfall) and recent pic exploring AD.

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