Elder Scrolls Online: Digging Deeper

I’m continuing to (slowly) work my way through Elder Scrolls Online. I still mostly stand by my initial thoughts on it — it’s firmly in the “okay, not great” category — but it is at least continuing to hold my attention, and in some ways it’s growing on me.

A pit of corpses in Coldharbour in Elder Scrolls OnlineI credit a good chunk of this to the fact that the combat did become more challenging after a while. It’s still not particularly difficult, but at least it’s no longer a case of enemies falling over after two or three hits. And as I mentioned in a previous post, unlocking weapon swapping and a mount helped a lot, too.

As I’ve progressed, I’ve been able to delve deeper into the game, and there are a few areas that stand out as worth discussing.

Crafting:

I normally don’t pay much attention to crafting in MMOs. I like the idea of it, but in practice it’s always far too much grinding for far too little reward. However, when I saw that ESO’s crafting was a little more in-depth than the average WoW clone, I decided to give crafting a try once again.

It’s been a bit up and down. I’ve nearly quit a couple times, but now I think I’m getting the hang of it.

Even with the crafting hirelings, I find I’m having trouble getting enough materials. It’s really making me dislike this game’s baffling insistence on not having an auction house.

My Bosmer sorcerer hunts through Grahtwood in Elder Scrolls OnlineI’m also not entirely fond of the need to sink skill points into crafting — potentially a lot of them if you want all the perks. My understanding is that by endgame I’ll have more skill points than I know what to do with, but at low levels, I need all the points I can get, and with the glacial leveling pace in this game, spending one on non-combat skills always stings a bit.

I also found that — as with crafting in most other games I’ve played — anything I made was still quite inferior to whatever random drops I got from questing, but I’m starting to think this may be my own error.

I’m used to the WoW model of crafting, where you just make a piece of gear and that’s it. I didn’t give much thought to researching and adding traits, or upgrading crafting pieces beyond white quality, or enchanting. So of course everything I made sucked.

Now that I’m taking those things into account, I’m actually able to make some gear that’s worth equipping.

Now I really regret not taking up enchanting…

I’m also making sure to deconstruct most of the gear I pick up, rather than vendoring it, as that seems to be a pretty good source of crafting XP. That makes me less reliant on crafting gear to level up, which somewhat lessens my material-starvation.

The Grahtwood zone in Elder Scrolls OnlineI’m still making up my mind on crafting in ESO, but I’ve always liked the idea of self-sufficiency, of building my own equipment rather than kneeling at the altar of RNGesus. And it seems especially appropriate for a Bosmer huntress to live off the land. So if I can make it work, I will.

It also gives me some control over the appearance of my gear, though I’m still struggling to find anything I like the look of. The lack of a transmogrification or wardrobe system in this game is a tad baffling. And while we’re at it, what’s with the lack of a barbershop?

Realizing I had the same hairstyle as Lyris Titanborn just sucked the fun out of it somehow…

Dungeons:

Dungeons seem to be a lost cause.

I just can’t find groups. For several days, I joined the queue for the first dungeon each time I played, but even after hours of play, the queue never popped. Only once was I placed in a group, and it went nowhere. The tank left immediately for reasons known only to them, and the healer bailed shortly thereafter. After about twenty minutes, we got another tank, but a replacement healer never showed, and eventually everyone gave up.

I hate forming groups through chat channels, and even if I didn’t, hardly anyone seems to be forming groups for low level content.

An abortive attempt at a Banished Cells run in Elder Scrolls Online

We just sat like this for half an hour.

The game seems pretty busy, so I wouldn’t think it’s a population issue. Do people in ESO just not care about dungeons?

I’ve thought about taking up healing in the hopes of improving my queues, but I’m not sure I want to spend some of my precious skill points on something I may not get any use out of.

I wasn’t exceptionally keen on doing dungeons in this game to begin with, so it’s not the end of the world. Bit of a shame, though.

The world:

ESO is for the most part a solid game, and while it does have some significant moments of frustration (as discussed above), I am enjoying myself a fair bit.

What I’ve been struggling to understand is why. Yes, it doesn’t give a lot of cause for complaint, and most it is at least solid, but as I’ve said from the beginning, there’s little that blows me away, either. The story is decent enough to keep me going, but certainly nothing special. My opinion of the combat has improved significantly, but it’s no TSW or Neverwinter.

I think I’m narrowing it down, though: It’s the world.

My Bosmer sorcerer takes a ride in the moonlight in Elder Scrolls OnlineESO’s world is very detailed, and there are a lot of subtle things that make exploring it a more engaging experience than you’d find in the average MMO. I initially had my doubts about the policy of just leaving quests out in the world with no real clues as to their existence until you stumble across them, but I find it’s actually a lot of fun to try to hunt them down. They’re spaced pretty evenly across the map, so it’s not like you’re combing the countryside endlessly in the hopes of finding a quest or two.

Even if you’re not finding a quest — or a delve, or some other structured activity — exploring is rarely fruitless. The world is chock full of hidden loot, lore books, treasure chests, crafting nodes, and the like. It almost calls to mind the addictive wanderlust Guild Wars 2 once inspired in me.

Exploring is something I rarely enjoy in MMOs, but that’s because it’s so rarely made to be worth your time. When there’s something to the activity other than wandering without aim, it’s quite a joy.

Then there are pleasant little touches like ambient dialogue that reflects your actions, random NPC conversations, and most of all the weather.

I’ve played plenty of video games with weather, but none have come anywhere near the realism of ESO (except maybe FFXIV). It’s pretty special to be able to look up at the sky in a video game; think, “Hmm, looks like rain soon”; and be caught in a downpour ten minutes later.

Watching the sun set over the ocean with one of Elder Scrolls Online's ubiquitous skeletonsI don’t get why there are random skeletons absolutely everywhere, though. Did the Orochi Group try to open a Tamriel branch?

The lore:

Something else that’s been interesting for a story nut such as I is getting to know the lore and history of the Elder Scrolls setting, which I’ve not had any significant exposure to before.

I know there are a lot of rabid fans of the Elder Scrolls lore, but I don’t think I’m going to be one of them any time soon.

The game’s story itself is adequate at best, and the many books of lore and backstory scattered around are mostly too dry even for me, seeming to favour wacky uber-fantasy names and an excessive amount of detail over actual depth or compelling content.

That’s not to say the lore is terrible. It’s just mediocre.

In fairness, my understanding of the lore is still quite incomplete, and I’m struggling to piece things together as I go, so that might not help. I will say ESO does a pretty good job, all things considered, of not making me feel overwhelmed as a newcomer to what is clearly a vast and intricate mythos.

The Aldmeri capitol of Elden Root in Elder Scrolls OnlineAnd there are few things about the Elder Scrolls setting I’m developing a definite fondness for. Namely Bosmer and Khajiit.

No one who knows me should be surprised I’ve taken to Bosmer like a fish to water. Crazy, tribal, cannibal Elves? Sold!

I do think they’re a great middle ground between new and old ideas. They have enough elements of the traditional Elf archetype to feel familiar, but enough changes to feel fresh.

I like their feral, chaotic nature, as well as their irreverent sense of humour. It’s especially amusing when contrasted with the stuffiness of the Altmer.

Khajiit, on the other hand… They’re a cheap thrill, but an effective one. My impression to date is that there isn’t a lot of depth to them, in terms of individual characters or their culture as a whole, but their goofy speech pattern and roguish charm are pretty hard not to appreciate.

Again, they’re a delightful contrast to the holier-than-thou, aristocratic Altmer. On the whole, the Aldmeri Dominion is a very fun odd couple situation (odd trio, I guess), and I think I chose my faction wisely.

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6 thoughts on “Elder Scrolls Online: Digging Deeper

  1. Khajiit! They’re so cool.

    Interesting thoughts. I wanted to play this back before it came out, but after reviews, I prioritized other things and never got around to this one. Not a big MMO person anyway, but I love Elder Scrolls lore. It’s funny you say it’s mediocre, definitely it’s a personal preference as to which fantasy worlds are the richest so I understand. It happens to be one of my favorites in part because of how much I love some of the races and their histories.

  2. Yeah, crafting kinda sucks at 1st, but eventually if you break everything down instead of vendoring it you get enough dust and whatnot to craft your own green and blue gear which is better than anything else you’ll find outside of a dungeon, and frankly better than most of what you’ll find IN a dungeon either (those drop blues, but aren’t necessarily statted the way you’d want them). The set bonuses from crafting at the stations out in the wilderness are huge, and you can eventually upgrade your gear all the way to yellow, if you want, so… I haven’t played in over a year, really, but crafting was where you got your “best in slot” items, and with the traits, enchantments, and set bonuses you could customize your gear for your playstyle.

    Crafting does take a lot of points though. What I actually ended up doing was leveling 1 character up to VR1 with found/purchased gear and then re-spec’ing it to a pure crafter. then with my alt-itis, all the other characters that I leveled up fed their gear through the bank to my crafter who then broke it all down for the xp and to get the materials. It worked out really well for me to do that, but for someone with only 1 character it’s way harder to work in crafting while leveling up, for sure.

    As to dungeons — as I recall it, they aren’t worth much in the way of XP, and the game’s mature enough that there are enough crafters (or people who self-sufficiently craft like I did with my dedicated crafter) that no one needs the gear. Fast leveling is accomplished by AE grinding on mobs, not dungeon running, so…. dungeons were a ghost town after the 1st couple of months, so what you describe seems the natural outgrowth from there as the game’s “matured” farther.

    Have you made it in to Greenshade yet?

    • Not yet. Again, this game is glacial in its pacing, and I’m still kind of playing it off-and-on. I figure I’m close, though. I’m not sure exactly how much content is left in Grahtwood, but there’s about 25% of map (at most) I haven’t explored yet.

  3. I have only run a few dungeons in the game, but the experience reminded me a lot of GW2 dungeons. Basically, from what I could see, leveling dungeons aren’t a strength of the game, and you aren’t missing much.

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