ESO: Honour Among Thieves

Feeling burnt out on SW:TOR and having finally cleared out my backlog of single-player titles, I’ve decided to invest some time into Elder Scrolls Online once again. My theoretical goal is to finish the main storyline and the Aldmeri Dominion zones, but before embarking on that, I picked up the Thieves Guild DLC. Being a fan of the game’s justice gameplay, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

Sun and larceny:

The city of Abah's Landing in Elder Scrolls Online's Thieves Guild DLCThe Thieves Guild storyline begins when you are approached by a fellow thief in your local Outlaw’s Refuge. She offers you a lucrative job, but when your perfect heist is crashed by a group of fanatical mercenaries, you and your accomplice find yourselves drawn into a web of conspiracy centered around the Thieves Guild and their crime-ridden home city of Abah’s Landing.

One minor design flaw of this scenario is it means you’ll be dumped into an unfamiliar city full of guards with an active bounty and an inventory over-flowing with stolen goods. Not the greatest situation to be in.

Like a lot of things in ESO, I’d rate the Thieves Guild story as firmly in the category of good but not great. I found it pretty dull at first, but it does evolve into a fairly interesting mystery over time.

It has an interesting structure, too. There’s a sort of cadence where every major story quest is followed by a simpler quest to flesh out the stories of the various cast members, and vice versa. It’s like a Bioware game, but with better pacing.

On that note, the greatest strength of Thieves Guild is definitely its characters. Nearly every character is colourful and entertaining. There’s a quest at one point where you have to infiltrate a fancy party, and you get to choose which character you bring as your “date.” I think it says something that I kept wishing I could bring all of them.

A boss enemy in Elder Scrolls Online's Thieves Guild DLCOf course, I still chose Quen without hesitation. If you don’t think I’m going to immediately pick the quirky Elf girl, you don’t know me at all. But still.

The DLC includes access to the small but well-made zone of Hew’s Bane. Next to the characters, the new zone is probably the best feature of Thieves Guild. It has a small but satisfying collection of side quests, delves, world bosses, and skyshards to encourage exploration and provide some content beyond the main story.

Normally I’m not a fan of desert zones, but Hew’s Bane has enough foliage, variety of environments, and interesting geography to avoid becoming the endless smear of gray and brown that most desert zones are. It’s actually quite a lovely place, and I greatly enjoyed my time in it.

It also seems to have an unusually dense concentration of crafting nodes, making it a good place for farming.

Similarly, its main settlement, Abah’s Landing, is one of the more impressive cities I’ve seen in a video game, with beautiful architecture and an incredible level of detail.

However, there is one thing about Thieves Guild that did frustrate me. Your ability to get new story quests is gated behind the progression of your Thieves Guild skill line, and the only way to increase its rank is by doing quests for the guild. This essentially makes it a reputation grind by another name, and we all know how I feel about those.

Infiltrating a party in Elder Scrolls Online's Thieves Guild DLCIt sneaks up on you, too. For most of the story, you get enough “reputation” simply by playing through the story normally, but then eventually you hit a roadblock where the only way to progress is to start grinding the guild’s daily quests.

And nothing in the game explains this. I only figured it out after some Googling to find out why I had suddenly stopped getting quests.

Now, as grinds go, this one is pretty tame. Even calling it a grind is stretching the definition of the term a little. Still, “stealth dailies” are two words I never wanted to see combined, and it just kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s unnecessary. Even without the extra padding, Thieves Guild is quite a meaty DLC with far more content than I was expecting from it.

Overall, I think I’d still recommend Thieves Guild, but the daily grind aspect does somewhat dampen my enthusiasm for an otherwise excellent DLC.

Quen being badass in Elder Scrolls Online's Thieves Guild DLCReadjustments:

Coming back to an MMO after a long time away can often take some getting used to. I’m still learning how Elder Scrolls Online has changed following recent updates, especially One Tamriel.

While One Tamriel has undoubtedly been a net positive, I am starting to find some things that I’m less than thrilled with.

For example, crafting surveys from writs can now apparently send you to any zone in the game. This might be a positive for someone who’s reached endgame and unlocked every wayshrine, but as someone who’s still leveling and had only ever been to the first few Aldmeri zones up until recently, I’m really not enjoying having ride off to the ass end of High Rock to finish my crafting tasks. The point of something like One Tamriel should be to allow the player to make use of the entire game world, not to force them to.

I got a survey for Craglorn the over day. Craglorn! I mean, I know they nerfed it a bit, and level-scaling means I can technically go there now, but even so…

My Bosmer using the cheerful personality in Elder Scrolls OnlineI don’t know if it was part of One Tamriel or not, but somewhere along the line world bosses also got massively buffed and are no longer remotely soloable. Finding groups for them isn’t enormously difficult, but it isn’t entirely trivial, either, and it just doesn’t feel good to see content get more restrictive. Especially when you consider the rewards for killing them don’t seem to have increased alongside the difficulty.

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