A few weeks after I hit what we would generally think of as the level cap in Elder Scrolls Online, I have now hit what could be argued to be the true level cap, 160 Champion Points. It is only at this point that you cease hitting new tiers of equipment and can begin gearing up in earnest.
This is where all those long hours I spent leveling my crafting finally paid off. Normally at this point in an MMO, I’d be hitting up dungeons or world bosses, or perhaps grinding daily quests or even doing PvP. In ESO, I had to do none of that. Like Tony Stark in a cave full of Middle Eastern stereotypes, I simply built my own equipment from scratch.
This first entailed several hours trekking all over the length and breadth of Tamriel to find enough materials, as the final tier of gear requires ten times more ingredients than what came before it.
I thought this would be a chore going in, but I actually didn’t mind it. It seems a small price to pay to free myself from the shackles of RNGesus, and this is a genuinely nice game to ride around and explore. I actually started the journey a bit before hitting 160 CP and made it the rest of the way thanks to the XP from exploration, killing mobs that got in my way, and doing the occasional Dolmen as I happened across them.
I had planned ahead and saved a bunch of crafting surveys for every profession, so that turned what could have been weeks of grinding into something that only took about a day of pleasant wandering.
My one complaint is how vague the survey maps can be. I had one where X didn’t so much mark the spot as it covered the entire northeast quadrant of Reaper’s March. That’s less than helpful.
In the end, I wasn’t entirely able to achieve my goal of 100% self-sufficiency and had to buy some things from guild traders. Most notably glyphs, since I didn’t level enchanting. Thankfully 160 CP glyphs are fairly cheap as long as you’re willing to settle for them “only” being epic. I also needed some extra leather, as I wound up a few hundred short of my goal even after clearing out all my surveys.
Once I had everything I needed, it was finally time to craft my new set of gear. That’s not exactly an exciting story, since it mostly entailed my going to some crafting stations and clicking some buttons, but it is interesting how much thought I put into those clicks.
I did what is for me a surprising amount of research and planning before making this final set of gear. I read online about the various crafting sets before settling on the ones I wanted, and even I drew up some basic graphs to track what traits I’d unlocked on what pieces and which I wanted to use.
I was a bit disappointed by how lame most of the five-piece bonuses for crafted sets are. The only one that really stands out is the double Mundus Stone one from Craglorn, but I’m not going to have nine traits on everything anytime this year. In the end I settled on two four-piece bonuses instead.
The end result of all this work and planning is that I’m now 100% equipped with gear made by my own pixelated hands.* Every piece has been tailored to have exactly the stats, traits, and appearances I want.
Every piece is at least epic quality, and I also managed to make a few legendaries, most notably both my weapons. In my bow stance, my crit chance is now near 60%, which calls to mind fond memories of being a fire mage back in Wrath of the Lich King.
I’m also mostly happy with the appearances. I still miss my mid-level Argonian chest, but what I’ve got now is okay.
On the whole, I’ve found this a very satisfying experience, though I’m not entirely without complaints, of course. Getting three crafting professions fully upgraded was pushing the very upper limit of what I’m willing to tolerate in terms of grind.
This is also something of an example of rewarding time spent over skill, which is a design philosophy I’m not fond of. I’m honestly not sure I deserve to have gear this good. Maybe instead of surveys just giving you a pile of mats you should have to fight bosses who drop the mats, or maybe they should entail puzzles or mini-games of some sort.
And I’m now living in terror of the inevitable gear reset. Hopefully it’s still aways off — I don’t want to do this again anytime soon.
But there is something deeply gratifying about being able to fully craft my own gear. It’s not even the fact that I don’t have to worry about being screwed over by bad luck, or that it’s a viable gearing path for solo players, although I love both of those things. There’s just something special about building the gear yourself that’s hard to explain in rational terms. It just feels good.
Crafting is something I’ve always liked as an idea but rarely enjoyed in practice. Elder Scrolls Online is a very welcome exception to that rule.
And now I can craft gear for any future alts, too.