Disclaimer: Obviously, this post is not about tanks, feel free to ignore it, if you aren’t interested in this sorta thing
as you have probably heard, Elder Scrolls Online (furthermore referred to as ESO) is a new MMO, based on the massive Elder Scrolls world, which is one of the most developed and largest fantasy franchises out there, with very deep lore and rich content. The best known part of the Elder Scrolls series is the legendary game Skyrim, widely considered to be one of the best games ever made.
As I wrote several times, I am a World of Warcraft veteran and am familiar with the MMORPG concepts (phasing, aggro etc. – more on that later) – I am saying this so you understand, how I approached this game, because most people seem to approach it wrong. I didn’t specifically follow the game development and only got interested after the game was released and Rita started streaming it once or twice. That caught my attention, so I bought it and installed it.
Considering today’s game prices, the game doesn’t come cheap: 50 Euro (70 for special edition) and then you have to pay subscription (cca 10 Euro per month). That is a mixed blessing – of course, you have to pay, the game is not F2P. But on the other hand, this system acts as a “natural barrier” to keep the worst pubbies, noobs and idiots out and prevents the infestation of stupidity, so present in World of Tanks. I actually prefer it this way and the players I met in the game proved me right.
After smooth purchase of the game online and a 20GB download (not as bad as I thought), I installed it and ran it. Well… this is the part where I need to say something a lot of people writing reviews on this game seem not to understand.
ESO is NOT Skyrim
I think that I don’t have to tell anyone that single-player and multi-player requirements are (still) on a completely different level. For one, ESO is missing most of the really pretty physics, that made Skyrim great – no archery physics for example. In fact, mechanics and gameplay-wise, ESO is actually closer to World of Warcraft than Skyrim and it uses a LOT of WoW mechanics. WoW players will feel quite at home after a while, although there are definitely some improvements as well.
Installation and Settings
Either way, back to the game. Installation was pretty smooth and so was the login. The game takes account security seriously: if you log in with different IP than you did the first time for example, the game will kick you out immediately and you have to authorize the IP via e-mail, otherwise the account gets locked.
Setting up the game properly however is a bit more difficult. For one, the keyboard settings are a bit weird, took me a while to set it properly. Second, graphic autosetting is completely wrong. I am glad the game flatters my computer by telling me I can run everything on max, but… no, I can’t. Unless you have a quite good computer, you will have to experiment with the settings a bit. I recommend turning viewrange and shadows down, they have HUGE impact on FPS (viewrange specifically influences not only drawing distance, but also LOD distance). Other things however, you can run at full even on weaker machines, including for example texture quality. A tip: when setting up the game, get to the first “really big room” in tutorial (the one with eyes and elementals) – if it runs smoothly, so will the rest of the game, it’s a good testbed. As I said, you have to experiment a bit – turning some things off doesn’t increase your FPS, but it makes the game look like complete shit. In the end, I settled for a mix of medium and high details (with all extra effects on full) and 60 percent viewrange. What a difference compared to World of Tanks, that barely runs on medium now.
A word of warning though: currently, there is a very nasty bug, that basically makes the game freeze for 2 seconds every 30 seconds or so. It’s incredibly annoying and it can kill you in combat. There is a fix – follow the instructions in this thread (regarding that file edit), it works.
Setting up a Character
Let me get back to the character part first. Basically, you have three factions. One is the Daggerfall Covenant, with two types of humans and orcs, Aldmeri Dominion, which has two elves and the big cat Khajiits and Ebonheart Pact or something like that, which has Nords (Skyrim!), Dark Elves and the lizard guys, Argonians. Each faction has its own zones and then there are some battlefields or whatnot, not very important. The important part is that it is NOT like World of Warcraft, where enemy faction can (for example) raid player starting zones and make a mess there. Here, these zones are exclusive – in other words, you won’t encounter enemy factions unless you want to, kinda reminds me of The Old Republic SW MMO.
Each faction has obviously its own history, background and storyline, that is independent on what class you pick. Races also have noticeable racial advantages (for example, Wood Elves have a good archery bonus, Bretons have magic bonus etc.) – you can work any race/class combo work, but some work better (whereas in WoW it wasn’t really that important, whether the priest is human or undead). A propos, classes, that’s also a mess. Each race in the game has access to all 4 classes in the game and each class is “customizable” (all classes can use all weapons, items and armor, as far as I can tell). You have:
- Dragon Knight, that can function either as a plate DPS, a tank or even a ranged DPS, but he sucks at that
- Sorcerer is a classic mage and is alway range DPS, he can specialize in pet DPS or alpha, such stuff
- Templar is extremely universal – an equivalent of a paladin, he can spec into a tank (plate + shield), DPS (2 hander), ranged DPS (something like a holy version of mage, quite effective) or healer
- Nightblade – basically a rogue with some magic elements, always a DPS, either an archer or melee
The classes use the same mechanics of WoW. There are tanks (players, who attract enemies and can stand a lot of punishment, hard to kill but don’t kill enemies fast either), DPS (fragile, but does tons of damage) and healers. There however is one extremely important thing to consider. Two things in fact.
First, multiclasses don’t work. If you want to be a two-handed-sword-wielding holy knight in plate armor who also heals, you will suck at both roles. Other idiotic stuff includes plate armor mages and such stuff. I will get to that later.
Second, respeccing is slow and doesn’t come fast (around lvl 16+ or so) and there are very few skill points to distribute, so right from the start, you HAVE to decided what EXACTLY you are going to do, because if you change your “spec” in the middle… well… see point 1, you will suck. So, when you create a character, you for example have to decide “he’s a holy knight, who will smite enemies with a huge two-handed hammer, slightly supported by battle magic” – and that’s it.
Levelling your Character
Levelling is a mix between Skyrim and World of Warcraft. Yes, you improve your skills by doing what you do, but you level up by getting XP and XP you get for killing mobs, for exploring and for doing quests. As far as I can tell, anyone can kill any mob and still get XP, but the level requirements rise very fast, so staying in one area and killing mobs is not a good way. Each level up, you get a point (like in Skyrim), that you distribute between stamina, magic and health (again, specialization is the key) and then you get a skill point, that you assign to the skills you want to use. As I wrote before – it’s very important to specialize – skills without extra points suck and there are not enough points to go around to level everything. You can improve your weapon skills, armor skills, magic skills and tons of other things, you really have to pick.
Oh, almost forgot. You have to pick also “reasonable” configurations. For example, warrior in clothes (light armor, leathers are medium armor) and a 2 hander won’t work. Light armor as a whole adds bonuses to magic regeneration, more mana etc., so you can theoretically have a plate armor mage, but he will run out of mana very, very fast.
Equipped with this knowledge, you set off to explore the beautiful world (the interface is very similiar to Skyrim, with multiplayer elements of course), that is based on Elder Scrolls franchise. Unlike other franchises, there are no serious “revamps” here, if you are an Elder Scrolls fan, everything will feel familiar. The story is awesome by the way, I really, really, REALLY like it so far. If you liked the Skyrim storyline, you will like this as well. I chose the Aldmeri Dominion pact by the way – I usually don’t play elves, but the story is cool. The music is amazing by the way, amazing.
Every character is voiced (much like in The Old Republic), you will most likely recognize some of the voice actors from Skyrim, but the main characters/faction leaders are voiced by famous actors (for example, the Elven queen by Kate Beckinsale). Very nice! You talk to the characters in a simplified “Skyrim-like” interface:
Together, it fits beautifully. The storyline progresses as you fulfill the quests. There aren’t as many quests as in World of Warcraft and the quest design is a lot like Skyrim (no “get to XY and bring me 10 wolf pelts”) – there is always a backstory and a some quests are so good they will make you shiver and in some cases, you will genuinely feel sorry for some characters. It’s not as big as immersion as it was in Skyrim, but certainly far from the usual “NPC I don’t give a crap about promised me XY to kill Z mobs”.
The zones you go to are either islands, or somewhat “closed” zones. They are relatively big – you don’t have the “let’s set off and explore” feeling though as you do in Skyrim, it’s simply a MMO. On the other hand, it doesn’t separate areas within zones as violently as World of Warcraft (“field with mobs X” – ten meters from it “area with mobs Y”), everything looks very natural. The game is very new, so newbie zones are flooded with players, so that sometimes breaks immersion (“go to this thieves’ super secret hideout” – ooops, there are 50 people running around this allegedly secret hideout), but you can still explore, particularily around the coast, you often find secluded areas where noone goes, you can just sit and feel alone, like in Skyrim. You get XP for discovering new zones and places – some are very well hidden, so I don’t think average player will get maximum XP from exploring.
Levelling up is quite slow – I play for more than a week and I am barely at level 16. Rita on the other hand is level 39 or something (maximum is 50). You can progress fast, but then you don’t read much of the story, you miss the exploring… nah, better to take it slow. The islands have all kinds of interesting stuff going on – changing weather, various events (Daedra invasion, elite mobs with better loot spawning) and such, it feels quite alive (not like The Old Republic, that felt like a single player game occasionally). People also chat a lot, EU server is packed with various languages – but the best part is, this game is not very cheap – so you can avoid hordes of total morons, that plague WoT and other F2P games. I really hope this game won’t go F2P. Pretty much everyone seems quite mature and polite, I have a very good feeling of the game community.
Anyway, yea, combat. The bread and butter of any MMORPG. Well… let me tell it like this. It LOOKS like Skyrim combat, but mechanics wise, it’s closer to World of Warcraft. Basically, there are “rounds” (some call them “tics”) and you have to decide what to do each round. Rounds are dictated by mobs. It’s a bit hard to describe.
Round 1 – mob swings a weapon, you block: result – mob gets blocked
Round 2 – mob reels from successful block, you swing: result – mob gets hit hard
BUT it can happen like this as well:
Round 1 – mob swings, you press block late and even though your shield is in “blocking” position before the blade physically falls, you still get hurt by the swing, because you pressed too late and the block gets “saved” for round 2, if you keep the guard up.
If you recognize the patterns, you can do very well (much better than in WoW, where a mob will simply get you whatever you do), here you can for example run away from mobs, mostly they won’t catch you. You have to get a feel for it – it works, but it’s not as intuitive as in Skyrim. Archery is reduced to “press a button in roughly enemy direction and the shot will work”, very boring. Same goes for any ranged magic.
One more element I would like to write about is the difficulty. This game is not VERY easy. It’s more difficult than World of Warcraft, especially when it comes to dungeons. Killing normal mobs is okay, but the very first dungeon (at least for the elves), you encounter at level 12-15 and it suddenly requires you to know not only the basics of combat, but also some quite advanced parts. You absolutely HAVE to understand:
- the concept of tanking and aggro (eg. drawing mob attention) and how it works (DPS overaggro = wipe)
- the concept of healing, the fact there have to be dedicated healers (no, a random guy in plate armor with two stock spells won’t work)
- advanced boss tactics: the stuff you encounter second or third day into playing is on the same difficulty level as stuff you encounter in WoW at like lvl 40+. First dungeon boss channels damage (needs to be interrupted), second creates copies of himself that need to be DPS’d down, if you don’t kill them quickly, he will kill the tank. Third boss needs to be kited, because he spams adds and aoe areas and fourth boss spams adds that need to be killed before they reach him, otherwise he heals himself and you lose the DPS race. That’s WoW level 60 stuff.
And you encounter all that without ANY previous preparation. As a former WoW player, I was lucky I had such players in my group as well (it’s 4 man btw, not 5), but someone who never played WoW before will be kinda clueless. I like the loot system though – no rolling or arguing for loot, everyone loots the corpse and either you get something, or you don’t.
Well, so far, I talked about the positives (apart from the last point). Now, let’s talk about the negatives.
- the game crashes for a lot of people, quite often (practically at least once per game session)
- gold spammers: the chat spam of these assholes in the starter zone is INSANE, to the point I gave up and switched the chat off, this is something that NEEDS to be addressed
- the mobs sometimes glitch, get stuck on a stone, can’t be harmed etc. – not often, but happens
- your weapon sometimes glitches and you can’t do anything, swing it, hide it etc. – the only thing that helps is basically pressing “I” (inventory) and “I” again, that “resets it”
- some missions are bugged and require reading up on the bugs on the internet (I spent 15 minutes figuring out how to get into a portal, only to discover it’s actually a bug and after game restart, it worked fine)
- huge crowds of players at some locations (FPS drops are strangely enough not an issue, not being able to reach your NPC because of a crowd of bodies is)
- mobs are sometimes hard to see: you target someone – is it a mob? a player?
I am quite sure I forgot something I wanted to write, but anyway, apart from the abovementioned issues… the game is really great. For someone, who is looking for a WoW reboot with better graphics, it’s perfect. It’s still unpolished (the game is like 1 month old!) and there are bugs, but I am enjoying it immensely, especially the great storyline.