June 2014

I have been progressing very slowly on my Elder Scrolls Online character, but today I hit the giddy heights of level 15. This is worthy of a post as it means I now have the ability to swap between two weapons sets. My main is a sword and shield and my second set is a bow. So I can hit the bastards from a distance and then switch to my primary when they run at me trying to eat off my face.

I’m really liking the skills and talents and how they’re set up. The system is simple and intuitive and offers a crap-tonne of combinations. Once you have skills up to a certain level you are offered a choice to morph them into further abilities. However, you are limited to 5 abilities at any one time on each weapon set, which solves the problem of ability fatigue. This was a big issue in Age of Conan where there were so many abilities you never really understood what you were choosing and more importantly, whether or not you were choosing badly.

I also really like the way combat plays out in ESO. It’s nicely balanced between using your skills and just smashing your enemies on the face with your shield. Block works nicely, as does dodging and rolling away. I haven’t done any PvP yet, however, and I’m sure any weaknesses in the system will come to light very quickly when I make that plunge.

As for crafting, I’ve decided to concentrate on Blacksmithing. Crafting is the best I have ever seen in an MMO. You need iron to make items which you combine with a racial crafting item which you find in the world and also when you break items apart for their resources. On top of that you can research magical properties when you find a relevant item that has the attribute. This will consume the item and it also takes time; 6 to 12 hours being the range I have seen so far. I stuck a skill point into a very cool ability which gives me my own personal blacksmithing assistant. My assistant sends me items in the mail every couple of days, and so far I’ve picked up some powerful resources.

All of the stuff I craft is as good or better than what I’ve been finding in game at the same level. Which is great, as my Nightblade Assassin is now fully decked out in my gear. I have a rogue who wears heavy armor and uses a shield. Sound unlikely? That’s the great thing about ESO, you can do whatever sort of build you want. I’m dealing pretty good damage as I’m able to hold my own against mobs a few levels higher than me. It’s no cakewalk, but I think my build is okay. That said, I haven’t done any dungeon runs yet and there is a level 12-15 dungeon which I should have a look at. That will tell me how well I’m doing.

So overall very happy with how skills and crafting works in this game. The world itself, however, is one gigantic single player experience. I still have not spoken to anybody in game. And every zone I go to requires my help to make it a better place. Every single village and town has been taken over by bandits/slavers/wizards/demons/whatever, and I have to put things right. I’m a one-man army of saving the entire planet, and an MMO this does not make.

I’m still playing The Elder Scrolls and it’s like I’m at the bloody Alamo – I’m the last blogger standing as everyone else has buggered off to play Wildstar. Well stuff that. I’ve seen the shorts for it and its cartoony landscape makes WoW look like a Turner painting. And I paid my money for ESO so I’m going to stick with it for a little more time yet, (the good wife was with me when I purchased it and if I don’t give it a good run she’s going to put me on a bread and water video game diet).

But ESO, the music … what were they thinking? Why? Why? Why am I continually tortured by the sound of wailing and moody violins and some brain-dead choir mouthing empty platitudes of soaring fucking boredom? I can’t take it any more. I knew it was going to bad before I even started playing the game. You see, I got a CD of the music with my game purchase, and I stuck it on the car stereo and then recoiled in horror as the epic violin warbling erupted from the car speakers. Seriously, in the aftermath I came very close to collecting a gaggle of grandmothers who gave me very nasty looks indeed.

The music in ESO is shit. Shittingly shit to be precise and throw in an adverb that doesn’t exist. Why are they still putting music like this in our games? Why not some good deep house or electronica? Or fucking anything else. I’d go for opera at this stage. For those who haven’t had the displeasure, here’s a sample.

Play that in the background while you continue to read this post, if you dare. Now imagine having to listen to that while you’re running around attempting to kill ten floozies. It’s fucking annoying, that’s what it is. Oh, I know what you’re going to say – just turn the music off! But that’s not the point, I don’t want to turn the music off. I want to have some good music. Some original music. Not original as in some sorry prick wrote this shit, but original as in nobody else has done it before.

Please Camelot Unchained, please please please, some cool electronica. I would worship you forever. As long as my wife allows me to buy you.

The word is out that three rivs has passed away suddenly. It’s always shocking when someone young is taken. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened, but I am very saddened by this news.

Rivs was a searcher and a seeker, and while I didn’t always agree with him, I respected his open mind and willingness to accept new ideas. He will be missed. I hope he’s playing the ultimate video game, wherever he is.

My first month in Elder Scrolls has been characterized by the fact that I haven’t been able to play very much at all. That said, in the last week I’ve logged on just about every day and I’ve had a couple of half-decent gaming sessions. That’s boosted me up to the giddy heights of level 8, but I’ve been taking things slow and pushing points into crafting slots which has inhibited somewhat my ability to smash bad things in the face. One thing has struck me, and the more I continue to play, the more it continues to amaze me:

This is an MMO with no player interaction. At all. Not one. I haven’t spoken to anybody and nobody has spoken to me. I see lots of players running around, and occasionally someone will jump in and give me a hand on something that I don’t need a hand on at all. I’ve cleared two island quest zones and player interaction is about as lively as Brazil’s streets in anticipation of the World Cup. I can think of a few reasons for this MMO’s startling lack of MMOness.

First of all the quests are pretty easy. I’m only taking one quest at a time and they’re always in the yellow zone, and I’ve never needed a hand. It hasn’t been a faceroll, it’s been about what I’d expect from a single player game. On one quest I died a couple of times at the same point, but then I figured out that the best strategy was to stun the mob and run away from it while doing a few charge attacks now and then. Got it on my third attempt.

The few times where quests might have been an issue, and I stress the ‘might have been’, the game has given me an in-game companion for the duration of the quest. They run along beside me, they attempt to kills things, and when I step back and let them bare the brunt of the attacks they soon fall to zero health whereupon they stagger around complaining of a headache until they get better. Also, if you do go along with somebody as I have done once with a friend from work, if you aren’t at exactly the same point on the old questing scale then you are not able to do anything together at all except for holding hands while you tiptoe through the tulips.

So quests, no reason to call in the cavalry. What about trading? Well … no, not really. I’m sitting on a few thousand gold already and all I’ve done is kill stuff and sell what they were carrying. All the decent items I find I melt down in order to get crafting points, but still, I’m swimming in gold at level eight for Chrissake. I remember in WoW when I got my first gold piece, it was a major event. Here the gold is falling out of my hip pockets as I walk down the street. I don’t even know if there is an auction house as I haven’t been bothered to check.

As for guilds, well, there’s always a few people advertising on general chat, but I can’t see the point. Why would I want to join a guild and spoil this perfectly good single player experience with having to actually talk to people? Eww! In short, the development team behind this game must have had some unique direction when designing this ‘MMO’. Because if this is an MMO then I’m going to have to suddenly start believing in man-made global warming.