Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Elder Scrolls Online Beta -- First Impressions

(UPDATE: Screenshot folder accidentally got deleted. Whoops, my bad.)

I apparently finished up the beta weekend by being unceremoniously ejected from the game from an error that stubbornly would not let me back in even though I had 25 minutes left. Oh well, guess I can start on this review...

To begin, I hadn't done any research on this MMO. I didn't even have any real interest in this game but figured if there was a beta I would check it out. Sure, I've played Skyrim and even watched friends play Morrowind and Oblivion but I wasn't terribly keen on hopping into another subscription-based MMO after The Secret World, especially since my main draw for TSW was the fact that it wasn't a medieval fantasy-themed game like everything else on the market. But when I got the email invite for ESO, I decided, "Eh, what the hell. I need a break from Bravely Default and give my 3DS a rest anyways."

Mudkips. You like?
I will say that I did only plan on playing for a few hours Friday night. But Friday evening soon became Saturday morning slash afternoon slash evening before I just had to log off and sleep. I guess I am not as hardcore as I used to be, heh. *hangs head in shame* Needless to say, I did enjoy myself. Character creation took some time and the choices, while rather traditional, were plentiful. There were lots of slider bars which included breast and derriere options (boobs on lizards = funny).

 Personally, I have always favored reptilian races whenever I have played MMOs that include them such as EQ/EQ2 with their Iksars. So when I played Skyrim I was immediately drawn to the Argonians. Sadly, while creating my Argonian in ESO, they still suffer from unattractive headgear so I was glad they included the standard "hide helmet" option. That's okay though, I like the options for horns, frills, warpaint, and scars. I was also pleased that they had body thickness sliders because for some reason female lizards always tend to be made skinny. And while that can be okay, both the Argonians and the Khajiit suffer from big head/scrawny body by default. It reminded me of how wearing one of those horse heads look on a person.

But yes, moving on from character creation. The playstyle reminds me a bit of TSW, where to dodge an attack, you must actually dodge. And you have a limited action bar so you must choose what you want to use at the time. You cannot just make multiple row space for spells and abilities. The skills are very Elder Scrollsy as well (yup, doing that). To gain experience in those skills, you must have them active. So to gain points in bow, you must be shooting at things, to gain in armor you must be wearing it and picking fights.
It is my stool hat. It is alls the rage.

The big thing for me is all the looting though. Remember how you went around taking everything that wasn't bolted down in Elder Scrolls games? Pilfering people's pantries for provisions (yay, alliteration) to rummaging up random bone dust in dungeons? Yeah. That's in ESO as well. The game requires you to dig through everything. Recipes and various non-vendor materials for crafting, skill books, and lore books (required for leveling in the mage guild), are all from poking in barrels, bags, trunks, etc.

My bag of 0/50 became very full, very quickly. And when you are only getting a meager couple of coins for each kill and vendor dump at lower levels (I only got to level 9 by the end of the beta weekend), it was hard to get inventory upgrades which started at 1k. There is a bank but that only holds 30 initially as well. Guilds will have access to a guild bank which can hold much more though so maybe the whole ability to join up to five guilds will be beneficial at least.

Lockpicking isn't a skill. Anyone can pick up or buy lockpicks and pick chests found at various locations ranging in difficulty. The harder it is, the quicker the timer runs out as you manually slide tumblers down in any order until they either click in place because you did it correctly, or reset/break your pick when you do it incorrectly by pushing down too hard. During the beta my fiance angrily gave up picking locks and would just call them out to me when he found any. I only broke two picks and never failed to unlock a single chest in the time I played. I will admit it takes a light hand and some patience but it is completely doable.

While any class can wield any weapon and wear any type of armor, dungeons are very traditional MMO style meaning a group that consists of at least one tank, one, healer, and one dps. I have not yet seen firsthand if any class can fill any group type but I am sure certain weapon skill/class skill combos are better for certain requirements just like TSW and their open-ended "omg, no classes!" abilities system.

Either we do not want you to see the cinematic or we spent all our CG money on the trailer.

In your Skills, you have active and passive abilities. You unlock active abilities in a skill by leveling it to a certain point and spending a point in it. And once you level those abilities to a certain point you have the choice to morph it. For instance, in Bows I spent a point and got the ability Poison Arrow. Once I reached a certain rank in Poison Arrow, it gave me the option to spend a point and morph the ability into either an ability that would damage and confuse casters or one that would do extra damage to mobs under a certain HP percentage.

I cannot say a whole lot about the actual adventuring because important things were broken here and there. And while I dislike that they were not functioning (like many vendors would not let you exit out or would stop working without some temporary UI quickfix or a /reloadui), many players were constantly reassuring others in chat that the devs had removed parts of the game that they did not want tested. My thing is, if I am spending fifteen minutes trying to deposit and withdraw from the banker and he keeps c*ckblocking me, that doesn't bode very well in my book, nor the fact that my fiance's items suddenly started disappearing from his inventory when he double-clicked to equip. Particularly when it is about a month away from release, these things shouldn't happen. Of course, everything was either a common bug or reported but claim all you want. If a heavily-used feature doesn't function, eyebrows will raise at how successful the launch will be. And do not give me the whole "every MMO launch has major problems that will be worked out after". Rift had an excellent launch, practically flawless.

Pretty Leeezard.
Lastly, a few little things that I personally found annoying in the beta. First, the compass. Yes, yes, used in other games. But I do not like it. I am one of those directionally-lacking folk and I am very used to my mini-map. Yes, they allow waypoints to be placed but hard to tell looking at a compass if something will be in my way like a mountain or lava without pulling up the full map. I suppose that is why I always saw players with their noses buried in parchment throughout my adventuring.

Secondly, the lack of tutorials. While I did read the info boxes that popped up when you initially opened say, a crafting window, many apparently failed to read any of it and quickly exited to look at the shiny shiny tabs and windows. I hope in the full game they will give at least a basic tutorial quest to show new players how to work things. Not everyone has played an Elder Scrolls game. Sure, some people will not need their hand held and can just barrel through things, learning as they go, some will be those annoying people in chat who are constantly asking how to make ingots or how to morph an ability and will keep repeating their question until someone helps, trolls, or tells them to Google it.

Third, the very obvious time sink with certain quests. One in particular comes to mind (no spoilers) where you go into a guy's mind and observe some history. This could have been easily explained with not a lot of text by the person but noooo, they have to make you follow the guy as he meanders up paths and watch little sequences of past events that you can easily get the gist of without the show and tell.

Finally, the lack of an auction house and no plans to include one at this time. This might be something people will disagree on. Especially the old-schoolers. But even though I did play EverQuest, even before I stopped playing they had put in the Bazaar which was the precursor to the AH of other games. I have heard that guilds will play a bigger part in this by capturing and holding public buildings in the PVP zones for non-guildmembers to buy from but what keeps anyone from just starting an Auction House guild and putting everyone in it? Is there a guild member limit? What benefits would the guild receive? Are there fees?

Lens flares that JJ would be proud of.
I know not having an AH is to have people interact more with each other. But judging by the chat, people do well enough and I already had to block two people with their asinine rants and repetitive non-constructive comments just during the beta. And really, should MMO play really go back a step? I fail to see the benefit of going back to a Commonlands or Orgrimmar/Ironforge chat to sell your wares. Maybe another time sink.

Either way, I like most of what I experience in the beta and I am seriously considering buying it. If any of you are considering it, I would recommend getting a preorder. Preorders apparently can play any race/any faction. So that would be extremely important if say, you are playing an Dark Elf which is Ebonheart Pact faction, and your friendly-frand wants to play a Khajiit which is Aldmeri Dominion faction. If you are of opposing faction, you cannot go to their regions until level 50 meaning no happy adventuring fun times together. Or if you just want to stab them in the face, you can do that after level 10 in Cyrodiil.

 No tl;dr summation this time. Either you suffer and get through the review or skip. It might prep you for ESO lore anyways. Erect the spine of read or GTFO!

>> This review was not sponsored.

1 comment: