ESO – Initial Impressions

Elder Scrolls Online LogoEight years ago, when I first played Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, I was awestruck with the sheer size and scale of the game. One of my first thoughts was, “They need to make this a multi-player game!” I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Elder Scrolls Online since before it was ever announced. Well here we are 8 years later, and my wish to see this game in a multi-player format has finally been granted. Early access began this past Sunday for those who pre-purchased the game.

As an added bonus, my wife Jenn and our oldest son David were equally excited about the game launch, along with several friends and guild-mates from back in the Warcraft days. Jenn and I even set our alarms for early Sunday morning so that we could get on as soon as the game opened up and reserve our character names.

Now I had played in several of the beta test events, and I already had a taste of what I could expect from the game. Truthfully, I was a little disappointed after first beta test I took part in. The game didn’t seem to have much of a hook. I was dropped into the tutorial zone and seemed like I didn’t much care why I was there. I took the feeling with a grain of salt, since it was still a beta test and not the final game release. I’m glad I did.

Wow, did they step it up for the release. First off, the opening cinematic really gives you a better sense of where you’re starting in the game. It was quite well done, and leaves you with that “Holy shit! What just happened to me?” feeling. It definitely added some much needed stage setting for your first in-game experience.

From there on out, it is much like previous Elder Scrolls titles, wherein you’re free to choose your own path, explore the world, get yourself killed by things that don’t like you, etc… It’s a very freeing experience compared to previous MMO games, where things are very restricted. There’s no restriction on what kind of weapons or armor any character can use. There’s no restrictions on how many crafting professions a single character can be involved in. There’s no role limitations on what a certain character class can be. If your sorcerer wants to don heavy armor, pick up a sword and board and be a tank – go for it. You may not be the most efficient tank, but it can be done!

Combat is very different from previous MMO titles. It feels like a hybrid between a first person shooter, and an MMO. Most targeting is done via mouselook and a target reticle in the center of your screen. There’s emphasis on being able to dodge incoming attacks and spacial positioning in combat is very important. It’s a fresh approach, and pretty exciting. (especially when you manage to ass-pull more mobs than you intended to)

Crafting is something that has felt pretty pointless in past MMO’s that I’ve played. Thankfully, it appears that this will not be the case in this one. It’s been announced that crafted gear will be generally better than it’s world-drop counterparts. That said, there will be certain world-drop pieces that will have properties that you can’t get through crafting, but crafting professions can be used to improve these pieces further. It’s a welcome change, seeing as how past games have included crafting but given it very little end-game usefulness. It’s even been announced that Legendary quality gear will not be available by any other means than crafting.

On to graphic quality: Holy shit! The graphics are beautiful. From the artwork to the character animations to combat animations to just the detail of everything, the graphics are simply amazing. That is, provided that you have the graphic GPU horsepower to handle it. Myself and my son had no trouble, but my wife’s laptop had to have the detail turned way down to smooth out gameplay. For her, gameplay was smooth on the “Low” quality preset and a little choppy on the “Medium” preset. Mind you, this is on a $1k laptop that’s a few years old with the most basic ATI graphic hardware. Your mileage may vary.

Now, reliability is an issue as of yet. Again, take this with a grain of salt, as the game hasn’t even officially launched yet. Things started out pretty smooth. There were several minor bugs in the game client like not being able to zoom in on your first character’s face during the creation process, or how you would get dismounted every 30 feet while trying to travel through a city, or things like that. Nothing show-stopping. Well, unless you consider that some people (myself included) have found themselves falling through the game world and floating through the underworld with only broken clippings of the land above!

ESO - Free Fallin

However late last night, the North American Megaserver was taken off line, and remained so until about 2pm CDT today. A pretty major bug was detected in-game that was serious enough for them to take it offline for such an extended period of time. Apparently, people were being randomly given access to other person’s accounts upon logging in with their own credentials. Imagine logging into a game, and seeing someone else’s characters, stuff, etc… Pretty big oops! Well it’s apparently fixed now so we’ll see how stable things remain from here forward. There’s a new client patch to download and promises of lots of things fixed.

I have yet to get into any of the group dungeon content and I’m a long way from any endgame content, but I think they’re headed in the right direction with a lot of aspects of the game. Overall, I’m quite pleased with my purchase, and I look forward to seeing the rest of what the game has in store for us!

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