Yearly Attempt: Elder Scrolls Online

Almost exactly one year ago, I tried out Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). My conclusions this time around did not change: it’s not the game for me.

In several ways, the game actually felt worse this time around. While I have not kept abreast of all the changes to the general structure, I was aware of the “One Tamriel” had opened up a lot of the game. Apparently you were no longer limited faction-wise, and now all mobs scaled with your level. Which is nice on an explorer level – you can just strike out in a random direction and not have to worry about getting one-shot by mobs – but really hearkens back to my distaste of Oblivion more than anything else, e.g. being punished for actually gaining levels.

WoW’s Legion expansion features scaling mobs, of course. I can’t say I particularly like them in there either, but at least with WoW you still have several avenues of character progression. Hell, WoW really hasn’t been about leveling this expansion anyway, given how most of your power comes from gaining Artifact Power and similar parallels.

Playing ESO again, I just could not help but realize that it’s a bad single-player game. My inventory quickly filled with vegetable debris and other crafting components, but I could not really utilize any of them. Where were the recipes to craft things? In a more traditional MMO, I would pop on down to the AH to see if any were available, but there is no AH in ESO. Which, let me tell you, really kills any motivation to collect much of anything in terms of resources out in the world. Why mine Iron ore unless you specifically need ore for a specific purpose?

Once you go down that rabbit hole of not caring about in-game objects with intrinsic value, the entire gameplay loop edifice starts to collapse. If you aren’t looting everything, you begin to realize how much time you are wasting searching every container out in the world. If you stop searching containers, you stop being excited about seeing containers and other interactable objects in the environment. If you stop being excited about environmental objects, you start to care less about the environment generally. Without the environment, you are left with just the mobs, who are both trivial and drop little loot of consequence (because, hey, most items are meaningless).

Now, you can “subscribe” to ESO and suddenly open up a Crafting Bank tab ala GW2 where all this random crap magically gets ported to. But, to me, that’s just another indication of how ESO is a bad single-player game. I expect that sort of paid-for addon stuff in an MMO. And if we’re judging ESO as an MMO, well, it plays out even worse.

I dunno. Presumably there are a bunch of people out there that like ESO just the way it is. After trying the game a second time in as many years, I am reaffirming that I am not one of them.

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Posted on December 24, 2016, in Impressions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. That about nails why no Elder Scroll games have ever really worked for me (well, that and the abominable combat). If you can pick up everything there’s no point in picking up anything. Value comes from scarcity.

    I will probably try ESO again when housing arrives but the underlying problem of free-floating pointlessness is unlikely to go away just because I have a house to go home to, I suspect.

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    • I actually enjoy the fact that you pick up all sorts of things in the world. A big part of my enjoyment of the Fallout 3/4 games (and survival games in general) was hording all the things. The key difference is that there is generally not a secondary filter of having to have a recipe; or if there is, at least there are easy storage locations.

      Plus, the very fact that the ESO designers put crafting storage behind a paywall (even after literally purchasing the game) calls into question the general game design. Are recipes rare because it makes for better gameplay? Or are they rare because it makes the player more inclined to cough up more $$$?

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      • I wouldn’t say the recipes are “rare.” Maybe it’s hard to get them for alchemy and enchanting — I don’t know those professions well — but provisioning recipes seem to rain from the sky, and for all the others you learn all the recipes automatically.

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    • No one forces you to pick up every broom and scrap of paper. You can just pick up the valuable stuff (enchanted gear, expensive mats, gemstones, etc). How does the fact that you can pick up a piece of paper diminish the value of a diamond?

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  2. ESO certainly has a bunch of design decisions that just don’t make sense, which is sad because it also has a lot of stuff that is pretty solid. Even prior to F2P, the whole “if you loot everything you have a million pieces of junk” thing was an issue, it just sounds worse now.

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  3. I suppose it depends on what you’re after. If you want to be an auction house tycoon, yeah, not going to happen (and I won’t defend the lack of an auction house, cause it’s dumb). For me, the appeal of being crafting is in being self-sufficient, without having to rely on other players or the blessing of RNGesus, and for that, ESO crafting is quite good. I enjoy being able to head out into the wilderness, come back with armloads of mats and gear to disassemble, and build myself a new suit of armour.

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    • It is not so much that I want to be an AH tycoon as it is I want my time looting stuff to be valuable. For example, if I come across a random ore node in GW2, I am going to mine it because I know that I can instantly sell it for X amount. In ESO, I can maybe craft something better than what I currently have, maybe not. Most of the time though, usable items are no better than vendor trash with the limited inventory.

      I dunno. I’m clearly fine with this sort of system in Fallout… but it feels different/worse in ESO.

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  4. OK then. Now it’s time to give FFXIV another chance, don’t you think?

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  5. It’s been a while since I last played the game myself (before One Tamriel, in fact) but a lot of the junk you collect in the world, particularly from containers, plays into the Thieves Guild system (or is simply vendorable). Have you had a chance to visit one of their enclaves?

    The pre-endgame ‘recipes’ take the form of special crafting stations you can find out in the wild where you can craft gear with set bonuses (2,4 and 6-piece, iirc). These may then be mixed and matched to produce combinations which outpunch randomly dropped gear for your particular build. Some of these are pretty good; back when I dabbled in it, a Magnus/Seducer combo served a healer well even in early endgame.

    The lack of a global (or regional, or something half-sensible) AH was a well-intentioned failed idea, but there are unofficial ‘central’ guild vendors ran by the big mercantile guilds (e.g. Ethereal Traders Union, Iron Bank of Bravos) in hub cities (Rawl’kha, Mournhold, Wayrest, etc.) Had you decided to continue in ESO, you probably would have joined one of those in one of your allotted guild slots so you have a conduit for selling stuff.

    There is more in that vein, and someone who’s actually currently playing the game could probably do a better job of plastering over the shortcomings you perceive, but I realise that is not really the point. You went in already skeptical and the game hasn’t changed your mind quickly enough (or at all) for you to bother.

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