Elder Scrolls Online: First Impressions

I asked the question about PC performance regarding The Elder Scrolls Online in my last post because my current gaming rig is getting a bit old and is starting to behave a bit crankily towards some of the newer games on the block, sitting on the front porch and telling them to get off the lawn.

After a positive answer to my question, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the game. I didn’t go for the super happy awesome edition, despite the Imperials as a playable race, it was a fair bit more expensive, and I didn’t feel the need. It cost nearly (over?) 90 Oz dollars as it was.

It was a pretty big download, around 22 GB, and I started it around 12:30am on Saturday morning the 5th April. I woke up about 3:30am to use the loo and checked and only 4% had downloaded. The next morning I was up at 6:30am and the total was now 8%. By the time I left for Oz Comic-con Adelaide at 7:30, it was sitting at 10%. It was looking like, at 10% in 7 hours, it was going to take 70 hours to download and would be complete sometime in the early AM on Tuesday.

However, when I got home that night around 8pm, the download had completed. I can only assume it sped up when US primetime had finished.

So I played a couple of hours.

I didn’t play at all Sunday night. After two full days of Comic con and standing in queues for most of it (worth it, got photos with Benedict Cumberbatch, Amanda Tapping, and Jewel State, and autographs from AT & JS, along with Corin Nemec, Nana Visitor, Connor Trinneer,  and a few others) I was completely wrecked and just wanted to lay on the couch.

Over the next week I played sporadically in the evenings, but this last weekend gave the game some quality time. These are my thoughts.

Graphics

Can’t say too much about the graphics. The game installed at the lowest settings, but at the native monitor resolution of 1920×1200. They do look a bit drab. But I haven’t yet tried to increase the levels, so I don’t think it’s fair to grade TESO on graphical quality yet. On the upside, there’s no jerkiness or frame rate problems  at all. So that’s nice.

Bugs

I have been reading that players have been finding bugs in the game. That, frankly, doesn’t surprise me, especially so close to release, but I haven’t found very many at all at this stage.

I have crashed to desktop twice, after long gameplay sessions, and there was one instance where I couldn’t enter a building to do a quest, but after coming back to it a bit later I was able to get in. I haven’t noticed the quest showstoppers that some folks have, or the huge lag spikes. There’s been some lag, but nothing serious as far as I’ve seen. That might be my timezone though.

Servers

I’m on the North American Mega Server. This is something I didn’t notice straight away. No server choice, everything is on a single shard.

Spammers

Every game has them. TESO has them in spades. They infest zone chat like cockroaches, and I’ve even been in-game mailed (reported.) I’ve been told that turning off zone chat just makes them mail you, but I’m not sure how they’d know. I have even been invited to a guild by one of these douchebags.

I have read that the devs are cracking down on this. I really hope so, and I really hope they can be effective here. I have no idea how these guys could afford the cost of sub and account if they are getting banned. Are there cheap accounts available?

Quests

There seem to be less quests in TESO, but they aren’t as simple as other games. While there are a few kill x of something quests in there, they’re not all that common; and they feel more thought out. I’ve only started to get quests where there are choices to make that affect the outcome, but I’m not sure what the long term ramifications of those choices are, if any.

Character Advancement

Character advancement is done by both leveling and choosing skills.

With every level you get you get a skill point. You also get a skill point for every 3 Sky Shards you find, and for completing some quest lines. I don’t remember exactly how many you can end up getting, but apparently it’s enough to really flesh out your character.

You level your skill lines too. For example, Stropp the Redguard Dragonknight gets 3 class skills, a racial skill, a world skill line, skills for each of the weapon types 2H, 1H & Shield, Bow, and skills for crafting etc. Each of the skills is free but you spend skill points  to unlock abilities when they become available, or to morph existing abilities when they max out.

All in all I like this way of doing things, but I would like some other traditional Elder Scrolls skills, sneak for example. You can sneak in game, which provides a bonus to attack for bows (I think) but I haven’t found a skill for it which increases with use.

Leveling is also pretty slow. It’s taken quite a few hours for Stropp the DK to get to level 8.

Gameplay

Including combat here which is reasonably responsive. Fights don’t last too long, if you’re lucky, and are certainly far shorter than The Secret World, but they do tend to be tough level for level.

Adds are scary. I’ve died a lot, when I’ve aggroed more than one mob, or when another joins the fray. Some are also tougher than their level. It’s most frustrating when a quest event spawns three at the same time. Even at the same level it’s almost impossible, I’ve gone away and come back a few hours later several times.

Maybe it’s my build.

Crafting

I haven’t done too much of this. It’s pretty basic stuff. Gather resources, refine them, use them to create things. One at a time (there’s no craft all button yet.)

There are a few other options such as research, but I haven’t figured them out yet.

The biggest problem with crafting is bag and bank space. It’s quite limited, and costs a bunch of gold to expand. I watched a conversation last night, in between gold spam messages, where the players were talking about how many bank alts they had.

In most MMOs I give crafting a try and then give it up because it is either boring or doesn’t offer any value, the crafted items are inferior to loot drops: WoW looking at you! I’m hearing that, at least early on, TESO crafting has value, but the bag space issues will likely keep me from it, at least on a large scale.

Guilds

I haven’t joined a guild yet. There are some advertising, but I haven’t made the move. I’m thinking it might not be a bad idea as the game does seem to slant towards a more cooperative play-style.

You can apparently join up to 5 guilds. Interesting concept. Not sure how this will work in practice. From my experience in WoW, guilds can be jealous things, demanding monogamy. Will have to see here.

The Forums

Da Da Daaahhhh!

Most of the official forums I visit are pretty rank. Full of wretchedness and villainy. So far what I’ve read in the TESO forums aren’t too bad. There’s a couple of the don’t like this game and why posts, but that’s par for the course. There’s no nastiness there yet.

There are some sub-forums I recommend that have player written tips and guides. I have found these helpful.

Conclusion

Hopefully that wasn’t TL;DR. I probably should have included some screenshots, but I’m at work right now with a quiet moment. A meeting I had cleared time for got pushed back to this evening, so likely no play tonight.

These days I’m a little cautious about getting too enthusiastic early on. I’m quite aware of raving about a game only to drop it two months later. Will TESO have the same fate?

That’s hard to answer. I’m enjoying the game as it is, and want to keep playing. I was looking forward to playing tonight, which is a good sign, but meeting…

At this stage, I think I’ll ride out the ‘free’ month and take it month by month. As you know, these days it’s not so much if I like a game, but if I have enough time to keep playing, especially if something other comes along.

But in anycase, my first impressions of TESO are fairly positive. I reckon it’s a winner.