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Travels in Tamriel // TESO is More Fun Than Expected

I’m not much of a gamer these days. Between full time jobs, social life and studying part-time, my brain hasn’t had much space for logging on. Pile on Gamergate, and the Formalist/Anti-formalist debate, and I’ve pretty much ‘noped’ my way out of gaming for the past year.  Like Belghast, I have a long litany of games I have gotten enthusiastic about and then….just stopped playing since I left Warcraft. It’s not that they’re bad, they’re just not right.

Mr Pewter and I have been searching for a co-op, preferably MMO, game that we both like for sometime. Star Trek Online? I didn’t like the spaceship combat. EvE Online? Spaceship combat, spaceships, and neither of us are really PvP people. We’re both very much storyline and narrative people. Well, what about Guild Wars 2? Something was just missing from that game for Mr Pewter, a long time fan of the original game. The Secret World? We both loved the story and puzzle quests, but the combat was frustrating (and the solo quests just tended to get in the way.) Rift? Too much like Warcraft, and also just missing ‘something’. However the news that TESO was going buy to play made Mr Pewter’s ears prick up, and he enthusiastically pushed a key on me. I agreed to try it out (as Borderlands was feeling a bit samey) as our next Co-op experiment.

The Elder Scrolls Online seems to fit the bill. Admittedly, the bill is mainly me being able to FINALLY play a bow weilding character that isn’t a ranger type with a pet. I am a lightening flinging, arrow firing badass Sorcerer High Elf! My partner is playing a sneaky Nightblade Khajit. And thus Snooty Elf and Sneak Cat have been born.

The Snootiest of Elves

The Snootiest of Elves

Anyway, we haven’t joined any guilds yet (or even so much as spoken to any other players), so we’re pretty much just playing this as ESO co-op, rather than a true MMO, on the EU megaserver.


I’ve shocked myself though. I actually LIKE the crafting. Normally it is the one component in any MMO that I completely ignore. I used to dutifully level crafting professions in WoW when it was part of min-maxing for raids, but the feeling of pride in being an accomplished alchemist/tailor/whatever faded sometime during WOTLK. The crafting in TESO….actually makes sense to me.

  • I don’t need to level up a stupid gathering skill as well. I can just pick up the materials as I find them, either as crafting notes, from deconstructing weapons and armor, or from crates/cabinets all over the world.
  • Researching traits makes actual sense (even if it does take forever). All you have to do is find an item with a trait on it, and then click research. It’s time based, so to learn all the traits for all the items a woodworker can make is about 18 months. However, you don’t have to spend that time…standing at a woodworking station – it’s fire and forget. The concept is that you find the item and take it apart to see how it works.
  • Learning Racial Motifs makes slightly less sense, but is still straightforward. You find a book and read it!
  • For items for level 15 & under, all you need to do is acquire materials – and you can make yourself a basic set of green items with relatively little fuss.

If you want to create higher level items, you can do this by putting skill points into one of several crafting trees. These crafting trees also allow you to hire an underling who will mail you materials, make materials out in the world glow brighter for you, or increase the amount of materials you get from deconstructing items. However, there is no need to waste precious skill points during level 1-15, meaning new characters can fully kit themselves out without impacting on combat skills. (Note: for Min-Maxers you will want to make an alt crafter anyway until end game. Luckily all ‘bank’ space is shared across characters, and accessible from all crafting tables). At the moment I am not interested in leveling a crafting alt.

Seriously, Mr Pewter and I both abhor crafting in MMOs but we actively set aside time for crafting and maintenance. It may not be as fun as the combat, but despite our active aversion to crafting, we both took to it naturally in this game.

Lastly – there is no real auction house, meaning crafting feels like the community activity it was in The Burning Crusade. Trading happens via trade guilds (with many members), or via trade chat.


After my sojourn, however brief it was, in Wildstar, I didn’t want to return to the model of combat used by World of Warcraft. I’d also really enjoyed limited action sets (not having 10 million buttons is a good thing). On top of that I had really enjoyed the action-y combat of Guild Wars 2 and Neverwinter Online, and wanted something similar. TESO combines most of the things I’ve liked from those games. There are sill telegraphs for enemy abilities, but I can attack on the move (which makes for occasional hilarious moments of falling off cliffs mid-combat).

It feels response, fast paced, but without a difficulty that is too high, or SO engaging that ordinary leveling combat becomes tiring (which was an issue I had with Wildstar)

Character Skill Customization

Something I loved from Rift was the serious character customization in the form of Souls. I love the idea of being a teleporting sniper, or a rogue tank. I loved the idea of the ability wheel in The Secret World, the way you could build unique ways of playing. Of course, there’s always the trade off between ‘fun/unique’ and ‘effective’.

While TESO does have classes, really what that ‘class’ means is ‘how your character’s mage abilities manifest in the world‘. You can then pick from 3 trees within the class skills for a mixture of active abilities and passives. The active abilities can be morphed for further ‘play the way you want to play’ tweaking.

You can level and specialise any of the weapon types. It’s a dizzying amount of choice (and I must admit that I still feel a bit overwhelmed when trying to pick that next skill.) At the moment I pick/morph on the basis of ‘ooh, that sounds cool’.

Next, you can also specialise in Armor types, as each of the three (Heavy, Medium & Light) have a skill tree that unlocks passive benefits (such as increase stat recovery, crit rates, spell resistence and so on).

AND THEN (it never ends), there are also skill trees for the various in-game guilds (offering things like extra options in quests), your race, and the crafting skills.

You can be a lightning fling, mace-wielding, teleporting, heavy armor wearing sorcerer. You can be a traditional paladin with a sword n board, or you can throw golden spears and use an ice staff. My character is really MINE. Trying to find an optimal levelling build just lead to a thousand unique builds. Snooty Elf may not be optimal, but her bow build comes out of my experiences and what I like to play – and the game is just fine with this.

(Note that we’re not participating in group dungeons or raids at this point.)

Visual Character Customization

I’m not so enamoured of this. All the races are humanoid and have roughly the same silhouette. There have been times when I mistook an orc for an elf. This is part of the realist art style of the ESO series, and probably made it easier for the game devs to model armour (when they give us a much more decent character customization option.) You can make your character old and heavyset if you want.

Did I? No, my elegant gothy snooty elf has smooth skin, because I’m in my mid-thirties and I spend enough real money on moisturizer at the moment.

Story & Questing

The fully voiced quests are not so much ‘kill ten rats’ as ‘run this errand for me and kill lots of stuff on the way’, which seems to work better for us. Mostly the co-op adjustments mean that questing together works smoothly. The plot lines are fairly predictable for the most part (at least, Auridon is), but we’re both puerile enough to amuse ourselves by predicting the outcomes in mock-pantomime voices. The over-arching main story plot is voiced by Michael Gambon, but is sufficiently joined into the zone plots. Individual NPCs are often fiesty and comedic (and there’s a good range of male and female characters of all types).

I still don’t like that there are solo quests. I think, as long as you’re on the same bit of the mage/fighter/main story lines, you should be able to enter the instance together if you’re in the same group. You can even see where your party-member IS in their version of the solo instance. Our characters are travelling through this tale together (although why a High Elf and a Khajit are travelling together, we haven’t quite worked out.) It feels clunky to do so much together and then to suddenly be split apart.

Exploration is nicely rewarded, with good chunks of exp, tons of Lorebooks (that advance your Mage Guild experience), and extra skill points for collecting skyshards. Auridon feels like a living, breathing nation, with many settlements in various levels of disarray, mini-events (like a Rift from Rift) called Daedric Anchors. Ruins, solo dungeons, lots of stuff to do.

The Future

So, there was a lot of gushing about TESO – I’m enthusiastic about playing it, but then I was enthusiastic about Wildstar (and look what happened there). There’s lots of positivity in the community (small as it is) for the next patch, 1.6, and of course the game is famously going Buy To Play (I agree, Zubon, it’s very weird that we have to have it as a phrase at all.)

February 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Good to know you’re still around, Pewter!

My love affair with Wildstar was equally short-lived, when I realized I simply did not have the time to dedicate to the game. I took time off MMOs completely and then as the usual sheep went back to WoW with the expansion, to the lovely folks of my guild on Argent Dawn.
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February 16th, 2015 at 9:59 pm

Yes, still around! I’m on twitter occasionally, but tend to be sporadic at the best of times. I wouldn’t have minded WoWing again, but ESO seems to suit the Mr a bit better :)

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