Keen and I tried out the ESO beta this past weekend. I hadn’t had any prior experience with it so I was very curious about how it played. After the experience I was left with some mixed feelings on the game and I’m still not entirely sure if I like it or not.
I am a little bothered that there are only four classes. Usually in ES games you get offered a full list of options or you can just straight up make your own. I usually like playing some kind of battle mage but I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing that. From what I understand if I want to be able to cast spells without a staff then I need to start out as a sorcerer and then I can just equip whatever weapon I want along with some heavy armor. It sounds simple enough but I have to wonder about the viability of that kind of build. I don’t know how tough a sorcerer is compared to the more melee-oriented classes. You can’t really start out as one of them and then learn magic since you are stuck with your core class skills. You could use a staff to get some magic but a dude in heavy armor with a staff is just weird. Maybe there’s a lot more flexibility to the system and certain combinations are more viable than I think, but honestly I just wish they had gone with an entirely skill based progression system rather than limited class options.
Leveling Up & Skills
The game tries to make you feel like you are playing a traditional ES game by giving you skill-ups in whatever you are using, but I’m a little confused as to how this actually works. I understand that there is a skill cap based on your level, but what really confuses me is why my heavy armor or destruction magic goes up when I get quest exp. That makes it seem like the whole presentation is just a facade and behind it is just regular MMO progression.
I do like the skills themselves and how you can choose how they evolve into new abilities as you rank them up. I’m also very interested in allocating a limited number of skill points and stat points, even if they were condensed into only three stats. Not many MMOs nowadays let you put into stats as you level up. As I mentioned earlier, I do wish that the skill system were more open but it does seem like you have a lot of options aside from your core class skills. You can also put into weapons, armor, race, and crafting to get new abilities and bonuses.
I was more than a little disappointed when I found out that you can’t actually start in Vvardenfell but at least it seems you get to be in parts of Morrowind, which is one of my favorite areas. I do like the aesthetic of the area but it wasn’t quite the same as the stuff you see on Vvardenfell in Morrowind (The Game). Admittedly we didn’t stay there long since we went back to the newbie island so maybe it does get more interesting the farther you get out.
Unfortunately, the questing seems to be more like typical MMO questing and not ES style. For example, there was one quest that wanted us to get some dwarven gears or something. I assumed we would be at least going to the nearest ruins and scouring shelves or fighting mechanical crap to find their junk but instead we got waypoints that lead us all over the zone to obscure corners where a tiny cog was sitting by itself in a huge desert-y area. I don’t think anything else really needs to be said on that.
There was another instance where some guy wanted me to steal a bottle from some tavern. I was thinking “Alright, cool, I get to try and steal stuff” but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Said bottle is out in the open and even if you manage to stealth close enough to take it you always get the barman saying “NO TOUCH” or whatever. Then I noticed in the quest tracker it said HINT: TRY TALKING TO BAR PATRONS. Well silly me, of course I should get to know the locals before I steal a bottle. So after that I learn about some wharf rat issues and another hint shows up saying CATCH A WHARF RAT AND USE IT AS A DISTRACTION because who needs actual thief skills, right? So I find the rat and release it in the place and the barman runs away chasing it which now lets me steal the bottle. The whole experience gave me some horrible insight into how the rest of the game must play out. I imagine that interesting quest lines in the thieves guild and the Dark Brotherhood must be incredibly scripted. Can you even sneak into places? Can you get caught? Nobody is calling guards on you. You can’t just hit anybody you want.
After we had played for several hours we both felt like we weren’t having a whole lot of fun. Actually I couldn’t quite tell. I wasn’t hating it, but I also wasn’t really enjoying it either. Supposedly the newbie island is pretty bad though to the point where they took it out as mandatory. Maybe we should have skipped it. I know Keen skipped the newbie island when he played on Friday. He mentioned how the flow of the game felt less scripted, but at the same time still very lead by the nose.
Curiously enough the next day I found myself thinking about the game. The combat was actually pretty fun and I was still very curious about the skill system and the viability of strange builds. Unfortunately, by then the beta had ended so we weren’t able to give it another go. Despite coming off as a little negative in this post, I’m still not sure how I feel about the game. I really wish I could give it another go but it isn’t worth risking sixty bucks just to see if I like it or not.