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Our First Week in ESO

We just hit level 16 last night in ESO, and I think we are about to finish up the first zone (Stonefall) for the Ebonheart Pact.  I have to say right off the bat here that I am really enjoying myself far more than I expected.  We picked up ESO as sort of a ‘what the heck we’ll give it a try’ kind of deal.  Turns out, ESO does several things better than most MMOs.

Exploration

I haven’t felt rewarded for exploring, or even the drive to explore a zone, in a very long time.  Roaming around the map in ESO is extremely rewarding.  Hidden throughout the zones are lore books to raise your Mages Guild level, Skyshards to give you skill points, and entire quest chains.  These things are all -awesome- and immensely important.  It’s one thing if the rewards for exploration are jumping puzzles — I feel no desire to explore and find those — but something entirely different when you can truly unlock more content you will not find unless you just roam around.

Throughout the map are optional public dungeons (really just caves with monsters), points of interest, these awesome event things that spawn bad guys, hidden quests, mini-world bosses, and even special crafting stations.  Exploring is totally worth your time.

Story

The story so far has been really quite good.  You’ll need a bit of reading comprehension, but if you can keep these fantasy names straight you’ll figure out that everything you’ve done in the first zone all ties together.  All of the NPCs you’ve met along the way seem to be connected, and many of their individual stories are all building up to something bigger.  Graev and I explored off the beaten path and found this awesome little hidden temple ruins that ended up leading to a longer quest chain that sent us back in time and explained a huge portion of what was going on in Stonefall.  Had we not found this quest we would have missed out on the backstory.

ESO is delivering the story in a really passive way.  I think back to the story in SWTOR which was really spoon-fed, forced into questing instances, and just heavy-handed (and not optional).  The story in ESO falls together and is there for you to absorb however much (or little) you want.

Atmosphere

Story and exploration have yielded a fantastic atmosphere.  Tamriel isn’t a sandbox world.  I do not feel the world is quite as free as the original EverQuest, but it’s a happy medium.  I’m usually not a fan of ‘playing through’ a zone mechanics, but ESO makes the experience rewarding and entertaining to the point that I forget all about the themepark nature and just focus on the moment.  This is where the “Elder Scrolls” feel comes in, and Graev has pointed out dozens of references to things he has seen, done, or known about based on past Elder Scrolls games.  Again, it’s well done.

Character Development

Level takes a decent amount of time.  We spent exactly one week getting to level 16 and spent the entire time in one zone.  Leveling our characters hasn’t been a complete walk in the park, and we’ve had to make a lot of choices along the way.  I love how skill points are limited and in high demand. I cherish every point we find, and I think long and hard before allocating them into skills. My choices have actually mattered.

I’m eager to progress and see what comes next.  As we join up with several in-game guilds (like factions) even more possibilities for character development, story, and exploration unfold.  I am very pleased with my experiences thus far in ESO. Let’s see what another week brings!

Day 2 and 3 in ESO – Progress!

The Argonian brothers, Squats-In-Bushes and Eats-His-Feelings, are well on their way!  We just hit level 10 last night after slowing roaming around and just ‘doing’ whatever comes our way.  As I said the other day, we’re taking it slow.  We’re not in a rush to power game to the max level or get into the PvP right away.  When we run across a fellow Argonian needing assistance, we lend a hand.  When a snotty Dunmer demands we kill the Dreugh on his land we begrudgingly clean them out.  We like to roleplay it up a bit!

So far the world and immersion factor has been great.  I’ve always maintained that ESO has a nice world.  It feels almost EQ1 level of open, in a way.  If EQ1 was populated with a lot of quests instead of camps of mobs, that would be ESO.

The act of questing — go here, kill this, etc. – is a little boring.  The way in which ZoS delivers those quests in ESO, however, is fitting.  For example, we helped some guy rob a house earlier in the game and when we arrived in another city he was there to greet us and actually remembered the work we did to help him.  We then, without even knowing to find him here, continued on to another heist.  We’ve met several  – and I do mean several — NPCs who remember what we did for them and it appears provide us an experience matching our actions.  The continuity is actually remarkable.

I also like how we  can be roaming around just exploring and an NPC will run up to us and ask for help fighting back some annoying Shalks or whatever kind of monster might be attacking their house.  Kinda cool.  Sure, once they actually give you the quest and you realize it’s “Kill 1o Shalks” it sorta kills it a bit.

A lot of quests are bugged.  We’ve run into 4 quests now that can’t be completed because of some glitch that won’t let an item activate or a monster be summoned.  I don’t know if it’s their phasing tech or the megaserver to blame, but the broken quests make progressing really frustrating.  We completed this long series of quests to finally get to the boss just to have him not spawn.  Logging in the next day fixed the issue, but it was a buzz kill.

Tonight we’ll experience the PvP.  Stay tuned tomorrow for my first ever initial thoughts on ESO’s alleged “DAoC style” experience.

Too many Games, too little time

Sorry for the slow few days around here.  We’ve actually been *gasp* playing games.

The Elder Scrolls Online

ESO launched two days ago, and I’m actually having more fun than I thought I would.  No that’s not an April Fool’s day psych-out.  I think it’s partially how we’re going about things.  Three days in we are still only level 8.  We are going really, really slow.  I long for the days when I could play 10 hours at a time — those are my weekends — but playing slow has helped avoid the burnout.  ESO is quest-heavy leveling.  The quests themselves are 85% boring and “go here do this” lead you by the nose stuff, but you don’t get lead one quest to the next — that’s part is less linear.  If I can actually get to 10, we’ll be able to PvP!  Stay tuned.

Live Streaming

We are making a serious push to stream more of the games we play and even upload to Youtube.  I got Graev a microphone, the new Playstation Gold headset, and a Live Gamer Portable.  He better stream or I’ll kick his butt.

Look for his streams every morning between 9am-12pm pacific time.  He’ll most likely be streaming a lot of Xbox One Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare.  Then look for me to stream in the evenings.  Probably a lot of ESO and EQ Next Landmark.  You can find our stream on Twitch.tv or on our stream page here on the blog.  Be sure to follow us to know when we go live!

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

Graev and I picked up RoS and started completely new characters.  We’re now on Act 5 and just (minor spoilers) beat Adra.  So far so good.  I think Diablo 3 has been patched for the better over the past year, especially in loot patch 2.0. The legendary loot drops are pretty sweet now that they have been tuned to give you pretty much a guaranteed drop every 2-3 hours.  Each boss you kill for the first time is also a guaranteed drop.  We’ll write up more formal thoughts once we finish the campaign and run some of the new Rift and Bounties.

It’s still, hard as it tries, not Diablo 2 .  Really fun though, and much improved.  Now that I think about it… D3 is probably awesome on consoles.  More on that in the D3 post to come.

So many games…

Aside from Diablo 3 and Elder Scrolls, I’m also enjoying the heck out of Landmark.  I claimed an awesome bit of open land where I’m going to build a a Harvest Moon style farm (pictures coming soon!).  It’s an awesome piece of property overlooking a lake and the ocean on a flat hilltop.  Man I love Landmark.  I’m also wanting to jump in and play more Albion Online, some original EverQuest, and Assassin’s Creed Black Flag.  Sheesh, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Robinson Crusoe: AotCI Take 2

Our first foray into the Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island board game was not so successful. Actually our first several attempts went rather poorly and a few of them didn’t even make it past a few turns before we decided to restart. There was one particular game where we seemed to be cursed with horrible bad luck and by the 3rd turn we had every wood source around us exhausted.  That is pretty terrible when you have to generate a huge pile of wood in a short amount of time.

Luck was on our side today, however, and we were able to overcome the first scenario and get rescued by a passing ship. Sure we may have had terrible morale due to Keen’s character complaining about his hunger, and I had some kind of gnarly spiderbite on my head, but the point is we survived!  Sure, we worked our friend Friday to death and nearly starved, but the point is we stockpiled enough wood to signal a passing ship.  Most likely we’re both going to die on that boat ride  back home anyway, but hey, there’s no scenario for that so who cares?

We peeked ahead at some of the other scenarios and got pretty excited about what is in store for us. Future adventures have you trekking the island and exorcising evil, exploring for treasure Indiana Jones style, taking out cannibal tribes, etc. They included a lot of really cool scenario cards with specialized rules and objectives. Some of them are a lot more complicated than our quest to build a pile of wood. If we could barely accomplish that then these next adventures are going to be brutal.

Only In EverQuest

In order to pass the time before Landmark comes out, a couple of friends and I decided to once again return to playing the classic/original EverQuest. It happens every year, and we always have fun.  While playing these past three days I had the impression that I should take notes on all of the things I was experiencing that I can or have only experienced in EverQuest.  Obviously you can find some of these things in other games, but all of them help paint the picture of the entire experience you can find only in EverQuest.

Missing the boat three times in a row.  One of my friends was trying to get from Odus to Qeynos and ended up missing the boat three times.  Once because he didn’t reliaze the raft was the boat, another because he alt tabbed and got stuck floating above him, and the third time because he thought the island the raft docked at was Qeynos and didn’t realize he had to get on a second boat.  All we  could hear was this, “GWAAAAAAAAARGH!” on vent and we all chuckled.

Pulling out a map to figure out how to get out of a city.  Yep, we were lost in Qeynos for 15 minutes before I alt tabbed and brought up EQ Atlas.  Even then I had to figure out where I was and how to get out of that blasted city.

Binding.  Here’s a long-lost mechanic.  When you die you return to the last spot you ‘bound’.  Only casters can bind, and if you can’t bind yourself you ahve to get someone else to bind you.  If someone else binds you, it can only be done in a city.  If you bind yourself it can be done just about anywhere.

Corpse Runs.  Now that you understand binding, you can see why a corpse run can be a very, very, harsh experience.  Toss in missing the boat three times and needing maps, and you have the experience.  Death isn’t just about losing 10% or more of your level.  You leave your body with all your gear.  You do not want to die in EverQuest.

Doing nothing yet feeling like your’e doing something.  I had this feeling many times this week.  While waiting 45 minutes in Qeynos for my friend, buffing them while they leveled up to catch up to me, exploring Qeynos, practicing my charm-and-release technique, and figuring out which spells I should use.  Doing these things I made no actual progression on my character — in fact I died once and lost 10% of my level.

Trains.  CHOO CHOO!  I think we shouted this four times last night and laughed ourselves to tears as we felt awful knowing the guy sitting AFK at the zone line was doomed.  To be fair, none of the trains were our fault (they were trained on us) but it was still an absolutely blood-chilling experience every time.  Mobs in EQ do not stop following you until you kill them or zone, and if a mob passes you while chasing someone else it will probably come back and kill you.  Love ‘em and hate ‘em, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Needing to sit for a while and regain mana.  I forgot what it meant to actually be good at managing one’s mana pool.  This really is a skill that separates the good from the great.  I realized casting one or two spells at most per fight was enough.  I forgot how used to spamming abilities I was, and realized in EQ it’s more about utilizing the few actions you take to their fullest.

Trading mana regen (breeze) for a heal.  I was in Unrest last night duoing with my Monk friend and ended up being at 30% HP after a huge pull where we mez’d 5 mobs and cleaned them up one at a time.  I shouted to the zone that I would give mana regen for a heal.  Within 30 seconds this big ogre comes lumbering over and heals me to full.  My friend and I laughed and laughed at how awesome it was to see such an exchange.

Ogres sliding around on their bellies to get through doors.  The ogre I just mentioned above could barely fit in the house!  I was beside myself watching him crouch and squeeze around just to cast.  He had to actually exit the house, open the door, and heal me through it because he couldn’t cast while crouched.  Such a classic and unique feature to have characters be so big.

Only in EverQuest.