Mixed Feelings On Elder Scrolls Online

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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.

The World

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.

  • The skill system, while not as in-depth as the RPG ones, actually ends up being pretty flexible.

    I can’t vouch for how up to date this is but check this out: http://esohead.com/calculator/skills

    So there’s class, weapon, armor, race, world, and guild skills. Each class has 3 “lines” so each ends up getting a bit of magic. Besides putting points into stuff to increase the numbers, there are also upgrades on each ability that change them a little, like adding a snare, etc.

    Anyway, you get to fit all this into two 6 skill hotbars that you can switch between in combat (you get the 2nd one at 15). Also have to think about the passives. Have fun!

  • My biggest issues are with there being only 4 classes (vs and open skill system which could have easily been implemented) and the questing. Being directed everywhere is a little tiresome.

  • Any class skill is actually “magic” and uses your mana pool, regardless of your selected class. The 3 armor types are associated with different resource pools, so light armor helps your mana recovery and pool size, medium armor is for stamina, and heavy armor is for health. In theory, this means that Heavy armor is for tanking, light armor is for magic dps, and medium armor is for weapon dps, but it also appears that there an be a bit of mixing and matching, as the passive skills for the armor lines give you bonuses based on the number of pieces of that type of armor you’re wearing, so someone wearing 4 medium and 3 light pieces would be getting bonuses to both stamina and mana pools and could thus have more overall resources than a character who focused solely on a single pool.

    FWIW, it’s rumored that sorcerers in 7 pieces of light armor actually make the best tanks in the end-game content, since they get a very large defensive buff that enables them to cap out their magical and physical resists whilst in said light armor. I was quite enjoying my 2H wielding melee/tank sorcerer even in the low levels, and think it will be quite interesting to see how it plays out in the real game in higher levels as well.

    I’ve also heard that Dragonknights in heavy armor and using their defensive class skills and a destruction staff make excellent tanks as well. I also made a tanky templar using the spear skill line and it was very viable, at least in the low levels. and I’ve also done the traditional mage-type sorc and templar, stabbity nightblade, etc as well. So far, everything’s seemed to work, but I’ve never gone past level 7 either, so who knows how it will eventually end up?

    I’m with you that the questing is pretty much a thin veneer (if even that) on the typical fedex or kill 10 rats, but I also found I didn’t mind it either. It’s not the 2nd coming of the MMO, but I didn’t find it to be onerous either. Overall, I’m looking forward to playing it. don’t know how long I’ll stay with it, but it ought to be a fun month or 6 or whatever.

    Here’s my own write-up of my experience this past weekend, if you care to read it: http://nomadicgamer.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/tsw-eso-tokyo-certified-and-final-eso-beta-weekend/

  • Good info, thanks pkudude99. I wasn’t at all sure how viable mixing all these abilities was because I didn’t quite understand how armor really played into defense bonuses, etc.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around a sorcerer in 7 pieces of light armor being the best tank.

  • There’s also strange soft-caps on things like mana regen and armor that I don’t quite understand yet

  • “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.”

    Treat it like sex, if you don’t know if you are having good sex, …you’re not. 😛

  • Like you I found it odd that certain skills would increase when my main level would increase… I did not care for that at all. I liked that I could play as a sorcerer and equip a two handed weapon and start using it and increasing my skill thus unlocking those abilities if I choose to spend the points. It opens the door up to some unconventional things. I do wish however that they dropped the traditional class system and just went with a blank character you molded to your play style as you progressed much like The Secret World. Sure they could have templates for new players that might not enjoy it but let those of us that really want to create something do so.

    The questing was pretty basic and I was not impressed with it at all. This past weekend I did what a lot of people suggested and skipped the starter island and when I spawned in the game I just picked a direction and went. I did run into some quest givers but they still had the courier/kill mission feel to them.

    This was my 4th beta session with the game and my feelings have changed about the game in some ways. The first two weekends I was 100% sure I was not going to buy and play the game but the 3rd and 4th I started to warm up to the game. One big difference for me was switching over to my Logitech controller. I know for a lot of pc players that is a sin but I felt the game worked really well with the controller and I rarely had to use the keyboard. Some functions were easier but with the hard limit on active skills it works. I like the option to wear what I what, use what weapons I want and to focus on what skills I want.

    As pkudude99 said it is nothing ground breaking but I think it has just enough ‘new’ flash to it that I might check it out for a few months. I do think the subscription model though is going to hurt it more then anything though. I think a one time purchase price would net them much more of a player base because like myself others are probably trying to weigh just how much value they will get out of it.

  • Xpadder and Logitech F310…. after about 15 minutes of setting up I was good to go. I have seen discussions about native support but who knows when that will come.

  • If you were a fan of daoc rvr, you owe it to yourself as a veteran mmo player to try out the RvR before making a final judgment. It’s fantastic. It’s daoc rvr v.2.0

  • Did you get a chance to try the pvp, think that will be the saving grace of ESO, even people that hate the PvE are raving about the pvp.

    As far as how quest XP and skill xp works, as near as I can tell, you get skill xp like you would expect, use the skill gain levels in it, wear armor and get hit, gain levels in it. For quest xp I believe it works like this, you get a chunk of xp that is distributed among any equipped skill lines and character level. So if you had one bow skill, one Templar spear skill and one Templar healing skill slotted while wearing heavy and light armor pieces, when you turn in a quest you would get xp in all of those, so that is why you are seeing skill ups on quest turn in. At least I think that is what is happening, the game systems aren’t very transparent.

  • On the one hand the game feels “wonky”. Movement was slightly off, jumping odd, combat wasn’t fully baked. The world at times looked great and at other times looked plasticky. On the other hand I enjoyed my 10 hours playing over the weekend and look forward to playing more. I like the character progression system and I enjoy the more ‘realistic’ world feel after years of exaggerated fantasy.

    I’ll get a good few months out of the game. That’s really all I care about now. My days of playing an MMO for years at a time are well over.

    Oh yeah, the PvP was pretty fun too.

  • The instancing of the PvP bothers me. A lot. If Graev and I get ESO, what if he’s in a different battlegroup or whatever they are called? I remember reading that I can change, but what if we get into a horrible one? Can we change again?

    All other things considered… ESO comes out like 2 months before WildStar and any other potential game. I may pick it up with Graev just to take up what little free time I have left.

  • You choose your PvP instance when you first go in, that becomes your main instance though you can guest to others. Think of the BGs as how they handled servers in GW2, you have your home one but can guest to others. And I believe you can spend Alliance points to another instance your main if you are want to join friends. Though I think there are escalating penalties for doing that. So as long as you guys choose the same one you will be fine, it doesn’t just randomly assign you to an instance if that is what you were concerned about.

    Based on my experiences in Wildstar and ESO betas I much prefer ESO, had you told me that 3 months ago I would have said you were crazy cause ESO looked terrible and Wildstar looked fun. After playing both though I found I enjoyed my time in ESO a lot more.

  • Before ever even looking at anything about (then TESO) ESO, I was convinced it would be terrible. Just absolute rubbish. Why in God’s name would anyone want to play a MMO that was trying to be a singleplayer game? It would fail at both and be miserable.

    After one of my friends seemed very hyped about it (and I still had not even looked at it), I checked out a video. Dev’s messing around in a pve fight. Seemed okay, game looked pretty enough, and the first person/third person was neat. So I said fine, I’ll try betas with you.

    Tried the betas, and low and behold, it was not terrible. It did not break the mold in anything for an MMO as far as PvE went, sure. Well, besides showing your hands in first person mode. It is a traditional MMO when it comes to PvE. I can live with that, it is what I expect these days. The PvP however was immensely fun. A massive area to roam, keeps to take, things to do, small man PvP can easily be seen to be fun and profitable. These are things I enjoy, and for that alone it is worth playing.


    Pros: PvP (RvR)
    Norms: PvE, Skill System
    Cons: Nada

    You cannot go into it thinking it will be your singleplayer Skyrim/Morrowind experience of running wherever doing whatever you want. That’s just crazy, they are shoving thousands of other people in there with you at the same time. Go into it expecting your normal MMO, with fun PvP, and you will be happy.

  • I haven’t wrapped my head around the potential for weird and wonderful builds completely yet. But I tried a nightblade with a staff and life-leaching spells which worked quite well. I’ve seen fire mage dragonknights, and sorcerer healers. I’ve heard of a guy who built a traditional mage sorcerer that had a melee weapon swap that was pretty devastating. Going to have to think outside the box, I suspect.

    Like a few of the previous posters, I went into the ESO beta with zero intention of playing the game. I was fully convinced I’d love Wildstar. I didn’t. But I do love ESO. Go figure.

  • I find it funny that I’ve seen so many people that followed the same mindset as I did with this game. Up until I tried the beta two months ago, I literally had no interest in this game. I would tell friends how it just seemed to be a single player game disguising itself as an MMO. It just looked bad all around to me. When I first saw the AvA trailer, I laughed at how bad I thought it looked. That trailer had confirmed my feelings on ESO. I played two beta weekends and I couldn’t even get to 10 to try the AvA because I just didn’t care for those early levels. I considered them the worst of any mmo.

    Then two beta weekends back, I decided that I was going to try and push through to level 10 because I had to at least try out the one thing that would actually get me to play this game: the AvA. So I suffered through the nearly 11 hours of played time it took me just to hit level 10. I’m so glad I did, because that first time I was stealthed and ganked a guy that ran by on his horse, I was hooked. It immediately gave me that feeling I hadn’t felt since playing my infiltrator in DAOC. Finally, a single massive RvR map that could accommodate virtually any type of pvp. Small man, roaming, stealth wars, zerging, keep warfare. You name, you’ll find it in Cyrodiil. This past beta was even better, as they sped up the time it took to hit level 10. Even with several bugged quests, I hit 10 in about 7 hours played time. If those quests get fixed, it will be even less.

    I am shocked as anyone at the 180 I did over this game. Now in addition to be totally psyched about Cyrodiil, I’m also excited over how they have done the classes in this game. There might be only 4 base classes, meaning 4 sets of 3 unique skill lines, but the rest is completely up to you how you spec. I’ve seen builds posted with DK Fire Wizards, Sorc tanks, Templar dual wielding melee machines, etc. I believe there are more options for unique builds in ESO than there are in games that give you 8 classes, but then each class basically has 2 or 3 builds and that’s it.

    As far as your concerns on instancing, think of it like this. For the PvE part of the game, there are no servers as we’ve come to know them. It is one mega server. Where you get servers in the way we’ve known them over the year is Cyrodiil. When you hit 10, you get a menu, and it lists every available campaign. It shows you the population of each faction in each campaign, and also puts a lock on a faction if it has gained enough to hit a cap in that particular campaign. Each campaign is essentially your “server”. The campaigns last 3 months, which imo is much better than what GW2 does with its 2 week rotation on matchups. I realize this could be a problem if you choose a campaign and a month in, the matchup sucks. Remember though, in DAOC, if your RvR sucked, you had no option other than to reroll a new character on a new server. At least in ESO, you have a couple options. You can guest to a campaign, and RvR there. Guesting is on a 24 hour timer. So let’s say you and your buddies want to RvR but the action on your home campaign has just sucked for the past week. You can all pick a campaign that is more active and guest there, and get some better RvR action. The other option is to use the alliance points you earn in RvR to choose a new home campaign. I believe the cost of this will be high enough to prevent people from constantly hopping home campaigns every week or two. The other benefits of having the campaigns last this long is that 3 months allows you to build rivalries. You get used to seeing the same people and enemies out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find that different guilds/gaming communities start picking the same campaign as their home every time it resets, in order to keep the community they’ve built over the previous campaigns.

    I completely doubted how they were designing this game and designing AvA for so long, but now that I’ve experienced it, I think it’s actually the best design an MMO has come up with since DAOC.

  • I just wanted to chime in and say I also beta tested both Wildstar and ESO and was expecting to love WS and not be interested in ESO. Turns out for me Wildstar was meh and ESO was actually pretty damn fun. I’m still on the fence about buying it for launch though. I might just wait for the first price break.

  • All these ‘Converted’ posts by people who never thought they would like ESO and now enjoy the pvp and remind them of DAOC RvR is getting me really excited.I purposefully do not partake in Beta’s because of fear of premature burnout.

    So I’m awaiting the 4th of April anxiously!