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.


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.


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.


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!

  • Damn you keen..don’t make me wanna buy it..I really couldn’t stand the combat and animations..it felt so bad, almost worst than lotro. As for exploration, there are already addons mark you on the map all the interesting locations :(. While you can ignore them, the truth is that this is an MMO and you feel the “rush” to do things and stay competitive.

    Exploration for me feel rewarded when I find something that others probably did not managed to find yet or they spend more time to find it… Searching the zone by myself while others are just guided by addons is not gonna happen for me. But that’s me…

    What about crafting? Did you had any progress on it? Is the craftable gear for leveling better than what you find from drops and quests? I am an addicted crafter and if I am gonna play the game I know I will spend points on crafting, but I wanna be sure if it worth it or not…not to make money, this is not my interest, I see crafting as a way to progress my character and make him better.

  • @John: If you install an addon that marks the map, or if you use a map someone puts online, you only cheapen the experience for yourself. If someone chooses to ruin the game then that’s their prerogative, but I can’t find fault in the game for presenting a great opportunity.

    We’re not rushing. We’re taking our time, roaming around, and playing the game how WE want to play, and so far the results are excellent. Like I’ve mentioned before, the quests themselves can be boring. If you rush them all and use a map to find every single skyshard or lore book then you’re going to burn out.

    Crafting is a serious commitment in both time and skill point investment. The gear is definitely good, but you won’t be able to devote yourself to 100% PvE leveling -AND- make the best gear without spending time putting a real effort into raising crafting. I like it this way. I’ve already seen people looking for the services of particular crafters.

    Graev and I are both raising crafting skills. I’ll write more on that in another post. Also more info to come on dungeons and other stuff.

  • I am so enjoying ESO thus far as well, for many of the same reasons you post Keen.

    @John: Combat animations seem fine to me now, I agree they where very off at the first few beta runs but they have smoothed and tightened it up to a point where it is now very enjoyable for me at least.
    Exploration is great, I could care less if someone cheapens their experience by the use of addons, I’ll enjoy my game the way it was intended.
    I’m only lvl 8 and have spent a little time crafting, the stuff I can craft is on par with dropped stuff in terms of armor/dps, but dropped stuff tend to have other bonuses on them, like +x% increased XP in that armor prof, +x amount of frost dmg etc.
    I think you can break down the dropped item to learn how to add that bonus to whatever piece you craft, but I’m not sure yet, I haven’t dabbled enough with crafting still.
    But all in all, so far, it seems crafting will be rewarding. Without crafting I would probably have to buy gear, because I’ve not seen that many drops either, it’s not like WoW where every rodent drops plate shoulders and a 2h axe. 😛

    @Keen: Do you still consider ESO a 3 monther? Or are you starting to see things that might give it longevity beyond those 3 honeymoon months?

  • I broke down and bought it the second day of early release haha – I have a horrible new mmo addiction.

    I am at level 10, love the progression, love the questing. Best part of questing is I am not coming to an area and running around to each NPC with a thingy over their head. Its more like I am traveling somewhere to do something else and I run into the quest giver. It has a more natural feel to it.

    I tried a little PvP, loved the scope of it – loved that I could hide right near a large group of enemy players. Quick story, I was traveling with a pack of players heading towards a lumber mill I think, I was quickly left behind as I did not have a horse. I was soon by myself, then all of a sudden there was a loud *WHAP!* – I jumped in my chair as it caught me off guard. There was an enemy hiding in the jing weeds and struck me with an arrow (it was so loud). I quickly died, but had a good laugh out of it!

    Will be interesting to see where the game is in three months – I could see it getting a nice strong community behind it, but I have only seen ten levels so far. Time will tell!

  • I agree with this post, the game is so much better than the early beta reviews made it out to be. I love the slower leveling pace, the quest storylines. I am in the daggerfall covenant and love it so far, the story in the starting zone is great with a lot of side stories and main stories and the random people I find seem to all end up tieing into each other as well and it’s like a story of what is happening separately coming together to be from one thing. It’s great.

  • I caved to launch hype and bought ESO. I admit I am eating crow right now – really enjoying it so far. Much better than my early beta experiences. Since the day it was announced I was convinced this MMO would suck, but I have been proven wrong.

  • @Proximo: Too soon to tell on the 3-monther status. I think it can easily be one if someone plays ESO like they play WoW. If you’re about burning to the top level and turning content over quickly then yeah. At this rate I might not even be max level in 3 months.

    @McJigg: Farm the right mobs and you’ll have leather coming out of your ears. I have way more than I can use right now because I don’t have the other mats I need to raise my clothier.

  • Probably first MMO that I played where I actually thought for a bit which path to take through a quest, it is not Witcher.. but this is refreshing to see in a quest MMO.

    I have been crafting quite a bit, it is not earth shattering.. but it is entertaining. I like being able to make different looking gear. One of the interesting mechanics are special forges to make set items. I found 3 so far in first zone but to make a set you need to have 2 properties on an item researched. Overall making your own stuff really helps, was doing group dungeon yesterday and it was funny that as 2h/heavyarmor dps I was more tanky then a tank because my armour when using shadow cloaks all max level for my level and is overcharged

    Crossrealmers and whiner are out in full force in Cyrodill though bah, reminds me of DAOC few years after release.

  • I’m having real issue becoming immersed within a class. The classes feel shallow to prior MMO’s and nearly, over homogenized (thinking RIFT here). I question my own opinion though.; Am I subconsciously comparing to Skyrim?
    Nightblade feels cookie cutter, unimaginative and uninspired, run of the mill Rogue but with fewer interaction options. Positioning, facing, nor timing matter for offensive abilities. The caster build is weak to the point of inept and conceptual blurs into the Sorcerer without remaining uniquely Nightblade.

    Templar is the only one receiving a passing grade: A viable Tank, Healer, or DPS/Healer are craft able and customizable according to taste (range vs melee) with prudent selection of class and weapon skill choices.

    Sorcerer is a pathetic and mundane pet class. A shame considering the depth of play available in WoW’s: Warlock and Everquest’s (yes, 1999!) Necromancer. Furthering the disappointment, the rich lore of The Elder Scrolls in which summoning, ancestor worship, walking spirit mythos, and Daedric servants are a core component. To see the class limited to two pets with only mild cosmetic and ability alterations in their variants feels cheap. As a caster, the mechanics fall somewhere between classic hard Nuker and a DoT based DPS caster, doing neither convincingly well.

    I share Keen’s preference for role specialization. I think it’s a core component of building good teams, and great communities. Role dependency manifests in tradeskill/crafting in much the same way. However, feeling pigeon-holed is stifling. Thus building depth into class builds is critical to achieve balance.

    Did I ramble too much and lose my point? Probably… sorry.

    Tl;Dr – Classes come up lame and I’m struggling to enjoy them.

    P.S. – Dragonknight comments withheld until I play it to level 15 as well.

  • @Kahlmodra: I actually somewhat disagree. I think you are trying too hard to use only class skills or something from the sound of it. My Nightblade doesn’t play like a rogue at all but more like a swashbuckler DW melee DPS character. Teleport strike closes distances, rapid flurry to increase attack speed, twin slash for bleeds, assassins blade for an execute, and planning on mark target as an offensive CD mobs are dead. Doesn’t play like a sneaky stealth rogue type at all. The closest I can think of is like a dual one-hander arms warrior from WoW, or the old blink-assassin build from rift back in 1.5 of that game.

    However when I started I was playing it like a rogue (i’ve collected a lot of skyshards and haven’t touched passives yet until I respec to try a lot of skills), and I was using the invisibility skill with veiled strike, twin slashes for a bleed still, strife for a heal, and assassins blade for an execute and the style was much more like a stealthy rogue type from WoW, stealth up to a mob, stun it for 4 seconds and pretty much kill it within the stun time.

    I also don’t know what you mean facing doesn’t matter for offensive abilities, if you are not facing your target it will not hit them at all. I have had to turn and recast an ability because of a mob jumping over me before. Timing somewhat matters for stun-lock kills, in that you can generally veiled strike, use twin slashes, and knock over with exploit before stun wears off, and if you are good at timing the heavy strike without holding too long you can rapid strike instead of twin slash but you can’t do both.

    I have a friend who plays a Sorcerer using heavy armor and 2handers and is tearing things up. using lightning form, cleave, crit charge, crystal shard, and soul trap for filler, who crystal shards from range, charges in with lightning form up, and then cleaves and auto-attacks to death and he has no problems so far up to level 13.

    I have seen casters obliterate mobs as well, so not sure how they are considered weak, but as neither me nor my friend I convinced to play has tried one I can’t say for sure however.

  • That content coming looks pretty neat, not sure if I’ll ever get to experience it but sure looks good for those who sought after raid-like content and that kind of progression.

  • I had a huge smile on my face today when I read your post, Keen. You’re talking about the glimpse or hope I saw out of the last couple of beta weekends.

    I’m all in with ESO. I’m leveling a main (dragonknight, sword and board Nord, tanky type). I’m having an absolute blast with him. I’m putting lots of points in his passive, especially emphasizing my ability to block and interrupt, and it’s great fun. it’s one of the first sword and board characters I’ve had where I didn’t feel like nothing more than a meat shield. Using the block ability in general is a key skill for ESO. And after a week, I think I’m level 13 and SOOO enjoying the pace that is driven by the combination of compelling story-driven quests and the possibility of exploration. Add to that the delves and dungeons, and I haven’t yet touched PVP, though I’m wanting to at some point soon. Just having a ton of fun in the PVE.

    I’m also leveling a crafter compliment to my sword-n-board Nord. I’ve focused on blacksmithing, provisioning (food), and alchemy. A friend and i are basically splitting the crafting between our two alts and sending each other mats to make things. I’m thrilled that for once I feel like there is enough meat to the crafting that I am having to be thoughtful about my crafting research, about my storage of stuff.

    Is the gear usable? Absolutely! I do find some things from quests that will be better but largely because i’m still leveling the crafting and am not taking time to twink out the gear just yet. But almost always 50% of the gear I’m wearing or weapons in hand are things I or my friend crafted.

    Is this a 3-monther? I’m subbing it as one but I really expect to play longer, especially if Bethesda can keep the content rolling.

    I’m sure there are players who are just ploughing through the game, but for now, I really feel like I’m on a journey in this game, and I’m really, really enjoying that journey.

  • @Kahlmodra “Sorcerer is a pathetic and mundane pet class…”

    I am playing a Sorcerer at present. I have no pets. As a matter of fact, I really don’t even have Damage. I am a full on healer/support character, fully designed around PvP.

    You are looking at the basic abilities of each class and deciding they can only be played in one stereotypical way. That is not how ESO was designed, and it is amazing because of it. Sure, you CAN play a sorc as a mundane pet class, or even just a nuking mage, but you can also play it as literally anything you want. Rogue-Sorc? Check. Tanky-Sorc? Check. Two-Handed Battlemage? Check… the list goes on. The tools are all there, it is up to us, the community, to use them to their full extent and make the “class” we want to play.

  • One of the builds I saw earlier on the forums that blew my mind was a Nightblade Healer, that is apparently amazing in dungeons. It blew my mind that someone actually came up with what is essentially a druid (wow PoV) healing class from a nightblade perspective, that is not only viable, but very good.

  • @Drathmar: That’s my build! I stressed for 12 hours over a build, invented my nightblade healer, and now I see it everywhere. 😛

  • @Keen: Is it the siphoning/vampire one that uses the vamp ult with resto staff and siphon abilities? If so that is hilarious cause I see it everywhere now as well.

  • There are plenty of variations on builds that you could make. I’ve seen sorcerer tanks, dragon knight mages, nightblade healers, templar archers…. Your class has only a small part to play in how your character develops.

    Here’s something I’ve found cool – you see a lot of role-players and I can see why. Outside of the horrible decision to use userIDs in guild chat, ESO has created an immersive and beautiful world with over 170 emotes and exceptionally voiced and written quests. As a matter of fact, I think the writing on this game is far superior to what we’ve been getting from the single-player and I’m a huge fan dating back to Morrowind.

  • Coolest one I saw was nightblade AOE tank, The thing was walking death. It was badass.

  • Nice to see so many comments on what is really a pretty original take on mmorpg’s…

    One of my favorite things about the game atm is the guild system being tied to account. I’m currently in 5 guilds and guild chat is crazy! It’s like a mini-game all in itself…/g1-5 keeping 3 or 4 conversations together…man, the thought that went into systems design for ESO…


  • I’m so unoriginal seeing all these builds, I first made dw/archer templar but then changed to classic healing templar, but let me tell you I do not regret it one bit.The healing power of the resto class line of the templar with resto staff is insane. Most fun healer I have ever played in an MMO.

    The actual reason I changed was because this is the only class combo with minimum points used in the armour line for a the same resource (mana) being used for dps AND healing So I only need to dump all my armour points in one class of armour to be a good DPS/Healer due to the magic regen of the cloth supplementing both DPS/Heal.

    Well that’s the conclusion the theory crafting in my head came up with after playing with the Skill calculator to death

  • I held out until the last day of early access. But the more I read about TESO the more I got hooked. Ended up buying the game and so far enjoying it. Love Melee classes and decided to mix that in with a Templar which so far is fun. Still want to try some other classes as well as some off the wall combo. Not sure what to do for crafting. Was going to go Enchanting but the runes are near impossible to fine compared to every other harvestable. I am loving just wandering. I get a quest and start out on it then get sidetracked by harvesting. Then find another quest and do it. Finally get back on track with the original quest and I find a shard which sends me on another exploration trip.

  • FWIW, the “classes” I’m playing right now are:

    DK “Fire Wizard”
    NB “Warlock”
    Templar “Sun Wizard”
    Sorcerer “Stabbity Rogue”

    So… 3 wizards made from the supposed tank, healer, and rogue classes, and then I’m playing a rogue from the supposed mage class.

    TBH, I think of the classes as simply saying what your spell graphics will look like, with perhaps a little “playstyle flavor” thrown in, but they have no actual bearing on what your group role will be. I had a 2H tank sorcerer in the beta as well, and it tore things up. I hate pets, so while I do want some of the passives in the Summoning line, I only use a pet until I hit skill 4 and can take the curse. Then the pet leaves my bar and never goes back. I see some sorcs running around with both pets and just kinda shake my head thinking “20% loss of mana, only have 3 buttons available instead of 5, and for what?” But … that’s me. If they want to play like that, more power to them! Still… I’m quite enjoying my sorcererous rogue. He’s a Khajit in leather armor. Everyone thinks he’s a nightblade when they see him, but… he’s not. . . . He’s very sneaky though, and he dual-wields daggers. Quite fun!

  • @Kahlmodra

    I don’t even know what you are basing this on 😮

    NB can be an amazing tank(probably OP for single target tanking), crazy hard to kill pvp healer, Archer, normal melee dps, I have not tried a pure caster but maybe that as well.

    Sorc has crazy melee dps

    There is so much depth in their system it is pretty nuts.

  • A friend of mine has a neat build based on the Ghodi of norse lore.

    He’s a sorcerer in heavy armor and a two handed weapon, but with many of the storm calling abilities slotted.

  • @Spidubic, I’m also going hard into enchanting, i’ve blown almost 10 points already, I see it as the ultimate craft, that influences all other armour types, so I’m going deep 😉 Aspect Runes are a BITCH to find, it’s really holding me back, but we will see what happens.

  • I have no desire to join a guild for pvp purposes but the lack of an actual in game marketplace is making it painful to level up crafting when you fly solo most of the time.