I got impatient waiting for a sale and bought ESO. If it goes on sale in the near future… that’s OK, I’ll gift a copy to a friend who I know is interested. ;)
TL;DR – I haven’t had so much fun questing and adventuring in an MMO in quite a while!
I created a Breton Sorceror and started playing through the tutorial. After exiting I went back from the mainland (Daggerall) to Stos M’Kai and had a ton of fun there.
I enjoy the quests – they aren’t the usual “kill 10 rats” type of quests. Much like the single-player Elder Scrolls games, the quests are longer, usually have a few updates along the way, and focus on adventuring (explore the ruin and find the item; versus kill stuff and come back for another variant of collecting monster drops).
For example, on Stos M’Kai you get a quest to rescue sailors that were shipwrecked and captured. There are three that need to be rescued, and you can don a disguise to reduce the number of fights along the way. After freeing them all, the quest giver wants to extract revenge on the kidnapper, and she winds up poisoning the leader and leaves. You have the option of administering the antidote (which I did) or not. Later at the quest end, the quest giver shrugs and says she doesn’t care because her crew was rescued, but adds that showing mercy means the possibility of more ships getting wrecked and captured. Interesting spin.
I also created an Argonian Templar and played a bit on Bleakrock Isle. There was a quest to investigate a bandit camp, with a disguise available to reduce the amount of fighting. As it happened, there were 2 or 3 other players attacking the bandits so I didn’t aggro any of them, even though I put on the disguise in an attempt to avoid some combat.
I like quests that have checkpoints along the way and update goals as you go. When well written, it is as if new information alters the objective or adds a new one. Plus, the quests make sense in the context of the game. I’ve seen a few quests that allow for a bit of stealth, which helps move the focus ever-so-slightly away from being a mass murderer all the time. (Investigate 3 areas in the camp, potential to avoid combat vs. investigate 3 areas in the camp and by investigate I mean slaughter everyone).
The worst kind of quests are ones that feel incomplete because the quest giver just wants part of the job done. To pick on WoW, although plenty of other MMOs have this exact same thing, take the Draenei starter area. Early on, maybe the 2nd or 3rd quest you get, you are asked to use your racial heal to save injured survivors. This quest probably exists just to teach players that Draenei have a racial heal skill. But the quest giver just needs you to save one survivor, out of the half dozen or more strewn about.
An imagined conversion:
Quest giver: Hey, we just had a shipwreck and we need to save any survivors! You there, can you help?
Quest giver: Excellent, go out and save one victim.
Player: Wait, what? How about the other 5 I also see dying of their wounds?
Quest giver: Don’t worry about those others, I just want you to save any one of them and then you can do something else.
I’d rather see a single victim to save… and ESO designs the quests this way. Rather than kill wolves until X number of doodads drop, it sends you to retrieve 2 items and if there are animals to fight along the way, so be it. But if there aren’t, just get the 2 items and the quest advances. And if 2 players are trying to pick the same thing up at the same time, let them both get a copy.
Now the reality is WoW’s game engine is 10+ years old so if there is only one NPC to interact with, it needs to work when multiple players try to finish/advance the same quest. So if the engine can’t handle it (or wasn’t written to handle it and changing it is problematic), it is easier to add 10x NPCs to handle an influx of players. Because what is even faker is a line forming waiting for something to reset so the next player can step up.
I mentioned earlier I enjoy following storyline, and a refinement on that would be that I enjoy doing quests that make sense. The quest type of “we’re surrounded by enemies! Go kill any 8 of them and you can move along to the next hub while we stay here perpetually surrounded, thanks” always struck me as artificial.
Anyway, I am enjoying myself immensely. This game also looks gorgeous.
My only (slight) negative is that I don’t enjoy the combat. But that’s true even in the single player Elder Scrolls games. I am terrible at bow and melee combat in these games, and can do OK as a ranged spell caster. The limited action set (1-5 plus R for an “ultimate” skill) makes for choices about which skills to advance and upgrade, and it appears that every class can increase every skill – although the ones for your class will obviously be easier to work up.
The other odd thing is the game doesn’t seem to provide you with items for your class, even when starting out. For instance, at the end of the tutorial, I got a… sword (??) instead of a staff which would be more appropriate. And half of the quests reward things like shields or heavy armor – and I haven’t seen any quests with a choice of equipment as a reward.
So I started as a sword-fighting sorcerer, but eventually received a staff and then bought another with earned gold.
On the plus side, the combat system allows for every class (I’m assuming) to interrupt or block an enemy. If I left-click, I jab with my weapon, and a right-click raises to block. Clicking both button performs an interrupt (punching the weapon across the chest). Sometimes the enemy will use a crowd-control spell, and the game suggests hitting WASD to break it. The game actually displays hints for all of this during combat, so it is a matter of doing them quickly enough for the effect to occur.
Kind of like WildStar, occasionally an NPC will charge up a skill and show a red AoE that fills up – when I see this happen, I try to move/dodge/roll out of the way. Or interrupt it.
As far as melee or bow combat, maybe I just need to get more used to closing in on an enemy and mixing in mouse clicks with skill shortcuts 1-5.
I rebound R to “autorun”, because due to 15 years of muscle memory, that’s the key I hit when I want to run. Not NumLock like the default seems to be everywhere. In turn, R was originally bound to the “Ultimate” skill, but I decided that “6” worked just as well instead, since the other skills you can equip are 1-5. And dodge wasn’t bound to a key by default, so I made it “B”, which was the default secondary bind for “inventory” – probably B for bags. I don’t need two hotkeys to open my inventory.
Combat as a sorcerer is approximately similar to other games. When I’m in range of an enemy, I can tab-target them and then start raining down my Dark Magic and Storm Calling skills. I also skilled into Daedric Summoning and have a familiar around with me to help attack – currently my familiar is an Unstable Clannfear. He’s pretty good about staying behind me, attacking my target, and in general being a low maintenance “pet” that doesn’t create more problems by aggroing a bunch of other mobs.
This complaint about non-magic combat doesn’t detract from my overall enjoyment though, it is fairly minor and I may get used to it if I play a melee class more.