ESO – Deshaan

I’ve been trying to divide my MMO playtime between LoTRO, SWL, and ESO, and I know that 3 games isn’t really sustainable for me. Originally I thought I’d dabble some in ESO but put it aside… however the game has grown on me. I’m enjoying general questing and am not rushing through by any means.

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My templar is level 18 now, and just entered Deshaan, a zone south of Stonefells. I haven’t seen much of the new zone, but I find it gorgeous just like Stonefells. Part of that is it hits the right amount of “fantasy” landscape for me – different enough to be another world, but not too bizarro. Stonefells had a lot of volcano/lava which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it also had its share of giant mushrooms and hilly fields.

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Plus these glowing orange formations look really cool at night.

Anyway, besides the usual questing and following storylines, there is also crafting which I’ve dipped a toe in just a bit. Rather than sell armor/weapons, I see if there are traits I can research first and do that if available. I’m also using up runes I collect at enchanting tables… I have yet to figure out how to use the resulting glyphs but if I can’t figure it out in-game I can also google around. 😉

Since I can really only play 2 MMOs, the game that might suffer is… SWL. It’s fun but I’m hitting some rough spots in the new design. One is combat – it is faster but more monotonous. With fewer active and passive skills to use in a build, and less synergy between main and off-hand weapons, I’m not getting as much build variety which I miss from TSW. I have a pistol build which is doing the job, granted my weapons are level 25 blue, and it’ll be a long time before I accumulate enough skill points and ability points to train decently into another weapon.

A related problem is weapons – the new SWL scheme of increasing items draws plenty of criticism. One thing is definitely does is make it tough to switch – you’re in for a lot of grind to get back and equivalent power weapon. Same goes for amulets and trinkets… and I’m not sure that any enhancements applied (e.g. glyphs, signets) can be reused or if they are simply lost and become yet another item to re-level and replace.

Crafting is simplified, in fact I think it basically vanished. TSW might have been a little over-the-top with dust/runes/basic components, but you could craft anything by making patterns. In SWL, crafting is totally replaced with infusions that come from quest rewards and/or lock boxes.

I still like the overall storyline and quests, and I’m determined to get past the Scorched Desert, where I left off in TSW, but I might wind up playing SWL here and there as time permits as a break from LoTRO and ESO.

 

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ESO – Stonefells

I reached level 15 on my templar – the greatest benefit of that is level 15 is where you can dual wield.

I’m not really used to that, having started the genre with Asheron’s Call and then Guild Wars. However, it seems to be a mechanic popular in more current games, like Guild Wars 2 and ESO. Both of these games feature a fairly limited number of skills and weapon swapping is a way to get a second skill bar. Some professions in GW2 don’t have weapon swaps, such as the elementalist and engineer – however in those cases the profession has an additional mechanic that gives nearly the same effect: attunements and kits, respectively.

Anyway, now I can equip a destruction and restoration staff, swap between them and effectively have 12 skills instead of 6.

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The world continues to be gorgeous, landscapes are scenic and interior caves are sometimes spectacular.

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It’s a good time for me to evaluate and plan going forward.

I have a tough time with many quests – generally ESO quests have several tiers, and you wind up fighting some tougher monster at the final stage. And, it kills me probably 50% of the time? I’ll run back and exact revenge, I’m not getting blocked from finishing but I’m also not sailing through to the finish.

I’m trying to figure out why and make some changes. It is always possible I’m inept, that can’t be discounted. 😉 However, just in case it is something else I’ve done some research, googling around and looking at various posts and builds.

One common theme is your character is most powerful concentrating on either magicka or stamina. As you level you can increase your stats, which are health, magicka, stamina. Obviously health is important, when that goes to zero you die and end up at a wayshrine or if you have a soul gem, where you fell. But what balance between the other stats? I’ve been raising them evenly and it seems the way to go is to pick one, magickia or stamina, and focus on it.

For a templar, a magicka build would play as a spell caster while a stamina build would play as a knight swinging a sword. I like the magic casting play style better so I’m choosing the magicka path.

This in turn affects my skills. As you use your skills and gain skill points, you have the option of morphing skills into new ones. The two new skills are variants – same basic function but altered, for example morphing a skill gives a choice of doing more damage, or doing less but affecting more enemies. Some skills morph into ones that switch to stamina usage or magicka usage. So I need to look over my skills and what I’ve morphed and make sure they are aligned.

Armor is a factor as well. Earlier I noticed a tooltip that said there are benefits to equipping 3 pieces of the same type – for light armor a benefit is enhanced magicka recovery; for heavy armor a benefit is enhanced stamina recovery. So while I could play a heavy armor spell caster, or a light armor melee fighter, I’m wouldn’t be benefiting the most useful stat.

ESO seems to be a rare game where crafting matters a lot. Some of the best armor pieces (and possibly weapons too?) are crafted!

Regular merchant armor is expensive and not that great, probably by design to encourage crafting. I’m not crafting much and there isn’t a global auction hall, just a guild auction (I’m not in a guild either). I’ve been using quest rewards but they are split between light, medium, and heavy with no pattern – I can’t think of any quest that gave me a choice of reward, so my armor is all random more or less. So another thing to figure out is some way to upgrade my gear more predictably.

Anyway, I can make some minor changes and see how it goes.

ESO – Slow (Re)Start

For some reason I have a tough time keeping momentum in ESO.

Part of that is choosing a race/class combo I like. ESO offers 4 human races (Imperial, Redguard, Breton, Nord), 3 elves (High, Dark, Wood), 3 “monsters” (Half-Orc, Khajit, Argonian) and 5 classes (Nightblade, Dragonknight, Templar, Sorcerer, Warden) so lots of combos in theory…

I settled on Templar, since it offers a healing line, above and beyond what every character can do by equipping and training up their Restoration Staff skill. But I have played every class through the corresponding faction starter zone to get a feel for it.

I ruled out Sorcerer and Warden since they are pet classes and I’m not really into those. Generally the pet AI in a game isn’t good and managing the pet becomes an extra thing I’d rather not deal. In LoTRO, a well timed Sign of Battle: Wizardry (when your pet procs a flank) will heal you, but if said pet dies it can be a big problem. In GW, my favorite char was a ranger except I rarely ever ran a pet build, because when I was an active player, having a pet ate up too many skills on the skill bar: 2 skills out of 8 skills (Charm Animal, Comfort Animal) plus some points into Beast Mastery or it wasn’t worth it. Although according to the wiki in 2009 and 2010 Comfort Animal and Heal as One were changed to also bring a pet if equipped, thus saving skill slot space since Charm Animal wasn’t needed.

The irony is, heroes in Guild Wars were basically pets but they had a huge amount of control and customization (positioning, armor, weapons, skill bars)… so much so that I often ran with 3 heroes (the max before yet another change allowed 7 heroes in a party) and henchman, or a friend plus their 3 heroes.

In ESO, none of the races grabbed me. I like playing short/small races because it looks awesome to be a Hobbit, for instance, attacking the shins of some giant troll, but all the races in ESO are roughly human-sized. In GW2 I like the Asura culturally because they are mad scientist/inventors but oddly enough my favorites are a Norn Ranger and Sylvari Mesmer. I’m too lazy to restart, even using experience scrolls and what not. Plus I’m on a GW2 hiatus.

Anyway, I ended up making a char based on what their “champion gear” looked like. I think this feature, previewing armor during character creation, is great – one that Wildstar had as well.

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This helped rule out some races – I mean what’s up with this inverted shoe brush helm for Imperials? Designed for Marvin the Martian?

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I think the Argonian gear looks fantastic but there is a problem – I find their tail distracting! It sways slowly and since most of my view will be from behind my character over their shoulder… nope.

Previously I dabbled in a race from each faction (Breton and Redguard; High Elf – sorry I can’t get into the looks of the Wood Elf or Khajit; Argonian and Dark Elf) and gravitated towards the Dark Elf for Dragonknight or Templar.

But first, I rolled up an Argonian Warden just to try it out.

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ESO is a beautiful game, it looks absolutely fantastic everywhere. Doing the intro quests in Morrowind and investigating inside houses, I found stunning design and layouts. This elaborate painting is one of five or six different ones, background scenery most players run by on the way to finding the thingamajig for a quest.

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Outside looks great too. One of my favorite RPGs was Morrowind and wandering the landscape listening to music selections from the original game (yes!!) was a delight.

But, the skill mix of the warden doesn’t seem cohesive to me. Summon pet attack, frost, and healing. It’s workable and wardens are meant to handle all the trinity roles but I didn’t like it so back to a previous character.

For now I’m going to push foward on my Dark Elf Templar, currently questing on the mainland around Davon’s Watch. After advancing the main quest a step or two I’ll divert over to Morrowind, where my no-longer-existing Argonian Warden once walked, and play through that before returning to the mainland.

I found a leveling guide on reddit and it had a bunch of advice, written mostly from the perspective of a max level char wanting to level an alt. I skimmed over it and will likely skip everything crafting related for now, but did come away with some great tips.

First thing is to make sure you have one skill from each class skill line on your bar. This helps level each skill line roughly equally. For Templar, the skill lines are Aedric Spear, Dawn’s Wrath, Restoring Light.

Second, make sure you have skills from your weapons on your bar as well. I’m switching between 2 handed sword and destruction staff, which I just got so I’ll be using the staff and its skills that I unlock soon. I’ll get a Restoration staff as well and give it a slot on my skill bar.

Third is armor, the suggestion is to wear all 3 types of armor since as you get hit you’ll level armor skills. A popup tip from the game said there is a benefit wearing 3 pieces of an armor type… since there are 7 armor slots I’m going to wear 3 pieces of 2 types. Later, I’ll do some wiki research and figure out what that promised benefit is. From quest rewards and drops, and perhaps vendor purchases but I don’t remember, I have 2 pieces of light armor, 1 piece of medium armor, and 3 pieces of heavy armor, so I need to buy or find that 3rd light armor piece and I’ll be set.

Fourth is to train horse riding skills – mount speed, stamina, and carry capacity can be trained up for a small fee, but only one point every 20 hours real-time. So I’ll be sure to log in every day to train my mount skills, as long as I have the gold to do it.

My armor strategy might not be optimal but players swear most anything is viable while leveling. So I’ll put that to the test.

ESO – Ebonheart Pact

I decided to try a Templar, a Dark-Elf (Dunmer), so back to Bleakrock Isle. Like every class in ESO, Templars have melee and magic skills, so when I used my sword and shield, or two-handed sword, I was careful to block (right-click) when I noticed an enemy winding up an attack, use a stronger/overloaded/heavy-swing/whatever it is called attack (hold left-button) when they were vulnerable (typically after a successful block), and interrupt (left click + right click) skills.

And this time the melee went a lot better.

I made it off Bleakrock Isle onto Bal Foyen and finished up there as well. So now I’m in the Stonefalls at Davon’s Watch and before continuing too much, I’ll go back and play my High-Elf Sorceror a bit more in Vulkhel Guard and decide which one to emphasize.

I do like the Ebonheart Pact zones so far. Actually, everything in ESO is beautiful, but Stonefalls reminds me a bit of Morrowind. It’s a fantasy landscape that isn’t too bizarre to be believable.

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Mini break

I had some out of town visitors last week, so I didn’t do much gaming. It is interesting to me what games I thought about and was eager to get back to, and which ones were bucketed into “eh, I can wait”.

BDO – I just can’t get into. It offers a lot to do, but it turns out I’m not all that interested in lifestyle skills, simulating a trade empire, fishing or raising horses. What it does have going for it is exploration…

…which brings me to EVE. One goal there is to wander the universe in a cloaked ship, exploring relic/data sites as I come across them. This playstyle doesn’t have a direct analogy to other games with exploration (GW2 for instance) so EVE bumped up on my interest list. Of course, while away with my visitors I kept my skill queue full and working on my behalf. 🙂 I probably still can’t reliable make corp/fleet activity, but I think I can get my monthly sub fee’s worth of a few hours on the weekends.

GW2 moved back into interest. I saw a giant patch containing tons of fixes, most of which probably don’t effect me. However, one thing did – a level 80 boost. Earlier I mentioned the one thing I’d change about my char is switching races Norn to Asura. Well, this is my chance! I have a level 80 elementalist, guardian, ranger, level 60 mesmer, and I’ve tried thief and necromancer and didn’t really like them. That’s fine, there isn’t a game out where EVERY class appeals to me. Closest would be GW1 where I did actually play all classes through all storylines except one… the elementalist. That’s because my GW1 elementalist was my mesmer, who freely swapped skills between professions, and had fast casting instead of energy storage.

I used some level 30 boosts on an engineer and revenant, and a level 20 boost on a warrior. So basically, I have a level 80 boost to use on either a ranger, which I know I like but would like to switch races on, or on an engineer, revenant, or warrior, which are fun but unknown. I’ll think about this and maybe play through the first chapter of the storyline on the engineer and revenant and see before going with another ranger.

LoTRO also moved back into interest. I’ve taken breaks from the game, none lasting too long. My guardian Naerys can level from 100 to 105 now, but I had another project in mind: starting a new minstrel. Which I did and puttered around a bit. I’ll post on that later.

ESO also remained of interest. Zenimax is adding some really interesting DLC (the recent Thieves Guild and upcoming Dark Brotherhood); the game is fun and has beautiful graphics; I like the skill system which lets every class train every weapon, armor, and crafting skills, while retaining 3 skill lines unique to the class.

TSW as well, I want to press along in the desert and not spend ~2 years wandering very slowly around before the next new zones, like I did with Kingsmouth – Blue Mountain.

What fell out of interest was FF14. It isn’t a bad game game at all; I’ve enjoyed all 5 mandatory dungeons I’ve done; the class system is the best. The playerbase seems friendly, the storyline is bizarre but fun to follow. It comes down to the sub fee – given my rather haphazard play schedule, it doesn’t make sense to sub to multiple subscription games. So in the contest between EVE and FF14, right now EVE wins since the play style EVE offers, that of the stealth explorer in dangerous territory, well that doesn’t exist elsewhere. The others are B2P or F2P, and I do support them by making store purchases from time to time. I like this model since whatever I buy doesn’t come with a time limit like game-time with a sub fee does, and I don’t feel as much pressure to play to a quota each month.

There is probably a “fantasy game overload” thing going on as well – EVE is a sci-fi universe while LoTRO/GW2/ESO are fantasy. So FF14 as a 4th direct fantasy game, let’s just put TSW into a different category, is maybe too much for me.

I’m subbed for another cycle under FF14 so I’m not vanishing instantly, but I’ll be thinking about whether or not I want to keep working on my summoner/monk versus exploring null sec in EVE.

Anyway, I’ll see how ESO, TSW, ramping back up in GW2 and LoTRO, and EVE go. 5 games is still 3 too many. 😉

ESO -Aldmeri Dominion

I’ve allowed events in MMOs control my schedule lately. From picking up TSW due to double AP weekend, resubbing EVE due to 10 days for cheap (promotion along with the current in-game war), to playing ESO over the weekend due to anniversary celebration experience-boosting cake.

I’m a pie person myself 😉 but I spared some time to reroll a character to play through some new content to me – a High Elf sorcerer which allowed me to see the Aldmeri Dominion initial island: Khenarthi’s Roost, the city of Mistral, and fighting off Maormer treachery.

I decided to start a new char for two reasons: it had been a long time since I played, and I never really got high level anyway. Heck, I didn’t even get medium level. I picked High Elf sorcerer mostly because I don’t really like playing a Wood Elf (bosmer) or Khajit so High Elf (Altmer) were the 3rd option. Or I suppose Imperial since I have the fancy version.

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I’m not very good at melee combat in Elder Scrolls. Not just in ESO, my ineptitude with melee also carries over to Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, etc. Since those games came first, perhaps I should say my ineptitude at melee carries over to the MMO.

The reason is melee takes more work here, which I do like. It’s just that I’m not used to it so I get pounded on more. In this game, you need to specifically block (right click) to partially negate an enemy attack – sometimes it leads to a chance to land a bigger attack (hold left click) in response. You can also interrupt (left click + right click) an enemy attack. In most other games you don’t really need to specifically block, it’s factored into your stats or gear so combat means standing there dishing out offensive skills. You also need to be close enough to hit, otherwise you can swipe at the air.

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Anyway, magic comes easier to me in the Elder Scrolls games so I played through the starter island and made it to Vulkhel Guard.

Now I need to decide whether to continue the storyline or take a minor break and give a melee char another go. I do like that melee combat isn’t just standing there taking hits – you can block and interrupt – I need to overcome muscle memory from other games.

 

ESO – Newbie Questing

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?
Player: Sure!
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.

Really?

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.

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Island

Anyway, I am enjoying myself immensely. This game also looks gorgeous.

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Landscape

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.

Argonian
Argonian

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.