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.

Island
Island

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

Landscape
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.

Upcoming Games

I’ve managed to find a decent balance of play between LoTRO and EVE. Yes, two games that are very different, but that’s part of the appeal. If I can manage, I will add another game into “the rotation”, but I know that will be very difficult to pull off.

However, I do have an eye on some upcoming games. I’m sure everyone is aware that Wildstar Online and Elder Scrolls Online are coming out in the next few months.

I haven’t played either one (no beta participation) so I just have impressions from various others, ranging from blogs to official websites, scouring whatever info I can. I also know that pre-release hype tends to be sky high, only to crash to reality in the immediate aftermath of release, so I’m tempering everything I read especially if it is drooling enthusiasm.

That being said, I’m more interested in Wildstar Online than Elder Scrolls Online.

Why is that? Honestly, it is entirely due to “fantasy fatigue” – I’ve played a bunch of fantasy themed MMOs and Wildstar Online looks sci-fi enough to hook my initial interest.

Notice I said sci-fi enough… that’s because as Clarke said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. It’s all going to be in the overall feel of the game, which is hard to quantify until I actually play it.

For example, I barely considered SWTOR to be a sci-fi game. It’s fantasy with a sci-fi paint job over it, if you really look at it. Light sabers replace swords, blasters replace bow and arrows, jedi masters with force lightning replace wizards with lightning bolts, etc. I’m just a so-so Star Wars fan so playing a fantasy MMO in the Star Wars universe wasn’t much of a draw for me. This really isn’t the Star Wars team’s fault – the movies themselves are a mix of spaceships and jedi “wizards” so the implementation was faithful. But if I’m going to play a fantasy game I might as well play one in a setting I enjoy more.

My desire to play a sci-fi game is fueling my interest in EVE, and there haven’t been that many sci-fi MMOs. Anarchy Online, Matrix Online (shutdown), Earth and Beyond (shutdown), EVE, perhaps even Fallen Earth… these are off the top of my head, I’m sure there have been others. Meanwhile, there are at least 10 to 100 times as many fantasy themed MMOs.

And where does Wildstar Online fit into that? Well it looks like a sci-fi game with a sense of humor along the lines of Ratchet and Clank, my favorite console franchise. The catch for me being – how much of a sci-fi game does it actually feel like? And the usual stuff for any game – is it fun?

That isn’t to say I’m uninterested in Elder Scrolls Online. I played the heck out of Morrowind, and also enjoyed Oblivion and Skyrim. I enjoy the universe and setting of Elder Scrolls, it’s just that I’m going to prioritize something different first.

So, I’ll keep toggling between LoTRO and EVE while trying to follow the latest news on Elder Scrolls and Wildstar. Who knows, maybe I’ll get so busy in LoTRO/EVE I wind up delaying checking either of these new games out until much later after they release.

Elder Scrolls Online

Some big news is confirmation of an Elder Scrolls MMO.

I’m a fan of the Elder Scrolls series. I played Morrowind a huge amount, in the months before I was drawn back into the MMO scene by Guild Wars. I didn’t play Oblivion that much, mostly because I was in the clutches of LoTRO at the time. 😉 And in my recent break from MMOs, I started Skyrim and am still poking along (I’m not very far: I am helping out the Stormcloaks in the Civil War quest line, and will soon visit High Hrothgar and the Greybeards as far as the main quest).

Anyway, the thing I like the most about this series is that my character is the hero of prophecy, the savior of the world. In Morrowind I fulfilled the Nerevarine prophecy, and in Skyrim I am Dohvakiin (Dragonborn).

Basically, it is awesome that I’m the center of the game world. However, I can’t imagine how this unique state translates to an MMO very well.

But, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not going to jump on the despair wagon. Zenimax/Bethesda might deliver a fantastic game… I think we should just wait patiently and see what happens. As much as I dislike the hype and idolizing of games before their release, I also dislike premature backlash and gloom.