Review of ESO Beta Weekend

Welp, I spent my weekend sitting at my computer next to the hubby for hours on end and screwed up my sleep, eating, and med schedule to play a stupid online RPG. Was it worth it? Yep, every minute.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve put in a lot of comparisons to Skyrim because that is the game that is freshest in my mind and my biggest frame of reference. Don’t judge me.

The game had both good and bad aspects, which I’ll spell out below, but overall, I absolutely loved it. I’ll definitely shell out the cost of the original game and start out with the $15 a month to play. It’s worth it in that I’ll probably get my money’s worth while I’m interested and that when my interest in the game wanes, I can stop paying the subscription fee. I’ve heard they might go pay-to-win, and I’m hoping that’s not the case because it sucks.

Yes, it was buggy, but it was a beta test, so that was to be expected. That being said, there wasn’t anything we set out to do that we couldn’t complete. Only one of those objectives required someone to give us a workaround, but the rest were taken care of by reloading the page, or the game, in some cases. I’m sure they’ll have another beta test before release, because there were a lot of those, but it wasn’t as disruptive as I had expected it to be, probably because they’ve had several tests before now.

We started out playing Nords in the Ebonhart Pact faction. We played them for a while and then switched to elves with the Aldmeri Dominion. I was a wood elf; the hubby was a high elf (named “Betath Anyu” – say it fast). The hubby played the Daggerfall Covenant faction for a while as well. We didn’t get all that far into any of the storylines, so I can’t really say how the game will go in later stages, but at first glance, it seems like all the factions have good and bad associated with them, so—politically, at least—one faction isn’t any better or worse than the other. They all have different storylines and characters, all of which are very interesting and engaging. With that in mind, I would recommend trying them all out.

The main storyline is the same for all factions, and that’s the mission of Molag Bal to merge Nirn with Coldharbour. You start out dead, soulless, and imprisoned in Coldharbour. You spend the first half hour or so trying to escape and get an NPC called The Prophet (played by Michael Gambon) out. Everybody has to do it; it’s basically the ESO version of Helgen. It was very chaotic, and the first time I went through was very confusing, but I think that was probably just the learning curve, because the second time was much faster and easier. Each race gets washed ashore or picked up on a ship in the faction’s area of Tamriel, and the individual storylines begin.

Each faction has a main questline to take care of and lots of side quests. They were your standard Elder Scrolls-type quests—go get this, save these people, fight the enemies who are trying to take over and destroy us—that kind of thing. It was a little predictable in that respect, but there were always a few surprises. Imagine my shock when I came across Elenwen, for example. Now, if I’m correct, it wasn’t the Elenwen we all know and despise from Skyrim because the timing just doesn’t mesh, but even though she was a “good guy,” I hated her anyway. Then there was the hurricane.

Combat was pretty simple, although I’m used to having a badass character in Skyrim that can take down a Lurker with one arrow. Seven arrows to kill a mudcrab just seemed a little much to me. But you improve at a moderate pace, just like with any game like this. I usually (okay, always) play an archer, and ESO has done away with having to collect arrows. If you have a bow, you have arrows. Period. Very handy. But I gotta say, oh, wouldn’t I have loved a good Unrelenting Force Shout once in a while. If they’re an enemy, they glow red, so in a big melee it’s easy to separate friend from enemy; and there’s no friendly fire, which is good, because companions still love to run into the line of fire. Corpses you can loot glow, too.

There don’t seem to be player homes, the need to sleep, or the need to eat. If you have stuff you want to keep, you put it in the bank. I believe the bank is accessible to different characters, meaning that if you find something in one game you want another of your characters to have, you can put it in the bank and have your other character go in to their bank and pick it up. Armor is separated into tops and bottoms instead of all one piece. Inventory isn’t done by weight but by number of items. A set of heavy armor takes up the same amount of space as a soul gem. The hubby picks up a lot of stuff, and his inventory was constantly full because you can only carry fifty items. You can buy a bigger backpack and carry more items, but at least in the early stages, that’s what you’re restricted to.

 
Some things I had to get used to:

The mouse interface. Even when playing Skyrim on PC, I use the Xbox controller, so using the mouse and keyboard had a major learning curve. After I got used to it, though, I actually found I liked it better than the controller. I may even try Skyrim with mouse and keyboard on my next playthrough. Because I will play through again, even if I become addicted to ESO. Skyrim will always be my first love.

The social aspect. I’m so used to playing the single-player games that it all took a bit of getting used to, but I found it very satisfying. It was even more so after the hubby and I figured out how to play together. That, combined with chatting with Wilvarin, Pyrelle, and some other friends from deviantART, really improved the social aspect. Also, although there are other players running around having the same adventures you are, much of it still has a single-player feel to it. Even playing in a group with the hubby, we completed the quests individually. We helped each other with combat (and we also helped others and they helped us), but we still got credit for our own stuff. I interacted very little with people I didn’t know, although there were a few notable incidents, such as the guy who was dancing behind me while I was talking to an NPC, and the one who was ogling me and tried to friend me when the hubby decided to strip my character to her skivvies and set her to dancing while I was away from the computer getting a coke. Another notable one was when a stranger I had never met and never saw again just walked up and gave me a very nice bow. Also, a friend made the hubby and me some great armor, which I was thrilled about.

No saving. This was a bit out of my comfort zone. I’ve been so big on the “save and save often” mantra that this was like walking a tightrope without a net at first, but it was actually kind of liberating.

 

Things I Liked About the Game:

The graphics. I thought Skyrim was beautiful, but it has nothing on ESO. I didn’t see any of the Daggerfall locations, but Morrowind, Khenarthi’s Roost, and the Summerset Isles were just breathtaking. I’ll post screenshots in another journal entry because this one’s getting kinda big. But even the actors were beautiful. The elves were nowhere near as bumpy as they are in Skyrim, and the Khajiit were just amazing.

The voices. One of my favorite things was picking out voices. Michael Gambon, I’ve already mentioned. Malcolm McDowell plays Molag Bal, and Kate Beckensale plays the queen of the Aldmeri Dominion. I ran across John Cleese in Coldharbour. I also encountered Vilkas (Michael Gough), Astrid (Cindy Robinson), Farkas (Popyeye Vogelsang), Hermeus Mora (Wes Johnson) and Brynjolf (Robin Atkin-Downes). That guy is just everywhere. I started joking that I thought Robin Atkin-Downes did every male NPC voice in the game. He does Nords, Khajiit, elves, you name it. There are several other named actors that I haven’t run across yet but am looking forward to it—Bill Nighy, Peter Stormare, Lynda Carter, Alfred Molina, and Kevin Michael Richardson.

Trading. Trading was simpler than in Skyrim, in that you can sell anything to any merchant. You can also get your gear repaired by any merchant, which is a new feature that I like. They all sell different things, and frankly, their prices are exorbitant, but that may be because again, I’m used to Skyrim, where I’m a millionaire.

Books. You don’t take books with you. You read them where you find them, and you get the skills or just the lore. I’m a huge book collector, so this was off-putting at first, but it does keep a more efficient inventory.

Animals. There is a lot of variety in ESO. I saw pigs, sheep, rats, snakes, and lots of birds of all kinds. You still had bears, wolves, skeevers, and mudcrabs, but the graphics were better. The mudcrabs were more the size and image of real crabs.

Experience and Leveling Up. You get XP for successful hits and stuff like that, but much of your XP comes from completing quests. When you complete a quest, some of your skills automatically improve. There are few perks, and they are attached to the guilds. Skills are attached to race, guild, weapons, armor, and class. It looks different, but it’s actually a bit easier than in Skyrim. You can also morph skills. Basically, when you master a certain skill, you can change it into something else. For instance, I had Volley, which was the ability to fire several arrows in a few seconds. I was able to morph it into the ability to fire several flaming arrows.

Dying. When you die, you can spend a filled soul gem to resurrect in your current position. If you don’t have one, you resurrect at the nearest wayshrine, which could be way across the map from your current location. This can be inconvenient, especially if you’re engaging in combat with a group. But you get to keep all your gear, and you don’t seem to lose any gold or XP. I saw some dead player bodies lying around with the option to resurrect them, but I never figured out how that worked.

Emotes. I guess this is really common with MMOs, but I just got the biggest kick out of them! Being a photomanipulator, I love playing with animations and poses in Skyrim, but you really need a mod for that, so it was a lot of fun to play with these.

 

 

Things I Didn’t Like:

Crafting. This is, in my opinion, a pain in the butt. There are lots of crafting stations, and they have made a clear distinction between armor and clothing, and metal weapons and wooden. Essentially, bows are considered woodworking; robes are considered clothing. But there’s a lot to remember and a lot of steps. Same with potions and enchanting, which I still haven’t gotten my mind around. There is something with runes and aspect stones—I probably should have done more with it so I could at least explain it better.

Quests and general gameplay. I put this under things I didn’t like because although they were interesting and fun to do, they were a bit too structured. You didn’t have a whole lot of choices to what you did—this was the way it was supposed to happen, so that’s the way it happened. There were a few game-changing choices, but for the most part, you just did what they told you to do and that was that. It’s also not as open-world as it is purported to be, although that may just be early on and within the confines of the beta weekend. But you could only go off exploring so much before the edge of the map came and you had to go complete the questline before going somewhere else.

Picking locks. The game uses the same lockpicking system as Oblivion, and I found it incredibly difficult and frustrating. I still haven’t mastered it.

Fast travel. You can fast travel to a wayshrine on the map, but there is usually only one in a certain area, so you spend a lot of time running or swimming. You also have to pay gold to fast travel to the wayshrine, and you don’t appear to be able to go backward, meaning that once I left Khenarthi’s Roost, I couldn’t fast travel back there.

No pausing. When you have to go to the bathroom, it’s not always convenient to run back to a safe location. This can be remedied by logging out altogether, but it’s not as convenient as just taking a quick time out. The game also does not pause when you’re reading, looting, or looking at your inventory or journal. I understand why it has to be this way in an MMORPG, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Chat Window. I would like to be able to filter this so that I only see chat messages by people I know. It was really neat chatting with my friends, but for the most part, I didn’t really want to see the main chat conversations going on in the area. I would also miss messages from my friends when there was a lot of activity, because they would scroll off the screen before I realized they were there. I know some people do like seeing all those messages, though, and frankly, if not for the chat window, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the one quest I mentioned above, so it would be cool if there was an option to turn it on and off. Who knows? Maybe there is and I just didn’t know about it.

Clutter. In Skyrim, if you wanted to pick up and sell the goblets sitting on a table, or the weapons in a weapon rack, you could. In ESO, most of that stuff is just there for show. That’s probably because of the way they do the inventories.

 

So that’s that. I know there are tons of things I missed, and there is still so much Bethesda hasn’t shown us yet, so I’m really looking forward to playing again. I’ll post some screenshots soon.

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2 thoughts on “Review of ESO Beta Weekend

  1. Lock picking kicked my ass but I finally got grips on it for my third character after three days. I must have spent over 200 lock picks over three days and 3 chars figuring it out. The chat window issue was the first thing I fiddled with you can have multiple tabs. I dedicated one for whispers, one for general, zone, shouts, ooc ect. and one for group and guild chat. It is just something I always do. So you can fix that for the next beta. =)

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