Sneaking and stealing in Elder Scrolls Online

It’s a new month — and a new vantage point for my journey through Elder Scrolls Online! With Morrowind completely finished, I thought I’d be going through the main core game next. And in fact I did that… for about three days. Then the month ticked over and I used some of my allowance to buy another DLC pack.

A few people strongly encouraged me to get the Thieves’ Guild pack, saying that it’d be better if I was working on those skills and quests earlier rather than later. I liked the idea of building up a thief skill line, so why not? I guess in my head this was more of a side class unlock, but what it ended up being is a whole new zone and quest series (which it did advertise right there on the store, so I obviously wasn’t reading that carefully).

Thus purchased, I started in on the life of crime — and gladly so. You see, ESO’s justice system has really intrigued me ever since I bumped into it. I haven’t really seen an MMO that has gamified a crime system with heat and bounties the way that ESO does, and it is executed surprisingly well. Attacking certain NPCs, pickpocketing people, and looting certain buildings, especially in towns, will result in an increase of one’s own heat (which degrades relatively quickly) and monetary bounty (which degrades slowly and must be paid to fully clear one’s name). If the heat isn’t too high, guards will only try to extort your money, but if it’s very high, then you’ll be attacked and most likely killed.

Another neat twist is that stolen loot can’t be sold to regular merchants, but only to special fences. And if you’re caught by a guard, you’ll lose all of that stuff.

The justice system makes for interesting choices: Do I engage in a life of crime or remain virtuous? Is the risk of stealing and pickpocketing worth the potential reward? Do I pay off the guard or try to make a break for it?

While I had flirted with this system earlier, Thieves Guild really immerses you right into it. Several quests in, and I’ve been sneaking through well-patrolled estates (sneaking and hiding is another part of the criminal life), grabbing everything that’s not nailed down, and trying to perfect the art of sneaking up behind people and stealing their stuff. Or, in my case, failing miserably and having NPCs call me all sorts of names. I’m really, really bad at pickpocketing and I don’t want to admit how many times I’ve been killed by the guards.

And while I haven’t determined just how “fun” all of this is on the subjective Syp scale, it is certainly a huge change of pace from the normal questing routine. I’m really interested to see where this questline will go and to attain some of the skills that will make all of this much easier. My only quibble is that it’s a shame there isn’t a better movement system to go with this pack, since NPCs can scale and jump off walls, and all I can do is pathetically try to hop onto barrels.

2 thoughts on “Sneaking and stealing in Elder Scrolls Online

  1. Gamera977 February 14, 2019 / 12:37 pm

    I remember The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall from ’96 when you’d steal something and were caught the game would start spawning town guards screaming ‘HALT!’ over and over.

  2. Sylow February 18, 2019 / 10:05 am

    “My only quibble is that it’s a shame there isn’t a better movement system to go with this pack, since NPCs can scale and jump off walls, and all I can do is pathetically try to hop onto barrels.”

    I know what you mean. Although there are actually only a few points in the story, where NPCs do something which I was unable to replicate, I also wished that this was not true. But alas, I guess it helped emphasize that they were the “veteran burglars”, while I was the one new to the job.

    On making things easier, you could also consider some equipment upgrades: The overland set “Night Mother’s Embrace” or “Night Terror” really make stealth action much easier. And “Shadow Dancer’s Raiment” or “Night’s Silence” allow you to sneak at run speed. The last one is a crafted set, but at two traits one of the easiest to get. Of course, the question would be at which level you are and if the investment is worth it for you at the given level. If you are still rushing through levels, the first three mentioned sets are most likely not worth it for you. The last one, on the other hand, often also is used as leveling set. (Lower tier materials are worthless for most players. If you play on European servers, let me know and I can provide this equipment. )

    Anyway, I am curious how you experience this DLC. I personally like the story there much more than all the “high up and mighty” storylines of saving the world and many people yet once again.

    The last thing: allowance? Buying a DLC? That confuses me a bit. Do you refer to the free crowns you get by having ESO+? In that case, you have access to all DLCs anyways.

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