Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: The mighty music hunter

It’s personally amusing and interesting to track my own rising and falling interest in various MMOs. Depending on the week — or even day! — a title might be on the rise to the top of the Syp Must Play charts while others fall to lower ranks. And right now, Elder Scrolls Online is topping it out over everything else.

It is hitting the spot, as they say. Greymoor as an expansion is a lot bigger than I expected, and once I got to the underground realm, I fell in love with the visual design there. I’ve also been engaging a lot in veteran dungeons and archaeology, the first for gear and the second for various knick-knacks. I actually got me a cool throne from a purple-level dig which ended up being the first really big find for me. I love this system!

Another activity I pursued in the game last week was collecting all of the musical instruments scattered about the zone(s) to bring back to a bardic museum. Sure, I used a guide — who wouldn’t? — but it was still a cool little scavenger hunt that took me to all sorts of wild places.

The end result was, in my opinion, quite worth it. Not only did I get a concert from the NPC bards, but I was gifted a beautiful music box for my home that plays a little tune.

So yeah, I’m 100% gunning for ESO this month, I think. We got the teaser trailer for this year’s expansion focus — looks really neat, and at least isn’t desert-themed — and I can’t wait until the 27th when they do the full reveal. I also picked up Blackwood for $13 over the holiday break, so I think I’m going there next and putting Summerset off until later. I’d love to get a companion to go with my bear.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: When an MMO makes me crave fondue

My adventures in Elder Scrolls Online’s Greymoor saw a definite uptick the moment we went to the massive underground realm. It’s by far more interesting than the rather bland snowy realm of Western Skyrim. It also helped that the first quest that I got to tackle was a rather intriguing mystery about missing miners.

And now, an important PSA about cheese:

Mmm. Cheese.

I guess “underground vampires” is a bit of a twist on normal gothic conventions, so I’m down with it. Some days I’m quite excited to play ESO, some I just don’t feel the urge. It’s fun enough but never quite has that “stickiness” that I’d like to see in an MMO.

I am certainly interested in hearing what ZeniMax has planned for 2022. We should be getting that roadmap soon, and I’m sure it’ll include another expansion that I’ll have to put in a long line with the others I haven’t finished yet. Rigurt help me if they announce a Bard class, though, because I really don’t want to reroll at this point — and that would make me reroll.

Meanwhile, a-spelunking I shall go!

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Wintering in Skyrim

This month I did move back into Western Skyrim as part of December’s journey. It’s a zone that I never fully completed on a previous character, and sure enough, I kind of got bogged down in it again. I think it’s a combination of “I may need an ESO break” and a lack of truly gripping quests. So for right now, I’m listening to that inner gauge that tells me how interested I am and reducing my activity to mirror that.

That said, the zone does have some amazing sights, especially if you’re a fan of winter climates and mountain zones. I don’t know what it is, but ESO’s delves have ended up being one of my favorite activities in the game mostly for the theming and visuals. And the fact that I can get one done pretty quickly if I want to.

Hands-down, my favorite quest in the region so far is this little doll you find that’s actually some vengeance-seeking mage who got transformed. I loved that she offered color commentary while sitting in my pack as I went through a dungeon delve. Kind of wish she could’ve stuck around after that, but oh well. I like items and objects that talk to you in fantasy RPGs.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online, New World

Why do some MMO developers fight so hard against mini-maps?

One trend that I’ve been watching with some dismay is the increasing tendency for MMO developers to push back against having a minimap — an on-screen overhead view of your position — in their games altogether. Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online chucked this in favor of a less-informative compass. New World doesn’t have one at all. There are some older games like Wurm Online and upcoming ones like Embers Adrift that don’t see a need for them.

I think this is flat-out ridiculous. Minimaps are not just helpful to MMO adventuring, they’re a standard feature at this point. So why the pushback from devs (and a vocal segment of players)?

Well, if you listen to devs talk about why their game is so grand as to not need a minimap or discuss with anti-minimap players why this is a good design choice, the argument tends to be boiled down to two talking points:

  1. It encourages you to explore more
  2. It frees up screen real estate

In my view, both of these are really flimsy arguments. A person who loves exploring in an MMO won’t be held back by a minimap (and can often elect to minimize it if so desired) if they really want to explore. I explore a whole ton even with minimaps available. And minimaps are never the focal point of the UI anyway, often tucked into a corner for occasional use. You weren’t really needing that corner empty to make room for some more god rays or something.

It’s not worth the trade-off, because what minimaps give us is so much more than a vague motivation to poke around without directions. The way that I’ve always seen it, minimaps are a representation of your character’s sense of surroundings. In real life if I’m in a room or a familiar building, I have a sense of the layout even if I’m not directly looking at it.

Furthermore, the radar helps navigate unknown spaces that would be confusing and frustrating otherwise. Old school CRPG gamers might recall back when dungeon mazes had to be mapped out on graph paper because you’d have no map whatsoever in your game. More immersive? To some, sure, but to most, just severely annoying. It’s the same reason why I drive around with a GPS-enabled map app, because I’m more interested in getting where I want to go than to get lost, confused, and possibly sobbing in a ditch somewhere.

Taking my minimap away is cutting off a dependable feature that I’ve relied on in MMORPGs for decades now and then telling me that it’s a better product for it. This delusional, “you think you want it but you don’t” kind of thinking may get the devs on that high horse, but meanwhile players scramble around to install minimap mods to make up for this design deficiency.

Stop taking minimaps out of the games. This is dumb. Thanks for coming to my SYP Talk.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Rift wrap-up

This is apropos of nothing, but I think Elder Scrolls Online is the MMO where I see the most guild recruit messages, period. Some MMOs? It’s almost impossible to find a guild. Here, you’re stumbling over them left and right — and you can join multiple guilds, if you desire. It always makes the game feel like it’s hopping.

Anywhodiddle, after a month spent slowly but surely working my way through The Rift, I finally finished up the zone. It was fine-to-good, I’d say. Generally lovely outdoor scenery, but too many quests that were obsessed with the “Worm Cult” that, to my knowledge, never once did anything with a worm. That’s disappointing. If there was a time to summon giant Tremors-like worms, this would be it.

But as I said, it was not a waste from a tourist perspective. I liked poking around the various delves, above and beyond for skyshards and bosses, even if all I was usually rewarded with was eye candy.

Such as this poor sap that got suckered into the worst job ever and then died doing it, leaving his skeleton to keep up the task.

In any case, it’s on to Western Skyrim. That’s a zone I’ve partially done before, but not to completion. I will probably pick up the other Greymoor DLC pack so that I can experience the full storyline, but maybe not until the new year.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Nightmares and dreamscapes

Despite having my aspirations of werewolfdom dashed, my fun continued apace as I adventured more through The Rift in Elder Scrolls Online. My meandering, lackadaisical pace has meant that this zone’s taken longer than I anticipated (tilting my head toward LOTRO to take the blame for this), but it’s about come to an end.

Playing ESO always feels like I’m reading a book of short stories. You never quite know what you’re in for when you accept certain quest arcs, and I enjoy being pleasantly surprised when I make one assumption and the quest goes a different direction.

For example, I thought I was in for a trip through a haunted island when I encountered some strange weather and roaming skeletons (which would’ve been fine, for the record). But this turned into a tale about a bardic song that put everyone here to sleep and woke up a whole bunch of nightmares. The small quest arc concerns itself with finding and performing the song to undo the enchantment. Neat.

Probably one of the most nail-biting moments I’ve had in ESO lately was in a different quest, where, to progress, we had to unlock a door. And to unlock it, a living person had to touch a stone and die. The quest gives you a choice between a female soldier who’s the last of her squad or a captive villager who had fought for the bad guys. I thought, no contest — I’m going to trick the traitor into touching the stone on the pretext that I’m busting him out of there.

But as you escort him to the stone, he starts talking about how he regrets getting wrapped up in all of this and can’t wait to go back home to his daughters. The quest lays this on thick, as the guy keeps going on and on about his kids. By the time he gets near the stone, this is no longer an easy choice, eh? And the quest gives you another chance to change your mind.

I mean, these are NPCs I’ll never see again after this quest and the choice doesn’t ultimately matter in terms of gameplay, but by humanizing both characters and making the player select the sacrifice, it turns into a gut-wrenching decision.

I’ve found that a lot of the world bosses in this zone can be soloed, albeit slowly, which I appreciate when a group can’t be found. Here I am tackling a angry spirit who really needs to simmer down.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Feeling a nasty case of mange coming on…

Adventures continue apace in Elder Scrolls Online’s The Rift. It doesn’t LOOK like a big zone on the map, but there’s a surprising density of quests and things to do that it’s kept me quite busy when I’ve logged into play. And, again, it’s so pleasant to look at. Nice Skyrim/alpine feels going on.

There’s a really funny quest chain starring this elf Nilwen who (sarcastically?) keeps referring to herself as this weak, incapable damsel who needs big ol’ you to help her take out mighty beasts. The beasts, at the onset, are anything BUT mighty. One is a rat, I think, and another a bird. And then, when your defenses are lowered, she sends you unknowingly into the lair of a giant to get squashed. Her surprise when I actually survived this made me laugh.

Oh Elder Scrolls Online, you are so pretty. I actually like your underground spaces, especially how you often bring in light and flora from the outside to make these caverns more interesting than bare rock everywhere.

So the other night I saw someone mention in chat that they’d spotted a couple of the somewhat-hard-to-find werewolves, if anyone wanted to get bitten. And I was like, yes. Yes I do. Turn me into a werewolf, please.

I quickly zipped over to the place where the critters were and let them scratch me up pretty bad, infecting me with the disease. Unfortunately, this is as far as it got for me — I couldn’t find the questgiver to send me on my path to full-blown lycanthopy, nor did the werewolf shrine do anything for me. I’ve been bouncing between towns and regions trying to find that NPC, but nothing doing. It’s been terribly frustrating, and at least one night last week I logged out in disgust that either the game is glitching or I am overlooking something obvious.

Because, c’mon, I totally want to be a dog.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Day of the Skeleton

Let me tell you, I had no idea what I was in for when I randomly picked The Rift as the next zone to explore in Elder Scrolls Online. It looked like a pleasant, alpine-ish zone — nothing too heavy, nothing too complicated. I was deceived, deceived I say! For what waited me was a chain of quests, each more horrific than the last.

I mean, there was the one where I drank a potion to turn my body inside-out so that I’d become a skeleton for a few minutes. That felt refreshing, thanks weirdo NPC! Actually, and I am being completely serious here, I would play the rest of this game as a skeleton if I had that option.

Then there was the quest in which witch-creatures kept sucking out everyone’s eyeballs, including your NPC guide. I couldn’t help but think that if the game was really daring, the last thing you’d see before your screen went dark forever was someone coming after your own character’s eyeballs.

Leave the eyes alone! Not cool, ZeniMax!

And just in case I wasn’t traumatized enough, then there’s a quest where you rip out some cultist’s heart and shove it into a corpse to reanimate her for the purpose of asking a simple question. Nevermind that she’s begging for death as she feels her body decomposing. This is family wholesome time!

Elder Scrolls Online rarely goes full on graphic-horror with its visuals… but with its descriptions and quest text? It can be darker than Stephen King if you’re not ready for it.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Into the Rift charged the beetle-riding bear warrior

Between my Warden in Elder Scrolls Online and my Beorning in Lord of the Rings Online, “bears” seem to be a big theme with me these days. And I’m not even that crazy about bears in general! It’s just one of those things that worked out that way, because the Warden’s Bear is one of the more powerful MMO pets I’ve ever wielded, and the Beorning is a crazy ride in itself.

Anyway, heading into ESO for a topic today, after finishing up Vvardenfell I kind of threw a mental dart at my spreadsheet of unfinished zones and ended up picking The Rift out of it. There’s no rhyme or reason here, other than to change up the locale and setting. I knew nothing about this area other than the fact that my house is in it and I liked the alpine look of it all.

So far, it’s been agreeably middle-of-the-road fare. No real standout quests yet, but nothing too frustrating either, so I’ll chalk that up as a win. And it wasn’t before Minute Five that the main storyline of the zone sent me into a mine to fix some sort of issue. As I said a while back on Twitter, nothing EVER good happens in an Elder Scrolls Online mine. This game has more mines with more problems than I can count. I’m starting to develop the opinion that our characters should be equipped with explosives that would let us bring down the entrance to mine shafts whenever we find them and consider that we’ve done the world a favor and move on.

Hats off, by the way, to this Argonian player who had one of the most delightful Argonian-style names that I’ve seen. I had to send a congratulatory tell after spying her, because that deserves praise.

I’ve been trying to get in some more archaeology into my play sessions, but that always seems to be the first thing that slips my mind. And I like archaeology! I just wish I could finish up this first zone and move on, but this is insanely grindy right now. At least I’ve leveled up this skill enough to unlock some nice abilities for the two mini-games in the archaeology system.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Wrapping up Vvardenfell

Dark elves. Giant mushrooms. Two-tone colored gods. And the longest sidequestline ever.

That’s a wrap on Vvardenfell! After a couple of weeks, I’ve exhausted all of the region’s quests, skyshards, points of interests, and main storyline. Other than this last bit — which I always thought was kind of weak save for a moonlet crashing down on the city — it was a great revisit for me. Vvardenfell is so weird and atypical that it’s a blast to explore, and ZeniMax obviously put a lot more work into the expansion tales for its first outing.

So what did I learn this second time around? I’m still an absolutely horrible pickpocket. Sun-in-Shadow needs to learn a heavy dose of humility and empathy. Nothing good ever happens in mines (this applies to ESO as a whole, of course). Living next to an active volcano can’t be a good idea for any of these people. And Dark Elves relish in being cranky.

There were just a couple of small puzzles, but for the most part, the questing was linear and non-complicated. That’s not bad, but it’s also not as spicy as it could be. Looking back, I think there were only two or three times when I actually got to make a choice that affected the outcome of a quest.

The tease of the Clockwork City made me really, really want to get this DLC. According to my count, I have about eight or nine DLCs to buy (including Blackwood). But since I have far more accessible to me that I haven’t done yet, I don’t feel in a rush to spend money.

I am wondering where my character progression is going from here. Any gear I find is pretty much standardized at a certain stat level, so unless it’s the end of a long quest chain or in some sort of dungeon or raid, I’m probably not going to get better armor or weapons. And even though I keep snarfing up skill points, I don’t have any places left to spend them that are beneficial to me. So that kind of just leaves champion points, which is progress in the smallest increments possible.