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.

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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.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Vvardenfell Vvamping

I find it an encouraging sign of a good gaming decision that even with New World’s, um, newness and all of the FOMO going on, I’m still quite happy to spend an evening with Elder Scrolls Online. Excited to, even.

So I did head back into Morrowind’s Vvardenfell with my Warden. Even though I did it on a previous character, I had enough great experiences here that I wasn’t begrudging the repeat. And besides, I feel like I know how to play and navigate the game better now, and there’s an increased enjoyment when you can play with that sort of confidence.

I still think that Morrowind’s stories are really great stuff. I’m amazed how much variety there is, from a tale of helping an assassin-in-training find her brother to restocking a depleted egg mine with a giant bug. I’ve been working my way clockwise around the island’s volcano, and man is there a whole lot of content here. Some of these quest chains, particularly the aforementioned assassin one, are much longer than usual.

And I had forgotten about the superhero (vigilante) questline! The Scarlet Judge, dum dum DUMMM. Really great stuff.

I did make one change along the way, which was to respec my character from lizard to Breton. It wasn’t that I minded the lizard — I just felt like a change of pace. And look, she’s got a flower in her hair! Awww.

As I’ve been going through Vvardenfell, I took some time to address a growing concern of mine, which was that I was in danger of losing track of what zones I had done, had left to do, and had left to purchase. So I buckled down one evening and made a not-nerdy-at-all spreadsheet, adding a fourth column — archaeology — as well. With this fall’s DLC, I think there’s north of 40 zones in this game, which is a whole lotta story left to uncover!

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Finding fresh air in Elder Scrolls Online

Lately I feel like I’ve been banging my head against some of LOTRO’s more frustrating content — in particular, War of the Three Peaks — and I needed a break. I don’t like playing MMOs out of obligation, and I was nearing that danger point, so I put everything on hold and jumped into the next game in the queue: Elder Scrolls Online.

It’s been a while since I’ve played ESO regularly (May, I think) and it’s long past time I returned. And it was one of those situations that, once I was there, I couldn’t tell you why I left in the first place. It was that much fun. A breath of fresh air, you might say.

Quickly I slipped back into the scaly skin of my Argonian Warden and bent my will to the task of finishing up the current zone I left off doing — Stonefalls.

Filling out a map in ESO is deeply satisfying to me, especially since it prods me to pick up each and every quest line there is. While there were a few duds, I really enjoyed several of the small chains, including a time travel one, a mystery involving a body snatching demon, and a zombie siege. Good times, and at no point did I find myself hitting a wall or becoming so overwhelmed that I wanted to quit. So that was a nice change.

This is now how I introduce everything I say.

It took me three play sessions to finish the back half of the zone, including all of the delves, skyshards, vantage points, and main questline. I really couldn’t wait to log back in for the next session, and I’m torn over where to go next. I think I’ll head over to Vvardenfell and take on the Morrowind expansion, since I haven’t done it on this character. I would like to get Blackwood for the companions, but my bear tells me that I’m not in any rush at the moment.

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ESO: Adventures in Ebonheart

Elder Scrolls Online occasionally uses creative scripting to kick off quests, and an example of this is in the city of Ebonheart. Upon entering it, this dark elf dude ran up to me all frantic for me to talk to him. I ignored him — I was on another quest at the time — and the game kept winging him at me in unexpected quarters. He was like a movie serial killer, if that killer was polite and a little more than insecure. So I kept ignoring him, because it amused me to see an elf grovel so.

So there’s a nearby Covenant invasion, and the only hope is to pull the Nords and Argonians together to help fight it off. But both sides aren’t speaking to the dark elves — no comment — and it’s up to me to be Diplomacy Police. Weeeohh weeeohh. Along the way, I stopped to admire a small player band belting out hits.

The Nords said they’d only join the Pact if I defeated three of their best — while completely smashed on mead. Me smashed, not them smashed. Other than a funky screen effect, I didn’t see any drawback to this. The head Nord guy said that there was a suspicious dark elf that came by not too long ago trying to bribe them to leave. Hmm…

The Argonians are having a rougher time of it, as some dark elf (HMM) is poisoning their precious Hist tree. I help fertilize it — not with my own bodily secretions, please understand — and then check out this elf that they caught. It turns out its a patsy, set up to take the fall instead of Rhavil, the guy who’s masterminding these disruptions.

After following Rhavil around, we discover that he’s working to pave the way for the Covenant. A quick fight later, and all is well — the townspeople have unified against a common threat. Yay me.

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ESO: Halloween in May

Stonefalls questing this week started off with jumping into the Crow’s Wood public dungeon. I actually ended up loving this place, largely due to its “Halloweeny” vibe, with giant bats, dilapidated cottages, and a vibrant purple sky.

After making friends with the crow court, I dug down into the mystery of the place. A Dark Elf son had traveled here to find his missing father who, as it turned out, made a pact with the Crow Mother to stay with her in exchange for learning secret magic. He got the magic, tried to renege on the deal, and got trapped anyway. So the big choice here is to kill the Crow Mother and free him, convince him to uphold his deal, or kill them both. I made him stick to his word, because a promise is a promise.

Next up was a trip to the Emberflint Mine, where I helped a guy un-crystalize his Argonian companions. And kill a Daedra, because every quest in this game ends with “and kill a daedra.” For an encore, I cleared out the Emberflint delve, which was another charming mine filled with OSHA-disapproving lava.

It’s kind of uncommon to see two delves so close to each other, so I head to go check out Mephala’s Nest. It was a spacious underground ruin with enough bookshelves to make up a small town library. I love me ESO bookshelves, what with their chances for a random skill point. And despite the name of the delve, the boss mob was called Grizzled or somesuch.

It was finally time to venture into the city of Ebonheart and its plethora of quests. I started with “Night of the Soul,” in which the spiritual leader of the town was experiencing a faltering faith. In true MMO fashion, I was asked to go pray to the gods on his behalf. Such lazy NPCs, these are.

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ESO: Dead bugs and crabs

When you’re heading to a particular destination in ESO that’s far enough away from a wayshrine, you’re gonna want to make that trip count so that you won’t have to come back later. So as I’m heading to an awkwardly placed quest marker behind a mountain, I made sure to detour and take out this world boss crab. No amazing rewards, but I did get a nominal shield upgrade. Plus, my new shield, she be spiky.

After that, I grabbed a dagger off a dead hunter for “The Fate of a Friend” and rode my bear halfway across the zone to turn it in. I think I snagged four additional wayshrines along the way, which definitely will help later on.

I doubled back to Devon’s Watch to work on some quests there, starting with “Through the Aftermath.” I love it when a quest actually gives me a choice, because sometimes these have consequences and narrative shifts depending on what you pick. In this case, I got to choose between enslaving ghosts to use as guards or setting them free. I’m a good guy; I set them free. Hope that was the right call. I followed this up with “Enslaved in Death” to help out a few more ghosts. I’m very popular in the afterlife!

Now if any quest *should* have choice involved, it’s “Giving for the Greater Good,” as it involves dishing out poisonous mushrooms to three NPCs who eat them and die to — somehow — transform their bodies into life-giving fertilizer for the land. I have to say, this quest does not work narratively. The sacrifice isn’t explained, the player has no choice (other than abandoning the quest) to avoid assisting three suicides, and the devs don’t even transform the landscape afterward to reflect the results of this so-called heroic sacrifice.

It’s a weird quest.

After that, I tackled a zone boss nearby, some big insect swarm dude. Happily, there was a mess of players on hand to handle it, so we wiped the floor with it in under a minute. No great loot, but I’m always glad to tick off another spot on the map.

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ESO: Dungeons and Dunmer

It’s time to really dig into some of these Stonefall quests, so I’m going to try to knock them out while providing some commentary and screenshots on each. First up is “Suspicious Silence,” which has yet another “you do this, I can’t be bothered to risk my neck” NPCs asking me to infiltrate an enemy camp. What are those sneaky Covenant people up to?

Guess it was more dangerous for the NPC to stay behind, because he’s dead now. Aww. That’s what you get for being a coward. Anyway, the plans say that some legendary being named Ahknara is here, and that’s bad for some reason.

In “Venom of Ahknara,” the fort commander suspects that enemy assassins are already inside the walls and wants me to flush them out with blinding light flasks. This might be a tricky task to complete, except that — as with all ESO quests — there are huge white markers pointing me right to the stealthed killers. They didn’t see that coming!

The assassins did a bloody good job before they got stopped, even going so far as to chase some of the guards down into the dungeons below. This is a fortunate development, as the guards discover the bad guys are planning to tunnel up into the fort from below. So the quest shifts to becoming one of containment — and then chasing Ahknara herself out a trapdoor and into a hasty and not-that-satisfying boss battle. It’s almost insultingly quick, for fighting a legend, but at least the quest (and the chain) is complete.

After that, I doubled back to the town of Senie, which was suffering a bad case of Volcano at the moment. Dunno why anyone would want to build a town next to an active vent like this, but the end result is a lot of burned people and angry bugs. So through “Proving Trust” I aided the townsfolk a bit, while rounding up some mining bugs for “Percussive Ranching.”

I’ve noticed that several of the quest chains in this region have dealt with the history between the dark elves and the Argonians. I guess the Dark Elves up and enslaved the Argonians a while back, but that’s not any longer the case. The Argonians aren’t terribly happy about that event, but they oddly enough don’t seem as mad as they should be about it either. There’s some friction between the two races, but really, it’s all weird rather than out-and-out hostile.

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Elder Scrolls Online: On to Stonefalls

With Glenumbra 100% completed (at least what I wanted to do with it), I was free to move on and start working on a different zone. There was no clear direction where I had to go, so I just pulled on a dangling quest thread that I had and moved over to Stonefalls. It’s a semi-volcanic zone that is part of the Morrowind province, so it shares a lot with the famous island.

Weirdly enough, as much as I tend to dislike “lava zones” in video games, ESO has always made its very pretty. The glowing, slowly moving magma is hypnotic, and I’ve found that it’s rarely a serious impediment to travel.

It’s certainly a chunky zone with a whole lot to do, so I anticipate being here for a while. That’s OK; I’m starting to fill in my champion points and trying to grab as much level 50 stamina gear for my build. If I log in every night and accomplish a couple somethings — a quest chain, a delve, exploring more of the map — then I feel like I’m making good progress.

And there’s that cheeky ESO humor that pops up every now and then that I love. One of the city quests had a dubious figure challenge me to swipe a bottle of wine away from a bartender. To do that, I had to figure out from the bar’s patrons what really got under this guy’s skin and then select one of those methods to pull him away from the bottle.

(As an aside, I really love it when MMO quests give you multiple paths to the same objective — it’s something that games do far, far too little of, in my opinion.)

I elected to get this one guy really drunk so that he’d start crooning loudly. Which he did, and with the voice acting, it’s pretty funny. I almost didn’t grab the bottle, I was mesmerized by how bad this was.

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Elder Scrolls Online: I am the champion of the wor… of Glenumbra!

I really haven’t been in any hurry to move on from Glenumbra until I felt like I had gotten everything I wanted to out of this zone. Thanks to going through each and every storyline and getting in my daily dungeons — with an XP scroll running — I hit level 50 before I was even done with my character’s very first full-sized zone in this game! That seems a little weird to me, but never matter, at least I can get gear that I won’t be replacing every two minutes.

It also helps that Glenumbra is a largely pleasant place to adventure. I did all of the skyshards, delves, questlines, and the mini-world bosses (whatever they call those). I was kind of surprised that one of the champion mobs granted me a new costume, but hey, I ain’t complaining!

So it’s probably time to say farewell to Daggerfall and move on to wherever my questlog demands. I feel that I’m finally in a very good place in this game, with a solid build and a better understanding of how you milk all of the goodness out of a region.

It also means that I’m starting in on champion points, coincidentally right after they did a huge overhaul to the system. I think that right now it goes up to a ridiculous number, like in the 800s, so there’s going to be a lot of room for improvement. I’m finding that I’m getting CPs frequently in my adventures, and so I’m investing them wherever I think looks the most interesting without worrying about being slavish toward a build.

Blackwood is right around the corner, of course, and with it companions. I’m definitely planning on moving on to that expansion zone this summer, because I’m all about having a second pet (no offense, big bear). And, you know, hopefully the zone and its stories are engaging as well.