Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Does eating a giant make you a cannibal?

There’s always a giddy feeling when I get close to finishing up a map in Elder Scrolls Online. It’s the anticipation of that final task crossed off mixed with the worry that I have more to do than I thought. But I think I’m doing pretty well with Shadowfen. I even did the full public dungeon, which was (hilariously) a party that refused to quit and a poor guy who just wanted to escape.

And sure enough, I got done pretty quickly. In fact, this may be the first zone I’ve ever finished where I found all of the skyshards naturally without looking up a guide at the end for leftovers.

Our guild runs a regular “Price is Right” night where you can try to bid on different parcels. And lo and behold, I won a pack of about a dozen treasure maps. That sparked an idea — why not take an intermission before the next zone and go on a world-spanning treasure hunt to use these maps (and more I had in the bank besides)?

Instead, my plan fell apart after doing one (1) treasure because I so lost interest in flipping back and forth between web browsing and travel — and because when I got to Eastmarch, I went, “Hey, this is a pretty zone! I’d like to stay here and quest a while, don’t mind if I do!”

I might need to get a cabin in this zone. Wintry Alaskan wilderness does it for me.

So far I’ve been content to stay in skeleton form. There’s an inherent amusement value in watching my bare-bones character leap into action and perform amazing feats of magic.

Or I’ll change back in the next session. Nice to have options!

Leave it up to ESO to whip up gruesome quest chains. I was trying to help a village figure out why giants were rampaging against it. Turns out that some idiot was killing them — and then feasting on their flesh. I guess that’s bad? Does it count as cannibalism if you eat giants? So on one hand, I’m trying to stop this practice, but on the other hand, I have to kill about a dozen giants in the course of completing the quest.

The moral of this is: It’s OK to murder big humans, just don’t snack on them afterward.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Going on a crash-course diet

Nothing like logging into Elder Scrolls Online to immediately encounter an Argonian suntanning underneath the stocks. Never stop being weird, ESO. It’s why I love ya.

Shadowfen is proving to have quite a few great quest chains. I had a great time kicking Dominion tushies on behalf of pirates (for once), and liberating villages never quite gets old.

I don’t know if I’d ever roll up another character after grooving in the Warden for so long. She’s got everything I want out of a class and combat rotation in this game, so I guess I hit a home run right from the start.

Some of the most fun I have during these gameplay sessions is tackling the world bosses that populate each zone. About half the time I can solo them, but the other half requires at least one or two others. Either way, they’re challenging fights for once. This particular one was a bear — no Warden pun intended — because it took place in a confined cave with a ton of fire fields. Three of us wiped three times before we took him down on the fourth go.

Liberating villages in ESO is so frequent that I should get a punch card going. At the least, the game could make these interesting. And so it was with one particular enslaved town, as it used to be presided over by a self-styled king. He’s so silvery and pompous that I kind of became his fan club. You get the option to mock and intimidate him in the quests he gives you, but I chose to play it straight and respectful. Guy’s a KING, after all. And his story, as it unfolds, is rather tragic and makes him very sympathetic.

And speaking of sympathetic, there’s a whole village full of nice skeletons who disguise themselves as (what else?) silver-skinned people. Naturally, they’re terrified of becoming enslaved to necromancers. Gee, wish I was one right about now!

Or I could get turned into a skeleton myself. I won’t lie — I’d totally play this as my race for the rest of the game if I had that option.

And as soon as I wished that, I finished the quest and got my very first polymorph, a skeleton disguise. Welp, wish come true!

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: The non-mobile adventures of Elfy Elferson

I’m not leaving ESO right now after all, but I am throttling down a bit to just a quest or two a day. Keepin’ my toes in the water, so to speak. So Shadowfen adventures continue as I commune with the Hist and try to figure out why the Dominion is doing all of this body-swapping nastiness.

The bad guys stormed a village looking for an artifact, killing or enslaving everyone there in the process. Fortunately, there’s a resistance that’s fighting back — once I rescue them from their own captivity, of course.

Revenge is a dish best served flaming and burning down everything that the enemy loves dear — including its huge ship. Makes for nice kindling, at least. And hey, I got injected with the power of the keystone, which definitely will not give me cancer or cold sores!

I finished up the main storyline in the zone surprisingly quick, so it fell to delves, side quests, and other odds and ends to keep me occupied. I liked the shadows and lighting in this particular little pocket dungeon.

Meet Elfy Elferson, my new captive friend. He’s available for patty-cake pretty much 24/7 these days.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Wearing Edgar like a suit

More Shadowfen adventures this week. I’m not entirely sure quite yet, but this feels like a smaller zone than normal in terms of its content. I wouldn’t mind that so much — I feel like it’s becoming a one-note locale with a whole lot of Dominion using magic to mimic murdered people’s bodies. That’s interesting, but not all-zone-all-the-time interesting.

One of the delves had a section that was a maze-like drowned library, which I thought was thematically nifty.

Not too long after, I encountered a quest that really impressed me. I was going through some “trials” of the sort that MMOs occasionally like to make players do, when I was given a 1:20 timer and told to hit some waypoints as fast as possible. Not a lot of time, but with a super fast mount it was doable.

However, halfway through the course, I encounter a hurt NPC who begs for my help to escort her limping form back to safety. So with the timer ticking away, I had to make the choice on the spot — and while I figured that the right thing the devs wanted me to do was the escort, it still pained me a bit to abandon the timer. It was a clever little way to play on the user’s psychology to have them make a judgment call of helping oneself or another. So well done on that.

Unfortunately, this past week I started to feel that predictable decline in personal enthusiasm for ESO. I swear, I can get about a good solid month from time to time in this game before my interest flatlines. It may be partially my messed-up head, but honestly a lot of it is in the game’s design. This MMO has tremendous quests and world-building, but there’s precious little “stickiness” in a way that I would prefer. I don’t feel like I’m improving my character or chasing any significant goals. Combat is ridiculously easy (and boring). And sometimes the zones, quests, and little instances are a bit too samey.

So I come back to the game, get enthused, have a good time, but fail to stick to any of it — and so the inevitable decline until the cycle repeats in a few more months’ time.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: You need to die, is that a problem?

I get genuinely excited whenever Elder Scrolls Online sends me underground because I know I have a better-than-average chance of seeing more gorgeous landscapes than I would in the above world. Maybe the designers like the moody lighting and dungeon motifs to give it a bit extra down here.

But no time for gawking — I had to put an end to the plague, the Maulborn, and its leader Vox to save Deshaan. And for that, apparently I had to kick the bucket via a magical hammer, because that’s exactly how my week is going.

I really liked that toward the end of the zone’s quest arc, the game shows the backstory of the main villain — her motivation for turning evil when her killer son was executed. Then there’s a neat final struggle to save all of the souls that got trapped by her super-hammer, and all is well that ends well.

With Deshaan finally wrapped up, I took a feeder quest south into Shadowfen. Figured I might as well, since it was right next door and all that. And it all starts here with a trio of very weird murders that’ve happened in a Dunmer community. There’s a lot of the Dominion killing people and becoming pod people that look and sort of act like the real thing. It’s all “ooh, anyone could be a fake!” scifi.

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Elder Scrolls Online: Tentatively excited for Necrom

Any time Elder Scrolls Online dips into the steampunk arena, I’m there for it. I especially love the angry constructs and deeply wish that I had a class or skill line that was able to control them. That could be this year’s entire chapter — Give Syp Robots. I’d pay extra for that.

I’m continuing with a lot of Deshaan plague quests — honestly, they start running into one another after a while with little variations on the themes. But I do try to slow down every so often to appreciate the gorgeous little world design touches that are in this game, even so minute as the lighting coming in through stained glass.

This zone’s had some surprisingly good questlines with dashes of roleplay, detective solving, and choice making. ESO is a tad underrated for those qualities, I find.

Of course, last week we got the plan for 2023 in ESO. Namely, we’re heading back to Morrowind for a two-zone chapter called Necrom, getting the Arcanist class, and later on there’s going to be an “endless dungeon” to tackle. It all looks solid but not hugely exciting — much like previous ESO chapter. I’m all for adding more classes, but I also can’t see re-rolling right now. Honestly, I kind of wish they added some new skill lines and weapons, which would benefit all current classes.

I am glad we’re getting more story, although I do need to finish up something like three or four expansions and other base game content at my pokey pace. So my hype meter is low-to-middling, but I’m willing to hear (or experience) something to jack that up.

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Elder Scrolls Online: Lapping up the plague like there’s no tomorrow

And just like that, I’m back in Elder Scrolls Online for the first time since last spring. It truly did feel like coming home in a way, with my virtual house, character, and cranky bear waiting for me to visit. Since I had finished up Blackwood last time I played, I started down the path of a new zone — Deshaan — with my Warden.

Right away, I was plunged into a plague-ridden zone. And no masks, can you believe it? Ah well, that’s how you get zombies. And it turns out that the nominally altruistic people claiming to help cure the plague were the ones actually spreading it. Least surprising twist ever.

Even though it was basic, it was perfect to get my feet wet with the game again. I enjoyed a time of soaking up the story, getting used to my faceroll combat rotation again, and romped around a mini-tomb for some time.

I’ve long come to realize that if you aren’t willing to immerse yourself into the story and worldbuilding of ESO, you might as well get out of there. This title emphasizes the experience more than some other MMOs, and so I do try to slow down and soak it all in.

To push back against the Maulborn and their use of the plague to decimate the region, I smash up some wards protecting them of said plague and then help archers ambush a plague-carrying convoy to unleash the stuff on the bad guys. Pro: This works wonderfully. Con: This works terribly, and the plague starts to get out of control. Bio warfare is trickier than it looks!

Happily, we quickly corner the creator of the plague and take him down — netting the formula notes to the plague itself. Hopefully this gives the good guys a helpful boost in ending this threat in the region.

For a break from plague clean-up, I conned an invitation to Elder Scrolls Hogwarts — a semi-exclusive magic school waiting for the likes of me. I’m just counting down the minutes until it’s revealed that this place is a cannibal den or a Pinocchio slave dealer. Or, as I found out, some sort of mysterious threat that I’ve got to root out to keep the students safe.

I take my snark back — this actually turned out to be one of the finer quest chains I’ve encountered in ESO. I first am tasked with helping out three somewhat hapless students succeed in their studies. Then, when the school is taken over Die Hard-style, I’m conked out by the bad guy, thrown in jail, busted out of jail, and then have to reunite with these three kids — the only ones left unaffected by a mind-controlling spell — to use the same skills from earlier to overthrow the baddies.

The end of the quest where the students — my newfound virtual friends — say goodbye was genuinely bittersweet. I wouldn’t have minded staying there longer.

ESO is pretty. That is all.

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ESO: Wrapping up Blackwood

It’s been a while since I went on an unintentional Elder Scrolls Online hiatus, and I guess I stopped right at the start of the big climax to Blackwood. The Waking Flame cult is heading toward the fortress where the good guys and the ambitions are preparing to make their stand, which means that it’s time to play One Girl Army again.

Admittedly, this set piece is full of terrific moments, from Oblivion portals popping in left and right to a demon that uppercut punched a guy off a ledge.

None is quite as impressive as this big red dude coming through the dimensions. You know how MMO raid bosses are always orders of magnitude larger the normal mobs? This guy is the epitome of that. As with most ESO main questlines, the ending was a long slog to a boss fight that effectively serves to say “Sorry, but the REAL boss is in the fall DLC. See you then!”

After the main Blackwood storyline, I turned my attention to tidying up some of the loose ends — skyshrines, delves, side quests — around the area. This is probably my least favorite part of doing zones, just because it’s a lot of busy work done for that feeling of completion rather than progression.

I am currently planning on playing High Isle this month, but I’m not exactly champing at the bit for it, either. ESO is fine and agreeable to play, but the current game and upcoming expansion don’t have a lot to dangle to excite me other than “more story.” And don’t get me wrong — I like more good stories, but I really would like to feel like my character has some strong chase goals in front of her. And I don’t know what ZeniMax could do right now to make that happen. More skill morphs? Different weapons? Jet packs?

I really wouldn’t complain if the studio took next year to work on a completely revamped combat system rather than another expansion, but I know that is a foolish wish. “Revamped combat” doesn’t get sales.

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ESO: Snake-ka-bob!

Whenever you’re juggling three or more MMOs at a time, it’s impossible to maintain the same level of excitement and interest between them all. It’s just how it goes — one or two are going to have your heart, another one will be about moments, and the last will find itself becoming the unloved child of the bunch.

And the crazy thing is that those priorities can reshift on a weekly basis. I’ve just learned not to force it with MMOs. If I’m interested, I’m into it; if not, I’m not going to treat the game like homework.

This is all a lead-up to say that Elder Scrolls Online has, as of late, become that last-place game. I kinda want to play it and enjoy it when I do, but it’s lacking that compelling spark that pulls me in. I suspect a lot of this is due to going through Blackwood, which I’ve found to be a fairly bland expansion zone. It’s not terrible, but very little about it stands out, either.

I mean, the main storyline is nothing to write home about, but that’s almost always the case with the bigger ESO plotlines. I show up to play the little side story arcs that end up being a heck of a lot more memorable and creative. But even in Blackwood, there haven’t been as many winners in that category. So I slog through the swamp, dutifully checking off main story objectives, and hoping that it’ll all be done soon so I can move on.

I think there’s a lot of fatigue with MMOs on the whole trying to create and sustain these apocalyptic storylines. It’s always an arms race to establish a bigger threat than the last time, even though you know said threat will get taken down in the final quest or raid.

So maybe MMOs need to stop with this and realize that stakes can be compelling even if they don’t have “or else the world will explode” attached to them. I’ve heard that ZeniMax is indeed de-escalating somewhat for this coming June’s expansion, which is a good move. I may even be done with Blackwood by then.

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ESO: The vanity of the elves

With many of the side quests done in Blackwood, I turned my attention last week to the sorely neglected main storyline. I thought I was further along, but no, only 2 out of 7 steps done — and those are some mighty big steps.

Like many main storylines, it’s a bit of take-it-and-leave-it. Cults? Betrayals? We’ve been down this road before. But it’s got some nice Oblivion theming, what with four-armed demons popping out of portals.

I took a break from that to help out some old friends in “An Abundance of Stibbins.” Lady Clarisse and her manservant managed to bungle some sort of curse artifact that Multiplicitied Stibbins here.

Apparently the duplicates are being created by a sorcerer to undo the locks on his captivity, but fortunately for us, the Stibbins are all very loyal to Clarisse. So loyal, in fact, that I can use them like lemmings to navigate the next dungeon. Stand here, do this, die like a hero. Nice in concept, but kind of really buggy and annoying to complete. At least it was amusing!

Back to the main questline and into a doomvault… which spits us out into the Deadlands. Which, I’m guessing, is ESO’s version of lava hell. As a Secret World veteran, it’s child’s play to me, really. My favorite part was when my companion Bastion yelled in combat “Oblivion take you!” to a critter… who was already in Oblivion. Get with the times, Bast.

Deep, deep inside the vault we find a brother and sister just hanging out, doing art, journaling, and honing their unimaginable power. I think these two are what we came to collect. Them, not their art.

No, elves are not impossibly vain creatures. Why do you ask?