OK, I Take it Back (ESO)

on June 19, 2021 in Elder Scrolls Online, ESO

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“Steam had a sale” is a common excuse for a lot of the stuff that is sitting in my library. It also explains some eye-popping July credit card statements, but that is a different problem. Most of the time those games get played for a bit and then gather digital dust. But there are a few that have been gathering dust since the day I purchased them. Elder Scrolls Online is one such title.

I have no idea how it ended up in my library because I don’t do MMOs. I went back to my purchase history to find out when I bought it (June 2014), so I can only guess that it was either on sale or perhaps came bundled with something else that I wanted, but more likely the former since it was about two months after the game’s release, and I can’t think of anything that would have had ESO bundled with it that I didn’t already own. Curse you, Steam.

Mostly out of curiosity, I broke down and installed it last week and must admit that I’m VERY impressed at the quality of the game. My objections to MMOs mostly stem from some very bad experiences with griefers back in the day. One of the reasons why I play video games is to escape from the assholes I have to deal with in real life. Boss on your ass? Let’s grab a tank and blow up shit. Pecked to death by ducks? Say hello to my little friend! Bumper-to-bumper on the way home? GTA driving lessons are the cure. Significant other riding your ass about something? You’re on your own. I do not want to deal with a bunch of kiddies who think that a gamertag is complete anonymity and a license to do whatever they want.

ESO is significantly different from what I have come to expect from MMOs in that almost the entire game game can be solo’d. With the exception of some Veteran level dungeons (Borderlands players can think of it as akin to Ultimate Vault Hunter mode) and 12-player trials (which obviously require a dozen players), you can solo your way through the entire game. It’s probably easier to think of the game as a single-player game with some MMO elements than it is to think of it as an MMO. “Pleasantly surprised” is a pretty apt descriptor and I’m regretting letting it gather dust for seven or so years.

All of that being said, the game does fall short on several fronts, not the least of which is clearly explaining exactly what it is that the player is supposed to be doing at any given time. Yes, it suffers from the same “follow the quest marker” problem that Oblivion and Skyrim made popular. But the game has some of the best written and designed quests that I have come across in a few decades of coming across. I haven’t run into a single fetch quest in close to 200 hours of play. The missions are all solid (and sometimes humorous) endeavors that do a very good job of telling a story within a story.

The crafting system is both a blessing and a curse and something that I will deal with in due course. In the meantime, I intend to explore.

For those who do not have the game, put it on your wishlist. There is enough content in the base game alone to keep you occupied for a few hundred hours. If you like it, then springing the bucks for an ESO Plus subscription might be worthwhile. You’ll get access to all the expansions, except the most recent (Blackwood), but a bundle sale can cover that, too. In the meantime, I’m off to explore and perhaps I’ll see you somewhere in Tamriel.

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