(If this post breaks the ESO NDA… um, sorry?)
I got to finally play ESO this weekend, and more than anything it surprised me. I wasn’t blow away and loved it, but I also didn’t hate it. I wish it was more sandbox, I hate some of the stronger themepark influences, yet after a weekend, level 8, and close to ten hours, I’m still unsure how I feel about the game, which is a good sign I think. Part of me expected to be disgusted with the whole thing instantly, and that didn’t happen.
The biggest surprise was how well the game uses the IP in some regards. There is no mini map, instead you get the familiar bar at the top ala Skyrim. It’s a small UI detail, but I love it. Just screams “this is Elder Scrolls” while also moving itself away from the themepark default.
I also like all of the random, small containers around the world that you can loot for little crafting bits, or read little lore notes; that’s straight out of Skyrim (and games before it), and while again a little detail, makes a small difference; finally you have a reason to check every room and corner for something, even if that something is pretty minor.
When you walk by NPCs in cities, they throw out little comments ala Skyrim. Immersion! Also first-person worked great and again pulled me into the game and helped distance it from ‘yet another themepark’.
I wasn’t listening to the quests (wanted to get as far as I could), but I did notice certain NPCs move with you from zone to zone, which story wise I’m sure is interesting, rather than having the usual one-and-done NPCs in most themeparks.
I don’t want to get into combat too much as I suspect some of it was debugger effected, but it feels like Skyrim. That’s not a total compliment as combat in Skyrim is pretty meh, but meh is better than straight garbage, which is what so many of these games have. I do like the system of limiting your available skills via hotbar slots. I know GW2 did something like this, but tying skills to weapons is more restricting and annoying (I don’t want to use a 2h sword but 2h sword has the skills I want, for example), while in ESO you have more freedom and options. Perhaps long-term the system sucks, but up to level 8 I liked it.
I mentioned in a quick post earlier the game being easy; it still was at level 6-8, but a bit better. I actually died because I pulled a mob group poorly, and I just wish MORE of the game was on that level rather than the usual PvE faceroll. I also have concern about the general PvE when approached as a duo or in a group; it feels like all of that stuff is balanced around doing it solo, which is again an unfortunate themepark flaw.
Speaking of themepark flaws, unlike Skyrim ESO is divided into zones rather than being a world. Hate that. The three early zones I saw were not small, but not huge, and while not as point-A-to-point-B as I’ve experienced in some themeparks, certainly did not have the feeling of freedom that you have in Skyrim, where you can just pick a direction and discover what the world holds.
I didn’t get a chance to try the PvP, although I’ve heard from those who have that it’s not bad (I’ve heard DAoC-like mentioned, but that is a tall mark to reach).
Graphically the game is interesting, in that the graphics are not worse than Skyrim (hyper-graphic mods aside), just slightly more cartoony. Character models look really good, while animations are pretty hit or miss (ala Skyrim). The game loaded quickly and ran great for me, but keep in mind I am playing on top-end hardware. No complaints on the sound, good stuff. (Funny side note 99% of you won’t get: some of the NPCs don’t have text recorded yet, so instead the text is read by a computerized voice. The voice made me think of the Barstool short videos, so I got a good laugh out of that).
Now for some fear/wishful thinking; if the later zones in the game are more linear, that would suck (how many MMOs have front-loaded the best stuff early after all). If the later zones are larger, more ‘worldly’, with the initial zones being more linear to ease people into the game, that would be awesome. If someone wants to confirm which it is, if that’s currently known, that would be cool.
So final verdict? Undecided, although a bit more positive on the game now than before this weekend. Looking forward to ‘testing’ it a bit more, assuming this doesn’t get the account banned.