After getting some more hands on time with the game’s first ten levels, here are some of my key concerns.
Why does this need to be an MMO?
One of the key characteristics of an Elder Scrolls game is its expansive world and the ability to do whatever your heart desires. Do you want walk around for hours upon hours? Go right ahead. Feel like focusing only on the game’s story missions? Be my guest. It’s a characteristic that transfers to the MMO genre quite well…for the most part.
I can still travel wherever I want, whenever I want. I can still play the game to my liking and build my character to my choosing. I can even loot every chest, crate, and drawer I see in the game. I can’t, however, steal every sword, shield, and horse in the world. While disappointing, I understand the mechanics behind it: if there are thousands of other players stealing everything they can see, the city guard would have a nightmare on their hands. In theory, the trade-off for this is the interaction between those thousands of other players.
But there wasn’t any. For the past week, I’ve maybe seen one of two people in-game, always in a city, always running from point A to point B as fast as they can. Even if those player interactions were present during the beta, I’m still not quite sure if they can make up for the ability to take whatever I want whenever I want. Sometimes you just want to create a little mayhem.
Loot rewards from quests aren’t exciting.
There are two reasons to quest in an MMO: the amount of experience you’ll receive and the rewards you’ll be offered. Normally, players are offered a choice between items and they’ll pick up the one that suits their needs best. This isn’t the case in Elder Scrolls Online. I’m playing a Dragonknight, using a two-handed weapon and heavy armor. Every time I get a staff, light armor, or a dagger as a quest reward, a part of my character dies inside. I put all of that hard work killing those infernal spawns from Oblivion and all I got was this stupid piece of cloth? Gee, thanks.
Seriously though, one of the biggest issues in the beta is the fact that some of the more powerful NPCs can severely outmatch you, especially if your equipment isn’t up to par. I’ve spent an hour or so bashing my head in against an enemy before giving up to do other quests, finally pick up that weapon upgrade I so desperately needed, and returned to own some face.
The point is that I shouldn’t have to bash my skull in when completing quests. I understand that sometimes a challenge is nice, but this isn’t a challenge. This is being undergeared and having to work hard to fix that.
Maybe I’m just bad at killing some of these monsters, but it’d still be nice to get equipment I can actually use instead of selling or extracting all the time.
This isn’t the most intuitive game in the world.
One of the proposed alternatives to getting items from quests is making them yourself. The game’s crafting system is incredibly intriguing and enjoyable…once you figure it out. The UI is the exact opposite of intuitive. Maybe I’m just really slow, but it took me too long to realize that I had to go into the extract tab, then the consumable tab, to turn iron ore into iron ingots. Granted, clicking a bunch of buttons would have solved that problem, but so would have a better tutorial system.
Considering how many times I’ve heard “I don’t know crafting works” from colleagues, maybe I’m not so dumb.
Or maybe we all are.
Either way, it doesn’t stop there. The game didn’t tell me I couldn’t enchant certain equipment because they are locked. A Bethesda rep had to. I have to assume that certain items I need to craft various goods are only found in the wild because, well, I can’t buy them from a merchant. I’m not asking to be handheld, but just an occasional bread crumb trail would be nice.
Combat can be, at times, frustrating.
When an enemy is charging an attack, I’m often given a prompt to interrupt that cast. Sometimes the interrupt animation actually works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does work, sometimes the charge isn’t interrupted and I take a lot of damage to the face.
Why didn’t it work? Was I out of range? Did the game bug out? Did I miss the hitbox somehow? I have no idea why any of my interrupts miss, but I do know that I shouldn’t be prompted to do something if it won’t work. I really want to enjoy the combat in Elder Scrolls Online, but the game isn’t letting me.
Granted, a lot of the combat frustrations stems from the game being unintuitive, which was the previous point I talked about. It’s very easy to get frustrated in the heat of battle when you can’t use a skill and the game’s minimal HUD doesn’t mention that you’re out of stamina and that’s why you can’t use certain abilities. This leads to a pretty frustrating experience. Sure, I can go look after the fact and realize “oh, that’s why I can’t use that ability,” but again, it’d be nice to be reminded that I can’t use that knockback because I lack stamina. There’s no indicator that says so, though even if there was it’d just be tucked away in the upper right hand corner of the screen, away from all the action.
Oh, and when I can’t see the big red frontal cone on the ground because I’m playing in first person and the enemy is right on top of me, yeah, that really stinks.
What’s the plan for end-game?
No matter how successful the journey to max level is, an MMO is defined by what’s in store for players at end-game. If you have a bunch of maxed out characters with nothing to do, they won’t continue to subscribe. With the exception of PVP, there’s been little, if any, information regarding what end-game content will be in Elder Scrolls Online. Will there be plenty of max level dungeons and raids? Will the questing continue? Can we steal horses at max level? Only time will tell.