Last week, the press was finally given an opportunity to weigh in on The Elder Scrolls Online with a torrent of previews that flooded the interwebs. The response was decidedly mixed overall, but personally, I can say I’m a fan of what I’ve played so far. Even after putting in time for my previews, I played quite a bit more of ESO over this past weekend and I found myself consistently surprised at all the little things that added up to make an experience I was already enjoying even better.
For one, and I did mention this in my Stros M’kai preview but it bears repeating, you’ll occasionally find treasure maps in ESO, and this encourages you to explore the game world. There are no hints on these treasure maps other than the picture drawn out for you and X marking the spot of the treasure. If you do manage to find one of these treasure locations, you’ll have to dig up the chest and do the lockpicking minigame. Even something as small as having to actively lockpick chests is a neat little thing worth noting. There aren’t skills associated with this just yet, but I am hoping that once the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood come online, we’ll see some sneaking and lockpicking associated active skills or passives.
And then there’s the game map. Most things on the map are not actually revealed to you right away. I’ve read comments about how ESO is still an on-rails themepark, but really, try actually running around the world. You’ll find random quests all over the place and you’ll even find public dungeons which you can explore with other players. These dungeons often feature an end boss, dungeon specific loot, and even a Skyshard. Heck, sometimes talking to random NPCs will also unveil locations on the map for you to go check out. It’s tempting to just talk to NPCs that are clearly denoted as being quest givers, but you may be surprised by some of the conversations you can have with seemingly random NPCs.
One of the most satisfying things I discovered by pure chance was a cavern that featured unique crafting tables for the gear producing crafting disciplines. These crafting tables allowed me to create items from the 'Night’s Silence' item set. I was already impressed with crafting, but now I was really excited. I didn’t even know crafting item sets was a thing in ESO.
In order to make any specific Night’s Silence piece, I would have needed to have researched any two traits for the item type I want to craft (e.g. any two traits researched for medium armor gloves were required to make Night's Silence medium armor gloves). Creating and equipping any three Night's Silence set pieces would confer the set bonus +40% health regeneration while hidden. As a bow wielding Nightblade, this was definitely right up my alley, but it also had me wondering about all the other item sets I could potentially discover and craft in ESO.
It’s not often I want to fall back on telling someone they are “playing the game wrong”, but I do feel that the prevailing opinion that exploration in ESO is pointless is more than a bit inaccurate. There is simply a lot to explore and discover in the game and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
While we are on the subject of crafting, I noticed another thing that impressed me about crafting this past weekend and that is the subtle change in the look of items you craft, even within a particular tier of items. Like many other MMOs, crafting gear in ESO is separated by material. For example, creating cloth armor from levels 1-15 will require Jute, but then you’ll use an entirely different material for items beyond that level. You’ll need to use more Jute to create a level 4 cloth chest piece vs. a level 1 cloth chest piece, but you’ll be using the same resource and the look will overall be the same until you start crafting, say, level 16 cloth chest pieces with a new material.
The thing is, and I didn’t notice this at first, there is an actual visual difference between a level 1 crafted chest piece and say, a level 4 crafted chest piece of the same style. No doubt that it’s subtle at first, but while the overall ‘look’ will be the same, the color palette will be different. Again, it’s just one of those little things.
What’s even more impressive is that items that are improved in quality also sport visual changes. After crafting my level 10 medium armor set, I noticed that I had enough Hemming to guarantee an improvement on the chest piece I just crafted to bring it from white to green quality, so I did. And this is where I noticed that the item’s visuals changed once again.
My newly upgraded chest piece looked exactly the same as before, only now it sported a snazzy metallic brass trim. This change stood out against the overall much darker item set I just crafted and I noticed the change immediately. I have no idea how the look would change from green to blue, or from blue to purple, but the point is that these little changes are possible. Not only can you craft items in 14 different visual styles, with an entirely different look at every tier, but each of those tiers features visual variance along the way and the same is true for improvements in quality. As someone who appreciates spicing up my look often, I’m really excited by the fact that crafting allows me to both functionally and visually improve my items.
It’s all these little things that I continually discover about the game that are really driving my excitement for ESO’s release in April. Previously, ESO wasn’t really on my radar. The only reason I was interested in ESO at all was for the potential for good RvR. WildStar just looked better to me in every other area. Now? I’m actually interested and encouraged by what the rest of ESO has to offer. I’ve also just started a new game of Oblivion, and you’ll understand why later this week.
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB