While there have been a few bumps in the road for the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online, these have been typical for MMOs. Launch has worked out mostly as anyone with MMO experience might expect, with some players experiencing issues, and some painful growing pains that began once the gates opened up to the masses. Yet this will concentrate more on some pain of a different kind - the kind inflicted upon players through gameplay.
I've been playing a dual-wield Nightblade since early access began. I usually play alongside a ranged character, so we have several bases covered. Over the weekend came my very first real test. We entered a Fighters' Guild quest location, only to discover that the final quest was an instanced solo affair. At the end of this quest (spoilers ahead!), which is available at level eight, there is a transforming Necromancer named Doshia. She's divisive, because it can be a very tough battle or pretty straightforward, depending on your class and faction. Some have even taken her down before she transformed. You'll face her in either a very large lair room or inside a tiny room with not much room to maneuver. As you might have guessed, my ranged partner shot her down quickly enough and gloated as my character ate dirt several times over.
The key to this battle is fighting in third-person and taking out four orbs that spawn from the corners of the room. Those orbs will heal her, but they will also heal you if you destroy them in time. Doshia's attacks don't actually hurt too much and you can kite her and lure her around the room. The orb spawn also makes a sound when it happens, giving you a cue to get them all before she can absorb one and heal herself all the way back up. It can be frustrating, since if she gets one orb, she can heal herself fully. That might mean whacking her health down multiple times before you can take her down. This fight, with the game's targeting system, is definitely easier if you're not a close-quarters melee class. I always tend to be particularly drawn to the stabby rogues, so this was definitely a challenge to learn how to solve.
At first, I was frustrated. I admit to my share of complaining. How was this boss kicking me into the floor at level 8 to my 12? After licking my wounds and handing over 400 gold to a nice elf to magically repair my armor, I decided to stew it out for a while. I did other quests, explored, crafted, and thought about what I would do about Doshia. Not being the most skilled player in the world, I thought maybe a few more levels or being able to equip a ranged weapon in addition to my daggers might help me put an end to her. Last night, I decided to try again.
Initial frustration aside, the fact that a boss like this can actually pose a challenge to players (judging by the forums, I was not the only one who had trouble with her, even after an apparently beta nerf) is a good thing. After doing the rest of the quest together, it was something to just be left alone in the instance, and having to just learn how to put it all together. As I said earlier, I'm not the most skilled player, and I'm playing a stabby rogue, which is my favorite class to play but carries its own learning curve adapting to each game.
Yet, the elation at having Doshia's corpse at my feet last night after the sixth try felt good. It was hard won, and that battle gave me a sense of accomplishment of a type that I haven't had in a while. If this was an early boss, it makes me wonder what's going to be next. That said, sometimes the difficulty in the quests and mobs feels like it could use a little tuning in some cases. Some feel easy and intuitive and others can nearly kill you while you eke out a victory. I'm sure we'll see changes over time to the game, but this is something that you may notice while playing now.
One complaint, however. This is an MMORPG, and while it makes sense, thematically, to be proving yourself worthy of the Fighters' Guild, the rest of the quest line doesn't happen within separate instances. You can complete the entire thing with a friend or three except for this final instance. While overcoming this challenging boss fight was exciting and rewarding (after those initial grumbles), there should be the option to take your friends with you. Thus, the design is a little bit wonky, and it's that line between RPG and MMO that Zenimax is walking with the game. Most of the time, it feels operational, and then there are elements like this that feel out of whack with the rest of the quest before it. So while I'm looking forward to challenges ahead, I am not looking forward to surprises like suddenly being in a different instance than my group in Doshia's lair and only for that part of the quest.
Overall, however, presenting a challenging boss with a very active strategy is an appropriate welcome. The experience was like a miniature raid, and that only adds to the feeling I have while playing that The Elder Scrolls Online is a good blend of old school and modern MMO. Launch week kinks aside, it's a promising start that I hope holds up.
Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez