The term “endgame” has become a contentious one, with people arguing the definition repeatedly all over the place. Part of the issue is when people think that an MMO should have certain things and fit a certain definition. Others choose to focus upon what a game in particular “lacks” rather than what it has to offer. With The Elder Scrolls Online, this has also been the case, especially when it comes to what Zenimax is offering players not just at multiple levels, but at “endgame”. Yet ESO’s offerings for higher level players offer some fitting choices.
Personally, I think “endgame” is kind of a sloppy term since it minimizes what you do along the way. Some players want their MMOs to feel like a journey again and not just a grind from one hub or milestone to the next rung on the ladder. That’s why some of what ESO offers is encouraging in its variety.
While some might disagree with the lore in ESO that pits players against one another in three factions, it does set up a PvP system that draws a little from here and a little from there, but also tries to do its own thing and improve upon past systems. The economy is one way things are tied into PvP more than they are in some other games. Simplified, however, PvP is a feature that will be available to players for most of their journey, which will also include leveling skills and spending as much time as they want locked in battle with others.
Yet in many games, once you hit level cap, there isn’t much to do aside from raids and PvP. What’s a story-loving, PvE-minded player to do once he or she reaches the end of the content? Create an alt and then go through it all over again? Yes and no. Count me among those who love making alts and want to experience what a game has to offer on different paths. Trying something else, maybe a new class or starting area can be limiting too. In real life, if we want to go learn something, change a career, or simply try new things, we don’t regress into babies and start our entire lives over again. MMOs are obviously not real life, but honestly, with the way some games are structured, going through the same leveling content multiple times is only fun once or twice. It can be tedious, especially if a game has restricted options for starting zones, like SWTOR, even if the content that does differ (again, like SWTOR) is actually quite good.
The Elder Scrolls Online lets you unlock what is essentially “new game plus” at level 50. You can access content from the other factions and go through them on the same character. The altaholics can still go create new characters if they want to, but the PvE-inclined players that might otherwise get bored quickly after reaching cap and still have approximately 100+ more hours of content to play through. This also extends to dungeons, as players will be able to access those in the other factions’ settings too. Finally, skills don’t get rusty or stop at 50 either, so you can choose to go max anything and everything if you want to. All on the same character. Want to be a beefy dual-wielding, heavy armor wearing sorcerer? Go ahead. Desire the werewolf life? Sure.
This isn’t something new. Games like Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn give players the opportunity to do it all on one character. This sort of player choice is a good thing, since it helps with the dev side problem of those who would consume your content faster than you can get it out, and it helps players have more open to them in the end. Honestly, being able to go through new content on a leveled character that’s capable and strong is a nice option. Instead of always having to start anew as a noob, why not? It can also offer something to the RPers who won’t come up against invisible progression walls once they hit cap. They can keep and mold one character if they want. There are rewards for that kind of investment, and Zenimax knows that ES fans have been invested in their RP and in exploration and carving out their own paths in the single player series. It’s a smart move in the MMO; a natural one.
Obviously, in a subscription game, you want to give players a reason to keep renewing their subs, but gating some of the content behind things like race or class is artificial. If you’re a person that likes to play through content, you’ll have a lot of things to play through once you hit cap. You can build your own endgame.
Endgame is directed by what’s available in a given MMO, but letting there be multiple options (which, in ESO will also include Adventure Zones and world bosses, for which we should see some larger groups teaming up) is a good idea. The game won’t appeal to every player, but ultimately, no game will. If you are a raider, then maybe the sort of horizontal game plan here isn’t going to be your cup of tea. That said, there will be degrees of overlap in the audiences. It’s just nice to have a game that feels, as I’ve said before, like a mixture of old school and modern MMO, and I know I’m looking forward to not bumping my head on a ceiling when I hit level cap.
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