Now that we have a release date for Imperial City and according to Matt Firor, Wrothgar isn’t far off either (early 2015), I want to pose a question to the community. This question is one that I’m still debating over and can’t come to an actual decision on where I stand, or where I should stand.
Before I played the Elder Scrolls Online I never really cared too much about the story. I used to be heavily invested in World of Warcraft. While I knew everything about the lore, who the characters were and their history, when it came to actual questing I skipped through a lot of the written quest dialogue. Why? Because I didn’t feel engaged. Their ability to grab my attention and keep me invested was poor. The quest text in a lot of cases wasn't written very well. They were funny at times but never to the point where I had to find out what happened next. I have all the World of Warcraft books and lore guides, which I think are written very well. Christie Golden is a fantastic author, but the in-game story-telling was always lackluster.
However with The Elder Scrolls Online, I went through every quest available for The Daggerfall Covenant faction. Some of the side quests felt as "meh" as some of the WoW ones but for the most part I was engaged in the stories. I listened to the NPCs to learn more about the situation. When it came to making a choice I weighed the pros and cons of each decision as if my choice really affected the people of Tamriel. There is a quest where High King Emeric allowed me to choose who would become the leader of that area. I didn’t make this choice without heavy thought. The ending to the primary storyline had me staring at my screen for what felt like hours, deciding on whose fate I should seal.
No game has ever made me think about my decisions as they do in ESO. As I mentioned, it’s not just the primary storyline either. I was invested in some of the side quests just as much. This is why I don’t know where I stand on this question.
What is more important for ESO, storyline progression or content?
Now before everyone jumps down my throat saying they are the same thing, think of it this way. Dungeons, justice system and dark brotherhood are content to do. These don’t progress the primary storyline. Whereas expansions would provide us a primary storyline progression, fighting MoLag Bal, finding out if Darrien is actually dead, learning what happens to the remaining people of the storyline, for me it’d be Varen Aquilarios, Lyris Titanborn, Abnur Tharn, and Mannimarco (who I saved in hopes I could choose to sacrifice).
If I was writing this column for Star Wars: The Old Republic I would easily say storyline progression is the most important part. In SWTOR the primary storyline was so incredibly better than the side quests that no matter what content they release, it’ll always be sub-par to the primary storyline. I would easily throw money at BioWare if they gave me personal storyline progression. However, ESO isn’t SWTOR and the side quests and stories of the former are often equally as epic.
In ESO, as I said earlier, the side quests have the player as involved with them as they would be with the primary storyline. So, with Zenimax throwing out new content I am excited to play it. Not because it’s new and shiny, but because I know I’ll get to go on an adventure and not just go from quest hub to quest hub mindlessly grinding just to hit level cap and get the new gear. That is what I would expect from another game but not ESO. As I wrote in ESOTU: it is not about the end game. ESO is all about the adventure, and if you play it focused solely on “getting to the end” you’ll find the game a disappointment.
Imperial City is right around the corner, Wrothgar is coming up as well and I am extremely excited for both of those. This is unusual for me. Expansions rarely get me excited because they just add to the already grindy aspect of a title. Look at SWTOR. It has released two expansions so far, Hutt Cartel and Revan. Neither offered any additional story except for side quests. No advancement on the primary storyline. Hutt Cartel added an entire planet, filled with dailies. Yay... dailies.
That’s the difference between ESO and other games. Even its fluff content has purpose, has meaning. You’re not just doing it to reach higher levels. You’re doing it because you enjoy the adventure.
Where do you stand: do you think ESO should have more focus on the primary storyline (the Daedric Princes and Molag Bal) or continue to provide us a meaningful adventure through Tamriel?