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Columns: Adventure Zones as End Game

By Ryan Getchell on April 16, 2014

Adventure Zones as End Game

End Game, those two little words can spark major debates. What exactly constitute as “End Game” content? Is End Game content in a MMO raiding, clearing high tier level content, receive epic items as a reward? Or is it just added quest and story arcs that progress the overall game timeline? Perhaps it is Tri-Realm PvP content. Whatever you consider to be End Game, the Elder Scrolls Online has it.

There are many different forms of end game in ESO, you can do PvP, an ever changing experience that will have you adapting your skills to every situation you encounter. You can do the 50++ content, now some people don’t consider this end game strictly because it is part of the Veteran rank leveling process but I think they are wrong. The Veteran rank leveling process is part of the end game, it is the content you (optionally) can do when you’ve completed the primary story line and leveling experience (achieving level 50). Of course we have the elusive Adventure Zones (AZ). Up until now we’ve known very little about what exactly the AZ will have for content. This week’s column I’m going to take a look at what exactly the AZs are, and what we as players, can get from them.


In recent MMOs end game has been about “raiding”. I put raiding in quotes because every developer has their own spin on what they want to call “raiding”. For example, Star Wars: The Old Republic called it Operations, but it was the typical experience that MMO players were expecting. The Elder Scrolls Online calls their experience “Adventure Zones” or “Trials” since that is the large group content that players will be racing to complete (key word racing). However, I don't think ESO’s implementation of it is the typical experience that players are used to. Which would make sense, since a lot of the features in ESO aren’t your typical MMO experiences (lack of a global AH, Guild Stores, Semi-Classless design, No Mini Map, no in-depth numbers, etc.). Some people consider this bad, and it might even make the game “unplayable” in their eyes. I, however am glad that a AAA MMO developer is trying to escape the over-used and mundane MMO mold.

Craglorn is going to be the first installment of the ESO Adventure Zone. This zone is an entire landmass designed around 4 player group combat, with sections (instanced) devoted to large 12-player group content. The entire zone isn’t instanced, it will be as explorable as any other place in the game. You’ll be able to encounter other groups while your group is adventuring. Consider it a large public dungeon in a sense. Like other zones, you won’t see any of the opposing factions, you’ll see only your own. So there will be no PvP options in Craglorn. That isn’t to say we can’t expect something similar to what Neverwinter did with their large scale dungeons. A section of Gauntlgrym was a PvP battle where if you won, you continued on a better path (in terms of item drops). If you lost, you still got to continue the dungeon but you opened a path of the dungeon that didn’t have as high quality gear as the winner’s path. But I digress, back to Craglorn!

There are 4-player dungeons that are instanced to your group: these are called delves and can be found throughout all of Craglorn. Most commonly they will be found along the main storyline. That being said, Craglorn is designed in such a way that (like other zones) it promotes exploration, you’ll find unique enemies and dungeons that aren’t part of the story of main story arc of Craglorn but nonetheless you’ll still want to explore these areas.

As for the large group dungeons, aka Trials, and how they differ than that of the commonly used end game dungeons. These trials, unlike regular dungeons, have major limitations to them. A major one being you’ll only be able to perform 60 resurrections (this number may change as it is still not finalized). Only able to perform 60 resurrections, with 12 people means you can only have five complete wipes.

Anyone who has done any form of “raiding” in other MMOs know how difficult it can be to progress through without any wipes, especially the first few times doing it. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also be doing the trial awhile being timed. Now, not everyone is going to be rushing the clock that just isn’t their play style, but for those of us who want to display our pure awesomeness will be able to via the Leaderboards.

The Leaderboards will display who has completed the trial and how long it took them to do so. They have not announced if the leader of the current trial will receive a title or not, but I think they should. ESO needs a lucrative title for the PvE players. PvP gets Emperor but those who strictly do PvE do not receive anything. Perhaps, King of Trials or something along those lines would sweeten the deal.

There is one issue I do see with the stopwatch. ESO has no Lockout timers for the dungeons, you’re able to do all the content without ever being locked out. I foresee the hardcore players using the no lockout as an advantage to increase their timed runs and practicing on bosses in order to reduce that time even more.

If a group wipes instead of resurrecting they will swap leaders and reset the instance, therefore resetting the time to 0 again. This would allow them to continue to do the instance until they have mastered it and successfully finished it with a flawless attempt. Ensuring they are the top of the charts for all Trials that are in ESO.

If Zenimax made it so you’d only be able to submit one time a week but still able to do the content, I think that would help reduce the likelihood of people scamming (for lack of a better word) the leaderboards.

So unlike the typical “raids” in other MMOs, ESO is attempting a different implementation of it, adding better features than just tank and spank, and rush through. If you’ve done any of the regular 4 man group dungeons in ESO while leveling, you’d have noticed that even those dungeons require a bit of skill to complete and some of the mechanics aren’t very forgiving. If you stand in the wrong spot you’re not going to get healed through it like a lot of other MMOS.

I think Adventure Zones are going to be a large part of the ESO End Game and if ZOS can keep with their promise of fresh new content every 4-6 weeks I think players will thoroughly enjoy spending their extra time in Tamriel. So far they seem to be doing that, not only are we getting the Craglorn Adventure Zone, but they are also increasing the Veteran Rank to 12. Which is an additional two ranks above what is currently available.

If this is an example of what Zenimax can do with content releases, I think we have a fantastic MMO on our hands that will keep the players engaged and busy for years to come. As long as they can keep the bugged quests under wraps of course.

Ryan Getchell / Ryan is our resident Elder Scrolls nerd, and columnist for Zenimax's MMO. When he's not out killing things in Tamriel, he's working in IT professionally.