Ahh.. what a difference a week makes. With a greater amount of time for those deemed worthy by Zenimax it seems opinions have changed and are being reflected in many reviews, posts, videos and articles around the web. The comments section themselves are starting to have a more positive swing to them…. Hell, even the great cynical gank bots, Syncaine and jester have already fallen prey to the appeals of ESO.
All I really have to say right now is…
It’s been acknowledged how the game changes after a certain amount of levels to be something more than the current mmo crowd. It was able to create an atmosphere in terms questing, combat and its other features to be something more than just another wow clone, and something that might actually have some needed pieces to the themepark mmo puzzle.
There has been a lot of talk about the tutorial zone being particular bad, it is but in comparison to other mmo’s and even single payer games it is just more of the same. It seems the more positive spin was just a certain amount of people pulling the “mmo’s are bad” stick out of their ass and acknowledging what the positive features of this mmo actually are.
A big part of the recent change is also the drop in the NDA regarding the AvA side of the game. I’ve been really interested for a while now after reading what they had planned on it. I really enjoyed what Gw2 provided and the combat we had but it was frought with issues that it sounded like ESO wanted to solve. From what I see its living up to expectations so far but whether it works out in the long-term will have to wait.
There are a lot of videos out now about the AvA. A mega thread popped up on reddit with a lot of impression pieces and videos for the AvA. MMORPG have also had some good coverage with an excellent overview of AvA
It’s looking good so far and there are a few key features that are building my interest even further.
Space is a huge deal in these large-scale PvP experiences and there is a lot of space to explore here with Cyrodil being truly massive. There are a number of keeps to control with numerous camps around each and a lot of interesting locations scattered around like ruins, housing estates and even underground dungeons to explore. This isn’t your simple arena based pvp with simple goals, it is large-scale instanced warfare.
I’ve seen people complaining about there being too much space, that travel time is too long between the locations and to get back into combat but I see this as a very good thing. I’ve seen the issues that happens when space is restricted; keep trading becomes a commonality, Zergs reign supreme with the increased manoeuvrability, and strategy being restricted. It creates a dedicated focus to gameplay but one that lacks the nuance that should be there.
ESO seems to walk the middle ground here reasonably well. The layline mechanic between keeps which lets you freely transport between them is an added convenience that speeds up getting to the front lines of combat while adding a certain amount of restrictions to it that create either a cost or time.
Teleporting to a keep can’t be done while it is under attack and the space between these so you can’t get back into the fight very quickly. There will be mobile Spawn stations but these are expensive and can be destroyed. Resurection is done with a soul gem but these will have a limited amount while in battle. It is enough to make death meaningful to the course of a battle.
Having the space it does also creates more need and use for a variety of group sizes. Zergs for large keep and control, coordinated strike forces to harass, small groups to stop supply and even room for roamers out to stop reinforcements. It’s meta yo…
The map is huge. You can have 100’s of players on the screen with siege blasting away and it performs extremely well. I don’t know how much to stress this but optimisation and server stability is extremely important, without this it ends in a laggy, frustrating experience where you can neither fight to your best or even have a moderate amount of involvement. It can and does make you a mere static spectator at times.
It really is amazing how much better combat and the experience feels when it is optimised for these things. ESO runs superb; framerates are smooth, it handles characters very well and the server response time even under a lot of pressure only results in minimum changes to reaction time. It plays better than most games on the market right now and better than every other RPG based mmo I’ve played. It’s way better than WAR from what I hear, it has far fewer issues than Wildstar and it makes Guild Wars 2 look like it was designed by a Toddler. We are seeing the effects of technological advances combined with improvements in every area of server/client functioning. ESO will be the new benchmark for performance for all modern mmo’s to come
Progression and Purchases
This no longer feels like it is an addendum to the main game, like it is the simple side project designed by a few and placed in to simply satiate the PvP players for a time. It is still instanced away within its own space which is a shame although I still don’t think the mainstream crowd could deal with having something more open and involved.
For what it is it has been designed well and has incorporated many different features from across the game. Bonuses attained in Cyrodil will transfer over to the PvE environment, crafting and gear acquisition is differentiated across the game types but still usable in each. There are a wide range of quests and such within Cyrodil that give experience and gold. They have also relegated an auction house type system involving individual guild stores solely within the PvP areas.
They haven’t been afraid to encourage both PvP and PvE play and incorporate parts of interest in one game type within another. I think this is an excellent approach as I’ve had enough with creating such defined distinctions in play.
In saying that the PvP has also been given a vast array of purchases designed for AvA. It has its own specific ranking system purchasable with points. Skill lines specific to PvP. A range of gear and weapon options with their own particular style and a range of siege and consumables specifically to apply to certain situations. It is great to have such a range of options available as it makes this mode feel comparable in focus to the rest of the game….which is extremely rare.
The mechanics themselves seem very strong as well and designed with a lot of flexibility. The point, scoring and experience system is designed so that combat is the more rewarding point as well as actually defending places and scrolls for their bonuses. They way the scoring is designed it’s also advantageous to go after the stronger force as well as holding onto your own parts. These rules have also been stated to be very flexible, changing quickly to adapt to how we play or even to have certain special rulsets for campaigns.
The support and supply mechanism with the various camp types adds a bit of strategy in regards to maintenance but also to the attacker as starving a keep before battle is a valuable strategy. Keeps keeping their damage after becoming under control will also make your decisions in siege matter, taking down a lot of walls and such may help you win the keep but it will also leave you vulnerable for longer and require more resources to fix.
The integrated PvE here actually seems like a strong point as well. It doesn’t affect or become a nuisance to battles and keeps but provides a lot of new options for players. There are a variety of quests and such that reward alliance points and gold and there are even open world dungeons to gather items a bit more valuable.
Stealth has a rather novel mechanic as well in that every class is able to hide, with the differences in terrain around Cyrodil a whole coordinated squad could even wait in ambush. There are counters to stealth in regards to skills and such that give a greater visibility, stealth isn’t a complete invincibility and will involve actually sneaking. It also has the interesting trade-off of using the same resource you might need for burst damage while adding a bit more strategy to combat.
Mechanical I’m not so sure about the siege just yet, they are powerful but don’t require that much to purchase and are far to quick to deploy. If left unchecked it will create a change in the play away from personal combat. There are other issues too that I’m not really sure how will work out yet but so far I’m feeling remarkably positive about the title and am glad to hear that’ll I’ll see a lot of you on the battlefield as well.