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The Elder Scrolls Online: Crafting the Perfect MMO

The Escapist Staff | 14 Feb 2014 10:00
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Questing (Paul Goodman, Escapist Video editor)

Obviously, quests are the mainstay of any good RPG, MMO or otherwise. They're the primary way of developing your character, exploring the game's universe and experiencing the overarching game's story. The Elder Scrolls Online doesn't break any new ground with how it tackles quests - you find someone with an indicator over their head, and take things from there - but there's a few things that just don't seem to quite work right that can take you out of the adventure.

Moral choices are a big part of the Elder Scrolls games, and in games like Skyrim can often have a long and major impact over how your character interacts with the game world. While there are several instances in ESO where you are given options on how to proceed past a particular quandary, they don't seem to have much of a lasting impact on the game world as a whole. I can recall several instances during my time with the Daggerfall Covenant where I faced a crossroads choice that felt like it could have drastic repercussions, but ultimately didn't seem to affect anything other than how a few NPCs interacted with me. One quest ended with either destroying a dangerous, ancient, undead-summoning relic or leaving it alone with the hopes it could be used against Daggerfall's enemies. When I opted to destroy it rather than risk it backfiring and causing more mayhem, some NPCs grumbled and told me how horrible a person I was, but the incident didn't come up again later and it didn't appear to close off any additional quests or areas to my character. In fact, I have yet to encounter those NPCs again, which felt very odd considering how the first chunk of the game set them up as recurring characters.

Another issue with questing in ESO how completing quests in groups is handled. Grouping up is an easy process, and you can share quests between you and other players easily, but the completion of objectives isn't always shared between members of the group. After clearing out a Dwemer dungeon, a group I was with realized that one of our party hadn't interacted with a specific item midway through while everyone else had, forcing us to go back through the entire dungeon so that they could catch up and complete the quest with the rest of us. As another example, I once tried to help a fellow complete a major quest to reclaim this ancient tree for a group of friendly witches. But since I had completed that quest on my own earlier, my partner literally disappeared from the game world when we entered the quest area and I could only see him by following the party indicator on my HUD. I couldn't help him defeat any enemies or take on the tough end boss, and only when he finished off the end boss on his own did he reappear. This sort of mish-mash handling makes quests feel like they were meant to be tackled solo, rather than with other players. If the ESO was meant to be played solo, there wouldn't be any issue, but since it's an MMO and the genre is, well, massively multiplayer at heart, this can make social gaming a disjointed experience.

An additional aspect that feels off about ESO quests are the rewards you get for completing them, which are paltry at best. Usually you'll receive a few dozen gold and occasionally a piece of equipment that may or may not be better than your current gear, or even part of your current skill focus. It's kind of off-putting that you manage to save a city's king from an elaborate assassination plot and your reward is a fancy magical staff when your character is a heavily armored Dragonknight wielding a two-handed maul. Hopefully this'll change in the final version of the game, and the reward system for completing quests will match up better with your character's outfit then what's in place now.

All together, adventuring in ESO is a mixed experience. It features the same kind of quests and choices that you'd see in an Elder Scrolls game, but doesn't always feel like it has the same lasting impact in the game world. And with the odd party mechanics, it often feels like the game would be better experienced solo than with other people - worrying, since there is a whole "multiplayer" part of the game. The game is still in beta, so I have to give the developers some benefit of the doubt that there may still be some major adjustments on the way, but as it is right now, it feels like ESO is trying to have the best of both single and multiplayer worlds.

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