The character progression in ESO is pretty interesting. It is nice mix of the more free-form progression that you see in the single player Elder Scrolls games and standard MMO progression.
You make your initial choices in character creation by choosing your race and your “class”. Your race will give you a single skill line that will give you bonuses such as increased swim speed or increased resistance to fire damage. Your class will give you access to three skills lines that are unique to that class.
The nice thing about the class skill lines is that they do a good job of defining your character without pigeon-holing him. You might be a Templar but you are not stuck healing and you can specialize in ranged or melee DPS. There are a lot of options just within your class skills.
But that is not the only skill trees you have. Not even close. Each weapon type also gets its own skill tree, as does each armor type. Because any class can use any weapon or armor, there are a lot of different options here. Your character can be a sorcerer that dual wields swords, wears heavy armor and has a dinosaur for a pet if you so choose. Or he can wield a two-handed sword, while wearing plate armor. There are few limitations in what you can be.
In addition to all of that, there are also other skill lines you can get in the game. There is one for the Fighters Guild, one for the Mages guild, PvP and even skill lines if you become a Werewolf or Vampire. There are a ton of options here. It really rivals (and perhaps surpasses) the customization options you have with Rift’s Soul system.
But, what good are skill lines if you don’t know what to do with them? Luckily they are pretty easy to figure out. You get skill points as you level, for completing certain quests and for finding Skyshards out in the world. You allocate the skill points into what ever skill lines you want to use and get abilities (active or passive) from that.
You also can “morph” certain skills as you level. This allows you to change the stock effect from an ability and make it into something else. Perhaps you want that heal to heal 3 people instead of one? Morph it and it now heals more people but for slightly less. Almost every ability has a couple of morph options and they allow you to really fine tune your character.
In practice, the skill system works great. Its biggest downside is that it starts off slow. Once you get a few skill points under your belt, however, it opens up tremendously. I can see tons of options with which to build your character. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of poorly built characters out there but, really, who cares if you are having fun?
The first dungeon is at level 12. The standard trinity of tank, DPS and healer exists but the tank in ESO does not seem to be able to grab aggro as well as they do in WoW or Rift. DPS and Healer will have to be on their toes, especially on group pulls, because they will be in the thick of things. They will get hit and they will need to dodge and fight, no matter their role. For that matter, the healer will not be able to stand back and heal. They will also need to fight alongside their group mates.
ESO does a good job of getting the healer involved in adding some damage in, while also being throw in the needed heals. In this way, ESO continues the trend of making the healer an active participant in DPS and not just allowing him to stand in the back and heal. This may change in later levels but at this point healers and DPS must be prepared to get hit.
The atmosphere in the dungeons is very well done. ESO’s graphic engine does a phenomenal job inside dungeons. They are simply gorgeous. I really enjoyed the look and feel of the dungeon I participated in.
Boss fights are well done and typical of the genre. At low level, the boss has a few special abilities but nothing too intricate. The bosses, however, are just amazing looking. I have always enjoyed the Elder Scrolls look and that aesthetic really makes the big mobs in ESO something special.
PvP or AvA
I am going to be fairly short here because I intend to have a separate post about PvP later in the week. I will say, right up front, that the PvP is what finally and totally sold me on ESO. It takes the WvW of Guild Wars 2 and improves upon it immensely. Though GW2 and ESP have similar ideas on what RvR should be, ESO just handily whips GW2 in the execution.
First of all, the engine is head and shoulders above the Guild Wars 2 engine. Battles which would cause GW2 to drop to its knees, are rendered in ESO with nary a hiccup. I have seen battles with hundreds on screen at once and barely saw any slow down at all. Its really impressive what this team has done with this engine.
Secondly, the map is huge. That was always my biggest gripe about GW2. The map was simply too small. This allowed the all-mighty zerg to rule the map. There was just not enough room for small groups to operate without getting steamrolled. This isn’t the case with ESO. The map is so large that, to be effective, there will have to be numerous groups running around and not just a single zerg. If there is a zerg, there is also ample room for small groups to be effective and operate away from the zerg.
I am going to stop with PvP impressions here. I really want to make a larger post about it and I want to save my ammo for that. Suffice it to say, it is the closest I have yet seen to Dark Age of Camelot. It is truly tremendous.
It started off slow, agonizingly slow, but ESO sold me in the end. It is certainly not perfect, there is a lot of room for improvement but they do enough things well that it is worth the purchase. The PvP alone was enough to convince me to take the plunge. They need to improve the melee combat feedback and really improve the first couple of zones but the rest of the game is really well done.
I’m going to finish with a couple of videos. None of these were filmed by myself but they give a good idea of various parts of Elder Scrolls Online. Enjoy them and thank you to the creators of each video!