The beta this weekend was a mixed bag at best. There were things I liked. I loved the collision system and combat felt much less “floaty”. The ability to start out in your factions major city was nice. Both were good additions, especially the combat and collision system. It really improved the feel of combat, which was one of the biggest gripes that people had with game.
Even with the improvements, there were some major problems with the beta this weekend. Matter of fact, in many ways, it was one step forward and two steps back. With everything they improved or added, they also broke something or changed something for the worse. For that reason, it was an incredibly frustrating beta experience.
Let’s start with the changes to the starting experience. The new tutorial is much shorter than the old one and the “boss” fight at the end is better, if a bit anti-climatic, but they took the weapon racks out of the tutorial and replaced then with a single table that contains a single weapon. A sword. Before you had a choice what weapon you wanted to pick up, now you get stuck with a sword. Doesn’t matter if you want to heal or use a bow or burn things with fire magic. You get a sword.
This, of course, really sucks. I created a character and could not find a bow until I got out of the tutorial and saved up enough gold to buy one in the first city. This means I could not level the weapon skills I intended to use until I found the right weapon. Why they took away this choice from the tutorial I have no idea. There was really no reason to do so. None at all. I can understand shortening the tutorial and changing the boss fight at the end. This improves the experience. Removing weapon choice in the tutorial does nothing to improve the experience. They need to give this choice back. Pronto.
The next problem I came across in the new player experience, was being dumped in the major city and bypassing the started island entirely. Now, there is nothing wrong with them giving that option. If you’ve done the starter isle on one character, there is no reason to do it again. Its nice to have the choice to skip it but the way they handle it is just stupid. After the tutorial, you are placed in the city with no explanation and no mention of the starter isle at all. You can go back to the isle but there is nothing around to tell you how to do that. It took me asking in chat to figure it out. I could see this being extremely confusing to a new player.
A better way to do this is to place you on the starter isle and then give a choice to skip to the main city. New players would then be able to do the starter isle and veterans could easily skip it. No confusion, no fuss, no mess. Easy.
Finally, the bugs. Oh, god the bugs. There were bugs everywhere. Tons more than last beta, in fact. Quest mobs not spawning, quest givers not working correctly. At one point, I had four quests in my log that I could not finish due to bugs. Luckily, most bugs could be cleared up by relogging but it was extremely frustrating no matter what.
And I was not the only one with problems. People in chat were not shy about their feelings on the bugs. Players were pissed and rightfully so. It was an extremely difficult and frustrating experience. I am sure it turned a lot of players off on the game. The bugs need to be fixed by launch, especially the quest bugs.
One good thing about the bugs, is that I believe they are all related. The quest bugs don’t seem to be 50 individually different bugs but one bug that is causing problems with 50 different quests. Due to the fact that relogging fixes the problem and the fact that the more players in an area, the likelier the bug, I believe it is a problem with the server. This might make it easier to fix. Much easier to hunt down one bug affecting 50 quests than 50 quests affecting 50 quests. Or so it seems to me.
With all that being said, I still have high hopes for the game. I can put up with bugs. All MMOs have them on release. It will suck for a few months, until its ironed out, but they will get them fixed. The PvP is just too much fun for me to give up on. The PvE is good enough, though I won’t know how good until they release details on endgame, but the PvP is just a hell of a lot of fun and worth paying for, in my opinion.
Going to close this out with a video that illustrates just why I have high hopes for ESO. The large scale PvP is certainly fun but, in this video, a small group is shown being effective while playing outside the zerg. This is what I hoped for from Warhammer Online and Guild Wars 2. This is what I didn’t find in Warhammer Online or Guild Wars 2, or enough of it, at least. If things like this are possible in ESO, then I will be playing for a long, long time. Only time will tell.