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The Elder Scrolls Online: Hopefully Coming Soon
Since its launch in April last year, The Elder Scrolls Online has had multiple issues concerning bugs, gold sellers and phasing. Many of these have been fixed and the game is, in many ways, a lot of fun. However, many features of the game are generic in design and its bizarre that this is the case when other MMOs have often been more creative. Here is a list of things that could be improved to make ESO a truly great MMO. Note that this article does not cover anything from the newly released Orsinium DLC pack.
The elephant in the room is of course, the mega-server technology. This was over-hyped extensively, before launch, and now that the game is in full play and had over a year’s worth of patching, you’d think that the game would be a lot more stable. This could be seen as one of ESO’s more innovative features, but while ESO does seem to have fixed the stability slightly, it still suffers from tons of lag and bad loading times. MMOs are supposed to be multiplayer, but ESO is the least friendly multiplayer MMO I’ve ever played.
Grouping up with friends sometimes doesn’t work as the system refuses to allow the party leader to invite specific players, and often the whole party has to be disbanded and everyone online and together to ensure a party can be properly assembled. Even then, someone will be occasionally out of phase, requiring the party to be disbanded and grouped up again. Sure, any newly launched MMORPG may take a while to find its feet, but with the stability and tradition established by other games in the same genre by having many more servers, I can’t help but think that if ESO had taken the same route this would not be an issue.
Speaking of multiplayer friendly, ESO has a gaping hole in its interface – that of the minimap. MMOs have a minimap for a reason: its easier to see grouped up friends, merchants, quest objectives and Bank locations. I respect the devs for implementing the Skyrim compass into a minimalist interface, making it more like an Elder Scrolls game, but in an MMORPG where the emphasis should be on multiplayer the compass’ functionality is limited. Thankfully, a mod has been created to fill this void. If you would like more functionality to your ESO interface, check out Fyrakin’s MiniMap.
Another multiplayer feature that could be improved is the tiny, white arrow used on the map for friendly players when grouped up. It is not highly visible on the map, its hard to locate quickly, and is often partially obscured behind other small, white symbols (especially the Wayshrine icon.) If the symbol’s colour was changed, and its shape to a circle or diamond for example, it would be far more user friendly. This problem is covered at least in part, by the aforementioned minimap mod by Fyrakin.
If you don’t have friends who play, and wish to experience group content, ESO is not a very friendly game in terms of finding others to do dungeons and other group content with. Spamming the zone chat seems to be the most common way, since the grouping tools are terrible. Waiting for a group to form, using the grouping tools, can take up to an hour or more. Whilst waiting, you are free to continue with other activities, but there is no indicator on the interface that you are in a queue. This is a basic feature that I would recommend highly in a future update, along with a desperately needed update to the grouping tools themselves. Once again, I suspect that if servers were used in the manner of other MMOs, this wouldn’t be a problem.
A pet hate for many gamers is gaining armour that has far superior stats, and yet has far less graphical aesthetic: basically it looks terrible. This problem has been dealt with in many MMOs in the form of transmutation/transmogging, in which the player has the option to transform one piece of gear to look like something similar, but allowing you to keep the superior stats. There is no transmogging in ESO.
The closest players can get is changing the colour of their gear, and yet this is still very limited – for example the colour black is not even available until you finish the Main Quest. Colours are unlocked by completing achievements, some of them taking a ridiculously long time to obtain. Locking colours off like this severely restricts character customization and while there is a large variety of gear that can be found/crafted in the game, many players don’t have the time or patience to get to the higher levels of crafting (which is when the armour looks less bland.)
Speaking of player restriction, guilds in ESO are also a feature where players have found much frustration. Much like old WoW, guilds require 10 members to access facilities, such as a guild bank or to start customizing your own heraldry. This is a bizarre and backward design choice as it encourages spamming of guild invites and deters small groups of friends who regularly play together from creating their own guild.
In addition, if for any reason a guild loses members, and the number of members falls below 10, the guild bank is suddenly locked off from existing members until the guild regains enough members. This has been acknowledged by Zenimax themselves and yet nothing has been done to rectify the situation. The lack of a global auction house is also a baffling choice, and the fact that players can choose to join up to five guilds does not justify this. Joining multiple guilds is not the answer for role-players especially, as being part of one guild gives your character a much stronger sense of identity. WoW has since lowered the guild minimum to 4 members, ideally this is what it would be for ESO as well.
With the addition of dye stations to ESO, there could be more of these placed in the world. Currently, some of these, as well as other facilities, are missing. For example, in the Stonefalls zone, there is a dye station in the city of Ebonheart, but there is no bank there. In Davon’s Watch, there is a bank but no dye station. These locations are both larger type settlements, and it seems strange to not have a full set of facilities for players to use at either of them, and frustrating to have to wayshrine from one to the other if you wanted to use both. When you throw in the necessary loading screen that happens whilst transferring, this amounts to a lot of wasted time for just a simple task.
Combat is pretty much on target in ESO, its one of the best things about the game, fast, responsive and very satisfying. Yet there is one thing that does not pay homage to true Elder Scrolls games: ranged combat is severely lacking. While the melee combat has been updated and improved, the ranged weapons such as bows lack punch and stealth options. Many players who would normally take the stealthy archer option in Skyrim have ceased using archery in ESO because unlike in Skyrim, you cannot sneak up on an enemy, snipe them, and remain undetected. Instead you’re discovered instantly. This cannot be said to be realistic, and destroys an entire playstyle. Also, ranged weapons in Elder Scrolls games can usually be dodged, and have to be aimed manually. In ESO ranged weapons are aimed manually, but its pretty forgiving and as long as you’re generally close, you’ll hit your mark. Enemies pretty much get auto-targeting, and its especially frustrating not being able to dodge fireballs as you can in Skyrim or Oblivion. Hopefully a ranged combat update is in the works.
Now to the final and biggest area that seriously needs improvement in The Elder Scrolls Online: Questing. Questing is the heart and soul of MMORPGs. Without it, many of these games would not exist. To be honest, the questing in ESO is not great. In the Aldmeri Dominion faction, it is not bad, and there are a lot of good quests. But in the Ebonheart Pact faction, almost every single quest is a variation of kill x creatures, collect x objects, rescue x NPCs. It is some of the worst quest design I’ve ever seen. To be fair, for the quests that require an item dropped off an enemy, the drop rate isn’t as bad as it could’ve been, and basically every enemy has the required drop, but the fact is its tedious, generic and lazy quest design.
On top of that, the vast majority of quests, and this includes the AD quests, are basically history lessons covering Elder Scrolls Lore. Instead of being good stories in their own right, they are simply educating players about historical events. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, here it is done poorly, with the player required to simply go to a bunch of locations, talk to a bunch of NPCs and listen to a bunch of history notes.
So, will Zenimax read this article and listen to feedback? Hopefully these are all things that will be able to be checked off as improved over the coming months. For more about The Elder Scrolls Online, you can check out Leviathyn’s review here.