Everyone has that game that changed how they thought about gaming. It creates a moment that defines what sort of gamer they are. For me, it happened in 2010 when I was introduced to The Elder Scrolls. Through Oblivion, the first Elder Scrolls game I picked up, I released my dark side for the first time. I would strip down to nothing and rob every house in a town in one night. I was convinced not wearing armor would make me silent, leading me to become the Naked Bandit. I then played Morrowind, where I learned about the creation kit and all the amazing mods created by players like me. Then Skyrim was released and my next story began. I was a simple elven woodcutter who stumbled into a barrow and came out with a dragon tablet. These games still haven’t lost any of their charm for me and are still replayable and I can still replay them.
However, when Elder Scrolls Online was announced I was skeptical. The lore of these games Elders Scrolls games was one of the things that made them immersive for me and ESO would be a prequel to the games. I was highly concerned the developers wouldn’t get the story correct by warping it into something that didn’t match the in-game books. Also, the games were a place for me to tell my story—for me to be the hero. Why would I want all these other players running around stealing my thunder and loot?
Despite my reservations, my husband and I went ahead and bought ESO. It took a while of watching him play before I finally gave in and gave it a try on my own.
I loaded up my wood elf and found myself standing in a prison cell—very true to classic Elder Scrolls. I worked my way through a short tutorial area, fighting past other beginners. It was quickly frustrating that the other players became aggressive towards me if I smacked at a creature attacking me, due to the fact they decided it should have been their kill. This felt like a bad sign for future gameplay, but I tried to stay positive and write it off as a lot of prisoners in a plane of Oblivion. Molag Bal can make someone a little grumpy after all.
Finally, I was out of the tutorial and thrown into the real game. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the music score. Any gamer who has taken time to listen to the tones that escort the character through the varying landscapes of Tamriel would know the sound of classic Elder Scrolls music, and ESO captures it perfectly. I began to walk around the first area and was relieved to see that there wasn’t a lot of “heroes” walking around too. I spotted a handful of players, only one in eye-catching armor, and for the most part they blended in with the NPCs. My concerns that I wouldn’t feel like that main character of the story washed away.
Another thing I had concerns about was the stealth system. Although some MMOs do have stealth and sneaking, the majority of them do not and I feared that it wouldn’t make it into ESO. The Naked Bandit in me was exuberant when I learned that not only could I sneak, but I could also steal from merchants.
I can appreciate how ESO handled their loot system. There are a few lootable objects that weren’t labeled for stealing, and most of those the player needs to search for due to the fact that they’re scattered around. After playing Skyrim and becoming adjusted to empty containers, the looted chests and sacks in ESO’s Tamriel felt as if they were simply empty containers.
It is also important to note that mob drops are based on percentages and other players cannot steal dropped loot. As long as the player causes 3% of the damage, they will receive a drop if the percentage of likelihood of receiving a drop falls in their favor. For example, if a boss has a 10% chance of dropping a specific item and the player causes the 3% damage minimum, then the player qualifies for the 10% chance of receiving the drop.
These simple touches to the loot system by the developers help add the stab-stab-loot feeling of the original Elder Scrolls games. Although dice roll or want/need/pass systems have their place in MMOs, I feel that they wouldn’t fit it in this game. Instead, the percentage drop system is the ideal combination of implementing a small need to farm for specific items, a typical MMO activity, and preventing the player from feeling the need to fight over the drops, something an Elder Scrolls veteran would be unaccustomed to.”
Overall, I found Elder Scrolls Online to be as true to the single player experience and an MMO can get. I don’t feel as if my heroic tale is drowned out by other players and I can rest easy knowing my loot is safe. I’m pleased that I gave ESO a chance and that the game provided the opportunity for the Naked Bandit to make waves in Tamriel’s history.