The right decision

I’ve been hesitating to start the Elder Scrolls Online for a couple of years now. Always thought I won’t be able to invest the time needed for the end game.

Turns out I was wrong. I’ve been playing ESO for 10 weeks now and despite limited time available, I still managed to find some nice builds and play styles for me.
Probably nothing a hardcore ESO gamer would consider worth grinding for, but I’m feeling good about it.

My chars

I’m currently playing two chars, a dragonknight tank and a magicka templar damage dealer. For the tank, I use ‘Lord Warden’, ‘Ebon Armory’ and ‘Torug’s Pact’ with a sword/shield and lighting staff.
The dragonknight was my 1st char and wasn’t really supposed to be a tank. For some reason though, I heavily grinded the ‘Crypt of hearts’ and got the pieces rather quickly.
I continued the dungeon grind besides finishing the main story and was able to upgrade everything to epic in the first couple of weeks.
Along the way, I maxed out my crafting skills, did the required research and was finally able to craft ‘Torug’s pact’.

As my dragonknight had morphed into this tank, I needed something with way more dps to enjoy going solo a lot more. After reading some articles on builds, I decided to go for the magicka templar.
I am running ‘Mother’s Sorrow’, ‘Law of Julianos’ and ‘Iceheart’ on this. Luckily, as my dragonknight is with the ‘Ebonheart Pact’, I was already grinding in Deshaan and had multiple items of ‘Mother’s sorrow’ available.

As stated before, my dragonknight is also my crafter, and I was able to craft some of ‘Law of Julianos’ myself. I had no luck finding the proper waists and hands to research though, so I bought these relatively cheap from a guild store.

‘Iceheart’ was way easier to get than ‘Lord Warden’. I ran the ‘Direfrost Keep’ on veteran at CP200 with my templar and the shoulder dropped in the first undaunted chest I opened. I only completed the ‘Lord Warden’ set yesterday, as I reached CP400 and felt comfortable to run the ‘Imperial city prison’ on veteran difficulty with my damage dealer. I also had to open about 20 undaunted chests for the shoulders.

What I did not enjoy so far

PvP – obviously

Technical issues, although I feel a bit cocky talking about this, as millions of players had to deal with those for years.
The lag is sometimes quite disturbing and frustrating. Especially during a boss fight when you are overrun by mobs. You need to stick to your light attacks when abilities are just not recognized. But to be fair, it happens but not as often to make it unplayable.
Same with the loading screens. I played dungeons where I only joined at the first boss, despite being the first to accept the activity.
But again, disturbing – yes, game breaking – no.

Why it feels right for me

What I most enjoyed so far are the story quests and dungeons. I don’t do PvP and I’m not planning to. I tried battlefields and some Cyrodiil, did not enjoy it at all. Maybe due to the fact that I’m not using anything that could be remotely called a PvP set.

The story quests are really well made. Each faction has unique places, stories and characters which makes this really entertaining. It sometimes just feels like a monstrous DLC to Skyrim, not an MMO. I completed the main story, Caldwell’s silver and gold and Orsinium. I like to stick as much as possible to the chronological order of releases, although I’m sure any other order would be enjoyable as well.

Looking at the number of available sets, dungeons and remaining story quests, I only scratched the surface of what ESO has to offer.
My next steps are to upgrade everything to legendary, without spending too much gold in the guild stores, and then to run all the dungeons on veteran as I increase my CPs.

Probably will join a guild at some point in the future and work my way up in order to run trials as well.

The journey is the reward – on becoming a Jedi

I’m writing this review after finishing the game on ‘Jedi Master’ difficulty. I spent around 35hrs in my first playthrough. Unlocked all but one achievement, due to the holo map bug.
Currently on my second playthrough on ‘Jedi Grand Master’. Totaling approx. 45hrs.

A bit on my background. The first movie I watched in theatres was the original ‘Return of the Jedi’ back in 1983. I played X-Wing, Rebel Assault, KotoR, Jedi Academy, Force Unleashed I&II, all LEGO Star Wars games, original Battlefront I&II, Battlefront I&II relaunch. Naturally, I watched all movies and the shows available in my area and read quite a bit about the lore.

I guess it’s fair to say I’m kind of a Star Wars nerd, given there are lots of people that know way more about the lore than me.

The story is, in my view, the single best narrative ever to be featured in a Star Wars game. Why? Well first because it takes place within the canon. You stumble across so many things you heard or watched before – names, places and events. And I’m not only talking about the major events like ‘Order 66’.

The game puts you on a path to become a Jedi and manages to make it feel just like that. When you think of the struggles Luke Skywalker had to go through, the game does an excellent job to resemble this journey.

The fight between the light and dark side are not as prominent as, for example, in the original trilogy. There’s no Sith lord that tries to drag you in, they mostly try to kill you right away, with few exceptions. You are the chosen one for this journey and you do have some special abilities but not to the extent as Luke or Anakin were the chosen ones.

In the end it is still about good versus evil, but here the journey is the reward.

Light saber fights feel EXTREMELY satisfying once you learn the important things. Those things being parry and dodge. You won’t enjoy the fights just trying to hack and slay through enemies. You’ll get hit often and you are going to die as many times by going berserk. As Yoda put it ‘A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.’ Once you know how to effectively use your skills, the fights will be so enjoyable that you hardly pass on any enemies.

I found the learning curve a bit steep in the first 1 or 2 hours of actual missions, but if you hang on, it’ll get more and more enjoyable.

Boss fights can be tough if you come unprepared. Meaning you should spent some time getting important upgrades and learn to master your skills. It never broke continuity for me to take side paths and ignore the main objectives for a while.
Traversing the planets involves a lot of parkour, getting to all the collectibles even more. The good thing though is that there is quite some room for errors. You don’t have to time all jumps perfectly within milliseconds; the game is pretty generous in that regard.

The game takes inspirations from Dark Souls, Tomb Raider and, at least for me, also from Assassin’s Creed. The combat takes a lot from Dark Souls without being a pain in the behind, the save point system is similar as well. Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed definitely come to mind when parkouring and the fights also remind me of Odyssey’s melee.

The use of force is what makes this game unique though. The force, as we know, surrounds us and everything constantly. When in combat, while parkouring and during your explorations of the different planets. You won’t be able to complete missions, get all collectibles or simply go from A to B without the force. This is the true Jedi feeling.

There is no fast travel. And that is a good thing. It supports the idea of having to overcome everything this universe throws at you. Forgot to grab a single chest in the farthest corner of a map? Well you need to get there on your own. No magic fast travel, no way to beam (different universe). One could argue that this is only due to the fact that the developers were lazy and tried to artificially stretch playtime. Could be. But I take it as part of the journey this young padawan must take. There is actually one spot that has fast travel, but it’s part of the story and therefore plausible.

Customization is limited to light saber, part of your clothing, your companion and the ship. That’s it and I am more than happy with this. For me, it would simply break the immersion if you’d be able to wear, let’s say Luke’s outfit or dress up as a storm trooper. The customization is always authentic. Paint jobs for your companion is something that fits the story unlike wearing Lando’s cape would.

Visuals & Audio
The game looks amazing. But to be honest, this has never been a major selling point for me. I still play games from 10 or 15 years back, obviously not for the graphics but for the story. If you are into stunning visuals, I think it’s fair to say that this game does an excellent job.

More important to me are music and voice acting. In those regards, the game knocked it out of the park. The music could as well have been created by the great John Williams. The composers took the original themes and created some unique variations yet still connected to the movies. Whether you are traversing the planets or in combat, the soundtrack just fits any given situation and environment.

Voice acting delivers the complete range from dramatic to funny without being stupid at any point. Named enemies and your crew deliver something new every time you face or meet them. Other NPC’s are limited to certain lines, which is nothing I would really complain about.

The game delivers in every aspect. Great story, exciting gameplay, awesome visuals and audio. There are bugs, of course. I ran into a couple, nothing game breaking though. The holo map bug is annoying for any achievement hunter, yet I ‘plan’ to avoid that one in my second playthrough.

I would rate the game a 4.7 out of 5, there are some technical issues and some parts of the open world just don’t fit the universe, looking at you mud slides.

Yet for me this is still the game of the year.