Needed a hit of fantasy, so back to The Elder Scrolls Online

For the last few months I’ve been playing games that take place in a modern setting. First it was Watch Dogs, then it was Dying Light, with a few The Division beta tests mixed in. Last weekend I found myself craving some good old fantasy gaming. With the launch of The Division so near, it didn’t make sense for me to start in on some 50-100 hour RPG so I turned to good old dependable The Elder Scrolls Online.

I have a curious relationship with TESO. I really like it, but I never make any progress in it (and I sometimes forget about it for months at a time). I started playing when the game launched. When the console versions came out I moved my characters to the PS4, which is where I’ve been playing lately (I own the game on PC, PS4 & Xbox One for some crazy reason). Last weekend when I went back to the game my highest level character was…. 23! I’ve seen videos of players who go 1-50 in under 10 hours and over the course of a few years I’ve managed to get to level 23!

But that’s OK because what I enjoy about TESO is just being in the world. I know the aesthetics of the game are somewhat divisive. I believe a lot of people find it all kind of drab. I find it believable. Adventurers wear armor that seems reasonably practical (though I question some of the helm designs) and villagers seem to have quests that make sense. To me the world feels like it could be real and there aren’t zany comedy bits to constantly remind you its a game (I’m looking at you, Wildstar with your guitar riffs and announcer voice going crazy whenever something happens).

Oddly I think it’s the food that best encapsulates this aspect of TESO. Instead of making a dish of, y’know, spider venom glands with troll spleen sauce, you’re making Alik’r Beets with Goat Cheese or Ginger Wheat Ale. The food I make in TESO sounds like food I would actually enjoy eating.

I know it’s silly and it doesn’t impact gameplay in any way but it just helps me to become (yes I’m going to go there) immersed in the world. I don’t make a lot of progress because I spend so much time roaming around reading books, talking to NPCs and picking flowers.

But last weekend something different happened. I got frustrated after losing a fight I should’ve won, several times in a row. For the first time I decided to research builds and boy did I ever go down a rat hole. I’ve watched so many videos from Deltia’s Gaming this week that I feel like maybe I need to put him on my Christmas card list.

What I learned was that my race/class combo just isn’t viable. (And I later learned that’s not really true.) And in fact most of my characters were awkward combos. That led to a shake-up that saw me deleting characters, creating new ones, and re-speccing one to rebuild him in one of Deltia’s images.

My (I thought) non-viable main, I decided, would become my crafter, doing all skills except alchemy (since fighting characters should learn alchemy for one of the passives). Of course to do that, he needed some skill points. I decided I’d just run around collecting skyshards for some easy skill points. So I started doing that but got side-tracked by some quests and…

Spent the last week playing him. My new and re-specced characters sit idle and my non-viable main is doing just fine now that I’ve tweaked my skill bars and re-learned2play a bit. Turns out the difference between a good class/race combo and a poor one is something like 8-10% damage at end game (don’t quote me on that, but the point wasn’t that you couldn’t play these ‘poor’ combos just that there are combos that were more efficient).

But man have I been hard-core into the game for the past week. I’ve been doing little else besides work and playing TESO. I have been taking notes to make sure I don’t miss anything. Like on paper with a pen like I’m some kind of dinosaur (hush you, no old man jokes). Progress is still slow because I still play my way, but my crafting progress has been good and I hit level 27 last night. Just finishing up Stormhaven and finally ready to move on to the next zone. And all my time spent with Deltia wasn’t wasted because the character feels SO much more powerful now that I have a better grasp on how to use the skills he has available. So no regrets for the time I spent doing that.

The Thieves Guild DLC hits PC tomorrow (I think) but us console players have to wait until March 22 or 23rd. That works well since I’ll probably be in The Division for a solid few weeks before I’m ready to mix things up. So after Monday night TESO will go back on the shelf again, but it’s comforting to know it’s always there waiting to scratch my fantasy itch.

Oh and it’s worth noting that the game seems to be doing well, on PS4 at least. There’re always people around; even when I started new characters there were plenty of other fresh avatar-faces entering the realm for the first time. I was happy to see that!