ESO: Companions & Solo Dungeons

I play The Elder Scrolls Online on Xbox, primarily, and I play it like a solo game. Sure I’ll jump in with strangers to help take down a world boss or something, but I never communicate with other players beyond a /cheer at the end of those fights.

There are plenty of good ESO players that can solo dungeons. I am not one of them. My build isn’t ideal, my gear is just whatever I’ve had drop, and I only recently hit 160 Champion Points (before then it seemed silly to focus much on gear since I was replacing it so often).

The recent Blackwood expansion added Companions — NPCs that will fight beside you. I just finally got around to unlocking them the other day. My Companion is using mostly default equipment and doesn’t have all her skills or skill slots unlocked. In other words she is a noob Companion for now.

Thing about ESO is that the ‘overland’ content is really easy, even for my half-assed character. Add the Companion and we just slice through overland stuff like butter. (I’m not counting World Bosses.) While this is kind of fun in its own way, it left me wondering why I even needed the Companion. Delves are not much harder than overland content so I didn’t really need a Companion for those, either.

I decided to try a World Boss with my Companion at my side and she literally yelled out “I think we’re going to need some help” before we were both smushed. We’re both essentially DPS builds right now, and even with two of us we don’t have enough healing output to handle the damage we were taking.

Then I decided to try to solo a dungeon. I failed, but we did make it about half-way through an early-zone dungeon, Spindleclutch. (I know with “One Tamriel” everything is supposed to be the same level of challenge but in practice the zones that used to be low level are still easier.) I made it further solo than I ever have before, by a lot.

Now in ye olde days I have done Spindleclutch in a group, back when I knew other people playing. We blazed through it so fast that I mostly was frantically looting and throwing out some DPS and it was all a blur of spiders.

Going (part-way) through Spindleclutch alone was a completely difference experience. I was reading the notes scattered around. I was listening to what the NPCs were talking about. I was poking into corners looking to see what I could find. It was really enjoyable and pretty much a completely different experience from doing it in a group.

Now I’m really excited to kit out my character and my Companion, and to work on my character’s build. I really want to be able to do more of the dungeons solo. (I know that some literally can’t be completed solo because they require people to stand on pressure plates and so forth.) Being powerful enough to finish them while playing at my pace and drinking in all the sights and lore hidden within them is going to be a blast!

Suddenly I’m really jazzed to play Elder Scrolls Online again…just in time for the New World Beta to start. LOL

4 thoughts on “ESO: Companions & Solo Dungeons

  1. I think you’ve put your finger on a rarely-discussed aspect of mmorpg gameplay and how it’s developed over the years. You can also see this in Wilhelm’s posts about his static group doing WoW Classic and TBC dungeons, where they go in undermanned and have to take things slowly.

    Back when I was doing a lot of dungeons, in EverQuest, DAOC and EQ2, it was normal for a full group to have to go cautiously, clear room by room, take breaks to recover mana or heal up and basically approach the whole thng as a marathon rather than a sprint. That meant there was time for everyone to look around, take in the scenery, click on anything that could be interacted with (not always such a great idea…) and basically appreciate at least some of the details the developers had designed in.

    As the games changed, dungeons became more and more about “clearing trash” to get to “bosses” – two terms I never herard used at all in the early years. That moved even further to speed runs and the go-go-go playstyle where you barely knew which dungeon you were in before it was over. At this point, if you wanted to stop and look at anything, read some lore, climb up on stuff to find hidden corners or whatever, you pretty much had to go in alone. Which then became a possibility because of things like Mercenaries and Companions, NPCs who didn’t complain if you went slowly or even stopped altogether while you went and made yourself a coffee.

    In terms of being able to appreciate the work that’s gone into making the dungeons, we’re probably better off now, but there are no moments when one person in the group discovers something, tells everyone else and we all gather round to wonder at it. I suspect the original version was the peak experience although I’m not sure it always felt like it at the time.

    1. Wow, remember when we had to wait for mana? And then maybe while waiting people would talk to each other?

      I wonder if having a “story” difficulty would help? It would be solo-able but wouldn’t get you the best loot. Then the ‘normal’ difficulty could be harder and actually take some time and coordination for a group to get through. I suppose people would complain that it took too long to ‘grind’ the dungeon tho.

    1. They are strange. Every character has to unlock them to use them, but their level and gear is account-wide. When I learn more about them maybe I’ll do a post.

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