For the past week or so the only game I’ve been playing on my PC is The Elder Scrolls Online. That’s not to say that I have played every day, and it’s not to say that I’m obsessed with the game, but I’ve been logging in and continuing progress and that’s more than I can say about many MMOs these days.
In an attempt to write something of substance rather than just “I did this” or “I beat this game,” I thought it would be nice to write something more in the vein of Bhagpuss, where I have some deeper thoughts about something and splash some pretty pictures in between. A decade ago, I was living and breathing MMOs, to the point where I played every day when I could, and would jot down notes and thoughts while I was at work in order to write out blog posts about the games I was playing. It was mainly Everquest 2 back in those days, but there have been a smattering of other MMOs that I’ve played over the years, but I never stick with one title for long and most of the time I take a short tour to have something to write about and then move on.
I find that one of the biggest draws to ESO for me is the fact that its set in the same world as the rest of The Elder Scrolls series. Having familiar races and places makes a difference and makes me want to explore. Honestly, this isn’t much different than playing a single player TES RPG; you’re still the hero that saves the day and there’s still at ton of quests and places to explore.
One of the issues I took with the game back when I first played it was that it really didn’t feel like it was necessary to have an Elder Scrolls MMO. Most people I knew that had played Skyrim really just wanted to be able to play Skyrim with a couple of friends. Those I had talked to about it thought that a traditional TES game with some co-op functionality would have been better and I tended to agree with them. Having returned to the game after some changes have been made, I find that this feels like that. The game is alive and well, and I find myself running about in solo mode completing various tasks and for random people to just be in the area and helping out to take down harder mobs without the need to group up or even have a conversation. I imagine it would be just as easy to play PvP in the same way or to finish up higher level content. Now that everything scales it seems like you could literally group with anyone and do anything.
It seems though that despite the fact that what I’m doing is still basically the same shit I would be doing in Skyrim, but instead of doing it alone it’s in a shared world, it still affects my attitude towards the game. The simple fact that this is an MMO means I don’t read quest text, I just click through things and on to the next kill ten rats quest because all I care about is vertical progression and not the story. Sure, the game is beautiful and there are some great sights to see. I rather enjoy the combat (though it sucks a bit when you get some lag). There’s just something in me that says “who cares” when it comes to the story that they are pushing at me.
It doesn’t make sense, when in Skyrim I would read the quest text and be enthralled by the things I was doing throughout the game. It felt epic and felt like I was the only person in that world who could complete these tasks. In a shared world, you are still force fed this storyline where you are the “one true hero” but you also see other people doing the same thing you are and at the end of the day it feels less special. But that doesn’t make it less fun.
What I’m trying to get at here is that I’ve found a groove and I’m enjoying myself in an MMO for the first time in a long time. Despite having made a return trip to Norrath at the beginning of the year, I still didn’t really feel at home and honestly the game’s aging graphics take away from the experience. The gorgeous visuals of ESO make me want to play it more, and the fact that I see people everywhere I go makes it feel more alive than other fantasy MMO worlds I’ve participated in as of late. Despite feeling a certain way towards MMOs for the past few years, I feel like this one is getting its hooks into me, and I don’t have the guilt of wasting subscription time at this point because I’m so low level that I’m still working through original game content. I may subscribe at some point just for the perks and all the DLCs but for now I’m happy with this feeling of having something to work towards. A strange relationship I have with MMOs, indeed.