Elder Scrolls Online in 2023

I tried Elder Scrolls Online back in 2018, and at the time I was not a fan and didn’t continue playing it for very long.

However I recently came back, after about 3 years with Final Fantasy XIV, with some Guild Wars 2 along the way and found the experience with ESO very different. I’m sure that I’ve changed, but the ESO game has changed too.

I recall that in 2018, as I started, the quests seemed very disconnected and hard to find. Also, they sent me off to do things that were Killing Me quite often.
I did get a starter pack with a nice mount and some other goodies. Not sure if I bought it or if it was a gift.

ESO Economic Model

The ESO economic model is a lot like Guild Wars 2, which is Buy-Cheap-To-Play and then Pay-For-DLC [Download Content] and Cosmetic items in the store.

ESO appears to be Free to Play, with Pay-For-DLC and Cosmetic rewards, and an Optional Subscription with Perks. ESO does not appear to be Pay-To-Win.
As I have come back, I find things in my account wide collection – Four Nice Outfits – light, medium and heavy armor and a fancy dress up armor, among other things – that I didn’t think were there four years ago.

Not Dying As Much

As I have returned, quests were never life threatening. At least I have not died all the time. A few times. And one quest even has death as part of the story line. But repair of gear is required not only after death, but after fighting for a while. One of my playing rewards was a stack of repair kits tho. So there is that.

I have a level 8 character, with a companion who is level 2, and we were just in High Isles, a zone from the recent DLC. We came across lots of mobs on the road and as part of quests that had bright red names – as if they were much higher level, but we dispatched them in two’s and three’s with no problem. I’m not sure what the Bright Red Names are meant to signify. Those mobs didn’t seem any stronger than the ones I’ve seen in Summerset for example, which is a “Starter Zone”. Looks like ESO scales so you can deal with any of the zones or quest content that you will see.

A lot more fun

I’m having a lot more fun now with ESO than I did four years ago. This is not a detailed review. Just take this as an advertisement [unpaid of course] to encourage you to go try ESO for yourself if you’re interested in an MMO and haven’t played Elder Scrolls Online in a while or have never played it.

Leveling Model

Every MMO has it’s own Leveling Model. For examples:

FFXIV has a strict leveling model for each job.

And content is gated by level. No scaling is done in open zones. Zones are gated so that in general you can’t get there until you’re ready. Players are scaled down for dungeons and trials and quest story instances.

GW2 uses a traditional model, with a fixed cap.

GW2 players are scaled down in open world zones.Dungeons and story instances are scaled too. The level cap is 80 and most of the game is played after you reach that level. 80 seems like a large number, but it’s reached fairly quickly and boosts earned in-game, not only purchased in the store, make leveling Alts to 80 very easy after a while playing the game.

ESO has a very loose scaling model.

You can basically start in any zone and somehow the content you meet is scaled to your level. Open World, Quest dungeons [ not really instances since you’ll see other players there too ]. I’ve not done any dungeons yet so I have yet to see how they work. But the game is completely approachable from the start. You won’t get blind-sided if you walk outside in the wrong place.

Noticeable Things I Like

All quests are completely voice acted.

Here is a list of voice actors.
I was especially struck by the voice of Ember, the Companion.

And look at one of the other notable folks who contributes to the voice acting:

The fact that hundreds of quests are completely voice acted and when you meet a Quest Giver NPC along the road they likely as not will start to speak to you or someone else, is amazing. This makes FFXIV look very poor in comparison.

So apparently, English, German, French and Russian voice acting is included. I’ve seen comments that someone set the voice to French to practice his language skills.

Involved Quest Chains

Many quests are long stories and the rewards are good and scaled to your level. So a piece of gear from a quest reward is set to your level, whatever level you do the quest. And the drops in Quest dungeons and drops from mobs are that way too.

I’ve found that if you want to stay focused, you need to finish a quest before stopping along the road to help someone. That will surely lead you down a long chain with multiple places to visit around the world. Don’t worry, that dying soldier will be there later after you’ve finished the current quest you’re working on. LOL

World Bosses Are a Thing

Oh. and another thing. I happened by a group of folks killing a world boss. While I was only level 8 or so, and I’m sure the other players were much higher level, but I was able to survive the fight and got a nice piece of gear. In FFXIV if you stumble across a world boss, you better be at a level far above the zone you are in or you’ll just be one-shot killed and get nothing for your effort. GW2 scales your level to the area, and the dropped loot, so join world boss fights whenever you see them.

The world is very open and beautiful

The world is not claustrophobic like FFXIV and the maps are not just rectangles with obvious portals like GW2. The maps are huge and tend to be surrounded by oceans. I have yet to try to move between two zones that I have unlocked.

Travel is via portals and ships, which operate exactly like portals. You can travel to any portal you have visited by clicking on the map, you can but don’t have to visit a portal. If you purchase a new DLC zone, then there is an open portal for you in that zone to get started. Or you can find the correct ship captain to take you there.

Companions to help you out

Companions are NPCs that you “recruit” and then follow you around and do what you teach them. They require purchase of the Blackwood or High Isle DLC. Apparently, purchasing either will unlock Companions, although my research could not confirm that. I purchased both DLCs, so I don’t know for sure. There are two Companions in Blackwood and two in High Isle and to get them you just find them, speak to them and complete a quest with them. This can be done on low level toons, even though there is a lot of fighting in some of the quests. So just suit up and go get your companion to get started. You can set any of them up as a healer, tank, or DPS sidekick.

ESO has a large choice of races and classes.

Way too many classes [jobs] to quickly learn them all. But the game starts with Eight (8) character slots – and of course you can buy more. Apparently 18 is the max toons on a server, although folks are complaining about this. But Eight is plenty to get going.

ESO is very Alt friendly.

Many unlocks are account wide. Your mounts, companions [level/skills are shared, but you have to do the quest on each toon], Outfits and many other things are shared. There is a shared bank. Although it only starts with 10 slots. More in the store or with gold. As I mentioned, companions level and gear are all account wide, so as you level them up, or find gear for them, the level, gear and skill settings are shared across all the toons on your account.

The shared bank is quite small to begin with and it’s reasonably expensive in game gold to expand as the cost goes up for each 10 slots purchased. Alas, there is no “Material Storage” to save crafting materials. I have yet to try crafting.

While ESO classes seem very flexible, allowing most to operate as DPS, Healer or Tank, each toon is only one class. Unlike FFXIV, each toon can’t learn all “Jobs” or classes in the game. But in FFXIV, each toon is Siloed with no way to share anything without help from a friend. No shared bank, no mailing between toons or anything. I much prefer the account wide model for many things.

ESO Player Housing is Apparently Instanced

All the silliness that FFXIV goes through with player housing is a crock. As far as I can tell, ESO has instanced player housing. No Rent also as far as I can tell. You can craft fixtures or buy them on the store or the market [ I have yet to understand the market].

A little checking indicates that you can visit to preview any of the houses that are available. They show up on the maps and it’s free to visit them. While there, you can use F5 to get the cost and for any thing but just a room, you can preview and see buying options furnished and unfurnished. Unfurnished rooms, or houses can be purchased with Crowns [store currency] or game gold. And completely furnished houses can be purchased for Crowns. The prices that I’ve seen look very reasonable. A quite large house with a view from a terrace, completely furnished is $20-$30 to buy with Crowns and this seems very reasonable given that the property is available to all the toons on your account and your friends can visit as well. There is even an option to upgrade your Companion as a “House Guest” which I assume turns them into an NPC that visits your house and makes catty comments about the furnishing or your past adventures. House Guest dialog was mentioned. I guess everything is voice acted in this game. LOL

ESO housing types are here.

Alliance War

Not my thing, but if you are looking for PVP, there is the Alliance War, available at level 10, which is only a few hours. Apparently Alliance War is a lot like WvW in GW2, a large scale PVP battle. There appear to be lots of choices for different arenas and there are Three Factions to choose from. I’m no expert tho.

Another minor thing about PVP is that if you do a few quests at level 10 in the PVP area, you get to boost your mount speed in PVP, and PVE by 30%. That is Sprinting full time at no stamina cost and is worth the 20 or so minutes it takes to figure it out. You can look up videos or guides to find out how.

Some Things I Don’t Like

No Mini-Map

Unlike all the other MMOs, the folks that made ESO have some religious objection to a Mini-Map, apparently. There is a linear compass across the top of the screen, but this gives you very little information about the range and makes it very hard to follow a curving road or other path to your destination. ESO supports add-ons, but I was not able to get them to work, so I’m dealing with no mini-map.

Human / Elf Face Models are Severe

Human and Elf faces are Severe shall we say. While not a big deal on my list, I find it odd that character model faces are, shall we say, Rough. FFXIV and GW2 goes to some trouble to make character models attractive or beautiful. But the Human and Elf faces in ESO are less than beautiful. Cat or dragon races have no beauty standards that are widely accepted, I guess, but don’t come to ESO and try to make a beauty contestant model.

I may have been a little harsh. While ESO certainly has a definite style, the models aren’t necessarily Rough. Here are some examples of NPCs. I assume that you can make any of these models as a toon to play, except of course for Cadwell, the fellow with the pot on his head. Have made a toon that looks like the gray haired distinguished High Elf in the blue outfit, except that his hair is parted on the other side – LOL.

No comedy outfits.

Above are outfits and glamours from FFXIV. Below are examples from ESO.

ESO has outfits, but they are all “Armor” type outfits as far as I’ve seen. Although during a quest I was “automatically” dressed up in formal attire for a visit to a royal affair. In ESO there are no swimsuits as far as I can tell. I have not seen any comedic costumes. Fine with me, since I’m not a fan, but some folks may expect to wear a swimsuit costume or a chicken or pumpkin head. I have not seen those. Here’s that formal attire I was dressed in for a quest.

Oh, by the way, there are weddings and I assume attire is available for those events.

Update: While I have not seen swimsuits, I have seen casual attire from party dresses to beach wear – halter tops with short skirts.

Go Give Elder Scrolls Online a Try

ESO is available on all the platforms: PC, MAC, Xbox, PlayStation. You might want to give it a try.

I’ve made some videos showing some thing, but there are massive numbers of Reviews and Guides and Gameplay videos out there so you might start there. Here’s an example of an excellent video summarizing recent gameplay in ESO.