The Elder Scrolls Online Review In Progress Part 2: Lag And Some Dungeons
Bugs and lag are no new thing at the launch of a new MMO. The Elder Scrolls Online has proven to be no different. The first few weeks of a new game of this nature tend to be rough, and for anyone to say that the launch of ESO has been smooth, I would ask where you’ve been this whole time. The game itself remains great for the most part, but I do feel as though these issues need to be addressed.
For the past few days the game has been suffering from an unbearable bout of lag, both with the chat logs and loading screens. One of the major elements of any MMO is the player’s ability to interact with others in game. With your chat logs taking upwards of five minutes (seven minutes is my current record from the time I hit “enter” on a message till the time it appeared onscreen), coordinating groups, getting involved in trade and just overall building friendships and camaraderie can be next to impossible. Couple this with the fact that loading screens, especially to get into the ever popular Cyrodiil, can also take countless minutes.
ZeniMax seems to have cleared up the loading times, somewhat. With server maintenance being done to the NA Megaserver last night, the loading times have gotten shorter. But that chat lag can still rear its ugly head. It almost forces you to be in a VoIP server in order to communicate. I’m not going to say that’s a bad thing, in fact we have a very popular Mumble server and I am also logging into a few Teamspeak servers to play with my other guilds. Not everyone wants to hear other people while trying to get immersed in Tamriel. I have more than once decided to play for a few hours VoIP-free simply so the voices in my head would stay quiet. (No offense, Mumble!) However, if the chat lag isn’t fixed, and fixed soon, ZeniMax could find themselves with many a player not subbing past the initial 30-days.
In addition to this lag, another core area of the game that has seen its recent share of it has been combat. Many times today while fighting in Grahtwood I would find that my skills were not activating and I could not attack or dodge. I could only block, and even that didn’t work half the time. All throughout this I was still being assailed and taking damage from my attacker. This is simply frustrating, so much so that I have rage-quit multiple times as a result.
One of the areas of the game that I have praised ZeniMax over has been their combat. I find it to be deeply satisfying and it keeps me engaged. The NPC collision definitely adds weight to the combat animations as well. Unfortunately if the lag persists, I will find it hard to continue to enjoy this area of the game.
Grouping in Tamriel
When the chat systems work as intended, finding a group to run some quests and dungeons is relatively simple. One of the best touches in my opinion is the ability to let your role be known to your group in the Group Panel. Tank, DPS or Healer, you can easily define your role with a simple mouse-click making it easy to seek out a needed role within the group.
However, once you’re assembled, finding your party members and being able to see them is an entirely different story. The phasing in ESO is really great, one technical area of the game that should be praised. It’s because of this technology that you feel as though your actions really do effect the world around you. Save a town and you will see some rebuilding efforts going on. Kill a NPC as part of a quest and they will literally no longer be there. Unfortunately if your group member chose differently you might not see them standing next to you. The wonder and magic of the phasing completely works when soloing, but you are instantly aware once you group up with other players.
Dungeon Diving in ESO
Dungeons are by far one of the key points to level in ESO. In the game you will encounter two different types of dungeon: public and private instanced. In a public dungeon, any player currently in your phase of the Megaserver can run alongside you helping or hindering your progress. (Especially if they pull everything in the dungeon just to die nearby, thus having the full wrath of the enemy bear down on you. It happens.) Public dungeons are one of the game’s biggest strengths, but also one of the areas I think the game founders some.
My reasoning for this is simply because there can be way too many players in a single dungeon at one time, thus making a dungeon simply another area to pass through. For instance, while leveling in Auridon I came upon Soulfire Plateau. I knew this area was tough due to my time playing on the Beta Server, but because of everyone around me I had no difficulty running through the swathes of Skeletons and Necromancers. In fact, I’m not even sure if I wasn’t healing everyone if I would’ve received credit for the kills.
Another example of the public dungeons being a little overpopulated are the continued farming of dungeon bosses. Without fail at the end of a cave I would have to wait as the boss I needed to encounter had just been killed by the twenty other players around him. Once they respawn they are burned down within a manner of seconds. Slow reflexes mean you’ll be waiting the next respawn for a shot to get a hit in on the boss.
In part one of the Review, I posed the question that has been posed since day one of ESO being announced: Was this a game made with the original series in mind, or a simple remake of a franchise with no regards to what made the series a success? Simply put, is this more Elder Scrolls or more MMO? For fans of the MMO, public dungeons are to be heralded. An approach seen in other games, but not as widely utilized as in this capacity. Sure in other games there are other players running around with you. But in those games you had separate servers to keep the population lower and you had to be the first to tag an enemy to get the credit.
For fans of the single player games who simply want to play the game solo (which is a gameplay style that we’ve been assured can be done), the idea of groups of players farming a boss can be both disheartening and immersion breaking. On one hand you could tell the player to simply pass by these areas, but to progress through many of the quests you must venture into these caves, ruins and dungeons, so by skipping the areas you are missing out on parts of the story, skill points via Skyshards and so on.
Personally, I don’t mind the public dungeons too much. It’s inside a public dungeon where one of the points in the game that is truly great is accented and heightened. Impromptu groups sprout up within these dungeons. Silent pacts are formed to help get to that end goal. Oftentimes I will see a player combating multiple enemies along my way and will stop to help the fight. They will in turn tag along as we progress through the content together, only to go our separate ways when the boss is defeated. This type of player interaction I have not experienced in a MMO before, and it is one of the true saving graces of ESO.
Dark Anchors are another great example of this amazing impromptu grouping. As a Dark Anchor takes hold in an area, players nearby all bee-line towards these gates to Coldharbour. No one bothers to form an actual group, or even communicate for that matter. There is one goal in mind for all the players involved: destroy the Anchor. This ability to band together for a common goal, and do it effectively with little to no coordination makes these events exciting and pretty unique. The only other game in which I’ve experienced this is RIFT, but I think that the grouping aspect of a Dark Anchor is a bit more successful in its execution.
Part 3 Incoming
You may think that while reading this portion of the review that I am not enjoying the game. On the contrary, I am loving ESO. But I do feel these issues need to be brought up. In not doing so, I would be doing a disservice to those reading this review. Bugs and lag aside, I am really enjoying my time in Tamriel, and plan on continuing to enjoy my time.
My Imperial Templar recently started to venture in Grahtwood and just hit level 16. Weapon swap has been unlocked giving my otherwise straight-healing character some much needed DPS by utilizing the Dual-wield skill tree. Part 3 of this review-in-progress will focus on skill progression and story.
Oh, and I also got married to Liz (Mistress LeBeau) last night simply due to convenience and her amazing ability to not take “no” for an answer. Stay tuned for the video on that as we livestreamed the “ceremony.”
As always, you can follow me on Twitter as well if you want to comment on my review, or simply say hi!