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 Post subject: TESO - Where we're at
PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 2:55 pm 
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I've recently been revitalizing my TESO playing after spending 2015 playing EVE a lot - a whole lot, over 160 fleets joined over the course of the year. I got top participation for my corporation for the year and a nice (in game) cash award. Unfortunately, a couple of strategic cruiser losses in a major war at the end of the year plus Allison being home for the holidays made the burn-out finally come home to roost. I have no desire to quite EVE but I won't be burning the candle at both ends for 2016.

For the holidays, Allison and I played WoW together, which was a nice change for a couple weeks - a little nostalgic visiting of old content. She doesn't play all the time, only during school breaks so it was a good interlude for us.

WoW, however, just doesn't hold the interest like it used to and I'd been meaning to play TESO more since I was already paying a subscription and maybe logging in once a month. At one point I considered cancelling my subscription for lack of play, but it wasn't lack of desire to play TESO; it was too much EVE.

However, despite an occasional log-in or running the downloader to keep it updated, I really wasn't all that familiar with where things were. I was, however, pleased with what I've seen. Below will be my omnibus assessment of what's in the game lately.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:27 pm 
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First up, what's happening right now:

I was pleased to discover that the Thieves' guild will be released this year. It will have continent-wide content, but it will be based around Hew's Bane, a peninsula in Hammerfell (the Redguard homeland) which, along with its artwork, implies an Aladdin-ish theme. The Dark Brotherhood will be later this year.

This has been an important element of the series for a long time, and a key feature for any TES fan. The crime/justice system that allowed you to steal from NPCs and attack them, as well as suffering the consequences with the guards or fencing your ill-gotten loot was already in so this was needed to fully flesh out the theft aspects- the DB will fully flesh out the murder parts.

I was disappointed that both were left out of the initial game, and it will be almost 2 years old with the TG release, but it looks to be worth it right now. The Fighters' and Mages' guild questlines were.. ok; Fighters probably better than Mages, and they each came with a skill line. The Thieves' Guild looks to be a much more fully fleshed-out game system and content addition, so the wait is likely to have been worth it, if longer than I would have liked.

Second: Other additions that are already in include the Imperial City and the Orsinium expansion that came out in October. I have not explored them very much, although the little bit of Orsinium I have done I do like - it's very wintery and harsh, and leaves me with a Game of Thrones "Winter is Coming" vibe that you get with the scenes with the Night's Watch. The content is at VR16 - the top level - but it scales you to the content if you're not at that level; it doesn't scale the content to you.

I have not yet done any Imperial City content other than trying the dungeon instances which are **** hard. Its on the list for the near future though.

Actually, dungeons are very hard in general in this game. They have a lot of boss fights, with most of the trash before the first boss and then generally only small amounts between bosses. The bosses have interesting and different mechanics. Even the tank-and-spank ones tend to have surprises. Also, some dungeons are definitely harder than others, especially when doing them in Veteran mode. This is not obvious in the dungeon finder so its good to know what one is getting into before searching.

Grouping has improved; for instance-doing cross-alliance grouping is possible. This has greatly improved availability of groups.

I have not tried PVP since coming back although it remains very popular; the DAoC 3-way model remains a good way to keep things quite interesting. I mean to soon though; maybe tonight.

There is a guild in the game called The Undaunted, which is essentially an adventurers' guild. In the initial release I didn't know what they were all about; it seemed like just another skill line that I wasn't all that thrilled with. Turns out now they essentially do the "dungeon dailies" - a regular and a veteran one every day. There are very nice rewards for them, on top of the dungeon loot which is pretty good stuff.

More below on the nitty-gritty of the game.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 4:26 pm 
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Ok, so the more nitty gritty stuff:

First, looking and feeling cool. When it comes to feeling like you are a cool badass, this game delivers. Not only do higher-level items tend to look more elaborate, you have a racial crafting style for each race as well as several more than are styles tied to things besides player races. There's an armor style for any theme you want, and of course you can mix and match styles - they have no gameplay effect at all. If you want your daggers looking like Kukris, pick Argonian. If you want scimitar swords, pick Redguard. Traditional TES themes like Glass and Daedric are in there as well, either as levels of quality or styles, and many new and interesting options are there alongside the traditional ones. In light armor, they even included a "shirt" option rather than "robes" so every light armor type doesn't have to wear a dress.

Armor dyes, which I mentioned when they came out, are a thing. There's an extensive array of colors, and all the "good" colors are not confined to the hard-to-get achievements (achievements are how you unlock colors). Despite having unlocked only about 1/4 of the colors I can create almost any color theme I want. Each armor piece has 3 color sectors on it.

As far as feeling cool goes, abilities and combat feel "weighty". dual wielding feels quick, 2 handers feel heavy. Switches in tactics are possible without re-specing by re-sloting abilities, and picking ones that compliment each other and fit the needs of a situation. When you are using dodge-rolling and a bow to fight a slow but tough boss in a tight space, you do get a bit of the Llegolas experience.

Non-weapon abilities tend to have pretty good varieties of effects, although there tends to be a theme. For example, there's abilities to close with people. Dragonknights have a chain-pull that does damage and drags them to you, Nightblades have a teleport strike that takes you to them instantly and does minimal damage, and Sorcerers have a lightning form ability that boosts movement speed allowing you to run to them but which delivers considerably more damage to targets around you. All the same purpose, but accomplished in meaningfully different ways.

Abilities are almost as customizeable as appearance too; with 3 class skill lines per character, up to 6 weapons lines (realistically any given character needs only 2) 3 guild lines (4 soon, if there's a Thieves' Guild line) 2 world lines (soul trapping and then a crime line) 2 PVP-specific lines, a racial line and a line for each armor type. Most skills can be "morphed" as well, where you pick 1 of 2 enhancements of the skill after using it for a time. It's important to pick skills you want, not try to get all of them because you just won't have enough skill points. This particularly relates to crafting skills, which are a giant point-sink.

Speaking of that, crafting in this game appeals to me more than any previous MMO. I find the wide customization and fairly rapid progression of crafting appealing. That said, it has an issue:

It's very hard to make a tradeskill alt. While its quite possible to raise the tradeskill skill level just by deconstruction of items, you need skill points to put in to the tradeskill to unlock the ability to make higher level items, as well as to refine items into higher quality items and deconstruct more efficiently. For most tradeskills, you're looking at 19 skill points or so just to unlock the ability to make and deconstruct stuff to the highest levels and probably about 25 for all the trimmings.

You get 1 skill point per level, plus the ability to earn others from collecting skyshards and certain quests, so getting to 19 isn't that hard, but if you want to consolidate tradeskilling on one character you're going to need to do significant adventuring to collect skill points - and you'll need more skill points for the skills to adventure with.

Therefore, it's been best for me to do 1 skill per character. My one high-level character has 2 because she has a surplus of points, but a dedicated "tradeskill alt" is problematic.

That brings me to leveling, which I'll do in a post later on today.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 7:12 pm 
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Advancement

Advancement is pretty heavily tied to customization. At each level up to 50 you get 1 point for health, stamina, or magic, like in Skyrim. You get one skill point that goes into a skill or a morph just like skyrim and they can be either active skills or passives.

That's all fairly pedestrian MMO fair. Where it gets interesting - and a bit problematic is the alternate forms of advancement; of which there are two.

At level 50, or rather shortly after hitting level 50 you get promoted to Veteran Rank 1. Veteran ranks go up to 16 and are somewhat of a grind although interspersing dungeons with solo content helps a great deal. Each Veteran rank gives you an additional skill point, although not an attribute point, and access to still higher levels of gear. By the time you reach Veteran Rank 1 you should have all 3 class skills at level 50 and at least 1 weapon skill and 1 armor at 50. You may have other lines maxxed out depending on your strategy for them.

In addition to Veteran ranks, there are Champion points. These are very similar to AA points from EQ, and I like them a lot. Each provides a fairly small bonus individually but it is possible to earn a LOT of them - in fact, I don't know of any cap on earning them; you can only allocate up to 501 of them though. The best part about them is that your most advanced character earns them, in parallel with levelling up if you are still below VR16. Then, ALL of your characters get access to them. You don't have to grind them out over and over, but each character can allocate them individually.

501 may seem like a strange number, and the reason is that they are earned under one of the three traditional TES archetypes - Mage, Thief, or Fighter. They rotate in turn as you earn them, so you get 1 fighter point, then a thief, then a mage, back to fighter, etc. Under each sign are 3 of the other 13 traditional TES constellations. Mage gets Atronach, Apprentice, and Ritual, Fighter gets Steed, Lord, and Lady, Thief gets Shadow, Lover, and Tower (Serpent is absent). You assign the points to one of the four passive bonuses available under each of the constellations that fall under the archetype of the newly-awarded point.

When you get 10, 30, 75, and 120 points in a particular constellation, you get a bonus passive in that constellation, which are generally pretty good. The number 501 is significant because it allows 167 per archetype, which allows the unlocking of 1 tree under each Archetype to 120, one to 30, and one to 10 for a total of 7 passives per archetype or 21 altogether. You could also go 75, 75, 10; in either case you have 7 free points left over.

I don't know if, once you have extra points past 501 if you can intentionally "short" one archetype to allocate additional points under another but material implies that you can. I'll update when I get that far.

Anyhow, the implications of this - while the Champion Point system is popular, VRs are distinctly unpopular. I didn't initially realize why; I thought it was just their rather grindy nature.

It's not. The problem is more subtle. Initially, the idea was that each alliance would only do its own content, but the playerbase demanded, and got the ability to do ALL the alliance solo content on one character in traditional TES "go everywhere, do everything" fashion. The idea was that the first alliance after you finished your own would be 50+ content, and that the second would be 50++ content (now renamed silver and gold). I had mixed feelings at the time although most of my reservations were for the wrong reasons - I was worried about pvp implications which turned out not to be an issue.

What DID become an issue was that the ability to do all the content on any one character removed most of the incentive to re-do it on alts. There are 8 character slots and only 3 alliances so even if you don't do it and level to VR16 in dungeons, PVP, and now Imperial City and Orsinium (and upcoming Thieves') you're going to be doing the same content over a lot.

Compounding this is that skipping it entirely is.. well, I'm not sure if it's entirely nonviable, but it doesn't seem like a very good idea. That additional content is a major source of skyshards and quest-based skillpoints. The saving grace is that you can always just run through, grab skyshards, and then only go back and do the content that produces skillpoints if you need them (there's a lot of skyshards, and the PVP area is a motherlode of them - if you don't like PVP you can still stealth to a great many of them)

Suffice to say, this is very much a case of the playerbase getting exactly what it asked for and then complaining about it. ZOS does want to eliminate VRs and transition to all Champion Points, but the 16 skill points that come from VRs and the 3 or 4 tiers of crafted gear that rely on VRs for their level requirement would need a solution. Still, it is really not as bad as it seems and as more content appears it will be possible to skip or not do all of the other alliances if you really don't feel like it to ever-greater degrees. I am not confident that the VRs will ever be removed; I think this was a system that was a result of competing demands - both the need to create the TES open world and the need to make MMO content, and the desire to play everything on one character and the need not to have to create 3x as much solo content as they ended up making.

More later

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 9:33 pm 
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Quote:
By the time you reach Veteran Rank 1 you should have all 3 class skills at level 50 and at least 1 weapon skill and 1 armor at 50


How does that math square with this:

Quote:
At each level up to 50 you get 1 point for health, stamina, or magic, like in Skyrim. You get one skill point that goes into a skill or a morph just like skyrim and they can be either active skills or passives.


If you get one skill point per level... how do you have all 3 class skills, a weapon and armor at 50? Level says you have 50 points.

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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:14 am 
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Müs wrote:
Quote:
By the time you reach Veteran Rank 1 you should have all 3 class skills at level 50 and at least 1 weapon skill and 1 armor at 50


How does that math square with this:

Quote:
At each level up to 50 you get 1 point for health, stamina, or magic, like in Skyrim. You get one skill point that goes into a skill or a morph just like skyrim and they can be either active skills or passives.


If you get one skill point per level... how do you have all 3 class skills, a weapon and armor at 50? Level says you have 50 points.


Sorry, I should have been more clear.

Skills gain experience any time they are in use - wearing that armor type, having a skill from the line on the bar, using that weapon type. Crafting skills and the guild skill lines are exceptions - you gain crafting skill by crafting, and the guild skills go up from specific world actions - for example, killing named monsters and destroying Dark Anchors raises Fighter's Guild skills.

The skill line itself has a level from 1 to 50. As long as you consistently use a weapon, class, or armor skill (have that weapon equipped, have a reasonable number of slots filled with that armor type, have a class skill from that line on your hotbar - it will be at or close to level 50 when you are at level 50. Various things can affect this, but it won't be that far off.

As the skill in the line goes up you gain access to more skills from that line, and more passives as well. You generally get the first 3 skills in a line and its Ultimate (for those lines with ultimates) before hitting level 20, and the latter 2 come later along with most of the passives.

However, that just grants you access to those skills. To actually activate them and make them available you put skill points into them. 1 point gives you the skill or ultimate; passives usually have 2 or 3 ranks at 1 point per rank.

Active skills and ultimates also have levels from 1 to 4 as well; they skill gains experience any time its on your hotbar and you fight. At level 4, it opens up a morph - you can pick 1 of 2 morphs for a skill, either of which will give it an additional advantage. The morph then levels to 4, but that isn't really important - it maxes out very fast. The leveling of 1 to 4 for the base skill similarly isn't important; it's just a way to track how close you are to the morph. Skill line levels similarly are more a progress tracker than anything else. The morph costs 1 skill point to activate it.

You will have, at level 50, considerably more skill points than just the 50 you got from leveling; you will have probably done the main story questline as well as your alliance storyline quests, so that's probably about 20 skill points from questing. You get 1 skyshard in the tutorial (awarded for free if you skip the tutorial on alts), 6 from your alliance into zone(s) and 16 from each of the 5 leveling zones for your alliance, and another 16 from Coldharbor wrapping up the main quest. At 3 skyshards to the skillpoint that works out to another 34 skillpoints, so at level 50 you should actually have around 100 total skillpoints. that's if you never did PVP either; you don't gain skill points from pvp, but the PVP area has about 50 skyshards or so all on its own.

This might all seem complicated but its actually fairly intuitive once you get it on your screen. The only pitfall is if you don't realize that you don't NEED to unlock every skill, certainly not right away. I still have 1 or 2 class skills on my main character that aren't unlocked because they don't fit my playstyle.; I moved on to other things. For example, if you are not a tank, skills that are obviously for tanking you can just skip and then get back to later.

Therefore, its good to spend your first 4 skillpoints getting the first ability in each class line and the first ability in your weapon line. The beginner skills in each line tend to be very all-around useful. After that, pick ones that fit how you want to play, work on passives, and start on crafting line or the other skill lines. Changing out skills on you bar situationally is part of gameplay so having variety is good, but there's no reason to spend points on skills that don't pertain to your theme until you get everything you really want. It helps a lot if you RP your character a bit as to theme; then you can focus in on the stuff that really matters to you.

There's also tricks to conserve skill points. For example, while there's good reasons to use more than 1 armor type you get maximum skill point efficiency from using just one. You can also put the same weapons (or different weapons that fight the same way; for example a sword-and-dagger and then dual axes) in both hotswap slots and thereby limit your weapons style to just 1 line. I've found that post-level-50 though just avoiding waste of skill points on stuff that has limited use still leaves you with plenty.

Also, Skyshards are pretty easy to find - all locations are well documented online and there's an add-on to show them on your map.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:10 pm 
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Ok, getting back to this:

Balance.

I'm not sure what, if any, balance issues persist but I do know that 2 of the big ones have been addressed and the fact that there aren't any popping up on the TESO community sites tells me there aren't any that are really a crisis right now.

First, there was a problem with Champion Points (discussed above) when they were first implemented, relating to the VR system and the accompanying higher tiers of gear. You can theoretically earn up to 3600 Campion Points, but presently you can only allocate 501 of them. My understanding is this wasn't always the case; a year ago you could allocate all of them. The problem was that this made it very hard for newer players to catch up - while you could be VR16 with VR16 gear, the multiplicative effects made high-CP characters vastly more powerful than low-CP. By placing the limit it allowed people more time to catch up, and also facilitated transition to an eventual all-CP post-50 advancement.

It's unclear where they're at with VR removal and CP changes but it does not look like the Thieves' Guild update will make a huge difference.

The other problem, which started cropping up not long after launch was with Stamina builds. Because Stamina is the resource used for dodge rolling, sprinting, and breaking many CC effects it competes with Weapon skills (and some others) - except for destruction and restoration staves, which use magic.

Because of this, DPS got channeled into one path for builds outside of soloing - pump health and magic and use staves. Stamina could then be devoted entirely to rolls and prints and not compete with DPS.

Stamina abilities were revised, and some magic-based abilities had one of their morphs changed so damage scaled off max stamina. If you choose that morph, then the ability becomes dependent on both - magic to deploy it, stamina to scale it up. If you choose the other morph you avoid that, but frequently the stamina one is much harder-hitting if you've devoted reasonable effort to increasing stamina.

The complaint seems to have largely gone away and I have observed in my groups that DPS now has a wide variety of weapons and builds.

Related to this is another issue, specifically melee DPS. Many bosses have very powerful self-centered AOEs which make it hard for melee DPS to stay in close and deliver their damage. This was another reason staves were popular. I'm not sure to what degree this has been addressed, but looking at my bow as opposed to my daggers - both of which are the same quality - the bow delivers less damage overall. It appears that they may have either upped melee weapons or downgraded ranged weapons to compensate for the difficulty of remaining in close during boss fights.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:54 pm 
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One of the ongoing discussions during the entire pre-release development of TESO was the "Is it Elder Scrolls, or is it an MMO?" question. This was a source of considerable drama at the time. The long-time Elder Scrolls fans insisted it was Elder Scrolls first and an MMO second (by which they meant they wanted Skyrim you could play with friends on a persistent server) while the MMO crowd said it had to be an MMO first and Elder Scrolls second (by which they meant it was supposed to be WoW or RIFT re-skinned as Elder Scrolls).

ZOS, rather naturally, tried to split the difference - in particular, they deployed the 3-way PVP formula of Matt Frior's previous success with Dark Age of Camelot, making PVP a major game system, although still optional in that it was confined to the central area of the world, not just a free-for-all anywhere and everywhere. This had the effect of dividing the MMO-portion of the community somewhat by pleasing the PVPers and leaving them with little to complain about. On the Elder Scrolls side, the game early on went to full-manual control of offense and defense (not auto attack or dodge stat; you have to do it yourself) and they threw a few bones like fully-implemented 1st-person perspective, thereby mollifying the more moderate portions of the TES crowd.

In retrospect, however, the problem was essentially unsolvable prior to release because the vocal elements of either side weren't going to be satisfied with anything but getting completely their own way, and if you didn't belong to either camp - or could see the merits of both sides - whoever you agreed with tended to be the opposite of whichever viewpoint you were reading at any given moment because they were just that obnoxious.

In the event however, the Elder Scrolls crowd essentially won - while many systems are simplified from 1-player TES or implemented in MMO-friendly ways, basically everything is there. You CAN play this as if it were a single-player TES game; it will just be more linear. The reason the TES-crowd won should be obvious - the MMO players were essentially demanding that ZOS make the same game formula that was already saturating the market and demanding that it have every convenience MMO players have come to love so they could jump right in, hit max level within a week, beat all the raids in 3 months, and then complain there was no content. Had ZOS done this, it would have been a disaster - that game already existed in numerous forms and there would have been no reason at all to choose TESO over them.

Early on though, this meant that there really wasn't enough MMO in the TES. It was hard to get groups, people had a hard time adapting to gameplay, and content releases were initially fairly slow. This forced the B2P change.

At this point, however, they seem to have remedied much of this. Content has been improved, and grouping has been improved. It is now at the point where, on any given day you can log in and CHOOSE if you want to play a single-player game or group up for that day. Grouping can now be done cross-alliance for PVE, which hugely improved group availability. PVP remains strong.

The other upside of this is that quests are generally very well-developed. The fetch-quests and Collect 20 Bear Asses types are there, but in less dreary and repetitive ways (mostly) and the people you interact with are (mostly) interesting and original to talk to. Quests also include a sprinkling of puzzle quests that can actually be somewhat tricky to figure out, or quests where you're supposed to remember a bit of trivia from earlier on and repeat it later. Some of these are better than others, but they definitely add variety to the single-player quest paradigm.

The conversation options provide at least some of the speech-play of the single-player games. For example, there's "intimidate" and "persuade" options and bribery options as well, and if you have not unlocked the ability to "persuade" or "intimidate" you can't use those. If you don't have those, you'll generally have a slightly longer path to quest completion.

Many quests have branching options (notifying you at the point of branch by turning conversation selections red). Usually these are reward-neutral - you materially fare equally well either way - or the "right" answer is obscured in an ambiguous ending, but not always. Either way, the world remembers what you did and refers to it. Going back to completed areas will result in the locals remembering your actions and talking about them. This results in a little occasional weirdness, since the same area appears different to someone who hasn't completed it, even if they're right next to you, but it's rarely anything but a minor footnote of strange player behavior.

Some quests are really pretty funny or surprising in their endings. My personal favorite so far is one where some mage with a rather inflated opinion of his own talents is terrorizing a village. You eventually confront him on a small platform at the top of a broken tower, with nary a wall or railing. There is a conversation option that... well, lets just say you won't have to actually fight him.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:37 pm 
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This post is more about lore and my impressions of how it's handled and therefore light on concrete game facts. It is heavily opinion, but facts are interspersed. I was going to discuss races, individually and how races are handled generally but I think it will make more sense after this section than before.

First, however, a few details. It's still a requirement to purchase upgrades to get access to the Imperial race, or to use the other 9 races in alliances other than their home alliance. The Alliances are 3 groups of 3 races arranged by geographic proximity. This has its advantages and disadvantages. However, even without the upgrades its still possible to play all the content and make characters of multiple races; just not belonging to the "wrong" alliance.

They have also, mostly, preserved the concept of races not "wearing hats" - in previous TES games while races had strong tendencies, there were always considerable examples of exceptions, such as the orc librarian at the College of Winterhold.

The alliances are the Daggerfall Covenant - Bretons, Redguards and Orcs; my main alliance, Ebonheart Pact which was Dark Elves, Nords, and Argonians, and the Aldmeri Dominion which is High Elves, Wood Elves, and Khajit.

While the alliances are all well-balanced in terms of total content and strategic positioning for the Cyrodill war, and have certain similarities in terms of content, they have very definite flavor and lore distinctions.

First, every alliance has the Mage's Guild, the Fighter's Guild, identical access to the main storyline quest and a main alliance questline Every alliance has 5 leveling zones, feeding into Coldharbour at the end. DC and EP each have 2 small newbie zones, done in succession; AD has a single, larger newbie zone.

As to each of them in turn:

Ebonheart Pact, in the pre-release lead-up to the game took the early lead as the player favorite, having the largest population. I don't know if that remains. It has the most diverse racial selection and also probably the most tortured alliance in terms of believability. Dark Elves and Nords fight each other pretty regularly in TES lore, and Dark Elves are notorious for enslaving Argonians (and to a lesser extent Khajit) - this was a major undercurrent in Morrowind. There's little incentive for the races to actually like each other.

Fortuntely, the game does not shy from this or try to retcon away the resentments. The EP gives the impression of being a loose alliance, and early lore material stated it was the most "mystical" alliance, as in it recognized the threat from Molag Ball to the greatest degree. While the three races may seem to have a hard time getting along, there is really no historical beef between Argonians and Nords, and while Dark Elves and Nords might fight, there is also a mutual respect for the others' abilities.

The Skald-King, Jorunn, is the leader of the EP which gives a clue as to its compromise nature - the alliance is named after Ebonheart, a Dark Elf city but the capital and leader are Nord. This situation does not repeat itself in the other 2 alliances which have a single, fairly clear "lead" race.

I have not completed the EP's content all the way through, but from what I have done they have the best variety of zones in terms of terrain and things to encounter; there's a real feeling of different flavor among the early zones whereas the other 2 alliances have early zones that tend to similarity (although not outright repetition) - and that variety tends to be pretty interesting; the Morrowind flavor is definitely there in the first main zone for example.

Each alliance has recurring characters that appear throughout its storyline quest, and this is one of EP's weak points - I have found it's recurring characters to be fairly uninteresting. I have not seen much of the Skald King himself yet, and haven't made up my mind about him. Nevertheless, the alliance overall has a distinct and unique feel to it that is less of a trope than either of the other 2 and it might be my favorite after I've fully explored its storyline.

More on the other 2 alliances later.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2016 4:53 pm 
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The Aldmeri Dominion

The second alliance I'll addre4ss, AD, is my least favorite of the three, for full disclosure up front. It's not that I think it's bad, it's just "meh" as far as my personal tastes go compared to the other two.

Early on, it was the middle alliance for population, but it also gained an early reputation as the place to be for progression-focused raid guilds. I'm not sure if that remains true or not. The racial selection contains three mid-popularity races amongst TES fans - Khajit, Wood Elves, and High Elves - so it was not a surprise that it was 2nd in popularity.

Lore-wise, it has the strongest argument for unity amongst its three races, and is generally portrayed in that way. There are still some tensions, but they are due to dissenters rather than the sort of pervasive distrust that some EP members have for each other.

It also benefits from one of the most entertaining recurring alliance characters in the game Razum-Dar, a Khajit agent of Queen Ayrenn who wears heavy armor and has an ostentatious red mowhawk. Raz is actually my favorite part of AD and single-handedly lifts my opinion of it from mildly negative to solidly neutral. He's likeable, clever, and while he's not a stereotypical khajit he is not jarring in his departure from the norm.

Where I feel like the problems start however, is in the name of the alliance itself - the Aldmeri Dominion. This name has baggage with the players from Skyrim since the Aldmeri in Skyrim were almost comically hate-able. The Dominion here is nothing like that (remember, it's about 1000 years before Skyrim and around 800 years before the other main-series games); it's comic-fantasy-racist elements are supposed to be an underground high elf faction whom you end up fighting throughout the faction questline.

Unfortunately, the way this is actually presented is that Queen Ayrenn is a great leader who unifies the three races and treats them all very well, but seems to be beset by a rather oversized conspiracy of this Altmer-supremacist underground because of senses of superiority towards the other two. There's two problems I have with this - first, the high elves start straying into "Wearing the hat" of being the arrogant supremacist race, and second it's a pretty typical fantasy trope for elves. This goes against the nuanced approach to racial rolls TES normally uses, to its detriment.

Also, the Queen herself comes across as a fairly typical overly-perfect fantasy elf queen. She's almost TOO likeable, which is jarring when you realize how many of her own people hate her because wood elves and khajit. She's very egalitarian towards them, and that has an element of her being the only fair High Elf (that you talk to at, at any rate) for no apparent reason. Sprinkled on top of this is typical overly-good-ruler-angst - not a lot, but just enough that I feel like the game is insisting that Ayrenn is the best ruler, really, she is, but the fact that she's got so many hidden Altmer-supremacist shitlords amongst her people makes it feel like she's trying too hard.

Of course, some of the attitude might be explained with the Wood Elves and the Green Pact, about which they prattle on endlessly. They weren't too bad, but it seemed like almost all Wood Elf quests referred back to it in some way. The Khajit, on the other hand, I found generally entertaining and likeable.

I also found the zones to be rather uninteresting - the High Elf zones really weren't that different from Daggerfall Covenant, while the Wood Elf zones were exactly what you'd expect - forests, swamps, and such. The Wood Elf zones though, had an unsighly profusion of cliffs all over the place making them difficult to get around in. The Khajiti-wood elf border zone you eventually get to was a refreshing change and quite pleasing after the combination of boring and confusing of the previous four.

Still, AD remains popular so I have to say I'm pretty sure most of this is really just a matter of it being less to my taste. I just feel like the lore and presentation of this faction became enslaved to a combination of Skyrim and tropes to a larger degree than necessary

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:16 am 
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Thanks for all the info, DE.

I only played for a couple of weeks after launch, and just never really got very far with it. I had a few issues that just turned me off from the game.

I'm actually thinking about returning, especially after reading your posts. Any hints for a returning player? I'd probably be looking at re-rolling a brand new character.

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Caleria wrote:
Thanks for all the info, DE.

I only played for a couple of weeks after launch, and just never really got very far with it. I had a few issues that just turned me off from the game.

I'm actually thinking about returning, especially after reading your posts. Any hints for a returning player? I'd probably be looking at re-rolling a brand new character.


Sure, here's some things that might help, and if you let me know what your tastes are in terms of play-style and Elder Scrolls lore I'll try to add a few more things.

In no particular order:

Play the character you want, and use the abilities that fit you while you're leveling up. Don't even worry about build until you hit Veteran ranks. After that, find a build that has the right "feel", not just the best paper stats. You're controlling almost everything manually, so a build has to "feel right in your hands" for lack of a better term. Eventually you'll have enough abilities unlocked that you can adjust it situationally as you need to.

Pick the race you want; the racial stats can be helpful but there's usually more than one way to skin a cat and if you're picking a race with the "wrong" stats it usually ends up covering for weaknesses anyhow. If you don't know or don't care that much what race you are, here are a few suggestions:

- If you want to be a Vampire, a Dark Elf is a great choice, especially for PVP. Vampires are weak to fire; Dark Elves have a large fire resist bonus they can unlock.
- If you want to do stealth, a Wood Elf or Khajit is good; they have racials that give stealth bonuses
- Every race gets a bonus to skill line experience with 1 weapon or armor type they don't have to unlock. Consider picking a race with a bonus to your armor type, or, if you want to mix armor types, pick one with a bonus to the armor type you will wear less of to help it keep up better. For weapon bonuses, pick the race with the bonus for the weapon you'll pick up as your secondary at level 15 to help it catch up to the main bar.

Pick at least 1 tradeskill and start it early. Don't pick enchanting though, unless you know what you're doing. It's agonizing compared to the others. If you pick woodworking, blacksmithing, or clothier, research traits early and often so you can make the set items you want at high level.

deconstruct as much woodworking, blacksmithing, and clothier stuff as you can to advance these skills even if they don't pertain to you, and buy the skills that allow item improvement more easily. You'll want to improve your gear to blue or purple and you can use a lot fewer re-agents if you can do those things. Obviously you can skip one of these skills if it doesn't pertain to you at all, or get to it later on.

If you ARE using one of the two armor-making tradeskills, don't overlook the "divines" trait you can add to items - it seems weak at first, to boost Mundus Stone effects, but if you are wearing 7 pieces of armor that are all boosting your Mundus stone ability that's a pretty big boost. I do this with my main and use Thief, so I get a huge boost to crit chance.

When lockpicking, watch the pick, not the tumbler. It makes it sooooo much easier.

You can join 5 guilds. Join at least 1, maybe 2, trading guilds that maintain a kiosk. It gives you much better market access for both buying and selling.

Strongly consider joining an RP guild. This game has a REALLY strong RP community compared to other games.; if you like RP even a little try it out.

Don't be scared of the PVP area. It's rich in Skyshards, and its so large that it's not hard to run around collecting them even if you hate and fear pvp.

Speaking of that, definitely get the Skyshards add-on. The joy of discovering them yourself is fleeting.

Make sure you have food for dungeon groups - health food especially. It really helps a lot.

If you run across various mini-world events, get involved in them. They often reward with skill line EXP on top of the exp for the kills.

Don't shy away form abilities that target daedra, undead, and werewolves. They work on players that are those things in PVP, and a huge amount of dungeon content is one of these things; they're not as niche as they might initially seem.

Keep a decent stock of soul gems; it sucks running out of these. Get the "chance to auto-fill a soul gem" ability from the Soul Magic line early; it makes it a lot less of a pain to fill them.

When enchanting gear, look at buying off the player markets before deciding to use ones you pick up. There is a MUCH wider variety of player-made enchants and they tend to be higher quality.

Levels 7 to 15 tend to bog down a bit, so don't get discouraged. you mentioned this back in one of the game threads from 2 years ago, and it still seems to be the case. Once you get past 15 though, things seem to stabilize out and the pace rolls rather nicely. Getting that 2nd weapon bar at 15 just really enhances play.

You have 8 character slots, and each character has 60 backpack spaces. Buying the first 2 or 3 bank and backpack upgrades isn't that expensive but it gets steep after that. Therefore, you can obtain cheap storage space by making alts.

I'll be back with the Daggerfall Covenant post later on.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:53 pm 
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Daggerfall Covenant

The Daggerfall Covenant is, as I mentioned my main's alliance and my favorite for a number of reasons - although as I already stated, EP potentially could displace it once I've finished all their content.

DC was, early on, the least popular alliance. Over TES history, Bretons have been a high-popularity race while Redguards and Orcs have tended to be low; this has put them on the short end of the stick in terms of historical racial appeal. Orcs also suffer from being a latecomer race selection; like Imperials they are not a race that goes all the way back to Arena. Also, the prior games that focused on DC races are pretty far in the past - Daggerfall and Redguard; younger players probably are not terribly familiar with them and replaying Daggerfall after playing more modern games is a daunting prospect.

DC also has somewhat of a drawback in being the least "exotic" in terms of terrain - early on. Stros M'Kai (the first newbie zone) is desert-ish and pirate-ish but, much like the initial EP zone is over all too quick. Then you're on to Betnikh, an orc island of pretty pedestrian terrain followed by two stereotypical western-European looking major zones of Glenumbra and Stormhaven. Glenumbra was pretty good - it may have been stereotypically European-looking but you need some of that, and it was well-done. Stormhaven was equally well-done, but it got to be a bit much by the time I finished Stormhaven. The mostly-Breton population of these 2 zones is very middle-of-the road fantasy fair even down to what's pretty obviously a druidic order with hints of the Forsworn, though none of the Forsworn's bloody rampage inclinations.

Once past those zones, however it's three back-to-back zones that in my opinion were fun and different without being jarringly weird or putting "hats" on anyone. Rivenspire is the third zone; it's a sparsely-populated rather barren area of High Rock with a very spooky undertone. My main character makes it her "home" and her backstory involves growing up in Rivenspire. Its main city of Shornhelm has the added advantage of being fairly compact and having the bank, tradeskill stations, and wayshrine in close proximity to each other. It definitely feels like a poorer backwater of High Rock and different from the preceding, more fertile and prosperous areas.

After that is Al'Akir Desert - in my opinion this is THE most visually spectacular zone in the game (allowing for the fact that there's some I haven't seen yet). If Rivenspire is home, Al Akir is fun to visit. It's a very traditional desert, but what a desert! It's wide open, and has outstanding visuals especially if you can turn view distance up high. It brings back some of the "Deserts of Ro" zones from EQ. I liked it so much that I rocketed through it almost too fast and was disappointed when it ended.

The final zone, Bangkorai, felt like a bit of a combination of the previous two and had a harsh feeling that I thought was appropriate to a capstone zone. Since I liked both of the previous two zones and was a bit let down when each was over it was nice to get a bit more in that final zone. It did have a bit of the "difficult to get around" going on, but that was less bothersome in a final alliance zone. Overall, the DC had a nice progression to increasingly inhospitable areas which had a good feeling of an adventurer progressing and venturing further afield.

The leader, King Emeric is also my favorite of the leaders so far - and your interactions with him have a cool feeling of you're his "friend" that he calls upon to deal with things behind the scenes, a status you earn by pulling things out of the fire for him early on. It seems less forced than the formal organization of the AD, which is salvaged mainly by the sheer appeal of Razum'dar. King Emeric comes across as a shrewd and wise leader, but not the overly-perfect of Ayrenn; he learns from his mistakes rather than just not making any, and while there's plots afoot they don't have the "pointless hostility" feeling of much of the AD questline and it's "Thalmor that aren't called Thalmor" antagonists.

The fault line of the DC seems to be between the orcs and the other 2 races; Redguards and Bretons seem to have quite the bromance going on, and in previous TES lore I don't recall either being terribly hostile to the other. They do, however, seem to like ganging up on the orcs and sacking Orsinium" so its not totally clear why the orcs wanted to ally with them; there's not much reason given in-game. The lore makes it a little more clear, and it seems to amount to "Emeric basically gives them back Orisinium (a promise he evidently follows through on with the DLC of the same name) and the orcs figure if they ally with the Bretons and Redguards, they'll quit sacking the place". This isn't bad, except that the AD with its "no humans on the Ruby Throne goal" is right next door and would seem appealing to them, since it'd be all "mer" races. The problem with that is that it makes the next alliance over khajit-argonian-dark elf which works even less well, plus it shoves all three human races together.

Therefore, the race-alliance combos are probably as good as can be expected. The DC gets the most obviously-illogical combination of the three, but they do a good job of glossing over and patching up the issues. It also helps that it's made clear early on that orcs are known to attack and take kingdoms that aren't theirs in pretty brutal fashion, so there's definitely at least a small element of hypocrisy to the orcs complaining when it happens to them. This is TES though - the signature of the series is that races don't wear hats, and there's always nuance and complexity.

Finally, the DC storyline has a number of fun characters to interact with - Neramo, Crafty Lerissa, Jakarn, Captain Kaleen and Nicolene all show up throughout the storyline and are all pretty entertaining, along with a few others. There's a quest early on that sort of splits the crew, although of the ones you side against some will (mostly) get over it later on. While Razum'dar is awesome, I feel like the Kaleen's crew is just more interesting overall, with Crafty Lerissa being my favorite among them.

If you're not sure what alliance to pick, I'd have to say DC. I feel like it's an alliance in which your character can support it with the widest range of personal views and is really friendly to RPing. It's biggest weakness is that some significant parts of it are pretty bog-standard fantasy fair, but in my view that's really not a major issue.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:50 pm 
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I still have a Nightblade I occasionally log into. Made it to like VR2 and had kinda quit. I was going through the Cadwell's Silver in AD-land, but started to get a little bored. Tried to do some PvP, but had problems finding groups. I never have time to play continually, so I always get booted from guilds.

Haven't at all tried Imperial City or Orsimar yet. Maybe this summer before my preceptorship...

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:04 pm 
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Ok, a bit on classes and skill lines - things I wish I knew before making my characters. I won't go over every skill, but I'll try to point out highlights.

First, 3 of your skill lines are selected by your class. Starting off with Dragonknights:

Ardent Flame As the name implies, this is a fire-damage oriented skill line. If you want to KILL IT WITH FIRE AHHHH!!! this is for you! It's most unique ability is the first one you get, which many of you have seen in videos - the chain that lashes out and drags an enemy to you, or you to him if he's non-draggable. This is the Dragonknight's "closer" ability. BEWARE!! Guards have this ability and will use it on you if you are a fleeing criminal!!

Earthen Heart A mix of offensive, defensive, and crowd/battlefield control abilities. Tends to be less visually spectacular than Ardent Flame IMO, but no less useful.'

Draconic Power A tanking line with secondary CC/offensive functions, the crown jewel of this line is its ultimate - Dragon Leap. Dragon Leap lets you sprout wings, leap into the air, and slam down on enemies doing heavy damage, knockback, and stun. It's fast too. If you want a flying-kick like effect, this is a reasonable substitute. This is my single favorite ability in the game in terms of how fun it is just to press the button and see it go off!

Templar

Aedric Spear A line involving.. well, spear-like magical effects. A key ability in this line if you're a Templar is Spear Shards. the Luminous Shards morph for this activates a synergy for your group-mates that restores stamina for them and is a great help to friends that are Stamina builds. If you want to make a Paladin-type character this one is bread and butter.

Sun's Wrath Basically more magical offense with significant utility mixed in. This one is the stereotypical "holy light" line

Restoring Light A healing line; the existence of this line makes the Templar the most obvious healing class, although not necessarily the most effective all the time. Has some effects helpful for tanking as well

Sorcerer

Dark Magic A mix of CC/utility, offense, and resource regeneration. The first skill in the line bears mention because it's one of the earliest things you'll morph. Take the instant cast morph, not the AOE; it's generally agreed to be crap.

Daedric Summoning If you want to be a pet class, this is where it's at. The bound armor of earlier TES games appears in this line as well. You can have up to 3 pets active with this line with the ultimate being one of them - and what an ultimate it is! It summons a Storm Atronach, traditionally a high-level TES spell. The Storm Atronach hits like a truck and persists a good amount of time. This is my second- favorite ability after Dragon Leap; it's incredibly fun to drop a huge atronach on s tough mob!

Storm Calling All lightning all the time. You can call lightning, spray lightning, turn into lightning. The Lightning Form ability with the Boundless Storm morph, and Surge morphed into Critical Surge can be used with melee AOE abilities and boosts to critical hit chance to produce the awesome "lightning tornado" effect; this works especially well with Steel Tornado from the Dual Wield line. You turn into lightning, doing AOE around you and boosting your move speed, critical surge allowing critical hits to heal you and then just spam a melee AOE, constantly criting and healing yourself!

Nightblade

Assassination A great skill line, this has offense sprinkled with debuffing and defense. Generally better to take the harder-hitting morphs over the more utility-ish morphs in this line. Mark Target and its morphs are mainstays for nightblade and Grim Resolve and its morphs go very well with bows. Stay away from the ultimate in this line though - I tried it and it's **** terrible. Once you get the higher-end passives in this skill line make sure an ability from it is always slotted - it greatly boosts critical hits.

Shadow A mix of utility, damage, and healing, with an ultimate that's very tank/healer-ish rather than the usual hard hit. This line has a lot of abilities that suggest unusual uses. The final ability in the line summons shadowy temp-pets, and is another favorite of mine.

Siphoning This line does lifetaps, as well as CC and debuffing. If you want a Shadowknight-type character, this is your line. Its ultimate deserves particular attention; it does an AOE stun combined with lifetap-over-time to all nearby targets and is an amazing general-purpose ability. Not as much visual fun to deploy as Dragon Leap or Storm Atronach but an absolutely fantastic panic-button ability, especially while soloing.

I'll do the non-class skills in my next post.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:52 pm 
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Weapons:

Weapon and Shield The obvious tanking choice, there's nothing here that isn't a surprise. It's still an ok choice for solo but I don't recommend using it for in-group DPS. Not because the DPS is bad; I've seen no information on that but because efficiency freaks will assume it's bad. Good for PVP too because of the utility of shield slams, and abilities that jack the armor provided by the shield up higher. I'm not sure what weapons are most popular in this line, other than swords which are an obvious favorite.

Dual Wield A very catch-all line this has a morph that lifetaps, an outstanding AOE I referenced above under the Sorcerer section, and an interesting dagger-throw ability that seems like should work very well in PVP. Daggers will jack your crit chance up with the right passives in this line, maces your armor penetration -which matters a lot more in high level PVE than it did in Skyrim. Swords are popular mainly because people like to be sword users. Axes are on the outs here.

Two-Handed Every ability in this line revolves around hitting hard and wrecking havoc. It has an excellent finisher in Reverse Slash and Uppercut morphed to Wrecking blow is.. well it **** wrecks. The AOE is good too, and critical charge is a nice closer if you want to do that off Stamina.

Bow The only skill line that does poison damage. It has 2 different AOEs, a knockback shot, and a sniper shot (naturally). My preferred method for boss fights; make sit easier to stay out of the bad while DPSing. Also, has the advantage that you can pull and hold the bow for a full attack. With all other weapons, the full attack cycles while you hold down the button, you can't "charge and hold". This is great for sneak attacks.

Destruction Staff In addition to releasing light and heavy basic blasts of whichever element they command (fire, frost, or shock) they do a variety of offensive effects which change based on element. Note that just like melee weapons, staves can be enchanted, so you can have a "frost staff of flame" that does frost attacks and frost abilities, but procs flame based on its enchant. Go figure. The "wall" abilities are not actually barriers; they're wall-shaped AOEs.

Note that they each do their own special ability for certain effects too - fire knocks back, frost slows, and chock does off balance/stun. Also note that the Lightning staff works a bit differently on heavy attacks - it begins channeling damage and does so through the attack cycle with a final burst at the end. Fire and Frost staves charge up and release similar to a melee weapon. This means you have to be rather careful with a lightning staff, especially from stealth.

Restoration Staff All the abilities here are heals, wards, and lifetaps. It does have a light and heavy basic attack though, and the heavy attack channels like a lightning staff. Also can be enchanted with a damage proc like any other weapon. I have very little experience with this weapon. I don't know how it is for soloing or pvp; I can certainly see uses for it. However, it's mostly pointless in groups if you're not the healer.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:56 pm 
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If anyone starts playing, or starts again (Caleria/Screeling) let me know what you want in terms of armor and weapons. I can make you a Vampire's Kiss set in medium or heavy and I'll be able to do light pretty soon as well. I can do most weapons too, and the remaining pieces I can make a partial set that's complimentary for whatever you choose to be.

Vampire's Kiss is fantastic for soloing and leveling because its 5-piece bonus is a large heal-over-time after a kill. This makes dealing with groups of mobs MUCH easier, especially if you have little other self-healing.

If you look through the sets and want other stuff instead I can make that too, or will be able to shortly since I'm progressing quickly in trait research.

Back with more skill lines soon.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 10:47 am 
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Forgot my in-game contact: @kiryen_thunderbow

More on skill lines:

Armor skill lines:

All three armor skill lines do substantially the same thing: passives that boost that armor's area of emphasis, and a single defensive skill (not an ultimate) that also pertains to that area of emphasis. Light armor provides boost to magic-related offense and defense, medium to stamina-related and stealth, and heavy to physical mitigation and health. I have only experimented with the light armor active ability, but it was reasonably effective on reducing AOE damage in PVE.

A word of caution: The second-from-the-bottom passive in ALL 3 Armor lines requires 5 or more pieces of that type of armor to be effective. Therefore, unless you have nothing else you want to put points in and are looking for the ability to switch armor types on the fly, don't choose more than ONE of these - you only have 7 armor slots. If your armor mix is 4/3 between two types or mixes all 3 types in such a way that you don't reach 5, don't pick them. This might be a legitimate choice while leveling armor skill lines to get them all to 50; you can safely leave these for later (there will be plenty of other things to put points in)

On LIGHT ARMOR SPECIFICALLY the bottom passive is also a "set of 5 or more" passive, so watch out! Don't accidentally put points into this if you aren't going to use it.

Guilds

There are 3 guilds; Fighters' Mages' and Undaunted. Thieves' Guild is due for release in days, which will bring it to 4, and Dark Brotherhood later this year will make 5.

Fighters

Fighters has an ultimate, 4 active skills, and 5 passives. All of the fighter's guild skills tend to be mediocre to poor, unless being used against undead or daedra in which case they are very effective indeed. There's a passive that extends this to werewolves as well. Undead and Daedra are common enough that these abilities are not as specialized as they would initially appear - even in PVP; they work against vampire and werewolf players, who are common.

There's a number of qualifiers here. First, the first passive is "intimidate" which is entirely used in conversation, but should be taken early since you'll run across conversations where you want to do so pretty often.

Second, 2 of the abilities - Dawnbreaker, the ultimate, when it has the Flawless morph, and Expert Hunter with either morph give passive bonuses just for being slotted - and those passive bonuses apply even to opponents that are not undead or Daedra. Flawless Dawnbreaker boosts weapon damage and Expert Hunter boosts critical hit. Trap Beast, the last active in the line is a useful crowd control immobilizer if you don't have another one. Therefore, the skill line is more versatile overall than it might initially appear. Also, Silver Bolts, the first skill in the line is fun because it shoots a hand crossbow, so if you're doing PVE in an undead/deadra area its pretty fun to shoot them right in the face with!

It's also fairly easy to level since any sort of boss/miniboss kill boosts the skill line (which has only 10 ranks) in addition to doing Fighter's Guild quests. Overall, I rate this the best of the guild skill lines.

Mages' Guild

I'll be right up front - the Mages' Guild skill line is, in my opinion, crap and the worst of the 3 guild skill lines. It is a giant pain in the *** to level since the only way to raise it besides the Mages' Guild quests is finding lorebooks, and it takes a truly immense number of them to get it to 10. Unless you find them early and often you'll get stuck around 6 ranks.

This is exacerbated by the fact that there is, in fact, one really awesome ability in the Mages' line - the ultimate, Meteor, which morphs to Comet (cold damage and more of it) and Shooting Stars (gives you ultimate back!) either of which is awesome - Shooting Stars can essentially be spammed, or close to it and Comet is a rare source of cold damage. Unfortunately you need to get all the way to skill 10 to get this, so its a good idea to get a mod that reveals skill book locations on the map to reduce the significant *** pain involved.

Other than that, you have a DOT which is ok if you want a DOT and don't have one, Fire Rune which is fun but somewhat useful but outweighed by other similar "put something on the ground and have people run over it" abilities and then 2 magic-boosting abilities which both strike me as pointless although they might be used in advanced builds.

The passives are even worse, because they all rely on Mages' Guild abilities being slotted - except Persuasion, which like the Fighters' Guild equivalent is widely useful and available early. I see no point in getting them prior to getting the ultimate.

At least one ability is due for a rebalance in Thieves' Guild, however, so this skill line may see improvement in the future.

Undaunted

I only recently started with this skill line; it is smaller than the other 2 guild lines with no ultimate and far fewer passives. Undaunted is a skill line based around doing group activites, especially dungeons. It is moderately useful and moderately hard to level compared to the other 2.

Undaunted has a hodgepodge of abilities which include CC, healing, tanking, taunting, and magic AOE. It's therefore going to probably have something of at least occasional interest to anyone, as it can usually fill some gaps in your ability set. Tanks, in particular, will find this valuable for its tanking and taunting abilities. The line heavily emphasizes group activities and is more useful in groups than alone.

The passives are minimal, but are both quite good. In particular, if you like wearing a mix of armor types the second passive rewards that, so it's a decent substitute for the "set of 5 or more" passives I mentioned above.

Thieves' Guild

This will be a line of all passives which will interact with and help you exploit the previously-introduced crime system. It is similar to the previously-introduced Legerdemain skill line in this regard, which focused on the actual acts of stealing and stealth. As yet, I'm unclear on how good the skills will be but from their descriptions they will flesh out and improve the ability to act like a thief. You need the Thieves' guild DLC, either purchased or by having a game subscription to access the skill line, although if you lose access to the DLC (for example by ending a subscription and not then purchasing the DLC) you don't lose access to it - you just won't be able to advance it farther. It maxes out at 12 ranks but I can't yet say how easy it will be to advance.

Dark Brotherhood

There's no information on this skill line yet. I expect it to be similar to the Thieves' Guild skill line in terms of being all passives, and to interact with the portion of the crime system that focuses on assault and murder.

More later on the world and alliance war skill lines.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 4:35 pm 
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World skill lines:

Soul magic

A universally useful, and relatively small, skill line. It has one ultimate, one active skill and a few passives.

The ultimate is a channeled, high-damage single-target attack which is a pretty good general-purpose damage ultimate. The active skill is the usual "soul trap" spell that fills soul gems in Morrowwind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, with a DoT component added.

Its utility disappears pretty early on though, because one of the passives rapidly renders it obsolete, giving a % chance to automatically fill a soul gem. The DoT isn't impressive enough to warrant using it otherwise. The other passive gives you an occasional "free" rez of yourself that doesn't consume a soul gem or put you back at a wayshrine.

Legerdemain

This skill line involves stealing stuff, and its all passives. It enhances stealth and related functions - which any character can do already. It's big vice is that its slow to advance unless you put a lot of effort into stealing.

Racial skill lines

I won't go over all 9 races, but I will point out some strong points:

Orcs, Imperials, Wood Elves and Redguards have really strong Stamina abilities. Orcs and Imperials are particularly strong as stamina-based tanks.

High Elves and Bretons are strong with magic

Wood Elves and Khajit have stealth strengths

Dark Elves are great for defense against and offense using fire

Nords are strong at tanking

Argonians have strengths that lend themselves to both tanking and healing, and a rather odd swim speed bonus that makes snse but doesn't serve much purpose.


I would say the overall "best race" - in the sense that you can basically never go wrong with it - is Imperial. Most of the other races have some sort of offensive or defensive focus Nords, are probably the weakest - they offer tank-based bonuses only, so if you're not a tank their sole redeeming feature is that you can spend fewer resources on survivability.

Thieves' Guild is out today, so more soon on that.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 3:45 pm 
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So, the Thieves' Guild has been out since Monday. After playing with it some, here is what I got:

There's raid content, and there's solo content. There isn't much in the way of group content. About all that's there are the world bosses in the new zone. These bosses ARE significantly harder than the other world bosses I've seen to date in the original zones - many of those can be solo'd with the right setup, but I don't see that happening with the new ones, so they are bona fide group events, but only a limited amount of it.

I haven't done any of the raid stuff, so I can't speak to that.

The solo content is, however, very good. It's really very thief-oriented; it requires stealth to complete; you can't fight your way through instead. The crime system that existed before was like this; if you want to do thief-ish activities then you need to do them like a thief, not just blasting your way through all that oppose you.

This has 2 drawbacks - while the stealth system in ESO is very similar to Oblivion or Skyrim it's more simplified and therefore can actually be trickier to avoid detection. It's missing some things, like detection of lighting conditions. Nevertheless, it works basically the same way.

The other drawback is that it leaves you with no alternatives, which is both frustrating and contrary to TES principles - in the single-player games you COULD just go in and kill everyone in stealth quests, you just wouldn't get optimal results. You literally can't do that at all in ESO because the guards are invincible. Oblivion had super-tough guards; these ones are literally indestructible. I understand the choice, given the behaviors of MMO players, it just is a tad frustrating.

The storyline aspects of it are quite good though - there's interesting, likeable (and hateable) characters and quite a bit of mystery in what's happening in the questline. The new area is very Arabian-nights mysterious and gives a real feeling of a busy port town. It has all sorts of NPCs which seem to all be named and give at least a feeling of doing something - they don't only stand around at their assigned places. The older areas had that, but it seems like they've taken it to a new level here.

There are new sets of equipment, craftable and non-craftable. You get (very early on) a nice thieves' guild costume (it replaces your armor appearance, not stats, just like other costumes) and there are more costumes to be had. There's a thieves' den that's pretty much the same as the previous outlaw hideouts, but has a real feeling of being a hidden thieves' HQ.

The new skill line is, as I said, all passives and it compliments the pre-existing legerdemain skill line, facilitating your crime sprees.

Overall, I'd say its positive. It has areas where it could be fleshed out, but I hope these represent future improvements rather than just holes.

As to other aspects of the patch -

I have not seen a ton of balance-change impact, but the heavy PVP community may have different opinions.

There's improvements to the automated group-finder, as well as new rewards for doing random dungeons.

No refunds of skills, attributes, or champion points.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2016 2:35 pm 
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They planning on getting rid of Veteran ranks at all?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 6:29 pm 
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Yes. There was a statement in November that they will not raise the Vet cap again before removing them and that there would be more information "next year" which is now this year.

I'm neutral on vet ranks myself, I am ok with removing or maintaing them.

The first rumblings are already appearing now of people not wanting them removed. I predict once thet are removed, the community will in typical mmo player fashion, decide they were opposed to it all along and ZOS not"listening to the community" will be "killing the game " again. I am sure there will be unforseen consequences to removing them and the advocates will conveniently forget they favored it, or blame ZOS for the result not being 100% perfect.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2016 10:59 am 
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Trailers for the Dark Brotherhood expansion are out; can't link them at the moment unfortunately. End of May is the expected arrival.

Vet ranks will be removed with DB. Typically, people are already nitpicking this despite demanding it almost since release.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:53 pm 
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The Dark Brotherhood expansion released on May 31st! This was the one I've been waiting for!

So, here's what was involved. First, in no particular order, general game improvements:

- The big event was the removal of the VR ranks. This was long-awaited (literally since launch) and of course as soon as it was announced people suddenly found that they hadn't wanted it after all, naturally. I never quite understood the dissatisfaction with them in the first place; I'm equally unimpressed with the objections to removing them (in other words I didn't care that much). I'm glad not to have to slog through them any more, and found much of their implementation poor, but I also think removing them is going to promote champion-point (the already-existing system that will now provide max-level elitism and makes getting max-level characters trivial after the first one because CP's are account-based. Also, it rendered 4 to 5 tiers worth of crafting superfluous. IMO the real issue is a playerbase that is more interested in being "listened to" than in anything actually working right. Either way, this was easily the most notable event community-wise so I felt compelled to put it first.

- The addition of a Crafting Bag. If you have a subscription (and possibly available through crown store purchase as well) is the Crafting Bag. Due to the incredible number of different crafting materials in the game, banks and mule characters were perpetually full of crafting materials. Now, for those that have a subscription at least, all those mats go into an immense crafting bank automatically! I mean immense too, stacks of up to 4,000 items and up to 42 million stacks in your bank! This feature alone would have been worth the subscription fee if I didn't have one already.

- Complete rebalance of crafting traits. When you craft items in ESO, they can get a "trait" that you've previously researched in addition to the racial appearance style. The "trait" can do all sorts of different things - raise critical hit chance, increase armor value, increase the power of an enchantment on the item, etc. Many of the poor traits were revised to be useful, or at least to be significantly less power. While some will remain undesirable they're at least less so than before. Enchantments on weapons were also buffed.

- Class rebalancing, in particular many stamina-oriented class abilities were improved by changing to stamina-focused damage types. Nightblades got Disease and Physical damage abilities replacing Magic (both stamina-compatible) while Dragonknights changed to get a mix of fire and poison if using stamina options rather than fire exclusively. These changes greatly reduce the problem stamina users had of cross-damage types with needing to split champion points between magic-oriented damage types (fire, frost, shock, magic) and stamina-oriented (disease, poison, physical)

- Ability rebalancing; a number of abilities were buffed, while many that were overly-ubiquitous were nerfed. I feel like the improvements made were mostly good; only one I really disagreed with. Fighter's Guild abilities were generalized to all targets rather than just undead, daedra and werewolves.

Reduction in difficulty in the two hardest instances (Imperial City Prison and White Gold Tower) both of which were previously ridiculously hard with magic DPS and lol no with Stamina. Now they're more at "really, really hard" and "absurd" respectively.

More to follow on the DB-specific stuff.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:26 pm 
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I have only just started the actual Dark Brotherhood portion of the expansion, and I'll have more to say once through it. It's promising, though I do have a few worries.

My final impression of the Thieves' Guild was that the quest, scenery, new zone, NPCs, and new activites were all great, but like most previous TES games the thieves' guild itself just leaves something to be desired. I think it's just something with the thieves' guild itself. I just can't get that into it as a major game activity for some reason.

I've never had that problem with the Dark Brotherhood (or Morag Tong if we talk Morrowind) so I hope this will be more of a thing for me as a long-term alternate activity.

- The expansion adds the Gold Coast, where Kvatch and Anvil are located. Despite being part of Cyrodill, this is not a PVP area. The war is not really taking place in this part of Cyrodill because reasons. Nevertheless, the zone is attractive and definitely calls to mind that area in Oblivion. The beaches around Anvil, where you start, are especially nice; I felt like I wanted to actually go to the beach when laying eyes on them. The city is large, detailed, and vibrant.

- Arriving there gives you access to the Assassin personality. "Personalities" are a new thing that customizes appearance, specifically the animations. The assassin one has this slouch to it and does a lot of flipping around of wicked-looking daggers. It also modifies some emotes, such as /leanback and /leanside (already 2 of my favorites) and /eatfood3. Unfortunately, it looks weird when walking around and is much better used when standing still. Personalities can be turned on and off at will, just like costumes.

- You also get a quest to join the Dark Brotherhood, naturally. Much like Oblivion, this is a quest to kill an innocent (in Anvil, in this case)although the game hands you this on a platter rather than hiding it like Oblivion does. I found this a bit problematic at first since the Dark Brotherhood was never known for random killing, but in the next step after the deed is done (which I won't reveal) it remedies this impression a bit.

- Because the expansion is new, everyone is doing this. Therefore, Anvil is overrun with people slaughtering the townsfolk more like a barbarian horde than prospective assassins. It reminds me a bit of Gangs of New York where they have to call the Army to deal with the fighting except that Anvil's militia is nowhere to be seen. I expect this to die down a bit by next week. The actual Dark Brotherhood facilities are similarly overrun and give the impression that the Dark Brotherhood sends them out in brigades but again... new content. It's just a bit disconcerting right now.

- One of the first things you get is a DB costume to wear over your armor, which is awesome-looking

- There's three new motifs for crafted items too, although I have not seen them yet

- There's a new ability called (appropriately) Blade of Woe. What this does is that it allows you to insta-kill targets if you sneak up behind them unnoticed in melee range. It only works on player-race NPCs, and only if they are regular difficulty; it doesn't work on minibosses, bosses, or other players. It does, however, have really awesome Skyrim-style kill cams with various animations. It also possesses the enormous advantage that a successful kill means you will not accumulate heat or bounty from the game's justice system.

- There's numerous new collectable and craftable sets of armor and weapons with set bonuses. These I'm not entirely thrilled with; primarily because my main just doesn't have a use for them, but in a couple cases because the 5-piece bonus is silly or pointless. They're not all bad though; I can see some original and creative uses on most, just not for my main character.

- There's "daily" style quests to be done, just like the Thieves' Guild has. I haven't actually done any yet. I hope they will be worthwhile, and that they won't come across as extraordinarily petty. Performing the Black Sacrament has always been portrayed as something done with a great deal of trepidation in the other games so I'll be disappointed if the side quests are along the lines of "Tim the Redguard passed gas in my wife's presence, I want him dead!"

All in all, my initial impressions are good, and I'll give a final impression after the content.

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