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Seventeen days in Tamriel

Nearly two years ago now, I quit playing Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). Due to some balance changes, Matt wasn’t interested in playing any more, and the game was decidedly less fun without him. I canceled my membership not long after, leaving behind a game that still had a lot of content for me, and an awesome community in the UESP guild. It felt awful, almost like a breakup, at the time.

Of course, I haven’t been idle. I picked up WoW again in September 2016, and I’ve been enjoying that. Legion was a pretty great expansion, and I’ve had fun with my heroic raiding guild. But things have slowed down, my guild has cleared all the content it can clear, and the next expansion’s not until August.

Recently Matt mentioned he was getting back into ESO, at least for the single-player content. Neither of us had ever had problems with that. Even at his most disillusioned, he admitted it was a beautiful game with some really great quests and NPCs, full of the lore of the Elder Scrolls that we so love. It was just… group content that was unbalanced.

It didn’t take long of watching him play it to be like, “I miss this game so much!” and plop down my hard earned $29.99 to get the Summerset pre-order/early access (complete with the Morrowind chapter, too!) I also ponied up the $40 for three months of ESO Plus membership, too, because I heart those limitless crafting bags.

It’s been seventeen days since that fateful dive back in, and that’s an auspicious number in Tamriel (seventeen daedric princes!), so here’s a log of my adventures along the way….

ESO Summerset Box Art. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net

Days 1-2

Similar to when I returned to WoW, I knew there was going to be a good amount of I-Have-No-Idea-What-I’m-Doing-Dog. While it hasn’t exactly been the 7+ years I was away from WoW, it was still twenty months. A lot can change in that time!

I quit right after the Dark Brotherhood DLC came out, shortly before One Tamriel became a reality, so in the meantime they’ve added a new class (the Warden), a new crafting skill (jewelry crafting), player housing, and two big world expansions, Morrowind and Summerset (the latter of which just came out for early access). Oh, and they added battlegrounds, because the world PvP of Cyrodiil was, well, not everyone’s cuppa. They’ve also raised the champion point (CP) cap to 750. And of course, with One Tamriel, all the zones scale to your level, and you can do the content in any order.

The first thing I’ll say is this: they made it super easy to jump right back in. With 2 level 50s and some 480 CP on my account, I knew it was going to be hard to pick up where I left off, so I decided to make a new character. And why not a Warden, since that’s new? Thus: Anyael Dulaerion, an Altmer magicka warden.

So I load up the game, and hey, I’m in an introductory/tutorial sequence. (Actually, they give me the option to skip it, since I’ve already played through the vanilla intro once, but I decide to do it anyway). Blessedly, I don’t have to rescue Lyris from Coldharbour yet again; it seems each full expansion has added its own tutorial. So instead I follow a spirit named Oriandra through a “mind prison”, fight some creatures called yaghra, destroyed something called an abyssal pearl, and lo and behold, I find myself near Shimmerene in Summerset, talking to our old pal Razum-dar, from the Aldmeri Dominion quests in the vanilla game.

Raz! Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
I’d say, “Raz, don’t you recognize your old friend?” but you’ve never met my strange new banana elf before.

And I can just continue on from here, because Summerset levels to me. Hooray!

The level-up dialogue has changed HUGELY since I’ve been gone. Each time I level, I’m presented with “rewards” I need to claim — which include experience scrolls, furniture for rooms, etc as well as the standard attribute and skill points. The Skills dialogue has changed, too; they’ve added a Skill Advisor that recommends what skills and morphs to take based on a role you pick. But Matt reminds me of the importance of leveling each class line by having skills on your bar, and so I try a little of everything.

I very quickly learn that as a Warden, my first skill in the Animal Companions line, Dive, is literally throwing a cliff racer at my foes, and I wonder why no one told me this before. I would have been back earlier!!

Since I pinged the GM of the UESP guild before I even signed on for the first time, I have a guild invite waiting for me, and I… pick up where I left off, really. I recognize a full 80% of the names on the roster. Immediately I’m joking with them as if I’d never been gone.

One of the first quests I do involves a murder at the Russafeld vineyard of a racist Altmer who the local population kinda hates. And no spoilers, but this quest is intense. I have gone from WoW quests — which tend to be “lol bring Dadgar 1000 pieces of poop” (and all text) — to a fully-voiced murder investigation, which touches on fantasy racism, romantic obsession, and old wounds, both personal and cultural. And this is just a side quest, folks. Meanwhile Raz is still waiting back at Shimmerene for me to do the main quest.

The worldbuilding, of course, is exquisite. The Altmer aren’t my particular area of interest in the ES world, but now that we’re visiting with them, I’m enjoying seeing their different cultural mores and linguistic peculiarities. (Noted is the usage of “cerum, ceruval” to address you — some honorific?)

So far, so good.

Day 10

My new character, my warden, is now level 18. I continue to throw cliff racers at things while tooling around Summerset and Artaeum (the Brigadoon of the ES world). In addition to the Russafeld vineyard murder investigation I mentioned loving, I also really liked the Insatiable quest, and of course the lore nerd in me is thrilled by the importance of the Crystal Tower in the main plot. Oh, oh, and I like that you get to learn more about Vanus Galerion and Mannimarco’s friendship when they were both Psijics, before the latter got all necromancer-y.

(I ship it).

Yaghra release metal riffs when they die. Fascinating.

If anyone didn’t know that sloads have been part of the lore since at least TESIII, possibly earlier, you’d think they’d decided to transplant the Hutts to Tamriel to be the villains of this expansion.

(To be fair, the original Star Wars movies pre-date all the ES games, so the argument could be made either way. But how many ways can you do giant sentient slugs?)

I’ve start dipping my toes into the housing system; I now own two free inn rooms — one in Vivec City and one in Alinor — and have no idea what to put in them. So far I’ve bought some storage boxes from the Crown Store, put them in there, and filled them with my ginormous collection of 100+ monster helms and Wrothgar dailies sets, so that I don’t accidentally deconstruct them. I still have no idea what the meta is any more, but since the gear cap hasn’t changed, there’s still the possibility this is all good stuff. Also the Julianos crafted set still seems to be good, so I’m running around in that.

Oh, and I bought myself a Tythis Andromo (the banking assistant), so I suppose I can stick him in my empty rooms.

Falanu Dren, my former main (a Dunmer magicka templar, often a healer, Mephala worshipper, Vivec fangirl, poisoner, and House Hlaalu retainer), finished off the Orsinium quest (which she was in the middle of when I quit), and moved on to Vvardenfell.

Of course, I’m adoring Morrowind — it’s a fine mixture of TESIII nostalgia and delightful new lore. Like:

Nostalgia: the Vivec City cantons are still impossible to navigate.

Nostalgia: cliff racers, flying so high!

New: Cliff striders, cousins to cliff racers! And bards singing songs about them, too.

Nostalgia: silt striders, those giant sand fleas of Vvardenfell transportation.

New: nix-oxes, the compact sedan version of the silt strider.

Completely new: Shroom beetles, a type of shalk that grow mushrooms on their backs. Vvardvarks, which look like they were inspired by this comic.

Nostalgia: the Morag Tong! (And old old friend Naryu Virian, from the Ebonheart Pact main quest, and Fungal Grotto).

New: sexily-voiced Morag Tong assassins outside of Balmora! (Hi, Ashur).

New AND nostalgia: In the archcanon’s office in Vivec City you find a document explaining why Ebonheart is in a different location in ESO (on the Morrowind mainland) than it was in TESIII. Vivec wanted it moved, apparently! I mean, I guess “because a living god says so” is a good reason.

Nostalgia: the Camonna Tong, and their being involved with skooma trafficking.

New: Pamphlets warning you away from the Camonna Tong.

Nostalgia: Magister Therana of House Telvanni!

New: a quest that will teach you how Therana ended up a) alive ~800 years from now, and b) quite so… addled. (Oh, and help an Argonian rise through the ranks of House Telvanni in the process. Of course, I was reminded of my own Nerevarine).

Oh, and the first quest you do for Vivec as part of the main storyline? Has you go to one of the most famous crypts of TESIII to ask questions of an ancestor spirit. Questions which a lore-enthusiast will instantly realize are about the Heart of Lorkhan and Dagoth Ur, even though the answers that are given point to a more immediate threat.

But really, this is all just to say: I missed getting the vvardvark loyalty pet by a day. Boo. But I did win a UESP guild trivia contest, so that was a nice consolation prize.

Vvardvark! Half guar, half aardvark, all madness. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
Who wouldn’t want their very own magical experiment gone wrong?

Day 17

My knowledge of the game and the meta is accelerating fast! I will probably do one of the trials (small 12-person raids, basically) tonight with the UESP guild. (And how great is it that I can jump into endgame content so quickly after a two-year hiatus?)

My warden is now up to 28. I’ve done a lot of the side quests on Summerset, and I think it’s mostly the main quest that remains to me. Been doing some of the world boss dailies, too, since there’s always someone killing one of them. This character is going to be my jeweler, I think, so I got certified for that so I can do daily writs.

Falanu is still working through Morrowind — if I want to buy the Amaya Lake Lodge (which I do), I need to finish the main quest here. (Not that that will be a hardship!) In the meantime I’ve made the Saint Delyn Penthouse as comfortable I can with my allotted fifteen furnishings.

(I did go through and acquire every single free inn room I could. I figure I can make them comfortable in different ways, according to my characters, i.e. Imperial furnishings in the Rosy Lion for my Imperial who’s DC-side. This is somewhat stymied by the fact that the non-DLC inn rooms are basically broom closets).

The UESP guild hosted a “dungeon help night” on Sunday, and I took Falanu along. I didn’t need help with any specific dungeons; I just wanted to see some of the ones I’d missed while I’d been gone. So I logged onto TeamSpeak (0ld sk00l!), grouped up my our old pals @baratron, @Sedrethi, and @Mauin, and did normal Fang Lair and Falkreath Hold, two of the DLC dungeons. I healed, because I wanted to get some practice with it again.

In the process, I learned how the Undaunted pledge system had changed. There are now three quest givers, not two! You can do each chapter of multi-chapter dungeons as normal or vet! You get one key for completing the pledge on normal and two for doing it on veteran hard-mode; it’s not worth doing it vet if you can’t do it hardmode, because you’ll still only get one key. (Much as it used to be with Imperial City Prison and White Gold Tower). The keys are all the same, and you use them in whichever chest has the monster set you want. (There’s a helpful sign telling you which).

I also learned about how my abilities had changed. I learned how powerful and expensive Ritual of Rebirth — the “Templar clap heal” — had become, edging out Breath of Life for certain uses. I learned how useless Restoring Aura is these days, since now it only restores stamina, and doesn’t stack with other stamina buffs.

As usual, my groupmates mostly let me run through the dungeon at my own pace, showing me things I might otherwise miss (like what one boss in Falkreath Hold does if you cleanse his corpse), and trying not to kill things so quickly we couldn’t see mechanics. It was hard to pay attention to the story and also banter with them like we always do, even with subtitles. So all I gathered is that Fang Lair used to be a Dwemer city and now it’s full of necromancers, and that Falkreath Hold is a Nord citIy (yes, Falkreath from TESV) overrun with Reachmen and minotaurs.

After we finished, I stayed up probably later than I should have just talking with my group mates. I’ve missed these dorks so much! This was how I was convinced to come to trials; I told them, “I sure have a bunch of CP, but I don’t necessarily know how to use them yet!” and they said, “We’ll teach you!”

Br’ihnassi, my Khajiit stamina nightblade, is also playable again. I’ve been doing Thieves Guild tip board quests to raise her Legerdemain, progressing through the Dark Brotherhood storyline (which she was in the midst of when I quit), and occasionally working through Cadwell’s Gold, which she never completed (and which has left her desperately short of skill points).

I haven’t gotten any of my other characters playable yet, so mostly I’ve just been logging in for riding lessons.

I joined a casual trading guild (their usual trader is in Shornhelm), and have been selling some stuff with my designated trader character. The house I want is either 7000 crowns or 1.3M gold, so I’ve got to get saving, if only for furniture.

Amaya Lake Lodge, the Hlaalu-est of dwellings. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
You will be mine. Someday.

Having come right from WoW, I both miss and don’t miss having a centralized auction house. While it’s sometimes less convenient, I love the feeling of wandering up to a random trader in the middle of the wilderness and finding a great deal on something or other. I check them wherever I go!

Oh, right, and that’s when I installed Awesome Guild Store and Master Merchant, along with a slew of other addons. I guess that means I’m here for the duration…

Day 17 aftermath

I survived my first trial post-return! We did normal Cloudrest and Asylum Sanctorium; with my husband and I rounding out the roster, we had a full team of twelve. The actual fights were mostly easy, but I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I hadn’t really practiced my rotation at all beforehand (which was basically just a cookie-cutter Alcast Beamplar build), and I was literally making new gear and enchants right up until the scheduled start time.

I needn’t have worried, because things were not well organized. While many of us were ready to go right at 9:15pm, many were not, and so we didn’t enter Cloudrest until maybe 9:45pm? Luckily, each of these trials can be finished in 15-20 minutes; there’s no trash, and it’s much much easier than a normal WoW raid.

Even though we were doing the bosses in their normal configuration, along the way I learned about the whole +1, +2, +3 system, where you can make stuff more challenging by fighting the final boss at the same time as one, two, or three other bosses. It’s not quite mythic keystones, but it’s something for upping the challenge, at least. I’m not sure if that gets you better gear, but it probably gets you achievs/titles/dye colors.

I was glad to see that dungeon and trial loot is now tradeable to others in your party; that makes farming a lot more bearable than it was before. (You also have transmutation, which allows you to change the traits on an item — each trial boss awarded a number of transmutation crystals, the currency for this). Thanks to the new trading policy, I got the famous Asylum Sanctorium resto staff, beloved of meta everywhere, from groupmate @Kiryen_Thunderbow. I also ended up with a piece each of Olorime and Siroria, respectively the in-demand healer and magicka dps sets.

The only fight that was a real mess, mechanics-wise, was Saint Olms in AS; without Raid Notifier (the ESO equivalent of Deadly Boss Mods, I guess), I had no sign that the boss was about to do his “jump in the air and kill you all with lightning” maneuver. I think I died six times, but I lost count. I’ve been informed the number of deaths to beat is 81 😉

I also managed to go the entire night without realizing that my role was set to “healer” in the group dialogue, causing some confusion. Derp. I had completely forgotten that dialogue was a thing!

Like with the two dungeons I did earlier, I was so focused on other things that I didn’t follow the story super well. For Cloudrest, it was something about the sload attacking and corrupting these ginormous gryphons? Are those the Welkynar? I have no idea. AS seemed a lot more my thing; I think the plot was like “the souls of these Dunmer saints have been put into these giant automatons; you have to destroy the automatons to free their souls.” (Imprisoned by who? Sotha Sil?)

And lemme tell you, for all that I didn’t entirely grasp what was going on, it was still uncanny and vaguely obscene to have these automatons with the names of cherished saints staring you down.

Saint Llothis. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
This greeted me. I wonder how Falanu, endlessly devout, felt about this…

Oh, and a funny quote from last night that was pure UESP:

(Sedrethi is expressing his character’s hatred of the Tribunal)
“Don’t worry,” says Kiryen, “in 800 years or so some random Redguard is going to destroy them.”
“I heard it was an Argonian,” I replied.

Verdict

This game is still so, so good, and I am so, so glad to be back. There are so many quality of life things that make this a way better game for me than WoW, even if group content is still iffy. (I’m not sure on that verdict; I haven’t played enough to really judge). Still not sure what I’m going to do when the next WoW expansion comes out in August, but right now I can’t imagine letting my subscription lapse again. Even if I’m just collecting crowns and logging in to get daily rewards 😉

Also, if anyone has a vvardvark they pet they don’t want, my game handle is @captainecchi 🙂 🙂 🙂

(All images in this are sourced from uesp.net, of course. I give the same disclaimer they do for images: all content belongs to ZOS; I am only borrowing it here for non-commercial purposes).

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