So I recently finished the PC release of Final Fantasy X (nerdgasm) and since I would rather shove a dirty toilet brush down my throat than start on Final Fantasy X-2 I went hunting on Steam for my next fix.
Enter Ark – Survival Evolved. I have been circling this game like a hungry but highly picky vulture for quite some time. As it is it can be quite hard to get a proper impression of what the game is like from reading the description and – to the games benefit – I think this is simply because it doesn’t really fit in any other category. It is a survival game for sure (a popular and relatively new genre ranging from Minecraft to Fallout to the thousand of zombie games) but as I see it it falls in somewhere between Minecraft and Eve – a spectacular mix to be sure.
I am not 100% satisfied with how ESO handles less-than-human anatomy. For example my Argonian witch Speaks-With-Skulls has a tail. This tail protrudes from any gear she wears but instead of there being a hole or some other kind of adaptation in the gear she wears it simply just penetrates the texture – in a not so elegant manner.
I do feel like if you want to have your Argonians and Kajhiit they deserve something better. Like gear actually adapted to their anatomy.
Credit where it is due: ESO managed to sort out most of its launch bugs in just two days. I was very sad that I had to complete the Stonefalls questline after getting to a level where they posed no challenge at all but I’ll live. It also helps that the story was absolutely wonderful – it was like reading a really good book (despite the fact that the NPC “acting” is very mechanical and stiff – the physical movements of the games characters simply can’t keep up with the voice acting).
I’m not sure we can call this a launch since it is early access. Then again i have no idea if there will be a lot of players coming in when the 5 days are up. I feel like the preorder offer was so great that most people wanting to play the game would take advantage of it. In any case this can probably be called the smoothest launch of an MMO in history (especially one so ambitious as this one).
That said there is still a plethora of small things that can be improved, fixed and ironed out:
- Guild Stores – the search function is just horrible. Things show up in the most random order imaginable and under the wrong categories. You can’t search for a specific item or items made in a specific crafting style (one of the fantastic features of this game!) – it is just a godawful mess.
- The Forums. Speaking of messes. I can’t find my way around. I don’t understand why I need to see things in German and French and I am very annoyed that there simply wasn’t any official announcement on the bugs that plagued the first two days of the launch (which is not about the forums specifically but about the community and those of us participating in it knowing that ESO is working to fix itself).
- Dark Anchors. What is the point? There’s no reward. No impact on the world around you. It’s just there, you “defeat” it and then it comes back. They are supposed to be a looming threat, a constant reminder of what the game is about and the impending menace of Molag Bal. Instead they are laughable “random encounters” with no “epic” factor whatsoever. They are not even included in any of the questlines in any area I have seen so far.
- Inventory. It is so painfully obvious that the inventory is made to also work on a console. It is messy, unintuitive and with no customization options. Just. Not. Good. Enough.
- Players. yes – the game still have shitloads of annoying and embarrassingly dumb players. Please fix this asap.
While I was – initially – very positive about the launch of ESO I have been forced to reconsider my position. I still think it all went pretty smoothly in the big picture. Servers stay up, login is without issues and I have not crashed once.
That said some of the bugs that plagued the Beta have started rearing their ugly heads. At present I have4 quests that I cannot advance and one “mini-dungeon” that I cannot enter. It might not seem like such a big issue if it wasn’t because one of the quests is essentially the regions main questline: the now infamous Balreth ordeal. I resent that I have had to explore the region and pick up quests here and there while knowing that I should have been introduced to the different areas in the region by the main questline (a thing that worked really well in the Beta – once I got through the bugs).
ESO as a game also quickly generates frustration since the bugs rarely take the form of a crash or error message. Instead your wuest marker will just lead you to an empty location, your quest object will not react to your attempts to interact with it or your actions will just not have an y effect on the progression of the quest. There is just nothing and a bland no-response is infuriating.
I am running out of things to do and the “main” quest has turned grey for me several levels ago. It’s just not good enough.
Also here is another picture of my character:
There is one HUGE flaw in ESO that carried over from the Beta: the players.
As an immersionist, a roleplayer and elitist I have many things to say about the base masses of – ugh – gamers. There is – however – one thing that will set me off into North Korean rant style in a matter of seconds and that is people who name their characters poorly.
I don’t get it. You are given this amazing game – a Role Playing Game – with a rich history and a story that is BEGGING you to get involved, creative and personal. Why then do people choose to name themselves after popular anime characters and/or historical figures? Why do they not even bother with a Capital Letter in front of their name? You can be anything and you choose to be a laughing stock, a cliche and just to top it off you also make sure everyone will label you as intellectually challenged 0.3 seconds after mouseovering you? I just don’t get it.
But then again why stop there? ESO is giving you endless options for customizing your characters appearance. This world is beautiful, detailed and diverse. Why not fuck that up as well? I mean… it’s not like a lot of other people will have to spend time looking at the train-wreck of a face you just spent 4 seconds making (to be fair this troll act of a skin job might actually have taken effort to produce – good on you – jerk).
“Man this is as buggy as the beta”
“Yeah – I hope it will be fixed or this game will not last”
Those two comment tore me out of a 5 hour stint with The Elder Scrolls Online that just launched yesterday. I was waist deep in the Ebonheart Pact starter area and so far the only negative thing I experienced was the attitude of the people playing.
I don’t know what it is about gamers but complaining really is our national sport followed closely by the art of making sweeping statements (but yes it really does make you look cool when you are all aloof like that – *barf*).
As people started to chime in with this and that complaint (so far the most frequent one is that the dirty money horse is too damn slow – hah) I blinked – possibly for the first time in several hours – and started taking measure of the game.
I never liked starter areas but still playing through this one for the 3rd time (did it twice in the beta) had induced a hour long “just enjoying the game” -state and so far I had experienced no technical trouble at all. Thinking about it I had only experienced improvements since the Beta. The game was stable, there was no quest bugs and it looks effing beautiful! On top of that I noticed subtle tweaks to the gameplay that made the game more enjoyable and – drawing on my Beta experiences – I remembered to slow down my pace, explore and enjoy having the NPC’s talking to me (like really talking).
Also: I minimized the chat.
As excited as I was for another weekend with the ESO BETA I ened up not spending much time on it.
The fact that the three major quest lines available to my character (main quest, Mages Guild and Fighters Guild) all were bugged and impossible to advance did not help either. I really hope that these bugs will not persist in the game because – well – that would just be embarrassing. If the game developers were trying to impress with the game in this BETA they fell short of their goal – not being able to play the game makes people cranky and the chat devolves into snarky comments and bad racist jokes.
I did enjoy the vastly improved visuals this time around – however if I was the lead developer and had to pick between pretty and playable I think I’d have have chosen the latter.