Here are the things I like about the Elder Scrolls Online. These are the things that are enough to make me preorder it:
Weapon Levelling. Pick up a bow. You are shit at using bows. Use the bow. Get better at using bows. Pick up Medium Armour, have no advantage to it. Use it for a while, get better.
Skills. You have some because of things you selected in chargen, but also some because you joined a guild in play, because you picked up one of these instead of one of those.
Kill Ten Rats: There are no kill ten rats quests. There are kill enough rats to allow you to perform action Y, and there are kill rats which will give you item Z.
Explore. Your map does not have exclamation marks on it. If you pick a direction, you’ll probably hit a landmark that has something to do at it. There are guided things that theme-park you around the map, but you’ll miss a lot.
Explore II. Random camps dotted around the world with lore and books and stories of their own.
Affect On The World. This is the big one, the world changes for you. Not in big ways, not that I’ve seen yet. A lot of MMOs consider the idea of the world changing to be awful, because it would mean a different state for everyone in it, which would be complicated to group in. And if you changed it for everyone, what happens to quests and things? But this is a lot simpler, a lot smaller, and also awesome. The world changes. The NPC who gives you quests will have snuck up to a nearby hill to watch you perform the mission, the town you cleared of fire will have NPCs doing their daily life, the vale that had a spell turning all creatures against you will be friendly again, the graveyard of restless spirits who were all trying to kill you will calm down, and the freed spirits will thank you for helping them. It doesn’t change for everyone, but it changes for you.
It’s pretty. Really, really pretty.
There was a point in the development of First Person Shooters where they were called Doom Clones, where there was no mechanic, no addition, and no variation that could stop them being called “Doom with Elves”, “Doom with Magic”, “Doom with Aliens”.
Saying ESO – or WIldstar, which I can’t say as much about yet – is “Just WoW with N” is close to rejecting Bioshock Infinite because it’s just Call of Duty with magic. It’s a game of a type, which is a genre you either like or dislike. It has points you’ll recognise, but others that work differently.
For example, your access to skills is limited, from around level 10 you’ll have more skills than spots in your bar, which means you have to decide what kind of things work together.
For example, there’s a sneak mechanic so you can entirely avoid fights.
For example, you can rez in place if you have a soul gem of the right size.
Most of the reasons I’ve spent more of this beta weekend playing Guild Wars 2 are bug related. There’s a generic issue where open-world quests aren’t getting reset sometimes, so the NPC you need to talk to or kill to advance the scenario is gone after the first person has killed him. This is apparently fixable in some circumstances by getting everyone to leave the area, but that’s an impossible level of cat herding. When I encountered this bug on my Faction quest chain last beta, I came back a few times, and then gave up. I picked up my Faction quest chain later on.
This time, I’ve encountered it in about 60% of the quests I’ve currently got active, and it’s such a momentum-arresting feeling to be barrelling down a story and suddenly to hit a technological wall that I’ve generally just gone and done something else for a little while.
I also hit a levelling gap around L10/L11, where I ran out of things of my level to do. The main story quest chain stops at L10 for the beta, and the end of my faction chain stopped, so I moved on to the next city’s faction mission chain, where I barrelled though the open world content without too many problems, got to the apex of the story for that bit, and suddenly hit an instanced dungeon fighting multiple high level creatures at several times my health, where my attacks did nothing. I got a good way in before I ran out of health potions, and eventually gave up. Ah, I’m too low level for this. And everything around this.
The crafting is entirely opaque to me as well, I think I must have missed some tutorial windows somewhere. I’ve bought skills to see sparkly lights around Ore and any plants I can use for crafting, but there never seems to be enough to get anywhere.
Combat’s getting better. I’m playing my standard MMO archer build, and found it floaty and disconnected last beta, but some better sound effects and more responsive controls are helping it along a lot.
Generally, it does enough new things that I’m interested in playing more, and a lot of the bugs I’m encountering are what beta is _for_, but the problems I have are breaking my immersion and ability to play the game right now.
(I’ve sent variations on all this feedback though the proper channels as well)