I realize this is a lot of images to link at the beginning of a blog post… but there is a good reason. For the last four years playing Elder Scrolls Online I had a singular goal… to see something in the live game that I have not seen since one of the last days of alpha. I’ve talked about this before but I have been playing Elder Scrolls Online since February of 2013 when the first Friends and Family alphas began. How I got in is because my good friend Tamrielo was one of the creators of a not insignificant amount of the quest content. Every so often in Alpha we would be lead by him to go see something… that was a reference to one of us or one of our friends. One of the final things I remember is running all of the way across the Ebonheart Pact area to The Rift…. and Nimalten to be specific to see an arrangement of NPCs in that town. The date specifically was October 13th of 2013 as I have a stack of screenshots that I took at that time have have hoarded since.
Last night I managed to push my way through the Eastmarch storyline and upon zoning into the The Rift for the first time… I couldn’t wait any longer and made a jaunt across zone to Nimalten to find what I had been waiting to see all of this time. Granted every one of the NPCs made their way through a bit of a “Nordification” pass by the lore team, but enough survived that it is pretty obvious who they are if you know what you are looking at. First up is my namesake aka Belgrod Sternblade (technically one of two namesakes that I know of) who has a throwaway line about his Stalwart Band of Mercenaries which is a reference to House Stalwart the guild I started in World of Warcraft back in 2004. Next up is Waren the Wolf aka Warenwolf a long time friend of ours from the vanilla World of Warcraft days, phenomenal hunter and the target of my attempts to heal him with arrows in alpha. Then we have Ashvorn Bear-Walker which is the slantwise namesake of Ashgar our perennial bear tank and general friend of anything that transforms into animal form. Lastly we have Autrae Snow-Wing who is playing with her cat Dimi… that represent former AggroChat host Audrae and her then cat Dimitri.
This might seem silly but for me personally… being able to see these characters legitimately in the final release of the game means a lot to me. It also allows me to take stupid photos like the one above with the two Belghast-kin together. Of course the moment I finished doing this nonsense I ported back to the start of the zone because I want to experience it through the natural flow instead of just jumping ahead to this one town. I’ve been having a complete blast playing Elder Scrolls Online over the last couple of weeks and really the game has evolved to a state where it pretty much has all of the things that I think I once complained about it not having. It has a really excellent housing system that I have been collecting patterns for… and still what I would consider the single best crafting system in any MMORPG. While a little costly I am a fan of their cosmetic system implementation as well as the various costumes available through either crown crates or direct purchase on the store. The fact that subscribing to the game gets me access to all of the Expansion and DLC content, a stack of crowns each time it renews, and a magical crafting bag that lets me loot everything and not worry about bag space… is all a “plus” in my book. The full list of features for a subscription goes a little something like this…
- Access to all DLC game packs in the in-game Crown Store
- Free crowns for the in-game Crown Store
- Access to the Craft Bag
- Double bank space
- Bonuses to progression
- Extra furniture space
- Costume dyeing
- Double Transmutation Crystals
I am very much in my MMO happy place at the moment, and completely oblivious to pretty much anything else apart from the occasional game of Diablo 3. I am super excited that soon… in one zones time I will be starting the first of the DLC content for Elder Scrolls Online. I have purposefully delayed starting literally anything that came out past the original game… because I wanted to have beaten all 150 levels worth of content that the original game had to offer. For the uninitiated that starts with the 50 levels worth of content in your starting faction and works its way through Silver and Gold… the new game plus, and new game plus plus that sees you travelling via Cadwell to the other two factions. Sure it is a little weird to be helping the Ebonheart Pact fight off the Covenant while rocking the Covenant Hero title… but whatever I can hand wave that away.
The thing that makes me the happiest about Elder Scrolls Online is how indistinguishable it is for me personally from playing any other Elder Scrolls game at this point. I love the story arcs for each of the zones that evolve as you work your way around and help the other people… and the little payoffs when you meet up with a character you have already helped out once before. The amount of scripting work that went into making sure that each NPC recognizes you from every time you have interacted with that NPC before has to be staggering. The fact that the final main story quest usually involves weaving in a bunch of characters that you met in the zone and each of them commenting on how you helped them in the past, is just so damned great. The only thing that would push it over the top is if they introduced some Bioware style companions with romance story arcs… because seriously the core story itself is as good as anything I have seen in a Mass Effect or Dragon Age game.
I have an extreme amount of emotional investment in this game, not just for the fact that there are characters named after me roaming its world… but also for the fact that I feel like I helped shape it. I was a very active member of the alpha community and supposedly one of the more active bug reporters. I love that there is still a core of players out there in an alpha-only guild that I am part of that has been playing off and on since the days we first got into the servers and kept reporting bugged doors. I love the fact that there is still a hidden area on the official forums that only those first few testers have access to, and while it isn’t terribly active… feels like a little secret clubhouse that a handful of us have access to. Every time I step foot into Tamrielo in Elder Scrolls Online it feels like coming back home, and each time I forget why I left in the first place. The truth is… I am an easily distracted toddler and I am sure at some point some shiny object with cause me to shift my gaze elsewhere… but for the moment I am loving every moment of roaming this place that is both so familiar to me but still so fresh to explore.