Edited by ZOS_Icy on December 31, 2022 7:50PM
I finally got caught up with the content in ESO and finished High Isle and most of Firesong. Thought I’d chime in and throw out some praise alongside a dash of frowning. :-P
Specifically, kudos to the teams that did the side content for the expansions. I found it immensely impressive. Going to do a little bullet list:
- The world bosses had some neat mechanics that made them interesting to fight. Sure, you can burn them fast with enough people, but otherwise you have some decent mechanics to engage with. Well-choreographed madness.
- So many touches of love and artistic flourishes. A dead body hanging from the figurehead of a washed-up piece of ship, with mud-crabs hopping and snipping upwards in the hope of getting a piece. Mud-crabs dancing in joy in front of giant coral crabs. A wandering Argonian licking frogs to get high. Odd dialogue and other random insane encounters. I could ramble for hours. Just pure fun. I loved every bit of it. You made me grin ear to ear in misfit joy. Masterful.
- The side-quests UNDERSTAND this franchise. The joyful madness. The silly stereotypes about each race that, as always in this franchise, each have a basis in reality. Actual villains who don’t fail utterly at everything. Just a few examples:
- I loved the castle with the crazy Bretons who tried to cheat death with a magical flaying knife. It checks out. Bretons have a reputation for being magic-crazed lunatics, and that stereotype… has a basis in reality. This worked. Of course some of them would think this was a good idea.
- The Khajiit necromancer in Garrick’s Rest ACTUALLY SUCCEEDED AT A LOT OF HER GOALS. It wasn’t until the end that she messed up. You let a rival be portrayed as competent, clever, and an actual threat until a final “ace up the sleeve” moment from the Vestige. Great.
- So many crazy magic Bretons. Even the druids are crazy, arguing with squirrels or flirting with sheep (gadzooks). It would fit the stereotype that even primitive, proto-Bretons would be magic-crazed and off-kilter. Checked out. Again, you get it. You understand it.
- This is the place to mention it: the side-quests are designed very well. They're well-paced, mostly avoid padding themselves out with pointless running back and forth, involve a lot of diverse locations, and I have no criticism to offer. Well done!
Loved all of it… and then I got to the main quests, which I saved for last. Oi. What a mistake. I can’t help but think that there must be different teams writing the side content and the main content, because it was night and day.
- The Ascendant Order never have a single moment of competency. They’re introduced as buffoons getting eaten by Halodids, fumble their assassination plot, and then lose EVERY SINGLE TIME you encounter them. They’re worthless.
- They’re not even that evil. Oh sure, Lady Arabelle says they are evil and she writes Investigator Vale, so you’re supposed to take her word for it when she calls them terrorists (totally a term I’d expect in a fantasy setting, y’all). But… they don’t do anything particularly naughty. Queen Ayrenn ordered people flayed alive and the genocide of an entire generation of unhatched Argonians. The Ebonheart Pact dropped Argonian slave-trading… in lieu of enslaving anyone they can catch during brutal coastal raids. Emeric had his people slaughter every man, woman, and child of Bleakrock. Oh, and he gave the orcs his blessing to scourge Rivenspire, slaughtering and violating countless thousands of civilians in a bloodbath *** of violence. But hey, those peasants had it coming because Ranser rose up against Emeric, right? Sure sure.
- The Ascendant Order… pillaged some caravans for needed supplies and plotted to eliminate the leaders behind countless atrocities and war crimes? What? How dreadful, guffaw. It wasn’t until Galen that you course-corrected and had their leader reveal himself to be a world-ending cliché, which… eh? Made me miss the actual political intrigue and low stakes in Wrothgar. This was a dud faction.
- Too many main quest missions revolve around running to opposite corners of the map to pad time.
- The writing… Gods, the writing. Characters in the main quest just boil down to as few dimensions and key phrases as possible, and then stay there.
- “Hey there, GOOD LOOKING!” Jakarn is an excessively lusty caricature of himself, chasing after anything that moves. I loved him in the base game… but it’s like he’s a vestige of his former self (har har).
- Lady Arabelle has one shtick (barely suppressed perversity), one running joke (does she REALLY write those novels?), and one throatily delivered bedroom-voice tone for all dialogue.
- Even poor Razum’dar gets hit with the lust belt, and now he apparently “rambles to Queen Ayreen for hours about people’s butts at court,” tries to couple with anything that moves, and ends his Galen quest talking about finding a hot Druid Boy. He’s cat-Jakarn all the sudden. What happened?
- “Root and thorn!” ‘Root and thorn!” “Root and thorn!” For the love of God, this phrase was this game’s “Cracked Acorns!”
- Not a single main quest offered even a bare modicum of challenge.
- Also, the writing. Look, you want to use neo-pronouns? Fine. Not my thing, but whatever. However, you can use them without being incomprehensible.
- What we got: “Frii will go with the druids. Frii knows that they need them. They will help them.” So… Frii knows that the druids need it, or Frii knows that it needs the druids? Frii will help the druids, or the druids will help Frii? What are you trying to say, you bizarre amalgamation of forest spirits now existing in a leafy humanoid form? This is awful writing. It sacrifices clarity for… I don’t even know what it sacrifices it for. Bleh
- How about: “Frii will go with the druids. Too many dangers. Frii needs their help. Will help druids in return.” There we go. Isn’t it clear who is who? Look at that. Admittedly, I didn’t use any neo-pronouns, but again… they’re not my thing and priority A in writing is making sure the reader can actually UNDERSTAND YOU. Bleh
So yeah, not a fan of the main quest. But jeezy petes, you fired on all cylinders for the side content. I’m not being facetious; I loved it. Loved it all, even the weird Druid lust quest on Northeastern Galen (which would have never made it past your committees if genders were reversed and the Sea Elf torturer was a dude molesting his female Thieves’ Guild victim while she screamed in misery, but I digress). You did more to capture the maniacal spirit of both the Bretons and The Elder Scrolls franchise than the main quest, by leaps and bounds. I didn’t fast forward through a single line of side content dialogue, either. It was pure gold. Even got me reading old lore books from Skyrim and wistfully remembering the old games. Bravo. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Grade AAA.
There. Praise with a hint of frown. Some positive energy, mostly, into the ether. I wanted to say something. Truth be told, this was going to be nothing but praise until I got to the main quest and stared dumbfounded, thinking "Oh God... what happened here?"