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The Elder Scrolls Online - Morrowind

This review focuses on all current content for ESO, up to and including the Dragon Bones DLC and Morrowind chapter as of March of 2018. The developer, Zenimax Online, releases content expansions and updates in a series of releases they term patches, DLC, and chapters. The marketing communications secret decoder ring indicates that chapters are the major releases of ESO, such as Morrowind, whereas DLC releases are minor content, such as Dragon Bones, and patches are bug fixes. Players can either purchase content via the online game currency store, called the Crown Store, or via fiat currency on the game website store. Some content can only be purchased with fiat currency, and some content can only be purchased with virtual game currency. Also, subscriptions, called ESO Plus, enable many content releases and other features like the bottomless bag of crafting material holding. If you are constantly running out of space in your bag and bank, an ESO Plus subscription is your prescription.

Released in April 2014, this game was one of the first to sport the action RPG targeting style. Instead of tab "locking" a target, you had to move your reticle in the direction of your target and launch your ability. This method seems really natural now, but it took me a while to get used to action targeting. As a high fantasy RPG, this game takes place in the Elder Scrolls world of lore. You won't be flying any dragons or bumblebees around, but you can acquire mounts to increase ground movement speed. As a high fantasy game, you'll find the classic character classes such as fighter (Dragonknight), wizard (Sorcerer), rogue (Nightblade), and cleric (Templar), and a hybrid class ranger (Warden). Also, there are several races to chose from, so you'll have plenty of choices for your play style. As if that weren't enough, you can also choose the path of lycanthropy or vampirism to gain extra skill lines. There are plenty of thorough online resources and wikis for this game, so you'll have no trouble planning and researching every detail.

ESO has everything Mythic Gamers want; including, active MMO, PC and Mac (and Playstation and Xbox for console players, as long as you don't want to see all that glorious 4K content), co-op PvE, consensual PvP (including RvR), drop in and play, all content is scaled to your level so you can play with any character in any faction (alliance), private as well as public content, Western developer, 4K graphics (and a 64 bit engine), and they cater to casual players. You can solo much of the content (the story line content is all solo), PUGs are easy to find, with not too many jerks, and once you hit level 10 you can spend all your time in RvR, fighting to make your alliance win Emperor. Some content requires a group, and the group sizes can vary from 4 to 12 in PvE and up to 32 in RvR.

One of the most exciting game moments for me was when I was in a group of 20 in the three alliance based RvR zone, defending a castle from an absolute zerg. There must have been 60 or 70 players from both of the other alliances. They were attacking each other about as much as we were attacking them, all the while sieging our towers and walls with ballista and trebuchet. On defense, I was dividing my time between ballista duty, burning oil from the tops of the walls, and healing as our alliance pushed invaders back through the breach. This battle raged for about 3 hours, with the outcome uncertain until the invading alliances decided to break off the attack. We won the battle and were rewarded handsomely with 26K Alliance Points, a currency that can be used to purchase siege and repair kits, as well as RvR specialized weapons and armor. I haven't experienced that kind of excitement in a game since I played Dark Age of Camelot. You never know what is going to happen when human players are making decisions, and that is part of the excitement of RvR.

RvR is so exciting, I actually tried to slow down leveling so I could stay in the under 50 campaign. Sure, I have other characters that RvR in the level 50 campaign and have had plenty of exciting times there, but the under 50 campaign is a more gentle introduction to ESO based RvR. Also, I didn't have to worry quite as much about my gear in the under 50 campaign. However, in the max level campaign, players can specialize their gear to their play style, because they are not out-leveling their gear every few hours. Another feature I like about RvR in ESO is that you do not have to worry about losing your stuff when you die. There is no player looting in ESO.

Crafting in ESO is very rewarding. Players can currently craft weapons, armor, enchantments, potions, and food and drink. Also, the next chapter, called Summerset, which is due out summer 2018, will offer jewelry crafting. Player crafted armor and weapon sets offer players plenty of choices to customize their look and play style.

Another aspect I love about ESO is the top notch writing and voice acting for every activity. This game ranks up there in my top three games of all time from a story line, music, writing, and voice acting perspective (along with Planescape Torment and Baldur's Gate). If you like well written and well voice acted games, you will lose yourself in ESO. The developers pay special attention to every detail of the immersive qualities of this game, and you can tell that they love their work whenever you talk to NPCs or read any of the written journals throughout the game. Not only do you get special treatment for the story line, but you will find even the smallest nuggets of interaction well played. Do yourself a favor - travel everywhere and click on everything. Even after finishing a quest, you'll find extra lore about the choices you made, and some are quite amusing.

There are several reasons why this game has over a million active players today. It is fun, easy to start playing yet difficult to master, offers immersive writing and voice acting, with enough content to challenge the most hardcore players, and thrilling RvR.

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