Dragons or Giant Spiders or Something

It’s a failing of mine that, when in a certain mood, I can get tetchy even about things I’m supposed to be enjoying. I’m sure the same could be said for all of us. But it’s something that’s cropped up with surprising intensity all through my life. I remember in my younger days having seen, in the household copy of the ‘Radio Times’, a listing for a new science-fiction comedy programme called Red Dwarf, and thinking it sounded interesting. On the evening of the broadcast something happened. For the life of me I can’t remember what the thing was, but it put me in a Bit of a Mood, and I very nearly decided not to watch Red Dwarf, just because it was something I wanted to do.

This little preamble is by way of explaining that, when I rip into Elder Scrolls Online, as I’m about to, it’s not necessarily because there’s any objective reason for me to have taken against it. Unfortunately, I had my first go of it whilst in One Of Those Moods. So, bless it, it didn’t get a very fair go. If you’re fond of the game, please bear this in mind before killing me.

I began by installing the game. An arduous process involving ‘disc-swapping’. For you modern kids, that’s where the game you’ve bought comes on physical data media – in this case DVDs – and is so big that you have to put the discs in one after the other, unless you’ve got multiple drives enough to hold them all at once. Only you haven’t for this one, because it comes on four DVDs. And who’s going to need a physical drive often enough to need four of them?

It’s easy to start taking digital distribution for granted without really realising it.

With the DVDs used up, ESO then requires another 30 or so gigabytes to update. That there has to be some update is inevitable: online games are constantly being rewritten and patches are frequent – but with fibre broadband it still took the entire duration of my tea and Mockingjay: Part 2 (probably partly why I ended up in a Mood) to complete.

Then into the game. I’m a wood elf, habitually, so I picked a Bosmer character. She’s ugly. No, I mean, it’s not that she personally is ugly – and I don’t mean to seem as though I judge people, even MMORPG characters who don’t really exist, by appearances – but she does suffer from a bad case of ‘Being An Elder Scrolls Avatar’. ES games give you a pretty good range of character-creation options, but omits the ability to make someone that isn’t… craggy.

This is probably realistic since everyone in Tamriel has led a miserable, hard life prior to the game starting, after which they mostly die by dragons or giant spiders or something; so to be honest with those prospects I’d probably go for craggy, too.

Also, her body displays a bright pink sheen, which I suspect is more to do with my graphics card. It also used to make EVE Online characters go bright pink, too.

Now I get to choose a voice for my character, from a menu selection whose audio previews consist of a number of women going “urgh!” and “argh!” and “yaaar!” and “uh-HAH!” and various other noises that, frankly, could be due to the exercise of violence or, you know, the other thing. Would it have been too much to ask to provide actual spoken words and sentences, so I can hear what the voices sound like?

Anyway, everything’s as groovy as I can make it, so… Click ‘Create’.

Oh. Disconnected due to inactivity.

Try again. Re-create character. Faster, this time. Start game.

Begins in a prison. An Elder Scrolls game, starting me off in a prison? Fair beggars belief. Was that sarcasm? Unearned: I’m sure beginning the game in prison was a deliberate callback. And it’s an effective way of giving you a morally neutral character to build from: was s/he in prison rightly or wrongly? You decide!

In this case, she’s not just ‘in prison’. A moment after the game tells you to find a way to bust out, a woman called Lyris turns up outside the barred door and busts you out. Handy. Lyris explains that you’re dead, in the land of the dead, being exploited by someone who exploits the souls of the dead in the land of the dead or something and you have to escape or be doomed to stay here as a slave for all eternity and hang on: if I’m dead, how can I be enslaved? Come on: what’s the worst thing they can do to me if I refuse to co-operate? Kill me?

Ah, but anyway, let’s humour her.

We do fighting. She does a lot of warning me to be careful, in case I get hurt.

Just to remind you, I’m dead.

She shows me to a dude, an old mad dude, a spirit who’s been in the dead realm so long he thinks it’s all completely harmless and that he nothing here is dangerous. That’s apparently how we can tell he’s mad, you see; or that, I dunno, he’s worked out the blindingly obvious while everyone else is still crawling around the place going woe and fie and alas and so on. Anyway, Mad Dude – sorry, Sir Mad Dude – explains that he used to be a famous knight but got his head cut off. As he’s voiced by John Cleese I found it difficult not to see him as Sir Nicholas from Hogwarts, which I rather suspect was the point. He points us along to some prophet fellow who’s locked in a massive energy shield thing, from which we have to free him. Because I dunno about you, but I always find it a bostingly good idea to go freeing people who someone’s gone to the trouble of locking in a massive energy shield thing, without bothering to ask anyone any questions at all about who put him there and why.

Anyway, on this occasion it seems the ‘prophet’ wasn’t, in fact, actually a terrifying monster bent on cosmic domination and the slaughter of all that’s good and nice and happy, who’ll betray you instantly to immerse the universe in a dark pit of terror and torment, if not prevented from doing so by the continuing integrity of said shield thing.

So now I’m back in the land of the live, and get to see colours other than blue. Which is nice. If there’s one thing that must be said for Skyrim, it’s that – with the exception of its godsawful craggenesque character avatars – it was a very pretty game indeed. So now I get to look at a room with a woman and this prophet standing in it. For quite a long time, as it turns out, since this is where my game crashed.

Reload game. Takes a moment, since the evening-long install couldn’t be bothered to add an icon to my desktop. Dig down through the directories; find icon; create shortcut; start.

Enter password. There’s an option to remember your user name, but none to store your password. Weird. Security precaution, no doubt – but honestly, if someone’s actually sitting at my computer to steal my account then my house has been burgled and I have bigger fish to fry than some game.

Back into the game. Select character from very pretty character select screen, and I’m back in the room with the woman and the prophet. I click the prophet to talk to him.

eso has quit unexpectedly

Mmm. Not wholly unexpectedly; not at this point.

That’s about all the time I can give it today, so I’ll try to give it a fairer crack of the whip tomorrow.



  1. I certainly plan on giving it a good go: as I say, I'm very conscious that I was in my peculiar Mood™ when I started it this morning and, to be honest, perhaps it would've been fairer to leave it until later. But it certainly does look very pretty, and you're right: Elder Scrolls lore does feel relatively familiar to me anyway. I guess it's always difficult to get into a new game, especially a potentially long-term one like a(n?) MMORPG.

    The only thing I fear – and it's something I should really have looked up first – is that it may turn out to be a relatively linear affair like Dungeons & Dragons was, since Guild Wars 2 has excelled in not making me feel as though I'm on rails. I don't know why that suddenly concerns me, though, since nothing about the Elder Scrolls games suggests their online version should do that.

    (Well, I also fear that everyone'll abandon GW2 and run off to ESO, which I'd hate to see happen, but we've been over that already. :oP )

    After that, most of my complaints are minor quibbles stemming solely from tetchiness – and you have to bear in mind I'm someone that'll listen to the radio and argue out loud with song lyrics. So if I seem like I'm picking on Lyris, she's certainly not alone… :o)


  2. Aye, feelings I know well. It's been a week and I only just feel like I'm liking the game. The download was fine, although the game occasionally crashes, but the look and feel of it still hasn't won me over. Or the gameplay. But it's getting there. The lore is great fun and really drags you into the world – the rest will follow. Playing with the G's and with Arin and El taking us through the world they love is really great fun so please do try again – I think you'll grow to love it too.

    The avatars will always be frigging ugly though… o.O


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