Massively’s Elder Scrolls Online launch diary: Day four – PvP

ESO - PvP mages in a keep

My fourth day In The Elder Scrolls Online didn’t start until well after 3:00 p.m. thanks to the North American megaserver going down in the wee watches of Wednesday morning and remaining down for several hours.

When it came back up, the first thing I did was load into Doshia’s Lair outside Daggerfall with a pickup group that intended to finish a Fighter’s Guild quest called Anchors From the Harbour. Unfortunately none of us could see the others’ avatars inside the instance, so after several attempts at reloading and relogging, we abandoned ship [Ed. note: Yes it’s a solo quest, which wasn’t in any way made clear to the group trying to enter it!].

While additional data like this has caused me to reassess my earlier observations about ESO’s smooth (pre-)launch, it hasn’t affected my overall enjoyment of the game. In fact, ESO would need quite a few more bugs and several more days of downtime to qualify as a “bad” launch. If you disagree, well, I question how many MMO launches you’ve actually experienced.

ESO Elder Scroll

Anyway, let’s move on to the actual gameplay. Shortly after my failed PUG experiment, I dinged level 10 and set about preparing myself to sample ESO’s much-touted three-faction PvP.

When I say preparing myself, what I mean is pressing L to bring up the Alliance War menu, clicking the rightmost campaign button, and selecting a home campaign, which as I understand it is basically an instance of the gigantic Cyrodiil PvP battlefield. Right-clicking my home campaign and selecting Enter then whisked me away from Daggerfall to a training camp well inside friendly faction lines.

From there I picked up a tutorial quest line and made use of the Transitus Shrine (i.e., the fast travel network between keeps, outposts, and gates). Fortunately for me, the Daggerfall Covenant was currently dominating Cyrodiil, so I could teleport to most areas of the map unmolested. It’s telling that Cyrodiil has its own fast travel system, too, because the zone is absolutely ginormous. I ventured outside the safety of my faction stronghold a few times just to explore, and I was blown away by the enormity of the place.

I guess it has to be big given the fact that ZeniMax says it can support 2,000 simultaneous users with 200 of them onscreen at any given moment. But I still wasn’t prepared for exactly how big it is until I looked at the zone map and spent some time traversing it on horseback.

ESO catapult

First things first, though. Back at the Northern High Rock Gate camp, I turned in the first of my PvP newb quests and was rewarded with Alliance Points that are used on everything from new gear to repair kits to siege weapons and camps. Said siege weapons are a lot of fun, and they may even end up overcoming my PvP indifference if maintaining a steady supply of them doesn’t turn out to be a hellacious grind.

As you’ll discover when you arrive at the firing range portion of the newb quest, there are four types of siege weapons: trebuchets, catapults, ballistae, and battering rams. Each has its own unique abilities and situational usefulness. Catapults are great for taking out enemy troops, and they can even hurl boiling oil or nasty looking disease balls. Trebuchets, on the other hand, are ideal for pummeling keep walls. ZeniMax deserves quite a few kudos here, as watching the siege machinery in action is fun all by itself, even when you’re just firing it on the practice range.

ESO Orc captainThe catapults clank noisily through their motions, and the impact effects of boiling oil are pretty spectacular. You can also dump said oil off of ledges and into the path of onrushing enemy players. And of course all of these siege engines take damage, so you’ll need to use repair kits that can be quick-slotted and key-pressed in the thick of battle.

So what’s the point of all this destructive machinery? In a nutshell you want to help your faction capture keeps, farms, lumber mills, mines, and even Elder Scrolls themselves, which buff your faction’s players after they’re yoinked and controlled. ZeniMax has also placed a variety of repeatable quests in Cyrodiil that range from scouting sorties to kill-20-players to resource-capturing battle missions and keep-capturing warfront missions.

I won’t pretend to have the full measure of ESO’s PvP at this point, as so far I’ve simply engaged in a few cat-and-mouse games with enemy players who’ve ventured close to the borders of DC-controlled territory.

I traveled to Cyrodiil as soon as I hit level 10, and while every low-level PvP participant receives the buffs required to make them useful throughout the zone, I’m still at a disadvantage compared to higher level combatants who have access to more class, race, weapon, guild, and other assorted skills.

I can tell you that I’m very much looking forward to delving into Alliance Wars as I continue to play ESOover the next few weeks. And given my history of PvP apathy, that’s definitely a feather in this game’s cap.

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