It feels good to come home

With the troubles in the past 4-6 weeks, mainly consisting of sickness in the family and our china visit, it has been quite some time since i visited Elder Scrolls Online in a normal way- that is to say logging into my main character and continue questing where i left off. Even when i logged in, i wasn’t able to do much because of short sessions, the longer ones have been reserved for guild evenings.

There’s something that became very apparent in this time: MMORPGs need some commitment to enjoy them in their full capacity. At least for me, when i lose momentum in a game, others become more alluring. Lately, i’ve found myself wanting to play The Secret World or Lord of the Rings Online- i’m not counting EVE in here, because that came as a surprise and i do think two MMORPGs work very well together. Nonetheless, yesterday i decided to spend the night in Tamriel and i’m really glad i did.

Birthday cake

My first mission was to get the birthday cake, although i don’t need it much- i’m outleveling content anyway, so there’s actually no need to get that 100% bonus. But on the other hand- why fret about it? It’s only going for a week and a boost is fine- after all, it doesn’t say “you have to skip content if you use it” in the item description- i can still go for those zone achievements i want to clear before moving on. As a matter of fact, i’ve only now set my first steps into Greenshade, so there’s still a lot of zone to cover.

Getting the birthday cake is quite easy- you’ll get ingame mail, a voucher for one of these. You’ll need to seek out Chef Donolon at the docks of Vulkhel Guard, who will tell you to get a few bananas, honey and…rye, i think, which you can buy from an NPC nearby or loot from the usual places like baskets etc. When you return with those ingredients, he’ll make the cake for you and it goes straight into your collections tab. I’m not sure if one has to use it to get the experience bonus, but i did it, just to make sure. After that, i could go out and seek adventure again.

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Silatar

It took about five minutes to make me fall back in love with ESO again, as its storytelling is really good. All i really did yesterday was one quest- The Witch of Silatar. I lost track of the storyline, but i guess this is about the Wilderking wanting me to get to know the assassin sent by the Veiled Heritance, Aranias, sent to Greenshade to kill the Wilderking.

But it doesn’t do this in a direct way, no. The quest NPC, Spinner Maruin, wants to tell me a story- a story i can take a part in. I would visit Aranias on the island of Silatar (which she created, by the way) to relive some part of her past as her friend- a friend she never had in her real past. She had to go through this all by herself.

After i asked nicely, Maruin told me to sit by the fire- a few lines of dialogue later, and i’m on Silatar, which is strikingly beautiful. This is enhanced by the fact that the first thing i do with Aranias is racing to a lighthouse- this seems so innocent, so beautiful, at first, but takes a bit of a darker shade when she roots me as soon as i might come close to her.

Still, it was this moment where i thought, again, how great the experience in Elder Scrolls Online is- this is a crafted story, not a thrown-in quest. The island of Silatar, for instance, is only visited for this quest. While it’s not big, i guess it tells us something about storytelling in a game when the developers create a zone of about the size of a city just for one quest.

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The story goes on and it’s mainly about Aranias, a young Altmer with incredible powers- after all, she created the island we’re standing on during this quest in a day. The motives for her behaviour are loneliness as well as a will to “earn” her parents’ love who really don’t like seeing her daughter creating islands or lifting ships from the sea. Her parents then leave for the Summerset Isles to get help for her daughter and return with High Kinlady Estre from the Veiled Heritance who makes Aranias kill a bosmer woman. In the story Maruin tells, we are able to help, so this is not what happens in our quest, but what happened in reality. I don’t want to get too deep into the details here because spoilers, but this is an interesting quest and i’m very much looking forward to playing it again on another character and take more screenshots of Silatar.

This love for detail and good storytelling is what makes stand Elder Scrolls Online stand apart from and above many other MMORPGs- there are others, of course, who have great storytelling- Lord of the Rings, FFXIV, SWTOR and TSW to name a few, but while Elder Scrolls Online might not be able to have the storytelling greatness of The Secret World, it’s actually the phasing that makes the quests more interesting- when you complete a quest, the zone changes, so you can see an impact. The game then doesn’t turn into a singleplayer experience because of its megaserver technology- there are still many players who have their map- or the part of the map you’re in in the same state as you have. That’s just so much better than the instanced storytelling of SWTOR, for instance.

Just like Laeloria, Silatar and the story of Aranias (which will continue in the questlines of Greenshade) will stay with me and became one of the reasons for my liking of Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve reconnected with the game yesterday and it feels good.

Travel Log: wrapping up Grahtwood

Yesterday i finally had/took the time to wrap up Grahtwood, the level 16-24 area for Aldmeri Dominion in Elder Scrolls Online. Nuria has been in Grahtwood, well, for almost 2 years, i suppose, as it was one of the characters i created back when the game launched. I can’t tell you how many hours of /played it took to finish it, but what i am able to tell you is that it was a memorable experience.

I do remember when i first got there. Not in too much detail, but i remember how difficult i found it to be. It’s not often that you’ll find standard open-world content difficult in MMORPGs- here, coming to Grahtwood with a fresh level 16 character, it was as much an unwelcoming place as the quest lore made it out to be. It was grim, and i’ve found some quest very confusing- i can’t remember which one, anymore, but somehow, something put me to a stop in the game. I know i loathed the inventory minigame even more back then, because ESO was still asking for a subscription at that time and i felt it was one of those time-wasters designed to make you sub longer. Around that time, i decided to discontinue playing the game.

When i returned a couple of times to check the game out again, i did what i always do: create a new character to play because i had forgotten about the old one. So i didn’t see the Grahtwood anymore, until our guild decided to side with the Aldmeri Dominion and i was looking at either continuing Nuria or create another new character. As i have been playing the game in our premade group up to level 8, i felt i could tackle a level 19 character of the same class- after all, there had been a skill reset in the meantime and i had a general idea on what to do with the character.

Laeloria

It wasn’t easy, though. I still had to struggle through getting to know the character and the situation she found herself in. And, after all that time and despite really liking the Daggerfall Covenant zones and quest-related stories, it’s Grahtwood where i fell in love with the game again. And it was a quest.

The watcher in the Treehouse, again.
The watcher in the Treehouse, again.

Laeloria. I don’t know what it was about this quest- i guess it was all a happy coincidence. First, i saw the building you can see in the background of the screenshot above. I made a mental note to take a look later. While travelling around, at some point i saw a Treehouse and decided to climb it, as i knew it would offer some kind of view. Arriving there, i received the quest- freeing some captured soul from Coldharbour- and the Watcher told me more. How someone already ventured in to free that soul, how she told him to watch the beacon and pay attention if/when it turned to a red light. I was enthralled, because i wondered if it would, indeed, turn red and thereby ending the century-long wait for that Watcher. So now Laeloria was more than a building i wanted to explore at some point- it was encased in the lore of the Watcher and the liberation of not one, but two individuals and finally even in the mystery of the beacon. That’s a normal side-quest, mind you. It’s not even a very uncommon theme here- freeing people from a dangerous place often is the motivation for the player character to venture in, after all. But for some reason, all these elements clicked for me. Better yet, that wasn’t even all there is to Laeloria.

Statue of Azura in Laeloria.
Statue of Azura in Laeloria.

Azura, a Daedra that’s not even viewed as being as evil as the others, is in this whole scheme, as well. As is a demon, but i didn’t like that one very much. It’s this quest that will me- or my character, at least- have a “special” connection to Azura from then on. Now, i don’t know anything much about the lore of Elder Scrolls games and Elder Scrolls Online in particular- it’s a gap i plan to fill at some point, also because of this quest and Azura.

Exploring Laeloria was very satisfying and i wasn’t disappointed, of course. After all that tension building up around this place it did deliver on it, after all. Did the beacon turn red? Well, you’ll have to take a look yourself.

Grahtwood

The zone has to offer much more and it’s actually quite diverse, even though the theme never changes from being a wood. There are Bosmer villages made of trees and acorns, i guess. There are Altmer villages, ruins and embassies, there are open spaces as well as dark woods/rough terrain. It’s not easy to navigate while still being open enough to not make it an annoyance.

There’s a dungeon, of course- Elder Hollows, and it is nice to look at, indeed. The main storyline in Grahtwood revolves around preventing a revolution in Bosmer ranks and getting Ayrenn to do some kind of ceremony to prove she truly is a fitting leader for the Dominion. There’s a bit of betrayal, drama and magic mystery involved, as well as a funny twist on vegetarism- Bosmer don’t eat plants and you’ll be reminded of that several times – i really liked getting through the questing in Grahtwood.

I’ve seen strange places like that “Garden of Flesh” in the Reliquary of Stars and followed gruesome tales of unreturned love. Memorable, i guess, is the right word. In the end, after getting that quest achievement, there were 2 delves, 3 Skyshards and one “eye” left to explore- that’s what i did last night.

In retrospective, with a zone as large as the Grahtwood is, the slow leveling in Elder Scrolls Online and all the real-time involved here- even if i were only counting the time since i returned to that character- it truly feels like an epic experience, a journey. So now, i’m off to Greenshade- looking forward to explore that place. I’ll leave you with some shots i took during my travels.