The very first time I logged into beta for the Elder Scrolls Online way back when I was filled with excitement and trepidation. Would it live up to previous Elder Scrolls games? Would my fears be confirmed? Would I fall in love with the game like I did Oblivion?
Amazing how those answers would be so INCREDIBLY different if this weekend had been my first experience with ESO. Way back then, the game lived up to its predecessors, my fears were unfounded and I loved the game. Not just loved it, I told my husband that it was gaming perfection for me. Now, Cold Harbor DESTROYS that experience entirely.
The original Cold Harbor was an escape from death as all Elder Scrolls games begin. Only this time, Daedric Prince Molag Bal was responsible and I had to fight to escape his realm. It was immersive from the beginning. A creepy old dude appears and not only can I see and talk to him but I escape from my jail cell as a result. None of that has changed but here after, the immersive aspect disappears.
The old dude, aka The Prophet, tells me to follow the kind Argonian who opens my cell door and to arm myself. Used to be you ended up in a forge with a large variety of weapons to choose from, as would make sense in a room known as the FORGE. New version, there is one weapon and only one weapon choice a sword. Really a sword? Yes, I know you can use any weapon in the game with any class but if you are like me and get horrible luck with weapon drops then guess what? That is your weapon until a better one appears.
Sucking it up, I equip the sword and moved on. First play through Cold Harbor this weekend, I played it like every other time I’ve gone through it. That was a mistake. Chests and enemies are far less, there is no longer a sense of improving through successful battles. No weapons, armor, books, lock picks, or recipes dropped and I looted every possible urn, crate, chest, and barrel I could. I rescued the Prophet, not caring for the first time about Lyris and her sacrifice.
The new boss battle at Anchor Mooring was a pleasant change however. But of course I was underpowered with the crappy sword and rags I was equipped with. The fight which could have felt epic in scale and ferocity, instead felt like I had been thrown to the dogs and would succeed only because the Prophet was throwing heals on me. Boss done, I felt none of the urgency to escape. I no longer had to collect shards to assemble the Skyshard, Prophet just magically conjured them up.
Successful escape from Cold Harbor and I land in some house in Daggerfall. I walk out the door and NPCs are acting like they’ve heard of my fighting abilities. Really? They have sources in Cold Harbor that regularly report back to them? First reaction? They are in league with a Daedric Prince and I am OUTTA HERE. Tried to find a way back to the starter island but no luck there. I was under-geared and under-leveled for the area I was thrown into and I was dismayed.
I played through Cold Harbor three times since Friday morning and it hasn’t gotten any better. Now I just rush through to get to the end of a dismal experience that isn’t immersive and isn’t worthy of being in an Elder Scrolls game. I miss John Cleaves as Caldwell because I flat out don’t believe that Molag Bal has stolen my soul or that I am in any mortal or immortal danger. I finish the Cold Harbor mess always under-geared and thrown into some random location not caring.
Luckily, I know how incredibly good the game is but if I were a new player I would be done with the game after this experience. I wouldn’t give it five more minutes of my time and I would tell everyone not to waste their time as well. I get that the developers wanted to make skipping “starter” islands a possibility but they implemented that choice in the worse possible manner. The story is no longer cohesive, immersive, and it makes no sense. Now it is just another random MMO in a sea drowning in random MMOs.
The forums are filled with other players equally upset with the changes. I’m praying the developers come to their collective senses in time to save the mess they have turned the game into.