Thursday, August 6, 2015

Letters from Tamriel, Part IX - The Redguard

TESO is not a game conducive to alts. For one, the grind to level cap - currently VR14 at the time of writing, and soon to be expanded to VR16 with the arrival of the Imperial City DLC - is a mammoth task akin to scaling the peaks of K2 or Mount Everest, something more suited to younger folk with lots of free time on their hands. Secondly, there is no content a main character is not privy to regardless of what faction they start as. Irrespective of whether you begin your journey as Covenant, Dominion or Pact, you will be able to experience every faction's single player storylines, as well as all the dungeons, raids and PvP the game has to offer. Think of the single player storyline as an stage play with three acts, with the nature of the first act being determined by your faction. The first act allows you to play through the story of your faction, and it culminates with the battle to reclaim your soul and defeat Molag Bag. The second and third acts, however, allow you to experience the tale of the other factions, in essence reliving the march to the final confrontation with Molag Bal, except without the confrontation (because you've already defeated him in Act I) and in full awareness that you are doing so in a lucid dream or fugue state. For all you know you are passed out at a bar somewhere after having too many celebratory drinks because you just saved the world. Hard to muster up heroic gusto in that scenario.


Yuri Hatakeyama my main - on the left, wearing her healing gear; on the right, wearing medium armour and armed with a bow and great sword. 

Alts still play a vital role in providing inventory space and providing a crafting toon who is able to spend valuable skill points on crafting instead of combat abilities. Another incentive for creating alts is to be able to play with different class skills, although this comes with the caveat of a massive levelling requirement. There are four classes in TESO, each with their own unique class skills. These class skills do not preclude any of the classes from fulfilling any of the classical trinity roles however, and all classes have equal access to all the other skills in the game. This means that all classes can be effective tanks, DPS or healers, and largely obviates the need to create specialised trinity alts. I use all eight of my character slots in TESO nonetheless - six of them are banking alts, each tasked with holding a specific category of objects. The other two slots house my main and my crafting alt, and it is through their eyes that I experience the world of Tamriel.



Hatakeyama travelling in Eastmarch, in the lands of the Ebonheart Pact.

Yuri Hatakeyama is my main - this persona has travelled through many virtual worlds, the last of note being Archeage - and she is a Redguard Nightblade. Her home base is in Sentinel, the capital of the Redguard, and this is where I return to between adventures to sell, store, transfer or disenchant items when encumbered. I don't have to use Sentinel as my home base - Shornhelm in Rivenspire is better laid out in my opinion - but it is fitting in terms of lore, and I love the look of Redguard architecture and the lonely ambience of the Alik'r desert. TESO gets full marks from me with the job they did in fleshing out the Redguards and expanding their background in terms of story and environment. Now they are no longer an abstract race of athletic Africans/Egyptians in the character creation screens of Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim, but a real people of Tamriel with their own history, their own king (I've met him!), and their own places in the Elder Scrolls world. I loved wandering the zones of Stros M'kai and Alik'r, visiting the Valley of Blades with Sai Sahan in the main quest, and look forward to adventuring in Craglorn when the time comes.


Wearing medium armour and wielding a great sword, Hatakeyama prepares to engage a lesser Daedra blocking her path.

I'm not really sure why I decided to roll a character on the Daggerfall Covenant, especially given that I loved Morrowind, and liked Skyrim very much. Part of it stems from the wish to expand my knowledge of the Elder Scrolls world - I already know much about the Dunmer, the Imperials and the Nords because of their respective stand-alone titles, so much so that any deviations from the pre-conceptions formed within my head are met with much pooh-poohing and indignation. "The Dunmer would never do that - what the hell are the developers thinking?" Nonetheless, it seemed more interesting to see how the less prominent races were depicted in Zenimax's vision of Tamriel. I have to say that I found the Dominion quests very disappointing in this regard - the Altmer, Bosmer and Khajit never emerged as distinct cultures for me, although my experience may have been unfairly coloured by the strident and all-consuming desire to level which overrode all other considerations at that time. Once I relaxed and decided to enjoy the journey I became more open to the experience and started to see the quests, mobs and locales as more than just experience point values.


Deep in a delve Hatakeyama stumbles onto some ancient Ayleid ruins.

Another reason why I chose the Covenant was also due to the fact that I always love playing the underdog, and I could see that the vast majority of players would naturally gravitate towards the Pact. My wish to play the underdog has been granted in full, incidentally - the Covenant was absolutely thrashed by the Dominion in July once again. The only consolation for me was that the Covenant was triumphant in Azura's Star, the other 30 day campaign. I'm happy for my comrades-in-blue, but I have no plans to desert Thornblade as I intend to turn my avatar into a fully fledged ganker in the Imperial City once the DLC drops in late August. The more targets the better.

Hatakeyama's current build and gear.

For now my Redguard Nightblade is running a magicka based build in heavy armour. Her weapons are a two-handed mace and a restoration staff, and her load-out and skill selection are designed primarily for survival and longevity. Her WoW equivalent would be a holy paladin, with perhaps a tad more offensive power plus the ability to escape and evade with the use of Dark Cloak. She is very robust - with food and battle buffs she is rocking almost 30k health in Cyrodiil. She is also wearing five pieces of Whitestrake's Retribution, which means that once her health drops below 30% she gains a 9k shield at VR12, for a total effective health pool of about 40k. This gives me lots of time to react. If you want to PvP in Cyrodiil you need at least 20k health, otherwise a player could eviscerate you in 3-4 seconds when they jump you. The way I think about it is that 4k health represents roughly one second of life against a single player. So if I'm fighting someone one on one I can use four abilities before I have to heal up or vanish, and less if I'm facing more opponents. It's not a perfect guide, but it has served me well so far.


Metal is bad when you're freezing to death in one of Skyrim's enchanted caverns.

In PvE she is perfectly capable of soloing all veteran content designed for multiple players (excluding instanced dungeons and raids) because of her survivability, healing output and Dark Cloak. This makes it easier for me to complete dolmens, world bosses, delves, and public dungeons without the aid of other people, because let's face it, in the instanced versions of Dominion and Pact lands, people are in short supply. In instanced dungeons my DPS is sub-par because her build is not optimised for doing damage, but she can play support and off-heal, and provided that there are no burn timer mechanics in play, we will eventually win because the boss won't be able to kill us.

Solving a puzzle deep within a Dwemer ruin.

In this fashion Hatakeyama has been slowly and methodically clearing all the content in Pact lands, and she is now halfway through VR12 as she makes her way through the Rift, the final zone in Ebonheart. Once she completes the Rift she will have done all the single player content in the original game, which is actually quite a staggering amount. I just don't like the central conceit of the Caldwell quests - the idea that we are in a dream facilitated by Meridia's magic seems like such a cop-out, and it diminishes the experience. After the Rift she will either have to complete quests in Cyrodiil, run dungeons repeatedly for the Undaunted faction, or enter Craglorn, the first expansion for TESO. She won't be wanting for content, which is a good thing and probably makes TESO good value for money as a buy-to-play title. The ultimate goal, of course, is to hit VR14 before the DLC drops - for all my talk on lore and enjoying the experience I am still a min-maxer at heart, and I want to enter the Imperial City to as close as an even footing as possible before the fun starts.

5 comments:

  1. Interesting take on why you rolled Covenant. I started Pact-side because, yes, of my love for Morrowind (shame the Nords are in the picture too to rope in all the Skyrim fanboys). But lately, I've found myself wishing to play Pact-side less and less, preferring instead the Covenant. I personally find Covenant quests better laid-out, and besides, a very long time ago when TESO was first announced, I remember setting my heart on playing a Breton knight. (A fixation that began with learning the lore behind Eleidon's Ward in TES3!)

    I ended up as a Nightblade instead, but it's been pretty rewarding so far - the whole 'kings and nobles' thing the Bretons have going has, as you put it, expanded my knowledge of the TES world. Had I played TES2 when it came out, I suppose I would have been more inclined to explore other races, but there it is.

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    1. I'm not sure if you've finished the Dunmer Pact quests, but I was a little disappointed at how little the Tribunal figured in them. I really wanted to meet Vivec and Sotha Sil in particular, since he is such a mysterious figure, but instead was stuck with the least interesting of the three, Almalexia. I guess nothing short of a sweeping heroic narrative ala Morrowind would have satisfied me, so I was always bound to be let down. Still, in times of great upheaval like these you would have thought that the Tribunal would have been leading the Dunmer. I would find the fact that the Dunmer allied with the Nords and Argonians on the say-so of the Tribunal more convincing and credible than the story they currently use in TESO, given the piety and orthodoxy of the Great Houses.

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    2. I did Almalexia's quests as well. Rather a letdown. Never cared for Sotha Sil, but Vivec would've been nice to meet. Still, you're right - nothing short of TES3 would be enough for us TES3 nostalgics.

      And there's another good point. Where was the Tribunal in the Dunmer decision to join the Pact? Seems like a wasted opportunity.

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