I was able to play for a couple days this past weekend in another Elder Scrolls Online beta event, and sadly, I've come away even less impressed than I was the first time (see my previous blog).
In my first Beta weekend I played a Breton and started in Stros M'Kai. This time I created a new Bosmer (Wood Elf) character and I was placed in a new starting area, Stonefalls in the region of Morrowind. I encountered beautiful scenery in what appeared to be a graphically much updated version of the world in the Morrowind game. I also encountered bugs in many of the quests. Primarily it was quest MOBs that never appeared, but there were also several instances of people you're assigned to help in a quest that were spawned much too rarely. In one instance you're tasked with freeing one group of ghosts from those of another group. There were many of each group scattered about the area, but killing the oppressor ghosts had no result unless you found the one in twenty that was standing over a cowering version of the ghosts you're supposed to help. It took far too long to find three such instances.
One thing this new area had that the previous one didn't was the dynamic world that changed around you as you completed major questlines. For example when you first arrive the city of Davon's Watch is under siege by the Daggerfall Covenant faction, with fighting going on between guards and enemy soldiers and parts of the city burning. As you help the inhabitants fend off the assault in various ways enemies disappear and the city returns to peace. This does not happen with every quest, though, I still saw events going on that I thought I had helped end, and monsters reappear that I had already killed.
I'm speculating but it seems to me the bugginess was caused by the dynamically changing world. There was no changing in my last testing, there was here. Another issue I had with the dynamism was pointed up by one quest. As you complete tasks, you often find the person who sent you has moved to a new location when you're ready to complete that task in the chain. In one instance I had completed everything up to the final task of killing the major baddie involved. I was defeated in that fight and had to respawn. I went back to try to find that enemy again and I had no way to get to her because the door I went through the first time was not usable any more. I tried abandoning the quest to start over, but the starter NPC was gone. Maybe that was by design, I can see that argument being made, but it was annoying nonetheless. Something like that could potentially happen in the main storyline quest and bork you for good.
Bugs can be fixed. I expect the issues I saw will be resolved by launch or shortly thereafter. A worse problem in my view was that this area had a distinctly MMO by the numbers design that had none of the inventiveness I saw in my first foray in this gameworld. I had many quests where I had to kill X creature Y, collect X of item Z from killing creature Y, or go fetch item W and bring it back. Very disappointing compared to my previous experience. I also had a hard time leveling at certain points because there were not enough quests in my level range. I would have had to grind on in world MOB's to get the needed experience. It could just be that I was unable to complete many of the quests I had been given.
My first experience wasn't totally positive, but I was eager to get back in and see what else the ESO had to offer. Unfortunately, by the second day of my last experience I was getting bored with the game because it was so much more of the same. I've decided I'm going to pass on this game unless it goes 'Buy to Play' (ala Guild Wars) or 'Free to Play' as long as it's not plagued by overly restrictive paywalls. I love the Elder Scrolls series and I wanted to like this game, but it's just not cutting it for me. Sorry, Tamriel, maybe later.