Upon my return to Tamriel, the first thing I made sure to do was to level my Sorcerer’s Scamp, which turns it into a Clannfear. A very tanky wizard’s familiar, that one. It was kind of intuitive: almost noone was running around with a scamp, but most sorcerers had a Clannfear. Once I got it, I could see why: good animations and very good combat assist. It doesn’t die easily, and only my bigger attacks could really pull enemies off of him. When pulling multiple enemies though, it became clear that I’d still have to dodge and think on my feet, with or without his help! I named him Swatty, for his signature move. I still got knocked around a little bit, but if felt better with collision this time!
One great thing about the combat is that dodging feels very fair. If I’m still in a targeting zone after seeing on-screen cues to dodge out of it, then it was my fault I got hit—and the game feels like it sticks pretty accurately to those defined areas where an attack is coming down. Many times I just got barely out, or moved too late, and got an appropriate response. Some may say this can make it easier, but it makes it harder—players might have to abort an attack to dodge, but at least they aren’t victims of being automatically hit. This does mean that the game forces you to make quick choices in the middle of combat. It is really a different game from many MMOs; most have automatic hitting or easy targeting built in.
Roaming, Reagents and Exploring:
I had put some points into my crafting skills, including some that lets me notice crafting materials from farther away. I put this to good use in my travels; just 2/3 points into this skill for Alchemy had me noticing sometimes several groups of plants from one vantage point. I learned several recipes from Alchemy by making potions, and found a few other recipes as drops or in containers. I did notice that in spite of the extra point I put into this skill for Enchanting, there really weren’t enough of those materials “built in” to the game. I spent almost 2 hours before finding ANY on this beta, and I was looking all over. Sometimes I’d notice the symbol for one before noticing the sparkles that this “noticing” skill gives you when one is around. I can’t say this enough folks: if you gimp the materials needed for a certain type of crafting, or the quality of them, you’re going to have an…interesting time trying to manage your in-game economy and the player complaints that result. Yes, yes…I know some people think that is a form of balancing, but should Enchanting be considered this precious thing, harder to create than a suit of armor or a potion? Maybe it should be, maybe it shouldn’t…but if the amounts of materials aren’t somewhat balanced between the professions, players WILL decide scarcity for themselves, and act accordingly. I do have faith in the developers; after all, they put in collision detection for NPC battles pretty quickly, so they are listening. The game rewards you with a chest every now and then if you are exploring a lot; not exactly a chore in Morrowind with nice landscapes, quests, stuff to gather & lava flows all over.
I went and did several quests, abandoned others that I had out-leveled, and did a small dungeon (ok, well…a mine. Not even a gold mine. But it was dark, had monsters in it and a lava pit, even). At many of the quest areas, I ran into people and sometimes helped them out or vice-versa…and boy, do I love the Synergy button! I don’t have ANY really good understanding of it, I admit. I just know you tap X when the screen tells you to, and your powers combine with an allied player’s ability to create even more havoc. Just that one thing added a LOT of variables for me to understand, because using that knowledge on the fly to achieve specific results takes information, practice and timing…as well as knowing what happens when you mix “X” ability with “Y” effect.
Questing was a lot of fun; I will say that some quests felt a bit difficult because they were puzzles, and some were difficult because in-game trolling always happens (you know, that happy 13-year old that can’t resist teabagging dead people, or the urge to “plank” right on top of switches you need to activate part of a quest). They were all fun though, and while the gold from quests isn’t always that impressive you usually get an item or two, sometimes enchanted, sometimes something you’ll want to use. Do the quests, by all means, but make sure you leave town empty and come back full—even at level 10 I had incentive to open up random barrels and grab all the junk I could get, it’s all worth some money. Meh; I had about 4k at level 10, and didn’t really notice a need for money unless I splurged on an item, and even after spending a lot on an armor piece I still had to enchant it.
A lot of the above will probably be solved at launch. Bows will say “ba-BAAAMMM gotcha” instead of “why, hello, my weapon sucks, come kill me <tips hat>!”. Swatty will do something about that rushing mob before it hits me. We will have the ability to respec skills OR stats. Make sure you pick out what you want to work on skill-wise folks, because respecs will cost a good amount of gold. Aside from any minor criticisms, a lot of the beta was just right, and it was no chore to spend 3-5 hours at a time a few times a day just romping around good old Morrowind.