Elder Scrolls Online Harborage
Is it Friday already? Huh. This launch week has gone by fast, which I guess is a good sign for ZeniMax since time flies when you're having fun.

My fifth day in Elder Scrolls Online was a bit more subdued than the previous four. I'm currently floating around Glenumbra between levels 12 and 13, waiting on my healer and tanker friends to catch up so that we can run Spindleclutch, also known as ESO's first proper Daggerfall Covenant PvE dungeon. There are numerous public crypts available for exploration and pillage prior, but Spindleclutch is the first big-boy boss-based four-man.

But I didn't feel like pugging it last night, so instead I started crafting.

Elder Scrolls Online tailoring
Tradeskills

For whatever reason I had been accumulating a ton of raw jute resources while adventuring throughout Glenumbra. I figured it only made sense to dispose of these and learn something about ESO's Clothing skill line in the process.

First off, Clothing is one of six dedicated crafting skills. Like your class ability lines, your weapon and armor lines, and your guild and PvP lines, it levels up as you use it. There is no restriction on the number of crafting lines you can advance. There is, however, a maximum skill point cap, so if you specialize in Clothing, Blacksmithing, Enchanting, Alchemy, Provisioning, and Woodworking, you probably won't have enough left over to kick ass on the battlefield.

ESO lightbeam that has nothing to do with crafting but was the right aspect ratioHarvesting does not have its own dedicated skill line. Anyone and everyone can harvest nodes in the wild, as all avatars come pre-equipped with the appropriate tools (aside from fishing bait, which you can loot from containers).

Thus far I'm finding the crafting UI and the mechanic itself to be both straightforward and fun. All you need do is collect the appropriate amount of raw materials and activate the appropriate crafting station. For this example, jute makes level 1 to 15 light armor, whereas rawhide, which I had also collected in abundance, makes 1 to 15 medium. Crafting stations are found in large cities and some smaller quest hubs, and ZeniMax has included that nifty little auto camera angle readjustment thing from Skyrim where you can see your avatar plying his trade after you activate the station.

Making a medium armor helmet for my level 10ish character was as easy as refining the raw jute (a single key press that handles the material in stacks of 10). Refining is the first tab along the top edge of your crafting menu, and it's followed by creation, deconstruction, improvement, and research, all on their own tabs.

Moving over to the creation tab, you can arrow your way through all of your known recipes (some of which you start with and some of which you learn by finding/reading them while exploring). Just underneath that pane, there's a material pane that allows you to add or subtract raw materials from whatever you're crafting, which in my case boosted my helmet from a newbsauce item to a slightly less newbsauce level 10 item. The pane underneath that determines what racial style your finished armor piece will sport (you can purchase the required material addition from a nearby crafting vendor; in my case I had the starmetal necessary to get my preferred Redguard look).

You can also add a trait gem in the final pane if you'd like, but as I was fresh out of those, I went ahead with my vanilla medium armor helmet. Pressing R did the job, and voila! I equipped my spiffy new helm that blew the stat socks off the looted piece I'd been running with for a few levels.

I can't speak for endgame yet, but at the early levels, ESO's crafting is surprisingly deep for a themepark title. It's also invaluable even though it's optional. I made myself a full set of medium armor that greatly improved my survivability just by using the mats I'd been randomly collecting. There's a lot more to ESO's crafting minigame, too, as I haven't even gotten into improvements and time-based research as of this writing.

Elder Scrolls Online enchanting
Customer service

Aside from crafting, I also had my first experience with ESO's customer service apparatus. It's been a mixed bag so far, with the positives being that ZeniMax actually responded to my ticket inside of 12 hours and the negatives being that two days later the CS has yet to resolve it.

I can't ding ZeniMax too much for the latter because I'm sure that a launch-week MMO of ESO's popularity is absolutely swamped with complaints. But it is somewhat vexing because the longer it takes for my situation to be handled, the longer I have to put off joining a guild and being social outside of my real-life friend circle.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I had no idea that my account login name would be publicly visible when I made it. While several commenters have since pointed out that you can in fact set yourself as "offline" if you want to get away from your guildies for some solo play, one half of your authentication pair is still viewable to anyone in your social circle, whether you appear offline or not.

Since it's unlikely that ZeniMax will admit its mistake here and stop handing out players' personal information, I decided that I'd better petition to change my login name to something both more secure and less likely to broadcast my real-world identity to half of Tamriel.

Elder Scrolls Online wyrd tree
Final thoughts

Ultimately, I'm having much more fun in ESO than I expected. A couple of years ago I personally wrote the game off as yet another themepark made by yet another single-player game developer attempting to cash a big fat recurring revenue check courtesy of an IP with a massive built-in fanbase.

ESO is very much a themepark, but it's one that places a premium on exploration and out-of-the-box progression. It's also one that's been built with a high level of craftsmanship, which makes it worth playing for a while. I still have some long-term questions, but right now I'm happy to be eating a bit of crow and exploring Tamriel's latest iteration.

With all that said, it's time to wrap up this launch week diary. Massively doesn't do review scores, of course, because frankly how could we when it takes months if not years to competently review an MMORPG. In lieu of that, here's a bullet point summary of my personal likes and dislikes from ESO's 1 to 15 Daggerfall Covenant experience.

The good
  • Vast, immersive world design, varied topography
  • Flexible skill-based progression, large number of possible builds
  • Immersive UI
  • Fun (and useful) crafting
  • Lots of 1 - 15 PvE quest content
  • Access to large-scale PvP at level 10, siege weapons
  • Gameplay incentives/rewards for exploring
  • Lore, Elder Scrolls story, books, etc.
  • Franchise staples like lockpicking, container looting
  • Subscription model (yes, I still prefer one price for everything)
The bad
  • Forced public account login
  • Clunky combat/movement animations
  • Quickslot interface is awkward with a keyboard/mouse
  • Overcrowded public dungeons
  • Quest bugs
For our complete ESO launch week diary series, see the links below.
  • Massively's ESO launch week diary, Day One
  • Massively's ESO launch week diary, Day Two
  • Massively's ESO launch week diary, Day Three
  • Massively's ESO launch week diary, Day Four
Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

This article was originally published on Massively.