Back In The Saddle Again

Another quick post this week as I'm off this weekend to my gaming buddy's house for a last hurrah for March Break. I haven't played much at all this week, just some smatterings of Rock Band 3 and my daily Dance Central Spotlight workout. I somehow missed the "Break" part of March Break, though I guess this is a school break for Xander and not for me.

However the one (and really only) gaming event this week was a big deal.

I've returned to The Elder Scrolls Online, now with no subscription fee. The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited relaunched on March 16th and I'm happy to be back without the constant tick-tock of money being burned.

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There have been some major changes with the 1.6 updates and it is going to take a while for me to get used to the changes.

One of the biggest changes is the new "Justice System". Fans of the old Elder Scrolls games will be at home with the system, but seasoned Elder Scrolls Online players need to curb the instinct to loot and steal everything in sight.

Basically, they've now made NPCs aware (and displeased) of your looting the items in their houses and shops. They also don't like you pickpocketing them, but a patient thief can relieve a passersby of their belongings without notice.

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Much like previous Elder Scrolls titles, guards will become alerted to your crimes if they or other NPCs catch you being bad. There are three wanted levels and guards will try to catch you if they spot you, or kill you on-sight if your wanted level is too high. You can pay your fine if caught and lose all your ill-gotten booty, attempt to flee the guards, or fight the guards (not recommended, at least not for my veteran level 10 character).

There are thieves guilds in each major city that you can visit to pay off your bounty and fence your stolen goods (or just take a breather from the pursuing law). There is a new skill line called Legerdemain that is basically a thief skill line that will enhance your sticky fingered abilities.

The other major change is the Champion System. In a nutshell, it allows for more character passive skills. However, since the points earned for this system are slow to acquire, it will ultimately allow for players to have more unique characters by specializing in certain champion skill lines. This video will explain the system in detail if this interests you at all.

The one drawback to the Champion System is that all the numbers dealing with character stats have been inflated. This allows you to see the 1% gain from a champion point applied to a skill, whereas before the inflation they'd have to deal with decimal points in your stats. Now all damage numbers and hit points have been increased by some factor I have yet to determine. It will take some getting used to. I now do an average of 3000 dps (damage per second) with my tank. This would have been godlike power pre-1.6 update, but I'll have to get my head around what 3000 damage really means now.

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There are also some nice visual tweaks. More effects and better animations lead to a more refined visual experience. Really this ultimate results in an already solid experience is just that much better.

There is of course still a subscription if you want to pay. This will allow you to access future game content for "free" and gives you a monthly amount of crowns.

Crowns are now the way Zenimax hopes to fund the game. These are purchased with real world cash (750 Crowns for $10 CDN/$8 US) and these are only used to purchase vanity items and a small variety of supplies (at this point). New players receive 500 crowns and returning players get 500 crowns plus 100 crowns for each 30 day subscription they purchased. So, my 9 months of paid play (at a total of $135) nets me 1400 crowns upon return. This bought me the Guar pictured here for 1300. Seems like they could have been a little more generous to the people who paid to get the game to it's current state, but that's the pitfalls of early adoption I guess. I also received the Mask Of Cheerful Slaughter costume (the one I'm wearing in the pictures), which is fun for 5 minutes until you see 100 other people wearing the same thing.

This is of course all for PC players at the moment, but you can pre-order for the PS4 and Xbox One's June launch.

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I really enjoy the game and it really feels like an Elder Scrolls experience to me. It doesn't have the breathtaking open-world of Skyrim or Oblivion, instead going for zones that offer challenges to different levelled characters. However, these zones are big enough to keep the illusion of a giant open world intact. I'd certainly encourage anyone who already bought the game for PC but stopped playing long ago to revisit the game since it won't cost you anything now. You might be surprised by how far the game has come.

So, more Elder Scrolls Online at my gaming friend's house this weekend. Hopefully I'll be able to get some more Sly Cooper when I return home.

What are you playing this weekend?

**Note: I've been doing these posts every week for almost 2 years! (holy crap, I couldn't believe that when I looked it up). I'm actually going away for more than just a weekend in a few weeks. I was hoping to get someone to cover my posts for the time I am away. Let me know in the comments if you feel like you could cover a couple weekends in April for me and I'll give you the info to contact me directly. Thanks!**