Last weekend while everyone else was stress testing The Elder Scrolls Online and being stuck in huge queues I was leaping into new dangers in Cyrodiil. This is the massive PvP zone at the heart of Tamriel and home to the Imperials. Though I’m a huge fan of massive zone wide PvP in other games, WvW in Guild Wars 2, Conquest in Rift I found no pleasure in Cyrodiil.
To start with you enter the map in one corner of this massive zone. As this is your home base it is typically well behind the front line where anything interesting is taking place. This means using long range teleportation to get closer to where the action is taking place. But, you can only transport yourself to an area that is fully under your control.
Each keep has three resource areas around it. Your faction must control all four of these things for you to be able to port there. On the front line this is nearly impossible. So instead you’re forced to go to the next closest keep which is by no means close, especially if you’re on foot. And as I mentioned in a previous article mounts are not cheap. So while access to Cyrodiil begins at level 10 unless you’ve bought the Imperial pack ahead of time you are almost always going to miss out on the fights just trying to get to them.
At a certain point in an attack on a keep the ability to teleport or resurrect there will end. This means several things. First, if it looks like a keep you control is going to be the focus of attack soon you must call for reinforcements early on, typically pulling them out of other conflicts. Secondly if you can no longer resurrect at that keep you are left with only 2 options, use a soul gem or walk from the next keep over. Once again leaving you out of the combat for an extended amount of time.
Even combat itself is unsatisfying. Partly because it is so hard to tell who is friend and who is foe. Because combat ranges, especially for Sorcerers can be so ranged you don’t have to be in the thick of the battle. But because the UI is so subtle, and there is nothing more than a small shield in the color of the opposing faction to point out the enemy it is nearly impossible to keep track of who is friendly and who isn’t. Put yourself up on the wall of a keep and suddenly everyone looks exactly the same. Your only real hope for making sure that you’re targeting an enemy is to use tabbed targeting which doesn’t feel natural in the slightest.
Because death is something that comes often there really needs to be an easier way to get back into the thick of things quickly. Much of my time in Cyrodiil was spent travelling in vast open, and empty spaces. There are some beautiful scenes and lovely winding roads. But unless they happen to cross the straight line from point A to point B they will never really be used.
I can see that Zenimax was trying for more realism in all aspects of Cyrodiil but unfortunately it was a bad choice. There are PvE elements in Cyrodiil. There are roads for people to follow. But in the end no one will. People will go to the zone to fight other factions. People will take the most direct path from point A to point B, geography be damned.
Balance in Cyrodiil is kept beautifully with a queue system that will kick in even if the zone isn’t full. Though the exact number of people that can fit into the zone is at the moment a complete mystery on the last day of the Cyrodiil weekend I found myself facing a very small queue to get in as media from around the internet attempted to go for one last look at PvP. And it was fun to be running around and randomly run into a bunch of NPCs. So Cyrodiil isn’t a complete loss for me.
But it still doesn’t live up to those in the MMORPG genre that came before. I see a lot of changes taking place in Cyrodiil in the coming months as Zenimax tries to adjust the system to be easier and more attractive. For now though, even though I’ll have a mount for all my characters I’ll be staying clear of Cyrodiil. It doesn’t live up to any expectations I had and all the concerns I had about it before I ever even looked at it came true. But I know my view won’t be one agreed on my everyone. Even inside the MMOGames office there is disagreement. Be sure to check out Ardua’s take on The Elder Scrolls Online Cyrodiil PvP.