Note: In the most recent beta events, fans were still playing with an older build as that beta was a stress test for the servers and not a bug search. Many of the changes I'll be covering were only on the test server at this time, though I would expect them to be available next beta event.
In my previous write up on ESO: Elder Scrolls Online - The Good, The Bad & The Awesome, I covered a handful of issues I had with the game in "the bad" section and noted that they were subject to change as Zenimax continues working on the final build. That speculation has become reality for several issues in the latest version of the game.
A full list of the changes was leaked on reddit before the last beta (which caused a bit of confusion before the beta test that didn't include the changes) and hundreds of tweaks were made to address bugs and game balance. We are only going to focus on a few major changes though that addressed complaints not only by me, but several other players and reviewers recently: collision detection, changes to starter areas, and the addition of dark fissures.
One of the complaints many had with ESO, including myself, was the lack of collision detection in the game. You would pass through other characters in the game, enemies included, which greatly effected melee combat. On one player build I constantly found my character missing attacks because the enemy moved forward - inside of me - and would often end up wasting abilities as they ended up not having a target at this point. It made playing a melee character more frustrating and a much less enjoyable experience than a ranged character.
That issue has now been partially addressed. I say partially because a compromise had to be made. Now collision detection will be in the game against NPCs, but not against other player characters. Although I spent most of my time in the larger beta event, I did jump into the test server we had access to just to check out these changes and I have to say this one made a huge difference for me, mostly with my melee warrior. It does take a little adjusting to, you have to be careful not to be surrounded by enemies as you won't be able to escape without killing and making a hole for yourself, but it is much more immersive. Hopefully it won't throw players off having to adjust back and forth between fighting NPCs with collision detection and other players without.
The reason it was not used verse other players is two-fold. First of all, it would have been a large strain on the server to manage this with so many players on the screen at once and they would have had to cut back on the scale of battles in PvP. Something no one wants to see. Second, it prevents players from being able to troll others by blocking them in or out of spots or even accidental blocking due to lag or lack of attention. As great as it would have been to see things like shield walls in PvP or a mass of two armies colliding, it is worth the trade-off just to have it against NPCs.
This was not a complaint I had, but I did see this in several other reviews and it is an issue that could impact early enjoyment of the game. Many players took issue with the starter islands, especially the two smaller islands in the Daggerfall Covenant and Ebonheart Pact alliances as they made many feel boxed in and restricted in exploration. Those first few hours of gameplay can be crucial to hook the player, so this was another issue Zenimax has addressed.
Now when a player leaves the intro area of Coldharbour, they won't be dumped on the starter island, but instead in the first major city of whatever alliance they chose to play it. This will open up the world immediately no matter which alliance you've chosen and give players, especially those Elder Scrolls junkies, more area to immediately explore and more characters to interact with.
You will still have the option to take a boat to the islands and participate in those quests by talking to an NPC in that first city. I for one will definitely still do this as I was usually sixth level by the time I finished everything on the starter areas, collecting several skill points from skyshards and completed quests by the time I finished them. For those that want to get straight into the meat of the game however, they can ignore them completely and start questing around the newly level adjusted areas around the new starter cities.
This change was added to offer a little bigger challenge to players as they explore the world, and mix things up a bit as they spawn randomly. In addition to the Dark Anchors that spawn in given locations (the difficulty has been increased on these as well) you can now have a rift-like tear open up as you are traveling around that dumps out a small group of daedra to fight off.
Aside from the fact that the first time this happened, it scared the crap out of me, the fissures can offer an interesting challenge that breaks up the open landmass between adventures and keeps players on their toes. It also has the added effect of increasing the awareness of the threat of Molag Bal on the world. I found them to be a fun addition and though not an easy fight, one you can solo.
Anyone looking forward to the game should be pleased to see the amount of work the team at Zenimax is putting into it as they close in on the release date. I have to admit to being a bit surprised to some of these changes and how quickly they were able to implement them, but I'm glad to see they are listening to the feedback players have been providing.
I would expect at least one more beta event before launch (in fact, developers have referred to an additional event on the way) where players will get a chance to experience these changes for themselves.
As we wrap this up, I wanted to share some higher zone gameplay that Tamriel Foundry's Atropos recently shared that shows you something different than the previous pre-level 17 gameplay we've been seeing from most: