In unexpected appreciation of TESO’s Fighters Guild

Violette Vienele at duskIt’s been a while since my return to Tamriel. Since then, my journey has been going more or less as I expected it would: my Pact Imperial Dragonknight marching on singing Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’, and my new Breton Nightblade slinking around in the wake of two* hotheaded Redguards – my gaming buddy.

* He was a Templar. Then he saw some awesomesauce build somewhere, and became a Nightblade too. I’ll never get how some folks can’t play an MMO without leaning on ‘proven’ builds – or repeating content they just slogged through just to test out said builds. But anyway…

As ever, despite the paucity of roleplay I’ve encountered on my travels – timezones again, no doubt – I try to stay in-character to some degree. This includes in-game choices. Hence, only my Dragonknight is a Fighters Guild member, and I have to say: their quest line is the one I’ve benefited from the most as a player (not a character) thus far.

I’m not used to quests in MMOs being not just level-gated but indeterminate as well, so having to wait for Meridia knows how long to continue a faction’s story felt both odd and refreshing. But that was fine. What really threw me was what when that continuation finally came knocking and I saw how far away I was being summoned.

I was like “lolwhut?”. Mournhold, for chrissakes – in the next zone, a zone I was utterly underleveled for. No way I was going there until I was ready. So I polished off whatever quests I had left in Stonefalls, and then… realized I still wasn’t ready. Okay, that’s it – to Oblivion with readiness. Let’s make like Odysseus and do things the hard way.

I saddled up and rode south into Deshaan, sticking to the roads, ignoring questgivers like an arrogant noble turning his nose up at panhandlers. It was then that something prompted me to stop over at the Brooding Elf Inn in the Quarantine Serk, where I witnessed my first instance of TESO RP.

Chestus Secundus in the Brooding Elf

I was surprised to see roleplay, even just a spot of tavern roleplay among two people, so far from the capital. Had I stumbled into the Pact’s real RP hub? No, the friendly Redguard lady I /whispered told me. The hubs are elsewhere. I should check out this or that site to see what guilds roleplay Pactside. Oh. Guild RP. Of course. This is still an MMO…

I plodded on, cleared the Guild quest in Mournhold, and waited for the next one to arrive. And laughed when it did. Stormhold. In Shadowfen – the next, overleveled zone again. Devs, I see what you’re doing.

I took my time. Headed over when I was ready. Got things done with the usual efficiency. And before long, along came a spider the next continuation, which is where I was inspired to write all this.

Fort Amol, in Eastmarch. Where the hell is East… oh. Oh. OH. Skyrim. I’m going back to Skyrim!

By the Eight, it’s a long way from the Black Marsh border. A lot further than I’ve traveled before. But hold on – I’ve already seen a slice of Skyrim. Bleakrock Isle. Surely I can wayshrine there, then hop off the southern coast and swim over. Looks like a short distance on the map.

The slaughterfish disagreed.

Damn you pirahnas

This is one screwed-up mechanic. Do you know what I did to those little bastards back in the day? Here, I can’t even fight back! And they can chomp me even when I’m jumping above the water’s surface! What was Tamriel’s fishermen dealing with in this era, some long-lost species of proto-piranhas with telekinetic jaws?

Anyway, with that second, biting reminder in a day that this isn’t Skyrim Online, I set out to do things the hard way again. And it was a ride to remember – even more memorable than the cross-country I ran with my gaming buddy from Daggerfall to Wayrest (we needed to bloody respec).

The feeling I got crossing the border into the Rift was quite something. I found myself releasing the shift key as I rode, clopping along slowly to admire the Nordic countryside – and chuckling at the frighteningly overleveled saber cats by the roadside. Why, the netches in Stonefalls and Deshaan never even came close to eliciting such delight!

And when I rode into Riften, and saw the familiar marketplace where Brynjolf had first had me prove my worth to the Thieves Guild of the Fourth Era, my chuckling only intensified. Good old Zenimax – keeping things more or less the same two ages prior. I actually found myself looking to one side and expecting to see Balimund the smith, whose forge I had so often requisitioned. Pity he wasn’t around performing his miracles with steel in this time; business is a lot better with a dozen Vestiges than with one miserly Dovahkiin.

Chestus Secundus in Riften

This was odd. Sure, I enjoyed my time in TESV. (Even though I ranted about it.) But it was nowhere near the (gamer-) life-changing level of my TESIII odyssey.

It helps, of course, that TESO’s Skyrim resembles Skyrim’s Skyrim far more than TESO’s Morrowind resembles Morrowind’s Morrowind. But is that all? Graphics? What else is missing – gravelly Dunmer voices? Levitation? Mark and Recall?

I’ve long suspected that, as with many others like myself, my love for TESIII stems as much from the perceptions of youth as from the game’s own merits. Ironic how it’s taken an MMO activity, let alone one that many MMO players scorn as ‘tedious’ and ‘unnecessary’, to hammer that home.

Perhaps I don’t love Morrowind after all. Perhaps what I really love is my memories of it – memories from a game I was equally fond of. But at least, unlike many real-life instances, I simply have to reinstall that game to relive the memories, albeit in a somewhat diluted fashion. It’s not quite the same outside virtual worlds – as anyone who’s revisited their childhood haunts might know.

So thank you, TESO Fighters Guild, for sending me over the hills and far away. I’d have gone there sooner or later, of course, but your little quests made it sooner, and I’m grateful.

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