three weeks ago I was questing in Mordor, when, at a given moment, The Elder Scrolls Online came up in the chat. Having wanted to try out this game for several years, I decided to give it a go by downloading it and trying it out. In the last three weeks, I have come to know a few things about the game, and I found them quite amazing. I suddenly realized, having played only LOTRO as an MMORPG, I have been looking to things in a very one-sided way and I didn't consider the alternatives. So I wanted to make a comparison here between LOTRO and ESO.
Log in interface
The first thing that surprised me when I started up the game for the first time was the interface to log in. Similar to LOTRO, ESO does have a typical launcher, to process the updating of the game, to give an overview of the most recent news featured on the official website, and to see what's featured in the store. However, logging in on this launcher is not possible. You basically first start up the client to log in on your account in the game itself. important? game-changing? unlikely. but if you like switching accounts, you don't have to restart your launcher and reboot the game, like LOTRO does.
I think the character creation in ESO is more robust than in LOTRO. In LOTRO you can choose between twenty(ish) types of faces, which have very much an impact on the nose (when I looked, that was what notably changed, though there will be some other minor things as well, maybe the jaws). And on this face you pick other elements from a standardized list to customize your character. To change your body type, you have only a single slider. Your skin and eye colors you can pick from are somewhat more advanced, seeing you can pick it from a two dimensional color palette. In ESO, it's kind reversed. skin and eye color you got to pick from a standardized list, but face and body built you can customize with many sliders, to make the character that you want. If you're bad in character creations, it's a rubbish tool that won't help you much, but if you know a thing or two, you can make ver varied characters. you can choose many things, like the jaws, eye size, cheekbone heights, leg size, breast size etc. It's more difficult, but better than just saying whether your character is broad or slender, and picking one out of twenty faces. It does feel like in eso, hair styles (which obviously can only be picked from a list) features many pony tails, so if you don't like that (or a cockscomb) the choice is rather limited, and that's a minor point. However, there are many facial hair choices or other accesories, if paired with these hair styles, render a much better result than originally expected. Either way, for perfectionists like me, you can be dang sure you can create a character that you like. (I took out a week to explore the character creation feature.) Also another short mention, you can create also strange humanoid lizards or felines, who feature their own typical adornments, like furs, snouts, scales and teeth. You can also play orcs, who aren't featured as so very evil creatures as in lotro. there are no gender- or race-locked classes in character creation.
classes are treated significantly different in eso than in lotro. in lotro, a class receives a natural role in the trinity (dps-tank-healer). Then, you receive an asset of skills that you have to use in a right way to master your class succesfully. The objective is to understand the class and use all the skills in a right rotation to be effective. skill order and sequencing is of importance. in cases of certain classes like wardens, rune-keepers or burglars there are also some specific assets or attributes that are very unique to that specific class.
I feel like the impact of classes is smaller in ESO. First of all, in eso you can only slot 5 abilities at once, paired with one 'supreme' ability. Any class can wear any weapon or armor type in the game, and any class can fulfill any role. So the choice of a class is not based on whether you want to be tank or would like to heal, nor for distinctive rotations. I think it's just lore and animation based, and personal play style. there are currently 5 classes: a sorcerer (don't be confused by the name, this class can tank, wear heavy armor and deal physical damage equally to the other classes.) Lore wise, you can view this class a bit necromancy-like, with dark magic and unfluence of the weather by calling storms. Next, you have the nightblade class, who drains the enemy's soul and other resources, and relies on shadow and surprise skills. But I don't dare to compare it anywhere to our lotro-burglars, although it feels a bit rogue-like. The third class is a the dragon-knight and he utilizes volcanic/draconic/fiery skills to aid him in battle. Next, you have the templar, who uses godly powers of light and the heat of the sun to crush his enemies and heal his allies. The last class is the warden, a nature based class, managing coldness and frost, beasts, and plants, by temporarily altering reality with his magical abilities.
As you see, any of these class's skills is very magical. lore-wise this is justified because on the timeline of ESO's world, magic is no longer a study of the rich and the nobility. it's a public study, available to everyone.
character build and gameplay
It's in a certain sense less complex, because math-wise it's easier and there are less stats to hold count of in ESO. In LOTRO, you have many fancy stats like finesse, avoidances, resistances, light of eärendil, and armor types contributing on a different ratio to physical and tactical mitigations, while these mitigations work with a curve that finally renders an asymptote. In ESO, most of the stats seem to work continuously linear. armor contributes equally to magical and physical resistance (= lotro's mitigations), and these resistance don't deflect a percentage of the incoming damage like in lotro. incoming damage in eso seems to work straightly like the subtraction of the enemy's damage with your resistance number. it seems not too difficult to figure out that an incoming blow of 10,000 damage will only damage for 6,000 if your resistance counts 4,000. Attack damage has also been standardized, as far as I read this also seems to be linear.
Some of the combat system and battle-effectiveness is also reaction-based. there are things like blocking and dodging that you have to do manually. you quickly find out that if you stand still like a sack of grain, you'll receive a lot of damage. The combat system is halfly target based. you select your target simply by hovering with your mouse on the target, but you can definitelly avoid attacks by dodging, whereas in lotro these dodges would be number- and stat based (avoidances).
gear returns in structured patterns. Itemization seems to work differently in eso than in lotro. In lotro, unique gear and items drop, all itemized, and you gain them by drop rates. gear in eso is not distinctively unique, as far as I can comprehend they are all streamlined in a central system. a piece of gear is composed by a standard set of elements that work independently of each other. These are the armor type, the level, body/gear type (shirt, robe, glove, hat...), cosmetical type, one relic (that gives a single buff) and one trait (that gives one out of 9 standard buffs, dependent on whether it's a weapon or a gear type). There's also the rarity, which determines the strength of this trait. So gear is very structured, and you can also make it accordingly in the crafting system.
Gameplay is determined by the specific skills that you choose to use. There are no cooldown on skills, the only limitation are your resources. (namely health, magicka and stamina, which regenerate over time.) You can not only choose skills from your class lines, there are many other skill lines that are available to all classes. So for a big part, a character isn't that defined by the class, but by just being a player. and your choice of weapon, gear, which attributes and stats that you choose (where each one is beneficial for every class, unlike lotro) and choice of skills, allow you to define your playstyle. each character is unique because they have the freedom to choose 'a few' skills. It's a technique to bring variation in abilities, even with people of the same classes.
now I went to character creation, and the basics of the combat system. But there are a lot of other things that Zenimax Online Studios (the dev team) process differently.
Anywhere, anytime, anyone
Two years ago, a grand system was introduced in eso. due to 'complications' in the game, they made their game so that areas would be level independently. Levels are still relevant in the game, but there is a scaling system so regardless of any level, you can enter any area and play with any player. In lotro, there's the phenomenon that characters are overpowered over others, simply due to a higher level, and that lower level players can't participate in events 'due to level requirements'. there are also other things, like having to grind because there are no quests, and you don't have the requirements of the next area level. or you level too fast and you outlevel an area that you like. even worse, because you attained max level, the biggest part of the game is irrelevant, and the mobs running in it are trash. In eso, the system determines your level, and automatically scales you in strength to max level. The monsters in an area have everywhere a same static level. the higher you level up, the weaker your scaling bonus becomes (hence you still have to upgrade your gear). this means that on level cap, all areas are fun and relevant, I choose the order of my quests, and I can drop in with anyone anywhere. So for roleplaying purposes, each area stays viable and very imaginary.
I can't say much about end-game/levelcap related stuff of course. I have played only for three weeks. but there's one important note about end-game and grinding I read about. each of your characters starts with an individual progress, namely their levels. But when they reach levelcap, they enter a special champion modus, which allows for further progression. It's also a sort of leveling up, but processed in a different way. In lotro, there are always traditional level cap increases. in ESO, levelcap is 50 and stays so. probably always will. champion points that you gain in this modus after levelcap can be invested to improve your character and measure your strength. It's an alternative way, instead of always increasing levels. However, it wasn't this system on it's own that really surprised me. what's so special about it is that this system is not a progress for a character, it's progress for your account. That basically means that you can switch different characters and still work on the same things. so as soon as a character reaches levelcap, he catches up on the other characters who also reached level cap. You can pretty much play the class you want now, from day to day, still working on that very same thing. In lotro it's a lot of work to gain end-game worthy gear and levels for all of your alts that you want.
the guild system (our kinships), or what I read of it (haven't tried it), is also more robust. the leader of the guild has the ability to make his own ranks and assign various permissions to each rank. we also see the account-focused thinking style of Zenimax coming back: You can join up 5 guilds at once, and these guilds are shared over all your characters. This means that members are counted as actual persons and not as characters. This would involve also that permissions are available on all your characters, and that having multiple characters doesn't make an impact on the amount of spots you take in the kinship, and that for the record, you likely don't have to do alt relogging. Also, if enough members, guilds have their own store, their own wallet and their own bank integrated and available. (the bank is accesible by every banker, which is more flexible than our kin-chests that are available only in the kinhouse.) I'm not entirely sure if this store is a platform to sell items to members in your own guild, or if it is to sell to the outhern world and gain money in name of the guild.
Quests and lore
it seems that those who say quests, also say lore in eso, or that's my personal experience. First of all, in lotro the mmo is built around the lore. in eso the lore is built around the game. Elder scrolls lore is in fact generated over many years by the elder scrolls franchise. I have noticed that both games handle the lore quite differently. When I started lotro I hoped to get to know more about the lore, but I hardly did. I sometimes feel people who play the game are supposed to know the lore, and then they'll notice the references that are made to the lore by occasion. actual lore and information, you find by googling, reading the books etc. in game you'll coincidentially find a quest that runs simultaniously with events that happen in the book, or that you have to clean up the trash of our book heroes, or that a quest expands on some untold subject. Just imagine the dunedain, or the path of the dead, or pelargir, or chasing golum. however, most of the quests are shorter and more classic helping out a disturbed npc. you have many quests like: kill x mobs, or gather y objects, or escort entity z.
In ESO, quests are very different. the quests seem to be fewer in amount, but longer, and not gathered in quest hubs. Seeing that you come in a fictional world that you know entirely nothing about, the quests contain very much of this lore. in fact, lore in the elder scrolls universe, you can only get to know through quests and reading in-game scraps of papers and books, and asking many questions to all of the npc's around you. And the quests I have done so far told very deep and intriguing stories. In a matter of fact, I had not just to kill mobs or anything like that, I was confronted with riddles and chases and mysteries, with politics, religions, infiltration, scouts and spies, dishonest people who all give their own version of the tale, and I realized nothing in eso is true as it looks like. There is no objective good and bad side, just as there is no objective bad enemy. Every quest that I'm doing represents a conflict, for good or for bad, but is certainly no mundane task: it has a story arc of its own. Many people said the questing in lotro was good, but I personally concluded that the quests in ESO are more thorough.
housing, also very differently in ESO than in LOTRO. houses in ESO are not gathered in instanced homesteads. They're spread all over the world, with many different sizes and styles, each house unique from one another. You are not limited to just one house. you don't have to make a choice, you can own all houses at once. yup, you can be owner of more than 30 different houses. (so I suspect it's also an account bound thing, but can't confirm.) And the objects you can place in the houses aren't bound to specific spots. You can quite litterally place them anywhere you want, you're not even limited by a grid. This raises even the question to me if there's a limit of items you can place in your house.
Certainly not one of the least important factors. I already told some of you that of late I had issues with my lotro-client. I always have to pray that I can start up my client without issues. There's a chance I get an error, which I wont get rid of if I don't reboot my entire computer. This sometimes takes up 20 minutes or longer, just to start up my client. and when you're in the game, there are many places where you lag, or even crash. even I do (which are things that shouldn't happen, my computer perfectly fits the requirements for the game. it's a proper gaming computer that should have no issues handling the job.)
Now I played eso. I can confirm that I have not yet had a second of lag, I didn't crash, and from my desktop I am guaranteed to be in-game in less than 5 minutes. What are luxury...
So what could could cause the issues with my lotro client? My computer probably will receive the blame of the error, but aside from that the lag and the loading times are terrible, and I blame that to the engine of SSG. the distance is already big (the europe server of ESO will geographically be much closer to me, I guess.) Secondly, the age is an issue (obviously). Never, up to last month, I had realized how outdated and old the engine ever was (and admitted, the game-mechanics on it.)
Okay, I have written a wall of text, I have made a few comparisons of everything I figured out. There are many things I didn't talk about, like the VIP perks (which give more imo than the VIPS of lotro), crafting (which seems to be more meaninful than lotro's), inventory management, interface, mounts and pets, cosmetic system, graphics, archievements, raiding (4-men and 12-men), three pvp-styles (which are free for non-vip's) or servers (two mega-servers, so the player base isn't split up in smaller communities), or their subscription model.
My conclusion after all these findings is that SSG and ZOS have a very different approach of looking to their game, they process it very differently. Many things were either just different and fits simply a different public with a different style. But there were also many elements which ESO plainly did better than LOTRO. LOTRO has many limitations, either lore-wise or technically. I know they do their best, that the crew loves the work that it does, that they work long and that they're underpaid. But against ESO, they cannot beat up in the long run. LOTRO's architecture simply lacks it at some point, whereas ESO has most likely a bigger player base, a bigger studio and more money.
tbh, in all the years that I played LOTRO I only subbed a single month by experiment. ESO convinced me to do that already after a week. I will eventually return because I didn't explore the lonely mountain and lake town and such, but for my main MMO, I have found for myself a new home. a game with better performance, more interesting lore and quests, and more freedom, and less consequences. I think ESO fits more my style.
So you know where to find me.