A little over a month ago, I decided to stop playing WoW in search of a new MMO. Ultimately, after some research and various games in the genre, ESO was the most appealing to me. At this point, I have reached 450CP, leveled all classes to 50, completed VMA, vDSA, and a number of vet trials. I'd like to share some comparisons between the two games since I have noticed quite a few players switching to ESO from WoW, and hopefully this post serves as a discussion for new players to see what they're getting into.
Quick Disclaimer: Not everyone is going to feel the same way. These are just my experiences and opinions after playing both at a decently high level.
WoW obviously isn't what it used to be in terms of class identity, and in today's version of WoW in BFA, you almost have more Spec identity than class identity. With that said, WoW still does a great job for the most part. There are absolutely flaws, but when you play a Fire Mage, you have unique abilities with nice visuals. If you play an Elemental Shaman, you are using completely different abilities and bring different utility. In ESO, this is sort of the case, but not really. When you are playing Magicka DPS, there can be a pretty big difference in the skills that you use. For instance, my front bar on my Sorc is almost completely different from my front bar on my Templar. With that said, there are still generic abilities uses, such as elemental blockade from the Destro skill-line. Personally, I don't think this is a bad thing. Magicka classes still have identity, and with ESO being a sandbox MMO, it's nice to have some sort of control over what skills you use and decide to slot. The issue I found in class identity is with Stamina classes. As I mostly play Stam DD in ESO, one thing that I've noticed is that for the most part, your back bar (bow bar) is always going to be the same 4 skills, and sometimes the 5th skill might chance (Archer for Necro, Netty Bull for Warden, etc.). This makes Stam classes a little bland, in my opinion. The front bar skills will change, and some classes have a lot more stam morphs and therefore, identity, than others, but every Stamina class that is running vet trials in ESO will be using Endless Hail, Caltrops, Rending Slashes, Rearming Trap, Poison Injection, and most likely Flawless Dawnbreaker. That is 6 out of 12 skills that will ALWAYS be taken up by a generic skill line that every class has access to. Now, this isn't a complaint. This is an observation. It seems that, to me, Magicka specs have a lot more identity than Stamina specs, and overall, I think that WoW as a whole has more class identity.
As a long-time WoW player, the combat in ESO was something that seemed strange at first. Instead of alt-targeting or click-targeting, like in WoW, ESO has what is basically a crosshair. You move your mouse to hover over a target, almost like an FPS. You don't need to be accurate, so there is no need to worry about that, but it is a strange feeling. This is easy to pickup, though, and not a need for concern. Where the combat gets controversial in the opinion of myself and friends that played WoW, is LA weaving and bar swapping. I'll explain LA weaving first. Basically, abilities have a 1 second global cooldown. To counter this and keep your DPS as high as possible, you need to Light Attack between every ability. That's it. It seems simple, but eventually you can get to the point of cancelling animations, and although at this point it's become second nature, it is still tedious and immersion-breaking in my opinion. The second part that I mentioned is bar swapping. Basically, in ESO, you use 2 weapons and have a separate skill bar for both sets of those weapons. To access skills on a different bar, you need to "bar swap" and then do it again to get back to your other bar. Again, after practice, this is easy to get used to, but like LA weaving, it seems tedious and immersion-breaking. Personally, I prefer WoW's combat to ESO's for these reasons.
-The Open World:
I'll start off by saying that no game in the genre is going to have a better open world than WoW. The game has simply been around for too long. With that said, ESO does a great job with their open world. My first time walking into Summerset and Elsweyr, it was amazing. Not very often do I find myself exploring the world around me in a game, but in ESO, I do it frequently. Something that ESO does a lot better is keeping the various areas in the game relevant, no matter your level. Unlike WoW, you're never too low or too high of a level in a zone. The world scales with you. Because of this, I think ESO beats out WoW in terms of bringing people back into previous areas in the game. Sure, with WoW you can do it for transmogs or mounts, but if you're just concerned with current content, there is no reason to go to old zones in WoW. In ESO, since the world scales with you, so does the loot. This is one thing about the game that I love. I find myself in new zones all the time, farming new sets of gear or just running around getting collectibles (skyshards, lorebooks, etc.). I think WoW has the better world, but ESO's world gives you more purpose. Therefore, I really enjoy the open world of ESO compared to WoW.
The first thing I will say is that if you are just playing ESO for loot, that's fine, but eventually, you'll get bored. Like any MMO, ESO has BiS gear. With that said, there are exceptions where in certain situations, one set is better than another, but for the most part, ESO is no different. Since loot can be shared accross all characters, unlike WoW, it is really easy to gear in this game. Once you have the sets you need, I could see people getting bored if they're only going after loot. The best part about ESO to me, though, is that the game isn't just about loot. There are amazing zones to explore, awesome stories and quests, fun characters you meet in these quests, gold farming, crafting, PVP. There is a huge variety of things to do, but with gear always scaling to your level, and capped at CP160, I wouldn't play this game just for the loot. HOWEVER, if you're a collector and just want to collect a lot of different sets, that will keep you busy for a long time. It's almost the complete opposite of WoW's loot. In WoW, it's character locked, and every new Raid/content drop increases iLVL, making old gear obsolete. This doesn't happen in ESO, which is why I personally wouldn't play if I was only after loot. Once you get what you need, it's relevant forever (although it may get nerfed/buffed).
In WoW, I have had times where I've played casually, and times where I've raided Mythic. Most people that I played with were nice, friendly, and helpful, but you run into a lot more toxicity in WoW than you do in ESO. Perhaps it's because there are a lot more players, but you will run into toxicity in WoW, especially if you are trying to do higher-end content and don't know what you're doing. In easier content, like regular mythic dungeon runs or normal raids, people are chill and will probably be helpful, but once you get into mythic raids and m+ keys, if you need a fight explained or need help, chances are, you're going to encounter toxicity. With all of that said, ESO has the best community I have ever seen in an online game. When I was starting out, people were extremely helpful, and there was almost an eagerness to help a new player. If you have a question, you'll find someone willing to give you a full, detailed answer. If you need help getting a monster helm from a specific dungeon, it's not hard to find people willing to run with you and teach you. Overall, ESO has an amazing community.
WoW's sub method is simple. Buy the game and pay $15/month, and you're good to go. No need to spend any more money until the next expansion unless you want a boost, race change, etc. ESO approaches subscriptions a bit differently. The sub is about the same as WoW price-wise, but it is "not required." The reason that I put that in quotes is because any serious ESO player is going to get their subscription, ESO+. There are two reasons for this: Access to DLC and the craft bag. First let's talk about DLC. There are a lot, and they are expensive. Anywhere from about $15 to $35. To buy every DLC, it would cost you $335. With ESO+, you get access to all of those for free, so if you plan on playing them all, it's pretty much a no-brainer. If you play the game a lot, or more than casually, you'll basically need ESO+ for the craft bag alone. This is a bag that allows you to store basically an infinite number of crafting mats. If you don't have this, they take up inventory space, and it will fill up fast. The other thing to point out is that the cash shop is a lot larger than WoW's. There are all kinds of things you can buy, from appearance, to XP scrolls, to race changes, and even houses. Personally, a lot of the things in the cash shop seem over-priced, but one thing about ESO is that you can farm gold and then trade that gold for Crowns (cash-shop currency). Gold is easy enough to farm, and you can get cash shop items from just playing the game.
There is a lot more that could have been covered here, but before posting, I thought that these were the key differences between the two games. Personally, I had a hard time getting into ESO at first. I didn't enjoy the combat, and the classes I tried at first seemed to be missing something. However, now with over a month into the game, now having all of my skills and gear, I have absolutely loved it. The main thing to keep in mind is that this is a completely different game from WoW in almost every way, other than the fact that they are both MMOs. If you are coming from WoW, like I did, and thinking of trying ESO, I cannot recommend it enough!
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© Post "Thoughts on ESO from a WoW Refugee" for game The Elder Scrolls.
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