The Elder Scrolls

With the release of 6.1.0, the Vampire skill line will be an abject failure of game design.

TheElderScrolls4 - With the release of 6.1.0, the Vampire skill line will be an abject failure of game design.
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I know what a lot of people already want to say: "You're just mad because being a Vampire isn't passive anymore, and it's an active decision that you have to build around now."

But that's where you would be wrong. Vampirism being an active decision is exactly what I was excited for before Greymoor launched. It was something I was looking forward to for a long time. But it's time to face facts: What the developers tried–vampirism as an active playstyle–has not worked. A viable "vampire build" is not possible. And now, with the launch of 6.1.0 on the horizon, every single vampire skill will soon be worthless.

  • Blood Scion: This is a decent self buff, especially with the Swarming Scion morph, but it's crippled by the fact that it costs so much ultimate to use. This ultimate was originally balanced around the assumption that Stage 4 Vampirism would reduce vampire power costs by 40%. This was supposed to be the "headliner" to encourage Stage 4 Vampirism. Now that Stage 4 only reduces vampire costs by 24%, however, this will always be one of the most expensive ultimates in the game. As such, this ultimate cannot compete with other ultimates that do more for a lower cost, and cannot be justifiably used in anything other than PvP where anything goes. And to add insult to injury, one of the morphs, Perfect Scion, is totally worthless.

  • Eviscerate: This was the one bright spot in the whole skill line. Blood For Blood, one of the morphs of this skill, could almost singlehandedly solve a class' sustain problems, provided they had a good source of healing. It felt like the one good extension of the devs' "risk vs reward" concept; where yes you lost health per cast, and yes you're in melee range, but it does a ton of damage. Unfortunately, this will be nerfed into uselessness as of 6.1.0. Not only will the execute percentage be decreased, but using it will now render you unhealable for 5 seconds. Obviously, a spammable power will be used one every 5 seconds, and going without healing in serious content is a death sentence, so Blood For Blood will no longer be useable. There's the second morph, of course, but it will fail to outperform almost all class magicka spammable powers, and also has the drawback of being a melee power with no large upside. Overall, Eviscerate will be generally unviable after 6.1.0.

  • Blood Frenzy: This is a power that shared the same journey as Blood For Blood, it just happened to go on that journey before Greymoor launched. The large boost to spell damage caught the attention of a lot of players at the time of 6.0.0's PTS, and a lot of people saw the potential rewards. Having it be toggled on prevented outside healing and drained your health, but it was a constant rate of drain and it was off the global cooldown, making it possible to manage. Before Greymoor launched, however, the skill was nerfed into uselessness by having the health drain increase by 1/5th every second. This was too much to handle for anything except short bursts, which was probably the developers' intention, but neither of the Blood Frenzy morphs provide enough DPS to justify their existence if they're only on for short bursts. As such, this became yet another power nobody uses in any serious capacity.

  • Vampiric Drain: This power is an absolute joke. It does pitiful healing for how long it takes, it does virtually no damage, and it leaves you vulnerable as the skill channels. This is probably one of the most worthless skills in the entire game, which nobody will ever find any use for. DPS won't use it because wasting several seconds channeling a heal is a DPS loss. Tanks won't use it because channeling it prevents you from blocking. PvP players won't use it because it doesn't even stun the enemy like it used to! Bottom line: nobody in their right mind would ever use this completely worthless skill. And the worst part of it is, I suspect ZoS sees this as the justification for all the "prevents outside healing" clauses in the vampire powers; they expect that vampire players should constantly be using this skill. I hope I'm wrong about that, because it would prove beyond any doubt how out of touch they are.

  • Mesmerize: The one good thing about this power is that you can hypnotize NPCs into talking to you. That is cool from a lore perspective, but it also kind of screws over new players that need to grind to the fourth power on the tree if they made the mistake of becoming Stage 4 too early. Other than that, this is a boring power. It stuns and potentially snares, sure, but the bottom line is that there are other powers that do the same thing but better. I also don't like that one of the five "real" power slots is wasted on something that will only ever be useful for tanks.

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  • Mist Form: It's nice that it's a toggle now, and I'm sure it's nice for PvP, but it's another power that feels underwhelming. Blood Mist is conceptually cool, but the damage is so low that you would probably be better off just healing yourself with your own power rather than counting on this to save you. You can't even count on this saving you from OHKO's from bosses in serious content, so unless if you're PvPing, there's no good reason to slot this.

Now, perhaps you could look at each of these powers individually and conclude "well all of these powers look ok." And by themselves, maybe they would be. That may have been the developers' exact thought process as they were creating the powers. But what makes it all fall apart is this one simple fact:

You're expected to make a build where these powers are the core of your strategy

There's no possible way to do that! If you remember, all you have to work with in the vampire tree is:

  • An ultimate
  • A spammable that kills you
  • Two mutually exclusive toggles (one of which will kill you)
  • A stun
  • A self healing channel

That's not a build! There is no possible way to make a worthwhile build out of that! And then we need to consider how many of these powers, like Vampiric Drain, are just complete non starters to begin with. Maybe if you're ok with dying all the time and being no help to your team, then you could run a build focused solely on these powers (in the same way you could make a build out of nothing but Mage's Guild spells I guess), but for anyone who doesn't want to be kicked out of their group, there is no way to make a half-decent build for any role in the game with these powers.

You might say "fine then, just use your other powers instead," but you can't, because the game is designed to penalize you for using other powers by increasing the cost of all the other powers! Maybe that would be ok if you were using your other powers rarely and your vampire powers frequently, but that's impossible. Even if you try to use your vampire powers as liberally as possible, any build that is even halfway viable will be using their non-vampire powers over their vampire powers by a factor of 9 to 1.

Of course you might think "it's fine if I don't use my vampire powers, I'll just use the passives," but you can't do that either, because the passives are locked behind your stage of vampirism! You only get full access to your vampire passives when you're at Stage 4, and each stage increases the cost of your regular abilities by somewhere between 2-4%. And I'm going to tell you right now, there is nothing in the vampire passives that is going to justify wasting 2-4% extra resources per level. The only way to justify going higher in vampirism is if you intend to use the unique vampire powers, and they are so objectively horrible that there's no reason to even try.

What's even more ridiculous is that the whole stated point of this update was to encourage vampires to feed and be stronger, to get players to "embrace being a vampire." That is why the update was an abject failure of game design. Not because of the powers, not because of the passives, but because that objective was not reached. Before the update, vampires didn't feed and stayed at stage 4, and now it's the same: vampires don't feed and stay at stage 1. Only now, I guess the difference is that most of them have probably cured themselves and saved themselves the trouble!

And worst of all, the few times there actually were good points in the vampire tree, like Blood for Blood and the PTS version of Blood Frenzy, ZOS didn't hesitate to nerf them back down to uselessness. I think that's what bothers me most of all, that ZOS seems to want vampires to suck. That seems like their design goal. It makes them happy. Which, fair enough I guess, but maybe don't tease people with a vampire based expansion, right?

And before I end this extremely long post, let me respond to one final comment. One that I hear far too often:

"Vampirism is supposed to be a curse!"

Sorry, but that doesn't fly. I agree that "it's a curse" if you mean it should have some drawbacks, no argument there. But vampires are not supposed to be "cursed" in the same way that lepers are cursed. A vampire is supposed to be strong and capable and feared. Compare that to an ESO vampire, where if they try to use their powers, in the best case nothing happens, and in the worst case they kill themselves faster than the enemy. Vampires have weaknesses, that's what makes it a curse. They are not supposed to be a joke. Lycanthropy is also "a curse" but I don't see anyone saying werewolves should be bad. Then again, werewolves used to suck in ESO too, and these days they're looking pretty good for once. Could the same be true for vampires someday? Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath.

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