Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Brothers of Strife

Do you know how a really good complicated ending to a story can stick with you for hours or days after you've read it? Elder Scrolls Online has one... and it happens reasonably early in the game as the ending for one of its sub-sections. It was written with care and love for the craft of writing, with a true pathos and understanding of its characters, and a real front-to-back understanding of Elder Scrolls lore and history. It is, in short, the best ending Bethesda has written into an ES game since Morrowind... and I've barely started the game.

I've been thinking about it for more than a day now and I can't get it out of my head.

I say this as a man who was not impressed with the end of Skyrim. Elder Scrolls games are often steeped within the lore of the games and the elder scrolls themselves. This results in a series of games whose best entries link past and present events in a way that shows the connections. The best ES writing makes this grand sense of time flow so effortlessly that it does not seem at all unusual for spirits of the past to manifest in the present and tell you their stories... or more often, enact those stories before your eyes.(1) Skyrim tried to duplicate that and failed mostly because in the grand sweep of history, the stakes have to be set high to be meaningful and Skyrim's stakes weren't set high enough.

So far, ESO is not making this mistake.

Anyway, I don't want to spoil this "mini-ending" for you, but I do want to make sure that you experience it in the way that the writer clearly intended you to. The fact that I did so is either accident or really masterful game design... I can't decide which. If it was the latter, it was an astonishing display of player management.(2)

So, a broad hint: if you play ESO as a member of the Ebonheart Pact, and you enter the Stonefalls area, complete the quest/area "The Brothers of Strife" last. You will tend to do so because of where it's placed, but if you come upon it earlier in your explorations of Stonefalls, skip it and come back to it after you've done everything else in the area.

I'm serious: the sense of pathos, of the wide stretch of history, of a writer really caring about his characters and story is just manifest in how this area is executed. And it's in a freakin' video game! But you'll only experience it to its fullest if you save this part of the experience for last. The last video game ending I can remember that was this good was the first Bioshock. Brav-freakin'-o.

And I've still barely begun this game! Needless to say, I've found my new favorite PvE vehicle. I still haven't even tried PvP yet I'm so engrossed... But I will because I'm hearing good things.


(1) At one point today, I was watching one of these one-act shadow plays of past events, a woman dying on a cave floor... and thanks to some new graphics wizardry in the game, I could see her skeleton underneath her as she spoke. When the shadow play was over, the spirit disappeared but left her skeleton behind in the exact position where she died when the play ended. I do not exaggerate when I say this gave me chills.
(2) Player management is becoming a freakin' art form in games. I'm reminded of a moment from Bioshock: Infinite. You've lost an NPC that you're supposed to be guiding, and are looking for her on a vast beach. As you begin your search, the wind catches a beach umbrella and blows it across your field of view... directly in the direction the game wants you to search. Game designers are getting so much better at this in the last few years.

9 comments:

  1. This is why I believe video games are an evolution of the art of storytelling. A commonly understood history is vital for community and the illusion of unity.
    EVE storyline is weak in the broad inclusive strokes but mesmerising in detail if you care to look. Still, I await to see how Capsualeerdom's messy divorce from Empire pans out. Null is already out the door and used to the cold, Highsec will feel it hard. Where do you stand?

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  2. Yet the writers did not care in the slightest about Cyrodiil being a dense tropical rainforest in the second era (it only became the temperate forest after mighty Tiber Septim used the power of the voice to give his legions a nicer place to live) or about the fact, that a pro-human leader of the Aldmeri dominion would survive hours, at most.

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  3. Many of us were forced to "save" this quest as last, because it was bugged for about week after launch and you couldn't complete it :)

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  4. You didn't think the return of Alduin the World Eater was high-stakes enough?

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    1. Not after I watched random bandits and villagers butchering dragons.

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    2. theres a mod for that. try Deadly Dragons.

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  5. I'm not feeling it. Last of Us? That's a good story. Gone Home? Likewise. Kerbal space program fan fiction? Hell yeah! Lore thrown in an MMO quest line? Nahh

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  6. not really seeing any lack of high stakes in Skyrim.

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  7. Nice to know, I'm currently in this area and have not ran into that quest chain yet.

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