The Elder Scrolls Online of Missions and Mode

As in most role-playing games, you gain strength and abilities as you acquire experience and increase in level. So, you can learn to breathe fire, forge better swords or be more persuasive when talking to nonplayer characters, depending on which career path and guilds you choose. New levels come at a pretty steady pace if you keep on top of your missions. Simply wandering through the countryside and killing zombies and demonic Daedra isn’t enough — though it is fun.

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Nonplayer enemies tend to be relatively well balanced as long as your character is at the right level for a particular area. For example, if you’re level 4 and face off against two or three level 4 or level 5 bandits, you should do well. If you’re level 15 and bumble into an area geared toward level 20, you’re going to die. One of the problems is that it’s way too easy to bumble. From experience, I know that there’s a level-appropriate set of adventures somewhere, but it sometimes can take an hour of repeatedly dying and respawning to find it.

Many of the major missions have some connection to the wider conflict among the alliances. Spies might be poisoning a town’s water or an army might be attacking a city. Others focus on local problems, like giant bugs infesting local mines or an elf who thinks a ghostlike creature is his reincarnated wife. Some are very complex and challenging, involving multiple mini-quests. Others are more mundane, like gathering ingredients so the local apothecary can mix up some medicine or finding a hungover warrior’s missing pants. Quests are scattered all over the map so there’s always a reason to explore — one of the elements of previous games that helps make “ESO” so fun.

Most missions unfold in public areas. This means that other avatars are always nearby, completing their own quests. This can be helpful, but sometimes can get a bit odd. For example, if I’m trying to knock down a big boss, I’m usually quite happy to receive a helping hand from another wandering warrior. Everyone gets his own batch of loot after the battle, so there’s no fear of losing goodies to interlopers. However, since the battle unfolds in a public area, the boss needs to reappear to confront the next batch of adventurers. The result is that Mr. Baddy is sometimes resurrected beside me before I can even loot his treasure chest. Although there’s no need to fight him again, it doesn’t seem quite right.

And those hovering adventurers can present some irritating problems of their own. For example, if you’re gathering certain items as part of a quest, you will need to be quick or others might grab the goodies from under your nose. Or, they might unintentionally interfere with a puzzle.

In addition to the missions in public areas, you can team up with friends and tackle private areas. These usually present tougher enemies and better loot. They can be very fun and very lucrative.

The third option is the player vs. player mode. In this, the three alliances struggle for control of resources, fortresses and magical Elder Scrolls, with the ultimate winner of the campaign crowning a new emperor, aka its highest-ranking player.

The battles occur on an immense map that’s dotted with castles, lumber mills, mines and farms. Action can pop up at almost any point since each location holds strategic value. Fighting ranges from small-time bushwhacking to full-blown sieges, complete with catapults and dozens of warriors. It’s a mix that will be familiar to fans of “Guild Wars 2,” but it’s still enjoyable.

You can join the struggle for Cyrodiil after reaching level 10. Your level will be boosted temporarily to the maximum — level 50 — so you’ll be somewhat competitive. However, you’ll keep your regular abilities, weapons and armor, so don’t expect to live long if the action gets hot. Even though it’s fun to jump into the middle of a castle siege, it’s best to start off by taking easier missions, such as scouting out enemy territory.

It’s also wise to travel with a friend, because solo trips can easily turn deadly. Twice, I died in heavy action and tried to rejoin the fray by galloping across the countryside only to be waylaid by groups of enemies waiting for unwary travelers.

Aside from the fun of participating in large-scale battles, the big benefit of this mode is that the experience and gear you acquire can be carried back to the regular campaign.

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