In the early days of Bethesda teasing The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood, they promised players a completely revamped introductory tutorial that would be available for all players.
Previously, whatever introductory tutorial a player would receive would be related to whatever the latest expansion was that they owned. For example, if the most recent expansion you owned was Greymoor, you would be thrust into a prologue quest of sorts with Fennorian, a relevant character to the overall plotline of that particular expansion.
While the story flavoring of the tutorial might be different depending on the most recent expansion players owned, the core components are generally the same. New players learn how to move around in the world, how combat works including how to block attacks or break out of stuns, and participate in a short little scenario that ultimately ends with their characters defeating a boss of some sort, stepping out into Tamriel for the first time, and moving on to whatever the first quest of that particular expansion is.
Given the sheer number of introductory experiences that existed, Bethesda decided to par things down a bit and for the first time, give players who completed the introductory experience a way to actively choose at the end of that tutorial where exactly they wanted to go instead of just depositing them somewhere. After all, maybe a player wanted to start off in, say, Elsweyr or Morrowind, not in Blackwood, but had no idea where exactly to start their journey in that particular chapter.
Thus, when Bethesda released Update 30 at the beginning of June 2021, they gave all players a new starting experience, depositing every new character that chose to complete the tutorial on the Isle of Balfiera, last seen in The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. New characters, as well as a daedric foe, are deposited on the isle due to rampant portals, and it’s up to new characters and the altmer mage Norianwe to deal with these portals and the daedra, all while learning how combat works.
It’s a familiar experience to anyone who’s gone through any of the previous The Elder Scrolls Online tutorials, but with a significantly different story attached.
The end of the experience takes your new character to a portal room that leads new characters to a variety of locations all around Tamriel. Stepping through one will automatically accept whatever the first main story quest is in that particular area.
The portal room itself is stunning. There are multiple portals that as of this writing are not yet active, and I’m sure those inactive portals will be filled in as more expansions are released. Seeing the room for the first time, I experienced a sense of awe over everything within it from the rotating helix column in the center of the room to the portals themselves. And each portal is unique, with its own main theme playing as you move close to it. That alone actually makes it difficult to choose where to start.
And for all that, for as amazing that that new portal room actually is, I’m not a huge fan of the new tutorial experience on the whole.
The experience itself feels self-contained, and I don’t particularly like that. While it does what it’s meant to in terms of teaching new players various combat mechanics, it doesn’t connect to the rest of the game in any way as of this writing. The portal magic that dragged you to Balfiera is never mentioned again. We have yet to see Norianwe again. It’s just… there.
I’m missing that little something that would make this particular experience feel more connected to the rest of Tamriel.
That’s not to say that how Bethesda chose to design this new tutorial experience is bad, though. It’s a pretty good way to let new players choose the experience they want to engage in after they complete the tutorial. Not only that, but creating this self-contained experience means the developers don’t have to rack their brains trying to reskin the tutorial for future expansions.
However, I think that maybe things could be integrated in such a way where once you step through the portal in Balfiera, you’re not automatically positioned as if you had just finished the tutorial experience that corresponds with whatever expansion zone you went to, but you’re instead brought into that particular expansion’s tutorial.
Bethesda does something similar with the tutorial from the base game. A character that’s part of the Daggerfall Covenant, for example, might be wandering around Daggerfall only to be approached by a hooded figure who gives them a breadcrumb quest that brings them to the original tutorial from the base game.
Admittedly, that particular tutorial experience is fairly necessary as it’s the first part of the original main story quest, but if the code exists for something like that and the tutorials from the expansions are still present in the game itself (although currently inaccessible), then why couldn’t they do something similar for the other tutorial experiences?
Unfortunately for me, that’s just not how things are implemented currently, nor are they likely to ever be. For new players experiencing this sequence for the first time, of course, I’m sure it’s perfectly fine and most will likely forget it by the time they get through the numerous storylines that The Elder Scrolls Online has to offer.
As for me, though, I suspect I’ll lament the lack of the tutorial’s integration to the larger world until the game comes to an official end.