The Adventures of Jeffrey Dwemer, Near-Sighted Warrior: Or, How I Learned Not to Give a Sh** About System Requirements

Everyone knows that technology has a lifespan. Look up “planned obsolescence” and you’ll come across a nefarious method of creating technology that renders the most advanced computers as useful as pagers in a matter of years. When I received the laptop I currently own in 2011, it was a dynamo. My Dell XPS was packing an Intel i7 processor, roughly a terabyte of memory, and the latest and greatest OS at the time, Windows 7. It was a simpler time, a time where for some reason I thought I was going to be rendering Michael Bay CG effects during my freshman year of film school.

By 2014, my PC was as good as a paperweight, a relic in comparison to the newest rigs. It was also around that time that THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE was released. A few weekends ago was one of the game’s Free Weekends, or Freekend, as I call it. With the hurdle of an exorbitant price removed altogether, I decided to throw caution and minimum system requirements to the wind and decided to give ESO a shot.

After the initial download and account creation (and impatiently trying to secure my place on a server that I couldn’t connect to), I made it to the character creator. I was familiar with the different classes in ESO and had looked up things like how to get a dragonknight tank build so I was excited to create my own character. The game had presumably detected my hardware and bumped me automatically down to the “Low” setting. Despite the confidence boost in my machine that this notification gave me, I could tell things weren’t running as smoothly as they could be. So I decided to lower my video settings to “Minimum,” and let me tell you, the results were awe-inspiring.

system chest

The quality of the chest hair alone sold me

My characters all seemed like slabs of roughly flesh-colored Play-Doh, standing in front of half-finished props that lacked any sense of texture or realism (or whatever semblance of realism that exists in a universe with talking feline Bedouins.) The highlight of my character’s inception was when it came to decide what sort of body adornment they should have, be it a scar, some ornate body paint, or even suspiciously Maori or yakuza-themed full-body tattoo. I felt like a scar would be enough to make me look tough enough for Tamriel; however, each wound appeared more like a faint, migratory blemish that would slowly drift across my character as I cycled through the different options. I even considered changing my original plans and going with an eso sorcerer build as my man barely looked like a tough and grizzled knight.

system scar

There’s a pretty sick battle scar on there somewhere

Character creation complete, I awoke in what seemed to be a very sinister dungeon, judging by the fact that there was what looked like a heavy iron gate barring my exit. Further exploration confirmed that I had, in one way or another, found myself in a real den of iniquities. Many had suffered here as I had, in all kinds of heinous ways.

system fate

Man, none of this shit looks even remotely ergonomically designed

Further handicapping me was my insistence on never using WASD controls in my life, and my inability to get the gamepad adapter to work. It was time to become classically trained, and fast. But with no weapon and no skills, all I could do was practice shadowboxing in my dank (yet surprisingly roomy) cell. The visual quality didn’t increase once I’d left the character creator and graduated to the actual game world, so I figured that the best way to deal with this handicap was to make it a gameplay feature. Jeffrey was an accidental hero, a near-sighted warrior who charged into battle first, only because he had no idea who he was fighting otherwise. However, none of this was going to help me if I couldn’t get out of this damn cell.

system ske

Truly a fate worse than any death

Miraculously, a friendly apparition/NPC appeared to let me out of my cage and experience the sweet freedom of…more prison cells. It looked like I was gonna have to fight my way out, which suited me just fine. As a proud Nord warrior and son of Skyrim, I was eager to lay the smackdown on anything in my way, provided I could get close enough to see it first. This was more difficult to do, as people, objects, and violent monsters would sometimes render in and out of existence as I approached them, and I couldn’t quite fathom the textures of things until I shoved my face right up against them, as if everything was in Braille and I had to read with my forehead. One of the first enemies I encountered seemed to be in the midst of a particularly intimate moment with an NPC, as far as I could tell. I almost excused myself from the room as I entered, until my companion charged at them with her greatsword. At that point I thought it was best to apologize for her, because we were breaking out of demon prison (apparently I had been sacrificed in an arcane ritual and was sent to a labor camp in one of Tamriel’s many alternate planes of existence), and that can be very hard on one’s nerves. But before I could do so, the NPC in the center of the room threw their partner onto a spike across the room, impaling them horribly. It was then that I figured that this might be someone I’d need to attack.

system safe

You never know, someone’s safe word could just be blood gurgles

Fortunately, because Hell Is A Tutorial Level (copyright pending), I was able to dispatch the remaining lover quickly. I had found a greatsword earlier and had practiced on a few lower-level enemies. Using a two-handed weapon felt pretty slow and unresponsive, but then again, I wasn’t normally a two-handed weapon user (there’s a euphemism that involves the phrase “more of a one-handed guy” that should go here, but that’s not important right now), and I figured that one more handicap wouldn’t be a deal breaker at this point.

After a few more rooms filled with vaguely-threatening shapes that turned out to be very-threatening enemies, I came to a brief respite, where I could catch my breath and assign the skill points that I had quickly gained as a low-level fighter taking out the vicious demons that were scripted to lose to me. One of the spells I had picked up was a class-specific attack that enabled me to shoot a fireball at an oncoming enemy. This seemed like a really bad idea for someone that couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of them, but hey, you take what you can get when you’re trapped in Hell Prison Camp. I also had an opportunity to take a look around at the landscape that I found myself in. The cave wall gave way to a large opening where I could survey the beautiful environment that Bethesda had crafted for us all to enjoy.

system bob

Like a Bob Ross painting

Soon I found myself in a wider area where more players were wandering around, hitting things with swords in an attempt to break out. The situation had gone full Attica, judging by the floating player names running around back and forth in front of me. I was able to make out shapes, but many of them were literally black silhouettes darting around. Whether this was due to a faulty internet connection, my poor eyesight, or the uncertain nature of the immortal realms, it was nonetheless terrifying that these Shades were represented as such. In any case, it was time for Jeffrey to make his daring escape. It helped that I had a handy HUD to guide my way towards objectives, but I found myself constantly distracted by the need to prove my might against those that were attacking me, especially because I couldn’t judge their intent until their weapons were buried in my sternum. A Nord doesn’t back down from a challenge, but they do get bored.

The high point of my experience in Hell Camp was running into an NPC voiced by John Cleese , who had apparently been living there longer than anyone else and was supposed to help me out with stuff. He told me I had to run through some more enemies and traps before ending up at the location where they were keeping The Prophet, who was apparently immensely important to me. In what turned out to be the biggest disappointment of all, John Cleese didn’t do any of the great Monty Python bits with me; I couldn’t even get a Basel Fawlty impression out of him! Disappointed, I hacked my way through to the Prophet’s cell, but not before stealing everything I could from his camp of dead people.

system prophet

Never meet your heroes

Eventually, I made my way to where they were keeping the Prophet, but unfortunately, to do so meant imprisoning my companion that had gotten me this far. I want to say that I can still remember the curve of her face or the fire in her eyes as she valiantly gave up her freedom, but I’ve spent most of this article explaining that I couldn’t really appreciate the finer details in literally anything. Annoyingly, this new guy was also completely blind, so slightly more useless than me, but at least I didn’t have to actually watch his back or anything. Monsters didn’t seem to bother with him, especially the giant one made of bones that prevented me from returning to the mortal plane.

system berry

Good thing I stole all that fruit from John Cleese earlier

To make a long story short, I bested the Child of Bones and all of his bony children by running into him and stabbing whatever was in front of me. With the help of the Prophet, I returned to the land of the living. As a Nord, I was brought to my home province of Skyrim. This was very exciting for me, as I had been hankering to get back into Skyrim for a while now, what with the buzz over the remaster hitting a fever pitch. After a brief run-down with the NPC in charge of explaining the game, I stepped outside into the game world and feasted my eyes on Skyrim for the first time in years.

system sky

Ahh, just as I remember

Skyrim looked more like MORROWIND than I remembered, but I was eager to finally get out into the real world and explore, so I didn’t dawdle for very long in the initial hub. I would go on to initially prove my worth by cleansing an ancient dragon shrine and murdering a Necromancer, identified by the very unfriendly skeletons he kept sending at me. It was considerate of them that right before attempting to stick pointy things in me, the bone daddys would flash with a red aura before attacking. This I was able to see, but again, not until I was right on top of them.

It’s difficult to tell who’s who when you’re a nearsighted warrior, but what my adventures as Jeffrey Dwemer taught me was that the graphical quality of your adventure doesn’t really matter. Well, that’s not 100% true. Graphics will matter to you if they matter to you, but if there’s a way you can get past the lackluster textures and amorphous models that your particular machine is able to process without spontaneously combusting, you should do it. No, I can’t see the reflection of the individual pores of my character’s face when I look into a body of water, but I can still play the game I want to play without any major issues. Okay, that’s not really true either, but I’d say the hiccups added to the experience, and when I want to play an Elder Scrolls game online, I know that ESO is always available to me, no matter how it looks. Yes, I think what playing as Jeffrey taught me was that the true processing power was inside me, all along.

Steven Porfiri is a Crossfader guest contributor that has been slowly learning what true patrician culture is about after spending a lifetime in Bakersfield, CA. In addition to Crossfader you can find him at Top Shelf Gaming.

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