Easy And Hard Servers Would Finally Shake Up Elder Scrolls Online After Nearly Ten Years

The RuneScape devs have been toying with the idea of easy and hard servers. A great concept because difficulty in MMOs is such a difficult problem to solve. You can’t change it on the fly because you’re inhabiting a wider world separate from yourself, and upping difficulty across the board can alienate new players. That’s where easy and hard servers come in—they can offer more options for casuals and veterans alike. I’m not a big RuneScape player, but hearing this back and forth makes me jealous because I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls Online since 2014 and it’s gotten far too easy.

Not to big up my own skill here—I’m a pretty bog-standard MMO player with healer and tank toons that I’ve built off the back of guides—but compared to 2014, ESO has become a cakewalk. The main quest content has always been that way, but public dungeons, which are designed for smaller groups, used to be impossible for me to solo. Now I can waltz in at a low level and get through them easily. The same goes for world bosses and Craglorn delves, all things that are designed for bigger groups. There’s no real pushback from enemies in the main zones or even the DLC.

Expansions are a double-edged sword. Zenimax intends for them to be the new beginning, letting fresh faces jump in and start with the added content. You don’t have to play ten years of the game to catch up. That means the new zones are as easy as everything else from the past decade, so there are no heightened stakes or challenge. The only time Zenimax broke the mould was with Craglorn, a PvE zone specifically designed for groups, meaning that delves, dungeons, world events, and quests are much harder. It pushes you to juggle your abilities more carefully and strategise in fights rather than spamming one button until the boss with 2,000 hit points keels over.

The community at large has always asked for harder zones, but the toughest DLC you’ll find is group dungeons and trials. Those are the ones you queue for with strangers or friends—they’re incredibly difficult solo, but still fairly easy even on Veteran with the right squad. Regardless, Zenimax’s casual-oriented approach is what keeps ESO going and helps it grow and stay sustainable year in year out, but it leaves veterans wanting. Take High Isle—it’s an exciting new DLC with rich lore that folds in the Druids from Daggerfall and keeps the Three Banner War arc going. We get fan-favourite characters like Jakarn and never-before-seen spots in Tamriel, but the challenge feels on par with Khenarthi’s Roost, the tutorial island.

For those who have been around for years, that can make things feel stale. There’s little to push you, so while quests can be a fun way to get skill points and gear, they don’t feel as rewarding. Getting through bosses in seconds that are weaker than dungeon cannon fodder is hardly a worthwhile fight. That’s good for its longevity and why it’s a great MMO—it’s easy to access and will never get too overwhelming—but maybe it’s time to let the community decide for themselves. Hard servers that make the main world content less casual and more in line with public dungeons and delves could finally make combat outside of dungeons interesting to engage with.

Something of note mentioned by the RuneScape devs is what that new difficulty would look like—it’s not about making enemies spongier or turning players into glass, but altering the game mechanics. More inventory slots for easy servers is one example, something that would be a boon to new players still learning the ins and outs of crafting or what weapon type they want to use. Harder servers meanwhile could make fast travel more difficult and alter levelling, pushing you to be more selective with how you spend gold or skill points in the early game.

Endgame content could also be sharpened with tougher public dungeons and arenas, making them a real test of mettle and determination. It’s not about spending another ten minutes juggling abilities to stay alive and take down bosses but about forcing us to consider our builds and our commitments more meticulously, focusing on combat more as enemies become true opponents.

With how the ESO community is reacting to the most recent combat changes in the PTS that aim to make it easier for casual players, maybe it’s time to draw a line in the sand and give people an opportunity to pick their place. For some, it’s too easy. For some, it’s too hard. And for others, it’s just right the way it is. Pleasing people in all three camps is impossible, but different servers might at least come close.

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