There is no doubt that the PvE part which makes up the bulk of the game is a themepark experience through and through, but Zenimax have tried hard to make the world appear to be dynamic, and changes you make on the world during questing are seemingly permanent. It's a fantastic feeling to rescue a village from daedra attacks as it burns to the ground, and every time you visit after that the village remains rescued, the fires doused, and the villagers remembering your heroism. It's such a nice change to be able to fix the lighthouse that slavers had sabotaged and then see it shining every subsequent time you visit.
|Let's save this village!|
I LOVE it!
Yet, I also LOATHE it.
All of the great benefits of the dynamic world only work if you are playing solo through the game. If you never group up you might never realise the huge problems Zenimax's solution to the dynamic world problem brings. And I like to group. I have a regular group of real life friends I play the PvE levelling game with, and a great guild to assist as well. The vast majority of the time I am adventuring through Cyrodiil it is with at least one other player, and often more.
The problems arise because of the technology Zenimax has used to deliver the dynamic feeling to the game world. The open world isn't really open at all, but is a series of pocket instances or phases. There is no zone line into these phases, and if you were soloing alone you might never realise they are there. They are a little like the zero load-time instances in the The Old Republic, but without a big green gate to pass through. But they are there, and they cause all sorts of issues when trying to group.
The easiest way to explain is by example. I have already rescued the village from the daedra and put the fires out, and the villagers are back working in the fields and rebuilding their homes. My group mate, let's call him Kaelkardian (because that's his name), hasn't done that quest yet. As we approach the village Kael just disappears into thin air, with no warning. I can no longer see him, interact with him (other than via chat), or help him in his quest. He has entered a different phase to myself. In my phase the village is already rescued, in his he has to fight off the daedra and put out the fires. I won't see him again until either we both leave the immediate area of the village or until he finishes the quest to the same stage as myself.
It's a hugely frustrating system to deal with when you are trying to adventure with someone else or help someone on their quests. The only way to avoid it is to purely play solo, or to ensure you are all on the same stage of every quest at all times. I want to be able to play the game with my friends, it is an MMO after all.
Zenimax are aware of the issue, and need to try and find some way of fixing it. They could go the Guild Wars 2 route, with their dynamic events, but that means change is never lasting. Eventually the village in the example above will be attacked and burnt down again, and the villagers won't remember my prior help. If my friend isn't in the right place at the right time he might never see that quest. I'd prefer to see them try a different solution to the problem.
|Things might be looking up - Zenimax are going to address the phasing issues|
Perhaps a system like LoTRO uses to allow players to replay instances, via the use of Reflecting Pools. A telling of past tales or a revisit to past memories for example.
There's little we as players can do about the issue right now. It's a trade off in the search for more dynamic theme park worlds that we will have to learn to live with for a while yet and work around. At the moment the trade off seems worth it to me, but as I continue to level I can see myself becoming more frustrated with the system.
Still, at least there is always another keep to besiege in Cyrodiil.