Elder Scrolls Online is a lost puppy of another era. It hails from one where established IPs had an 'online' cynically thrown on the end. It’s a relic, a reminder of the hellish proto-MMORPGs that broke the ground of the genre, leading to the far superior specimens we have today.
Every one of its systems has been done better in the past, repeatedly. A few exceptions serve only as bright flashes to illuminate the desolate wasteland of dead ambition and imagination that is the rest of the game.
From the first moment it’s a dull, dreary affair in every respect. The aesthetics are grey collections of fantasy tropes that draw solely from the most boring areas the franchise can offer. Quests don’t feel as such, more odd jobs to fetch animal livers or confirm information between two NPCs within earshot of one another.
Combat is a disconnected, masquerading as something more complex via simplistic counter mechanics that offer little to think about and less to do. Maybe it could show its strengths in the well-meaning PvP if it wasn’t a constant zergfest of human rivers, meaning singular combatants have no effect. First-person control is nothing more than a gimmick, being vastly inferior in all but novelty to third-person.
ESO’s attempts to bring its namesake forward provides some of its most frustrating, impossible-to-understand decisions. The full cast of actors is impressive, but repeating voices are quick to appear. The soul gem system is back, serving only to depower players and punish them for using awesome gear.
A familiar stamina bar ties abilities, sprinting and dodging, but this means you must choose between finishing the endlessly repetitive fights quicker or getting between the functionally (and often physically) identical enemies with more haste.
Apparently existing only to serve as a strawman for future arguments against the whole genre, Elder Scrolls Online is a game of exposed weaknesses and failed potential. If you’re hankering for Scrolls, I recommend modded Skyrim. If you’re after an MMO, I recommend any other.
Played for 37 hours.
4 / 10
- It’s nice to have a fully-acted MMO
- Brings only the worst of the Elder Scrolls forward, leaving behind the good.
- Gates PvP, its most interesting element, behind 10 levels of dull.
- Fails to innovate in any significant manner.