Elder Scrolls Online Review

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.

Click above for enlarged The Elder Scrolls Online Screenshots

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De2nis's Avatar

De2nis

Like Innuendo, I find this review positively baffling. I am not MMO buff. But I did try World of Warcraft and got bored very quickly. I feel this is better by a mile.

The combat is much more visceral, tactical, and interesting. The quests have actual stories, and intriguing ones at that. There are characters that are genuinely likable. And frequently simply exploring can be a joy, due to the vibrancy and beauty of the settings. Allowing players to make story-changing choices in an MMO is also a wonderful touch. There is a great sense that the game world is truly yours even as you share it with other players.

I am absolutely floored by the poor reception ESO has recieved. I have not enjoyed myself so much since Oblivion.
Posted 06:46 on 23 June 2014
Innuendo's Avatar

Innuendo

I couldn't disagree more with this review. I've played a ton of MMO's, and ESO for me, has turned many of the mundane aspects of its predecessors into something fun and engaging. The storylines in my alliance (Aldmeri Dominion) have been genuinely good, and by good I mean I've cared about the predicaments of characters I've met. I'm almost moved to tears or rage on occasion, and that categorically has never happened in any MMO...solo RPG certainly...but never an MMO.

I'm not sure which quests you've done which are "fetch animal livers", because I've not encountered one "kill X beasts", nor a "kill Y beasts until a certain item drops" quest. 90% of everything I've done has been interesting and presented in a greater context, in fact I'd say it's the most engaging and different leveling experience of any MMO i've played, and I've sunk many hours into WoW, Aion, FFXIV:ARR, GW2 & SWTOR.

You've not mentioned crafting, and as someone who has despised this part of MMOs in everything I've played, I've been very pleasantly surprised with how much fun I'm having with it in ESO. I'm not sure if it's the effort/reward ratio, or the simple yet sometimes complex mechanics, but for me, it works.

I'd also mention immersion. I'm the sort of chap who like a lot of information on the screen, a past Raid Leader in WoW, with monitoring addons all over the shop. I am very picky about my UI, and it's usually the first thing that turns me off about an MMO...not customisable enough, not enough information, no addon support etc. However ESO's UI just works, and it works in the most simplistic, immersive way. Very minimal, low info, and no clutter, with some elements (stat bars etc) only appearing when you need to see them (in combat, when you take damage etc). Yes there are addons that can put all the info on, but oddly for me I've steered clear of them, I just love the feel of the immersive world that's been created, and I don't want to muddy it.

Finally - customisation - there is a huge amount in ESO. I'm not talking the way my character looks, which is of course very customisable, I'm talking different spells & abilities. My usual experience is trying to find enough keybinds for all the different spells I have on my hotbar (GW2 aside). I usually know from level 1, that I'm just on a path to unlock everything, and there is really very little actual choice...except which class/skill tree. However ESO is totally different. I only have 5 action bar slots per weapon (2 weapons unlocked at lvl 15, and that's max), and I have a TON of different skill lines, actives and passives related to each armour type, weapon, class, crafting skill, guild (mage, fighter, undaunted). Then I can choose to morph spells to work differently and branch further. Yet I'm still limited to 2x5 skills (plus ultimate abilities) in use at any one time. I've never felt so much freedom of choice, yet restricted enough to keep combat from being a finger stretching nightmare. It's a perfect balance in my opinion.

So, I'm not suggesting your opinion is wrong, you are of course entitled to it, but you seem to have missed a lot of what does actually make ESO different, and fun, and I would like to enlighten readers of this page, presenting a somewhat different view. Thanks.
Posted 13:13 on 30 April 2014

Game Stats

The Elder Scrolls Online
4
Out of 10
The Elder Scrolls Online
  • 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.
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Release Date: 04/04/2014
Platforms: PC , PS4 , Xbox One
Developer: Zenimax Online Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Fantasy RPG
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 524
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