The Elder Scrolls series is a franchise that has numerous awards and worldwide renown. A large contingency of players love the games and have shared many different experiences in the diverse worlds. But one question kept coming up, why can’t we play with our friends? That question has finally been answered and gamers were awarded the chance to play The Elder Scrolls like never before in this brand new MMO title. Is The Elder Scrolls Online the game that everyone should get, or is it simply the black sheep that doesn’t belong? Let us mount our horses and find out.
The main story places the player’s character in the series’ most notorious starting situation, as a prisoner. This time however you are a convict of the Daedra and must escape from your bonds in order to discover their dastardly plans. The narrative is told extremely well with fully voiced NPCs throughout the game. There are however some questionable choices when it comes to their voices. The main being that during some quest lines, certain mythical creatures will have german or french voice acting to represent a native language. But in other cases, mainly seen in the Aylieds, they speak in their own unique tongue. It may not bother some players, but why would one race get their own language whilst the others gets a simple alternate voice?
Another point to bring up concerning the story is what the main quest line depicts. If you are a fan of the previous games and have played Oblivion, you know how this tale is told. The game is a deeper depiction of the events in Oblivion, detailing the original coming of Molag Bal and the combining of the three factions around Cyrodil. If you have played the previous title then you may already be able to predict the events in the MMO. Some may dislike this but I did not, since the title went deeper into the invasion of Tamriel and showed more background to how the Daedra prepare for war. The links to Oblivion, Morrowind and Skyrim all are noticeable but are nice touches rather than repeated events.
The gameplay, like the narrative, is lacking and does not fully immerse the player. If you have ever played any of the previous games, then you have already played ESO. First-person to third-person views are extremely easy to switch between, a huge map details all areas you have previously visited and your three bars of resources are still the same. Stamina will now only be drained through sprinting rather than everything demanding of your character. Magicka is still consumed through the use of spells and regenerates over time. The staples of the series are prevalent here in the gameplay which makes it excellent for fans of the franchise. However MMO players may find it awkward to managing these bars instead of cooldown powers.
Quest lines can be tracked on the right hand side of the screen as a series of little prompts that will detail what you need to do next. In some cases these may come along with optional side objectives and quest markers on your compass. You can only follow the progress of one quest at a time however, which can easily be switched between by hitting the T button. It is key to note that some of these quest lines currently in the game are severely bugged. In some cases you may not be able to complete the end of a long line of quests simply because the end quest giver will refuse to talk to you or bring up the appropriate prompt. There have also been occurrences where the quest NPC’s have not appeared after achieving certain goals or disapear as you are about to approach them. This may result in a failure, which will require you to go back and complete the quest again, or simply mean that you cannot end your current mission. Zenimax are constantly patching out these problems and have a great in-game bug report for players to help identify what is wrong.
The aesthetic touches can range from fantastic hits to disappointing misses. The landscapes, wildlife, citys, villages and scale of the game is truly magnificent. It makes the size of Skyrim look like a child’s sandbox. But where the world looks amazing, the characters look a little lacking. The different armours have only slight alterations to one another and some of the character creation choices for scars, pigments and colourisation and not fully utilised. Textures on your character will sometimes seem lacking in comparison to the environment and thought this may be due to first person mode, you will have people playing in third person and you will always see your character whenever you access your menu. Some of the most horrible looking creatures in the game are the horses you can purchase from stables. Far away they look perfectly fine, close up you realise that their entire face is a texture with pixelised eyes and nose to go with it. It is a shame to see cut backs made in more personal areas of the title.
The game plays exactly as you would think it would, but it feels as if Zenimax Studios concentrated too much on The Elder Scrolls aspect. Everything looks, feels and plays like it belongs with the series but the MMO aspects seem to feel disregarded and placed second on the necessity list. Core aspects in the genre such as mini-maps, ability bars and a smooth resource gathering experience do not seem present in the games current state. A mini-map option is not available what so ever, forcing players to open up a world map to identify their location. This also makes local NPCs, vendors and resources much harder to identify. Players only have access to one ability bar that can hold up to five different abilities plus an ultimate ability, hot keyed to R. This makes players wishing to utilise their entire move pool decide between the powers they want to concentrate on, which could have been easily rectified with the additions of a larger action bar or additional slots.
Resource gathering is similar to that of other titles in the franchise that require players to forage from local plants and ore. The problem however is not with gathering the materials, it is with identifying their whereabouts. With no map assistance, finding specific resources could prove difficult and makes players go out of their way in order to obtain them. Skill points can be invested into abilities that help with finding these materials, but all they do is add a light cloud effect onto the resource once you are close enough. With no other help like an icon on the compass or a small arrow pointing to a local gathering location, crafting is quickly turned into a chore which it should never be.
The Player vs Player combat is known as Alliance War. This places the three factions against one another in a campaign to take all the elder scrolls and claim an emperor to the throne. The mode is split into different campaigns that will allow a balanced amount of players to join a PvP assault. You must first get to level ten, which is not difficult at all, before gaining access to this mode. If you do decide to enter the wars before hitting your maximum level, your characters health, magicka and stamina are boosted to their max levels. It is a shame however that this does not guarantee that you will be able to stand up to opponents on the battlefield. As you fight higher level players with better armour, weapons and a wider range of skills to use, you will seem completely outmatched at least at the lowest of levels.
As you battle in Cyrodil, your faction takes control of keeps. You must defend and take over these keeps in order to dominate the campaign and gain access to the elder scrolls. Before taking down the objective however, you can take over nearby locations to help you create siege weapons. These will be necessary to take out walls, gates and even the enemies’ own units. It is also key to note that if you do not feel like joining a battle, you can wander around the plain to obtain rare crafting resources and additional sky shards.
Alliance War is built really well and the epic confrontations you can have can go from one on one combat to a full scale invasion. A ton of fun for anyone who wants to prove their might and show off their obtained skills. It is a shame that lower level players will suffer from a disadvantage, but that does not mean that you can’t help out. The mode would be better for lower level players, if they were given the chance to use a limited number of their higher level skills until they reach that level in PvE.
The Elder Scrolls Online is a game that tries to pull off more than it can. The game feels, plays and sounds like any other game previous, with the added bonus of having a large amount of players to fight alongside and quest with. Where the game excels in being an Elder Scrolls game, it lacks with true MMO elements. The game can get boring, frustrating and very poor when you explore certain quests or try to group up with your friends. If you are a fan of traditional style massively multiplayer games you may find this one lacking. Without additions to assist with PvE and PvP exploration & combat, the game falls short of any expectations in the genre. Only look into the game if you are a die-hard fan of the series, but do not keep your hopes up for the full Elder Scrolls experience. As a solo player you may find that the game will not keep you interested as you hit the thirty to sixty hour mark.
What are your thoughts on the Elder Scrolls Online? Does it stand as the true emperor of Tamriel or is it simply a rookie standing next to the true champions? Let us know what you think of the game in the comments.