There comes a time in a major franchises life where someone high up on the corporate latter has a fascinating idea. They decide to take said popular franchise and turn it on it’s heels. Ladies and gentlemen, that game is Elder Scrolls Online: a game that no one asked for.
I consider myself to be savvy when it comes to MMO’s. I used to spend my late teens and early twenties staing up till the late hours of the next morning, raiding till my eyes bled.s. My gaming life consisted of people I never met in person but talked to on a nightly basis. I would think about the game, and dedicated moments of my life into researching how I can play my class better. Eventually, I drifted away from it. I could feel that sensation returning a little bit with ESO. Something was pulling me back into virtual landscapes taken up by gold spammers and political conversations between characters called “Cheese Wizard” and “alkdhdf.” Although under ESO’s rather glamerous exterior lays a rather dirty secret… but the game isn’t a total disaster. When it’s not filled with annoying bots, the game does get rather fun, albeit a bit awkward when you’re the only one who can save the world… and there are thousands of other people doing the same thing.
For general purposes, I can’t say that this is a review. Review implies that there is some sort of ending, and there certainly isn’t one in this game. I decided to play a Nord Dragonknight , a character that seemed to deliver on the offensive and defensive side, but didn’t seem as extreme as the Templar. None the less, I adventured out on the path of the Aldmeri Dominion. With my busy life schedule, I got this poor Nord in a strange land to level 25.
ESO does a lot of things right. It keeps that essence of The Elder Scrolls, and damn does it do a good job of that. The lore alone is enough to make even the most hardcore of fans happy. After all, this is the era that was a building block to what we have experienced in the previous Elder Scrolls games, and it’s all voice acted which seems to be the bare minimum for MMO’s. There are the occasional lore book(s) that you can pick up that gives you a sense of immersion into the game while also improving your skills.
The somewhat traditional combat style is also represented here as well. We are all done with auto attacks in this world, instead you must click like mad to attack enemies. One click could be a swing, while holding down the mouse makes you deliver a more devastating blow to the enemy (while also using up your stamina). Your right click is your block button. Holding block and then clicking your attack button lets you perform your interrupt move to keep enemies from casting powerful magic. Take all of that, and mix it in with the concept of having to aim your attacks, and you got yourself going in the right direction.
Now, from that point forward ESO slowly diverges from it’s first-person RPG component and starts to meld with the exasperation of every other MMO out there. The obvious fact is that this is an MMO. If you are looking for an experience as great and amazing as Skyrim, then turn away now. It’s not in any way or form a follow-up to any of the previous Elder Scrolls games. Not to say that it’s bad, but I am saying that this is very different, and perhaps may be a little bit tougher for some people to wrap their heads around.
The first major step in the MMO direction is the introduction to classes. You have four main classes with their own abilities and skill “trees.” I put trees in quotes because they really aren’t trees. Each class has three sub-classes that provide you abilities. If you use a specific ability from a specific class a certain amount of times, that ability levels up. So does your overall standing with that sub-class. Of course, you don’t have to put your skill points in there. You have abilities with the type of weapon you use, crafting abilities, guild abilities, and more. The more you use these abilities, the quicker you can morph them.
For example, I have a pulling technique where I shoot out a fiery chain towards the enemy and pull them to me. After several hundred uses of that ability, I can morph it into one of two options. This goes the same for most (if not all) abilities presented in the game. Now, you still need to have the skill point to actually morph the ability. If you want to really maximize your abilities, go find some skyshards. These blue and white glowing gems are scattered all around the Tamriel, either in the areas or within solo dungeons. For every three you find, you gain a new skill point that you can dedicate to any available skill of your choosing.
Another key difference is that ESO is not open and easy to explore. The game focuses on your level, so there is a clear chance that you will run into an enemy who is four or five levels higher than you, and unable to be beaten by your hand alone. This prevents you from walking into certain areas early in the game, but once you are of appropriate level you are more then welcome to slaughter whatever stands in your way. This really makes you focus on the quests that you have at hand. “Before I go into section A of the map, maybe I should finish this quest so I don’t get totally demolished by this horde of trolls” is the thought process that I have had to follow.
My major gripe with the game is when you are first introduced. Your characters can wear any type of armor. You want to be a heavy armor defense sorcerer, go for it. I wanted to be a dual wielding monster with medium armor (which provides the player with the most damage dealing abilities), but I kept on getting destroyed by these particular enemies. I had to spend 3,200 gold to reset all my skill points and put them into heavy armor so I could survive longer. That’s a lot of gold, resetting costs the basics of 100 gold per skill, and you cannot undo specific abilities. It’s “reset all or none.” My reset causes me to have to pick a new way to play my class. This is because heavy armor is more defense based, opposed to damage based. I went back to take out the enemies that were killing me over and over again, only to see that they went down without a fight. This made me think that even though the game really wants you to think you can play any way you want, you almost really can’t.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the crafting. Yes, it gets very tedious, but it feels rewarding. You can break down items for their main components, and sometimes gain bonus items. You can also learn weapon abilities so you can create weapons with said ability. If I have a sword that allows me to attack faster, I can break down that sword and make other swords with that modification. Although, that usually takes about 6 to 24 hours of real time to learn (you don’t have to be logged in).
There are also different styles of crafting. You start out with your respective race, and eventually find out how to make the other racial styles. I had my Nord style, and then eventually came across the Redguard style of armor and weaponry. They don’t add actual bonus damage, but give an aesthetically different look if I decided to change my style up a bit.
Once you start getting the feel for the game, something very unfortunate happens, you feel the grind. All MMO’s feature this grind to the top level, and boy does ESO have a grind. After you finish the main story in your character’s first allegiance, you can continue to venture into the other two alliances and gain Veteran Ranks. Your end-game doesn’t end at 50, it continues for two other segments of mandatory leveling. This in total makes you have to play over 150 hours of ESO to reach the end. This makes it very hard to create alt characters, which is something that I did in all MMO’s when I got bored of my main class.
Now to prevent this review from being incredibly boring I will just list a couple of bullet points:
- At level 15 you get the ability to swap your weapons. You can go from two-handed weapons to a sword and shield with the hit of a button. The action bar and your abilities change too and you can customize them to your liking.
- The game is choice driven and not everything is black and white. The game doesn’t tell you if you are making a good or bad decision. You have to weigh the options yourself.
- You can join 5 player run guilds at one time. Want to have a trading guild and a raiding guild? Go for it.
- One solid, single server. You don’t have to bother your friends with whatever server they are going to be on.
- Bethesda understands the core players, and they are planning streams of content for players, including new areas and other concepts.
- Like every other MMO… there is a grind and sometimes level takes super long to do because you’re too busy doing everything else.
- The game is still buggy. Bots have claimed the cities and you can see almost 20 – 30 bots at a time claiming quest rewards.
- The Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions have been delayed by about six months (but when the game does launch, you can transfer over a PC player and get a discount on the game as long as you started to play prior to June).
So the bottom line is, if you like MMO’s and you also like the world of The Elder Scrolls, and you don’t mind the bugs or the $15 monthly charge, then I would suggest this game to you. It does a lot of things in the realm of MMO’s correctly, but as I have previously stated, it’s an MMO. It’s not going to be the core Elder Scrolls experience you have always wanted since Skyrim. I am quite happy with the game, and within due time we should see some amazing concepts coming from Zenimax and Bethesda.
That’s all for me here, I’m going to wait patiently for Wildstar to come out now.