Toot toot! Welcome to the first stop on the summer pain train, the first stop we have is the Elder Scrolls Online. Usually I prefer not to write a review before I actually finish a game but in the case of Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited I will make an exception. Not having much experience in the realm of MMORPG’s I’m not sure but I assume they are all this big, which is a lot bigger than I would have thought. At my current rate I figure Batman will be out well before I finish this game. While the game is enjoyable I do have a number of issues that I assume have to be some feature inherent to MMORPG’s. Like I feared before the PC release and figured after the PC reviews came out this is not an Elder Scrolls game. It is babies first MMORPG wearing the skin of an Elder Scrolls game, like some weird remake of Silence of the Lambs that focuses more on Buffalo Bill. It looks like an Elder Scrolls game and plays like an Elder Scrolls game but when you get down to it the fundamentals fans loved from the Elder scrolls are just not there.
After a week I’m only at level 16 which doesn’t feel like a lot to me but I can’t pretend to be dead to get out of work too often. I would probably be further but I couldn’t get into a session the first couple of days. A problem they have since fixed but it was literally impossible to get in the door. I understand that part of it was due to higher than expected players but couldn’t pre-order sales alone give you a clue as to how many people will be on? So far there have been little to no other bugs though or issues though. Sometimes the framerate drops and everyone appear as black silhouettes for a moment and minor camera issues but that seems minor for a game this size. Unlike many games that come out or are delayed and still come out bugged up the ass it is nice to see a game of meaningful size actually patched for the most part. Of course there was also the day one patch that was almost larger than the game itself was. I pay for the best internet so I don’t have to wait for things but when it still takes over an hour to download a patch there’s a significant problem. I noticed some people online talking about the patch taking days to finish which is just insane.
I’ve never been big on MMORPG’s since I tend to jump around a lot and they require extensive amounts of time to reach any significant level. While I seem to level up very slow, the leveling system being more like Oblivion than Skyrim where leveling individual traits increases XP instead of a general XP system. However it is rather difficult to even do that when every mission that isn’t out in the middle of nowhere has at least a dozen other people doing it at the same time. For instance, at one point I noticed an Anchor that was just about to open. I stopped and looked around for any other players and didn’t see any in sight so I waited to try and take it myself. Holy hell! The second it opened it was like ringing the dinner bell on the farm. Completely out of nowhere nearly 15 other players rushed in and all hell broke out, I barely had to use a single attack before any monster went down. While it makes things easier it takes away from the game when I just have to hit a boss once and let the masses take it from there. It also makes leveling up very long. There are plenty of quests though for players of all levels, I still haven’t made it out of Morrowind because every time I try to head out I find another group of quest. Many of them are extremely small, even without other player interference they would only take a few minutes and consist of maybe a couple rooms and a few monsters.
I still haven’t completed much of the story but it seems to be the only thing that is primarily single person dungeons. It focuses much on retrieving your soul and beating Molag Bal because he is the prick who took your soul… and something about a bunch of anchors all over the place. Story is not the focus of this game though and it doesn’t try to hide it. Elder Scrolls online is about doing what you want and not having to worry about the story at all. They tell you as much at the beginning, giving you instructions to go forth and do a whole lot of stuff. The weird thing is that no one really seems to notice or care that Coldharbor is slowly taking over Tamriel. Everyone seems far more interested in the civil war. Since I joined the Pact I have only ever seen the Covenant though which seems very odd. If it is a three way war than where is the third group? Are they just attacking each other in a clockwise fashion? I don’t know how it is for the other groups but the Pact seems flimsy as hell for a unified army. No one seems to like each other and half of the missions are just to get them back together or to at least stop bitching. I met one dark elf who couldn’t stop telling me how much she hated Khajit and asking me to deal with them, apparently unable to see my tail and fur under the armor.
It plays a lot like Skyrim as in you can dual wield weapons but you can’t dual wield spells anymore. I admit I had some trouble figuring out how to purchase spells or abilities and then attach them to my control bar. Once I did figure out how to use skills combat became much easier. This game could really do with a bit more of a tutorial or some kind of direction. There are decent tutorials for all the crafting systems but I had no idea they were even there until I was already level 14. I didn’t even need to go get the items because I had already collected them all to use for my own crafting. Using skills is also a little confusing until you start getting into it. Mainly it is trial and error and hoping you picked a class you are good with. Money is difficult to come by since most shops pay like crap for goods you sell and most missions give you minimal money. However as I have progressed I find I don’t really need money. I just swap out gear for new stuff I find or earn. The only thing you really need to buy is a steed of some sort, but since I received one for free with my game I never had to worry about it. Most my money I have sunk into more inventory slots for my pack and my bank. Being a Skyrim hoarder I find I can’t help but keep everything possible in case it is useful later. Since there are no property or personal homes though I have to rely on other means to store my goods which becomes rather annoying.
There are a lot of good things in ESO but I still don’t think many people will like this game primarily because it is not an Elder Scrolls game. It wants to be an Elder Scrolls game but it just can’t cut it. Many of the ideal parts of Oblivion and Skyrim just aren’t here. Especially certain missions that I always loved for the Thieves guild, Dark Brotherhood and for Daedric artifacts. I did meet Sheogorath but it was a cameo appearance at best. Although I am almost certain the plague and projectile vomiting is the work of Daedric prince since he did the same thing in Skyrim. There’s not much more I can even say on the subject, it looks like an Elder Scrolls game but the fundamentals are all missing. Elder Scrolls just doesn’t feel like it can work in mass multiplayer setting. It’s too simple for MMORPG’ers and it does not contain enough Elder Scrolls for Elder Scroll fans. It’s a bizarre gaming mishmash that is mildly interesting for multiple groups but doesn’t really hit home for any of them.
There are a lot of things going on here and I suggest anyone should try this game if they are interested in any of it. While it does have an identity crisis it is very rich and expansive where it would take any gamer ages to complete if not just to finish in general. There is some hope for the future as well though with the E3 announcement that they will be adding Cyrodil and Orsinium. There was also a teaser for the Dark Brotherhood. If it is a free expansion it could easily bring a lot of that Elder Scrolls crowd back by itself. Even if it is not free it will still draw in a lot of the fan base. In the end this game is good but it is primarily there just to fill in time until our next stop at the Batman station, a game that seems to be extremely promising.