GVN Review: The Elder Scrolls Online (PC)

The Elder Scrolls Online
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Zenimanx Online

I am utterly disappointed in you Zenimax online.  I am disappointed that you had the utter gull to release a game that gave us the idea we would be playing an Elder Scrolls game online. I am disappointed that you gave us false hope in that we would be exploring huge areas of Tamriel that have never been visited in any of the previous games of the noble franchise.  I am disappointed in myself for jumping onto the hype train and feeling the impact of the crash upon the realization that this is nothing more than a standard MMO style game with the Elder Scrolls name slapped on it.  Make no mistake, Elder Scrolls Online is not a bad game, but it's not a good game either.  It had expectations to live up to and it never met any of them.

Let's start off with the good things that The Elder Scrolls Online managed to do right.  As a game that is part of the Elder Scrolls universe, it had access to tons of lore that was developed over the franchises' twenty year existence.  They managed to get the majority of that lore and mythos and incorporate it into ESO so that it would feel like a true Elder Scrolls game.  The story takes place over 1,000 years before the events in Skyrim when the Imperial Empire was in disarray.  There are 3 warring factions that are trying to seize power and you can create a character and play for either faction.

The character creation mode is almost spot on with the other Elder Scrolls games like Skyrim and Oblivion.  You can adjust every aspect by altering body figures, changing hair color, skin tone and so on and so forth.  All the races are well represented along with their traditional bonuses and race specific abilities.  I'm disappointed however that the Imperial race is only available as purchasable DLC or with one of the collector editions of the game.  Along with that I am surprised they only have 4 classes to base your character and abilities on.

The Elder Scrolls Online is also a very gorgeous looking game.  Not quite as gritty and realistic as Skyrim, nor as beautiful and fantasy looking as Oblivion, but rather somewhere between the two.  All the NPCs, cities, monsters, enemies, and scenery look good and very detailed.  Magic spells, environmental effects and alike all have a nice wow factor to them as well.

To my amazement, they did manage to make ESO play just like an Elder Scrolls games within the confines of MMO space.  The controls are spot on and you have easily accessible abilities and menu options at your finger tips.  Questing and exploration, which are staples in the Elder Scrolls universe are just as prominent here and have the added bonus of now finally teaming up with people.  The combat even works the same with real time combat similar to what we are used to in Skyrim and Oblivion, with a single swing actually connecting to an enemy that is within range.

However it is also in the gameplay department that ESO starts to heavily fall apart.  While the game is heavily based with lore and puts great emphasis on exploration you are actually limited in a sense.  Exploring begets you experience points, treasures and even waypoint shrines for quick transporting but the rewarding factor is dismal.  The ability to interact with your environment, a staple of the series, is limited to opening one or two drawers in a house if that and maybe the bookshelf will have a single book to read.

The map system and compass are rather useless and horridly designed.  Every time you are in town and check the map of the surrounding area, you are only allowed to view the city map.  You'd have to actually go outside the town's borders to see the map of the entire zone your in.  The compass is just as bad with its way points for Possible quests, active quests, guild houses, etc all sharing the same damn markers.

The combat system, even though it managed to carry over into an MMO setting is also not without issues.  While you can attack enemies in real time, the doesn't seem to apply to your foe.  There they don't seem to have any restraint in being able to hit you from 5 to nearly 10 feet away, something I see in MMO's like World Of Warcraft.  It also seems that one too many quests, with an enemy that is of equal level with you, always seems to be stronger forcing you to team up when you shouldn't have to.

Teaming up or just playing around other people in general is a mess.  I have had issues where my teammate and I wouldn't spawn together in the same instance for a quest.  Or even worse, one of us won't be able to complete the quest because we weren't credited with the kill or acquiring a quest item.  Waiting for a boss to respawn is pretty bad in this game because it takes way too long.

Also the reward system is a travesty.  Every now and the you might get a decent magical weapon/armor/item that is identical to something you can get in a shop.  Yet the biggest crime is the gold you receive be it from looting a random bandit, monster, boss character, or even selling items.  On average you will receive no more than two to three gold from a corpse you loot.  Selling equipment is worse, where you get maybe one third the value.  To make matters worse, you have items for purchase that are ludicrously priced like highly leveled armor and horses.  In fact, if you didn't shell out extra money for the imperial edition, you probably won't be getting a horse for a long time.

Probably the biggest problem I have with ESO is the leveling system.  Here Zenimax online tried to fool use by thinking they managed to allow us to create a play as you want style game when in fact it's foolish to do so.  The skill tree system they have in place feels very clumsy as it tries to mimic what we had in Skyrim.  You still level up in a traditional sense like in past Elder Scroll games but I honestly could not tell if I was getting stronger in the abilities I concentrated on.

Unless you concentrate your skills and abilities heavily for Warriors, or magic for Arcane mage, you are going to have a difficult time getting far by yourself.  The thought of playing maybe an Assassin or even a Ranger sounds novel but not when you are on an uneven playing field.  The damage output for these classes is abysmal and the perks and abilities are fruitless save for a couple.  I have issues dealing with groups of monsters or bandits as a Ranger which forces me to constantly try and find someone to team up with.

And there's the final issue with Elder Scrolls Online.  I have had so many issues trying to find someone to team up with.  I see thousands of people running amok, interrupting my quests by killing my quest boss monster, but none of them want to team up with me.  Unless you've made it past ESO's story end game and compete in the PvP, chances are you will have to play this game solo.  Isn't that really the point of what ESO was about?  To finally go online with people and explore the vastness of Tamriel?

As an Elder Scrolls game, ESO dropped the ball big time.  As an MMO however, Elder Scrolls Online does follow suit by offering a variety of quests, dungeons, scattered treasure, strong boss monsters and of course PvP.  All of these elements works very well and can actually keep you glued to the PC for hours. However what is now keeping me away is the failed experiment of something we as fans of the series have been wanting since Morrowind.  There is a decent MMO here that meets the bar but as an Elder Scrolls game, they dropped the ball big time.  Unless they do some major updates to correct a lot of these issues when the Xbox One and PS4 ports arrive, I can't recommended The Elder Scrolls Online to even the diehard fans.

+ Great graphics, something that meshes Skyrim's grittiness with
Oblivion's fairy tale fantasy look
+ FPS combat similar to the series' roots.
+ Pretty good CAP system
+ Huge zones of Tamriel to explore
+ Controls are good
+ The Main Story is worthy of any Elder Scrolls Game
- Leveling system is a bust
- Trying to team up is a hassle and wasted effort
- Too many glitches that ruin quests
- Quest Essential enemies take too long to respawn
- Very limited exploration, lacks that feel of interaction that the
series is known for
- The map system is a mess
- Classes and abilities aren't varied or balanced enough and seem
to favor a specific play style 
? Take out the Elder Scroll elements and you have a standard
quality MMO

Overall Score: D+

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