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The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Lots of MMOs entice you to try them out. Very few of them grab you by the metaphorical balls and demand that you play: The Elder Scrolls Online does just that. With a huge collective of fans watching the series’ every little movement and nuance, there was already a built-in player base raring to get their hands on this new massively multiplayer project, not to mention the vast community of MMO gamers who will try their hand at any new release in their favourite genre.

Of course, with the benefits of an almost religiously fanatical following comes the drawback of a serious case of inevitable scrutiny; making the already involved job of developing the game even more of an uphill battle long after its release. So, how has the development team (put together  solely for this game) done? Simply: pretty good.

 Being both an MMO addict and a big fan of The Elder Scrolls series, it felt like embarking on my journey in a vastly populated Tamriel was a dream come true. I did try a few different race and alliance combos, but settled on a trusty Nord, mainly because I couldn’t get enough of them in Skyrim. Following the same thread of thought, the Ebonheart Pact was the obvious choice, because that meant not only being able to explore parts of the familiar, wintry north of Tamriel, but the region of Morrowind too! All kinds of win, right there.

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The opening of the game amply explains your reason for being in this world. Without ruining the plot - there is a prison, a stolen soul and some cool teleporting. Of course, the novelty of being special is somewhat hampered by the fact that everyone around you has gone through the same introduction and is also the “saviour”, but I personally found that very easy to forget as soon as I launched into my adventures.

And launch is what you do, in a rather upward direction towards your appropriate alliance’s starting city. Once there you can start tackling some of the quests. Each alliance actually has a starting area separate to the city that you spawn in. They are optional and were removed in the beta test, however; I found them really enjoyable and would recommend trying them as they ease you into the plot nicely.

One way The Elder Scrolls Online stands out from its peers is with the story, which is very immersive. If you’re the type to click accept before reading the quest then this will undoubtedly do little for you, but true RPG fans will appreciate the voice acting behind the characters and the thought behind the many different quests which create a very immersive world indeed.

The questing overall is impressive. In fact, calling it questing at all seems wrong because it conjures up images of endless item collecting, grinding and your bog standard MMO building blocks, and the system does not work like that at all. All missions seem natural, necessary, and like your help is actually making a difference. Conversing with the different people is interesting and realistic; granted the lip syncing and facial animation is not perfect but this is easily forgiven due to the impeccable audio communication. It’s very easy to get lost in the story and I often found myself caught up in events, truly caring for the fates of those I helped.

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Aiding this sort of immersion is the design of the world, which is fantastic. Everything looks spectacular, even the parts that are supposed to look gloomy and dank are done so well; in true Elder Scrolls style. The day/night cycle is particularly beautiful to behold, rays of light shimmering through the leaves of trees as the sun rises, or the hot red colour of the sky behind a lava-ridden mountain as it sets and doing all this whilst still looking realistic.

Speaking of realism, I’ve seen a fair few people who have labeled the graphics of The Elder Scrolls Online as samey and undistinctive. Personally I feel that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, as a whole the world has a unified theme, you know you’re still in Tamriel wherever you are, but the differences between regions are definitely there. It is done subtly and smoothly, making the transition between locales effortless. You’re not going to go from one area to the other and be completely surprised by an unrealistic climate change and environment, which I find keeps you in the world rather than removing you for a moment while you adjust your bearings. Better yet is that all this pretty scenery is rather friendly on the old graphics chip, so a decent laptop should run it on high without as much as a whimper.

One of the parts that has made its mark on me the most is the combat. As an experienced MMO player, often the combat system can be somewhat lacking. Click to auto-attack here, hotbar some specials there, job done; skill comes down ultimately to the micromanagement of your spells. Here though, there is no auto-attack, and every click of your mouse affects the outcome of the fight. Left-click will swing away your weapon, right-click will block and several other combinations allow for other beneficial moves like interrupting or dodging incoming blows. This is a very refreshing system, and with a minimal hotbar containing only five spells, it means your decisions are snap second and simple, and you’re never left searching for the right thing to click.

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That’s not to say that there’s a limit on the types of spells you can put in this hotbar, because there really isn’t. The Elder Scrolls Online shows its RPG history with a levelling system and skill tree that is expansive to say the least. Of the four classes you can choose from, there are skills to learn unique to each. On top of that you have skills that become available depending on what guilds you join, what armour you wear and what professions you choose. It means that the diversity between players is absolutely enormous, and gives you a chance to really play around and tailor your character to yourself. Skills also level independently of your own XP levelling, making the whole process feel very fluid, rather than linear like many other games in this genre. Of course the downfall to this sort of expansive system is that the lines between standard RPG roles (ie. tank, healer, crowd control) become quite blurred. It does make grouping up interesting and at this point in time it is definitely going to be easier to take on those larger challenges with friends or guild members whose builds you know are going to complement your own. At the moment, picking up random party members is a bit pot luck, but that shouldn’t be an issue on the smaller scale events.

If you like large-scale battles though, then you will want to jump into the PvP, which becomes available at level 10. Now, Cyrodiil (which is where this Alliance War takes place), is huge. And by huge, I mean really, really ridiculously huge. The scope and size here is really quite overwhelming, I have never seen anything like it. Again though, it’s probably worth tackling this with friends because it is very easy to get lost in the 90 day events that take place here. Although, if like me, you like a bit of a wander round then you can totally waste some serious hours discovering all its nooks and crannies.

The Elder Scrolls Online really is an Explorer’s dream. It’s such a rewarding world to explore, and if you’re the type that leaves no stone unturned then you’re going to get so much enjoyment from this game. You can find all sorts of little treasures, bonuses or just beautiful spots from running around the surroundings that all the rest could easily become an afterthought. One of my personal highlights was heading for Riften and Windhelm, which, if you’ve played Skyrim, you’ll instantly recognise. I cannot stress enough how well they have been designed - strangely familiar and yet totally distinctive to ESO.

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All in all, The Elder Scrolls Online is a great game, with one of the most successful MMO launches I have come across, despite some of the well-documented teething problems. As it stands, I can only see improvement here and Bethesda Softworks seem dedicated to making that happen. There are a few niggles here and there like the amount of people running around sometimes taking away from the atmosphere and the almost endless amount of skills making roles less defined, but as a whole, a great job has been done. With the continued love and hard work that has obviously already gone into the game, I can see no reason for this to fizzle out like so many others. I’ll certainly be sticking around; I feel I’ve barely touched the surface!


8.00/10 8

The Elder Scrolls Online (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

All in all, The Elder Scrolls Online is a great game, with one of the most successful MMO launches I have come across, despite some of the well-documented teething problems. As it stands, I can only see improvement here and Bethesda Softworks seem dedicated to making that happen.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Emsey P. Walker

Emsey P. Walker

Junior Editor

Emsey is a lover of games and penguins. Apparently she does some writing too...somewhere...

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