50 MMOs in 50 Days #16: The Elder Scrolls Online

Last played: 2014
Experience: Extensive

What bugs me the most about The Elder Scrolls Online is just how wrong I was about it.

I’m usually pretty good at pre-judging an MMO, at figuring out whether I’m going to like or dislike it even before I’ve played it. To some, this may sound like I go in with preconceived notions and will bring about “How do you know if you like it if you haven’t played it?” questions.

These days, though, we have so much information about a game prior to launch – especially a big, AAA game like TESO – that it’s nigh impossible not to form an opinion, and usually a strong one, before playing it. I form general opinions of games before they launch (and it’s kinda my job to talk about those sort of things) and have pretty much never varied from them after getting into a game for real.

And my impression of TESO was that, yeah, it was going to have its warts, but as a long-time fan of the Elder Scrolls series, I thought I’d still like it. I played around a bit with it eight months before its launch and in beta and had a generally good time.

Screenshot_20140415_225450I’ll still gripe about the inventory system (tl;dr: There are so many crafting components and so little inventory space, the game needs a Guild Wars 2-style of mass component storage). If you don’t like the combat or PvP or story or crafting or dungeons or whatever other game element, that’s fine, too, but all of these are, I think, smaller than the bigger problem with The Elder Scrolls Online: namely, that it’s not an Elder Scrolls game.

After you get out of the opening area in Skyrim (or any other ES game), you then can go.. anywhere. Want to follow the main quest? Sure, go that way. Want to go to a far-flung city or roam the wilderness? Do that instead. At first, I thought TESO allowed you plenty of freedom to explore, but I eventually realized it was just another station-to-station, slightly-less-linear-than-most-MMOs leveling experience.

And that strikes at the heart of the Elder Scrolls series: namely, the freedom to go anywhere you want and do anything you want. True, that’s tougher to do in an MMO, where you can’t auto-adjust monster levels everywhere; if I’m 15 and you’re 40 and we go to a zone together, what level are the monsters? You could do what EverQuest Next is doing, and have essentially no leveling and very minimal vertical power growth throughout, but that’s a concept that hasn’t fully caught on yet – and certainly wasn’t a thought that probably occurred when TESO was being conceived five-plus years ago.

Unlike other bugs or issues, it’s hard to imagine this singular failing of TESO ever being fixed. If you just want to experience online Tamriel, knock yourself out. Me, I think I’ll wait for a real Elder Scrolls MMO.

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7 Responses to 50 MMOs in 50 Days #16: The Elder Scrolls Online

  1. This is one I haven’t played yet, and which I don’t quite know how to feel about. I liked a lot of what I heard about it pre-launch (such as the extensive potential to customize each class), but I haven’t really played any of the other Elder Scrolls games, so I assume I’d probably be pretty lost in terms of lore and such (which is important to me), and when I did finally give Skyrim a try, I didn’t enjoy it at all. So that tends to lead me to think I probably wouldn’t like TESO either.

    But then again, you’re saying it’s not like the other Elder Scrolls games, so maybe I would enjoy it.

    Well, whatever. I continue to patiently await the inevitable free trial and/or free to play conversion.

    • jasonwinter says:

      Well, it depends on what you didn’t like about Skyrim. If you liked the ability to go around and do anything, but didn’t like the combat or visuals or voice acting… well, you should still stay away from TESO.

      I did forget to mention the classes, though. You’re right in that they do seem to have a lot of room for variance and are probably, gameplay-wise, the best feature of the game. Or at least they will be once they’ve had a few balance passes.

      • Mainly what I didn’t like was only having access to two attacks/spells/whatever at any given time, and the fact that I seemed to spend 95% of time traveling rather than actually doing anything. Seemed like less of an action RPG and more of a horse-riding and kleptomania simulator.

      • jasonwinter says:

        Skyrim didn’t have a hotbar with a bunch of powers, though you could assign various stuff to different number keys so you could switch around pretty quickly. It’s really more like a first-person shooter in that regards.

        And as for all the traveling… gah, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to call BS on this one 🙂 If you want to be insta-ported to the action, stay in an MMO and queue up for dungeons all day long. Me, I’d rather explore the open world and stumble upon something unexpected from time to time. Sure, it might be mundane 95% of the time, but that 5% when it isn’t makes up for it, IMO.

  2. Pingback: 50 MMOs in 50 Days #20: Free Realms | Wintry Mix

  3. zax19taken says:

    From what I’ve seen the game was fairly decent but only if it was B2P or F2P. As a sub based MMO? No chance in hell, too many bugs and too little original mechanics.

  4. Pingback: 50 MMOs in 50 Days #27: LEGO Universe | Wintry Mix

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