The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is Bethesda Software’s first foray into the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (mmorpg) genre. It lands players squarely into the familiar world of Tamriel which has been the home to all of the games in the Elder Scrolls franchise. I have been a fan of the series ever since the third installment, Morrowind. So, of course, I was excited to get my hands on this first MMO set in the world of Tamriel. Let’s jump right into what I got from my time in ESO.
As Bethesda/ZeniMax Online describe it, “Three alliances clash in a struggle to claim Cyrodiil, the heartland of Tamriel, and the chaos of war spreads to every province. Unlikely allies stand together on the battlefield, but a more sinister threat stirs beneath the surface—the Daedric Prince Molag Bal, God of Schemes, is hatching a plan to pull all of Tamriel into his Oblivion realm and enslave every mortal soul. It is in the face of overwhelming odds that champions are forged….”
From the player’s point of view, I didn’t really get much of the story the publishers described. Certainly, there were certain elements that had to be observed and certain plot points that had to be followed, but beyond the initial character creation and choosing a faction, it is not until late in the game that you really experience any of the elements of the three alliances clashing for control. It is possibly due to the fact that I have been playing MMOs since Ultima Online way back when, but the story didn’t pull me in. I didn’t feel pulled into the world of Tamriel with this story as I have in previous standalone Elder Scrolls games like Morrowind or Skyrim. In fact, it follows the basic tropes of every MMO on the market so completely that I was able to play through hours and hours without reading a single message or story point. I did not feel that I had missed a beat without reading any of the dialogue either.
If you have played any modern Elder Scrolls game, then the gameplay mechanics are old hat to you by now. You have your choice of first-person or third-person views as you move through the world. You engage in combat with your choice of weapons and spells. The combat is as it has been for over a decade now. You run and slash and dodge to take down your enemies, engaging in real-time combat rather than a turn based or time based version of combat. Dropping into the world and figuring out how to move through and interact with it is effortless and automatic for anyone that has played a similar game before, and for those that do not have experience with similar games, there is a built in tutorial to guide you through learning the basic controls and mechanics necessary to successfully navigate Tamriel.
My personal impression of the game lands it with a solid B- or C+. The graphics on the PS4 did not feel even remotely like they did all that they could with the engine they had access to. In fact, the graphics for the previous standalone installment, Skyrim, far outstripped those of ESO in my opinion. Rather than set itself apart from every other MMO since World of Warcraft and implement interesting and unique elements and gameplay patterns, ESO just stuck with the same basics that every other MMO out there has used. So, if you really want to experience a version of Tamriel in which you can run around and adventure with your friends, then ESO is your best bet. If, on the other hand, you were hoping for something more like Skyrim but with a co-op play style and shared worlds, then you are out of luck. For someone who has been playing MMOs regularly for well over 5 years now, unfortunately, ESO did not have anything to offer me to keep me enthralled