When The Elder Scrolls Online was first announced, the reaction was a mix of excitement and trepidation, depending on where you stood on MMORPGs as a genre, and whether you believed ZeniMax could strike a balance between what makes games like Oblivion and Skyrim such great single players experiences with the execution of a persistent online realm like World of Warcraft such a compelling extension of an already existing universe and lore.
While playing the beta for a weekend, it was hard to get a sense of where the game lies on the latter end of the spectrum because the online population was so restricted. What I could gather from my time with the game is that it actually does a fair job of replicating the typical Elder Scrolls experience, to the point where one would hardly miss a beat going to this game straight from Skyrim. Leveling, experience, and crafting nearly work identically to the previous games in the series, albeit with a little less depth perhaps. You only have four classes to choose from, but the skills are divided in such a way that you have a plethora of choices in deciding how to develop your character. Unfortunately that has the downside of both decision paralysis and the possibility of choosing such a suboptimal build as to make the game more difficult than desired, and it remains to be seen how badly this affects PvP balance.
In my experience as a Khajit Nightblade I found myself soon overwhelmed by a spike in difficulty of the bosses once I reached the quests in the level 8-10 range. I’m not sure if it’s because I chose the wrong talents, did not have the right gear, or because the game was nudging me to group with others. Currently the UI and the lack of tutorials does not seem to enable much cooperative play in the PvE game, but I imagine that will be built upon later on. Instead, I mostly played it the way I would have played any Elder Scrolls game, and that includes exploring the generously sized maps that make other games like FFXIV feel positively claustrophobic, doing all sorts of side quests including joining the fighters guild, picking locks to treasure chests with the nifty mini game, and figuring out what I could craft from all the items I scavenged along the way.
For an MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online is fairly ahead of the curve visually. It’s hard to tell whether it really falls short of Skyrim’s graphical prowess or if it’s just the brighter colors and increased variation that only makes it seem less gritty and realistic, though. Almost every interaction I had with an NPC so far has been accompanied with voice acting, so the production value is certainly there as well.
I have to admit I was one of those who was supremely skeptical of an Elder Scrolls MMO, but after a couple days with it, I can say that at the very least it might be worth experiencing for the diehards even as a solo experience, as it doesn’t compromise too much of the soul of the game so far, but I’m still left wondering what if anything unique the game has to offer to the MMO genre as a whole, as I didn’t find much of a draw towards actually playing the game with others, besides struggling to get past a specific quest.
Be sure to read PVP Hand On Part 2 of 2 of our Elder Scrolls Online here.