Now before I start with this review, I need to point a few things to everyone.
- This is my first foray into MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games for those that do not know)
- I am a massive fan of Elder Scrolls series of games, starting at Morrowind.
- This review will not feature much in the way of how PvP works as I do not play it much, if ever. So if you are looking at the features of PvP this may not be the review for you. If you’re looking at the PvE experience then read on right ahead
- Final note, this review is post-Morrowind chapter and I play it on Xbox One on the Europe server.
So now that those points are out of the way the review and we will start with:
Now graphics and the reason I am doing this first is not that important to any RPG game, and not trying to seem to like an absolute pain the backside, but if graphics is your be all and end all to RPG games, or any game to be fair, go play on PC.
The graphics in this game are very nice to look at, very pleasing to the eye, and the drawing distance allows you to stand on top of a hill and enjoy the view. This is truer when exploring the Aldmeri Dominion regions and Ebonheart Pact regions, my ultimate favourite been Stonefalls, especially at night. The lava flows from ash mountain just add a gorgeous gleam to background and areas around you. The netches floating around Morrowind, in general, are beautiful to see as they roam around.
The Aldmeri Dominion, which seems to be a very popular place for players, is amazing to walk around and explore, just like the Ebonheart Pact regions, the glow from the trees, just entering the Elden root capital and going into the centrepiece of the city is gorgeous to enjoy and be amazed at when you first see it. For me, it was, as my first experience of these two regions were when I played in the Daggerfall Covenant regions and one quest taking you to the capital of the regions, so seeing the difference between all three really influenced my decision what do once I finished the Daggerfall Covenant areas.
The Daggerfall Covenant areas are nice to see, but they do not really hold the same stunning and gorgeous visuals that you see in the other two areas. With the Daggerfall Covenant regions really only consisting of fields and desert with the odd change of mountainous region, it felt very moody and dull compared to the other two, even though it was still nice to see when you start like I said before. Yet more variation would have been nice to see, even some more desert would have been better, as we only see the Alik’r region and part of Bangkorai. The rest being fields and cities and a little rocky area, and it got pretty dull.
Post-Morrowind these do not change, the new areas are diverse, from the sands of Hew’s Bane, the snow and icy decor of Wrothgar, the rich colourful dangerous and might land of Vvardenfell and the beautiful Gold Coast. So there is plenty of terrains to explore. My only issue is that with the One Tamriel update from last year is that you then have no diversity amongst the crafting items you receive. Very few plants can survive all of these environments, and been this is an MMO they have the ability to make Tamriel look so rich and diverse in terms of the items you find that when you find everything everywhere it just takes out the immersion from the game slightly.
My final point on this revolves around Morrowind, been it is an area that no doubt hardened fans of Elder Scrolls have been to previously. So for the developers to be so lazy and kind of restrict players who just want to explore the lands of Tamriel, not been able to go and visit Red Mountain properly, Hell even Kogoruhn is a public group dungeon and only featured in the caverns. So that restriction to some areas, some iconic areas is a letdown, even as I write this review since first buying it around 18 months ago.
You can play this in two ways, and like previous Elder Scrolls games, it’s in first or third person viewpoint. Now I played it, all the time in first person viewpoint, for two reasons, one combat and interacting with the world is a hell of a lot easier. This moves onto my second reason and that third person felt clunky to control. In no way did I feel like it was smooth and played as I wanted to, it felt like I was playing an old racing game using the D-pad where I had to constantly tap in the direction I wanted to go until I finally made the corner.
Crafting it easy to get into, sometimes a little too easy, it is very streamlined and simple to do, just go fetch your materials, refine them until you have enough then create it, easy. Now an issue that has cropped up with each newer iteration of Elder scrolls is that crafting, create armour, potions, spells (which is not in this game yet), weapons etc are getting so easy and so simple that it is becoming boring. Now bearing in mind that in Morrowind that when you created a potion you need to use one of the several pieces of equipment, like retorts, calcinator, mortor and pestle, and these ranged from apprentice to grandmaster.
One big problem I do find with this games crafting is that I cannot pick up anything, you get about a dozen ingredients for alchemy, you cannot experiment like you did in Skyrim. Now obviously comparing it to Skyrim in any way will annoy some people, but considering this is an MMO and an RPG at the core, the customisation options for creating and crafting things should be considerably more. So as you travel around Tamriel you will see plants, mushrooms etc, that will catch your eye and you will think I want to make a potion with that or see if I can make some sort of weird thing with it, but no. To make it worse and compound this, in some quests you do get to collect these ingredients for NPC’s in quests, so been a player that loves crafting, creating armour, potions, enchantments, it is very annoying that I cannot make these things to sell to guilds or other players. It is even more annoying and infuriating post-Morrowind as the amount of new flora you see going into the new area is substantial. Once again you cannot grab these and have a play around with concoctions, and you are restricted by what the developers are allowing you to do.
The combat is very good and is one area that has been really looked at since Oblivion, which was so bad it was almost as bad as Morrowind, which been on the original Xbox had an excuse for been that way. Plus upgrading your skill in swords, or axes or spears meant you hit more often, so it worked in Morrowind. Elder Scrolls Online does make good use of the combat ability and improves on it, and the reason I compare it more to oblivion that Skyrim is that they both ran the same engine, the Havoc engine, which is a big down point for this game.
The Havoc engine as I just mentioned, is not a very good engine at all, I cannot think of a single game that used the engine that was amazing, or excelled. Now I know people will point to Fallout or oblivion, but neither of those games were great for their gameplay and more importantly for their game mechanics and physics. Skyrim, which used the creation engine, like Fallout 4, was a much better engine than that of the Havoc engine and both games saw vast improvements with their game mechanics and physics, less reloading of the game in particular. Yet Elder Scrolls Online, a number of times I have had to reload areas, log off and back on, just to get quests working for me, and more so in Coldharbour, almost bordered on unacceptable, been that this game has been out for over 3 years. Now obviously some of those have been ironed out and going through my second playthrough now, I am seeing a lot less of it. But still, it can be infuriating to deal with, even more so if you pay your £8.99 subscription which I do, for ESO plus.
Now after I have played the game post-Morrowind, this game still has its issues, the game still can chuck you out of the game, less now than when I originally wrote this review, I still get the loading screens sometimes when I am running around the areas quickly. However one issue in particular sticks out, the longer loading times. As each new area is added to the game, whether they call it DLC, Dungeon or now Chapters, the loading times are getting longer and longer. Hell, When a new area is added to the game, I do not even play the game for a month or two simply because the servers will crash and there will be issues, every time.
Now I could have called this section anything, replayability been another, but longevity seems a better fit, how long will you complete the game, and how often will you want to keep going back to this game?
Well, the answer is a long time. The main quest line, including the region quests, which each region has its own story arc, and each group of regions also has its own story arc and on top of that, you have lots of quests within those regions. Then if you the main quest line, which takes you pretty much up to level 50, which is the level cap. But after completing the region you start in you get to experience the other two regions in the game, so you can do all of those quests. Roughly speaking each of the groups has around 250 quests to complete, so give there been 3 of those you are looking at 750 quests, roughly. On top of that, you can do quests in Cyrodiil, which takes that tally above 1000 quests, roughly. To top that, if you purchase the DLC or subscribe to ESO plus you can do the DLC quests which add a lot more, and there are repeatable quests. But then if you want to do more try PvP, which I have not really got into yet. Considering I bought this game in February 2016 and by the time of this review, done the Daggerfall Covenant, half way through the Aldmeri Dominion, Ebonheart Pact, and Cyrodiil, and completing the main quest arc to Orsinium. I still have the other half of the Aldmeri Dominion and Ebonheart Pact, more quests in Orsinium to do, the Thieves Guild and Cyrodiil to complete, and soon Dark Brotherhood there is a lot to do.
The one thing I will say, Cyrodiil is huge, and is very boring if you prefer to PvE, as there are vast spaces of absolutely nothing there. Sometimes I can go running around for 30-40 minutes and find no resources, cities are very easy to run by as they on several occasions they have not even appeared on the little map helper at the top of the screen, which is the same as Skyrim, or on the main map, which objects tend to appear on when you are within a certain distance of them. This should occur for delves, cities, way shrines, which are only in the groups HQ areas, not in the main map of Cyrodiil, and other objects of interests.
The level cap, though it is at level 50, does theoretically continue after that, as that is the point you start to earn Champion points, think of it as similar to Skyrim’s perks system only you get them more often and they increase you stats percentages at a time. It did use to run into Veteran ranks, but when Dark Brotherhood drops, already on PC and on 14th June on consoles, this will be gone and Champion points take over. Which in my opinion is much better, and allows you to go on further past Veteran rank 16.
Now overall this game is enjoyable, even more so for Elder Scrolls fans, and a must for those. But it is not without its flaws, some, still, are big and hopefully are fixed soon. The DLC’s that are coming out, and those out already, add some exciting content to it, and I hope they continue to add more areas to the game world for us to explore. Given the fact the console versions are called Tamriel Unlimited, they should eventually add in the whole of Tamriel into the game world, which will be extremely exciting.
Now I hope to continue updating this review as the game brings out new and exciting DLC, Dungeons, and Chapters. But this game always has some sort of issue, which creates problems on top of problems. The new features they add with updates and this DLC’s and other things keep people coming back, but they keep going away due to fundamental problems with the game itself. Plus it always has this one massive issue now over it, is ESO the main reason for Bethesda to not be working on Elder Scrolls 6 like it would normally be at this time, with Fallout 4 finished. Why, because why have two Elder Scrolls game at the same time, Elder Scrolls 6 would hit the subscribers and user base of ESO while it is within its current, I believe its, 5-year cycle.
It very much well worth a go, if you like RPG’s it’s worth trying, its free to play model, with an option to purchase access to the DLC is a good way to get players in. I would advise if you do play it a lot, get the subscription, as you do get 1500 crowns, which you use to buy DLC and extra things in the crowns store. You also get 10% extra coin from quests, 10% more experience, 10% extra crafting materials, and in the next DLC Dark Brotherhood crafting bags to hold an unlimited amount of crafting materials. These all add up when starting a new character, and allows you get a slight advantage on others, making some quests less infuriating. Also, you will, if you love RPG’s or Elder Scrolls, get very much sucked into this game, as it will take a very long time to complete everything it has to offer.