Reviews»PC»Elder Scrolls Online
2014-04-12_00022
Kareem Ali 4.5

Elder Scrolls Online

 

  • The good

    Entertaining and engrossing quests and overall story. Combat is intense and characters can be customized to your style of play. PvP is top notch and exhilarating with its addition of siege weapons. Graphically stunning

  • The bad

    Limitation of skill bar takes away from the enjoyment of the different combinations of skills. Length of research times. Repetitive NPC character models and some dungeons takes away from the immersion. Lack of a residence even for guilds

  • The ugly

  • Elder Scrolls Online is a MMORPG developed by ZeniMax Online Studios, published by Bethesda, and is set in the fantasy world of Tamriel. You play the role of a hero who wakes up in a prison cell in Coldharbour, a plane in Oblivion under the dominion of Molag Bog, the Harvester of Souls and the Daedric prince of domination and enslavement. Your long trudge towards the nothingness that consumes all souls in Oblivion is interrupted by one called the Prophet who states that you’ve been through a terrible ordeal but he can get you out of Coldharbour if you rescue him. He says that you’re unique and calls you vestige, a soulless one, and arranges for you to receive help from Lyris Titanborn so the two of you can fight your way through guards and atronachs to advance through the prison to find the mechanism needed to free the Prophet. You are able to escape from Coldharbour with the Prophet but the two of you are separated when using the crystal that transports you, and the Prophet has to tell you your mission from a distance. Molag Bog has a plan to create chaos in the realm and seeks to pit the different alliances against each other so they can be distracted from his real goal, which is a planemeld so he has dominion over all. It’s up to you to travel through the land seeking out the agents of Molag Bog and stopping their nefarious plots while receiving help along the way as your reputation grows in the land. But who is this mysterious prophet and how does he know so much? It is true that the alliances are being pitted against each other and it’s necessary to meet them on the battlefield in Cyrodiil because the Elder Scrolls can’t be trusted in the hands of those vulnerable to Molag Bog’s schemes, and the race is on to see who will rise to be Emperor among the factions. Can you travel through the land destroying Molag Bog’s schemes or will you strive to rule Cyrodiil over the other factions?

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    GAMEPLAY

    Many fans of the Elder Scrolls series have been calling for an MMO based on it for a good while and when it was officially announced that there would indeed be one I was very hopeful as well as skeptical of what it would mean for the series. I’m one of many who put in hundreds of hours in Skyrim and if I was ever asked to describe my experience I wouldn’t know whether to talk about hunting dragons so I could absorb their souls and gain new abilities, my experience as a werewolf and what it was like to search the land for prey, or just talk about the random encounters (and quests) that spawned some very memorable memes. The point is there was so much to do in that game it wouldn’t be possible to cover everything in a casual conversation, and even if you described the main quest as the Dragonborn and putting a stop to Alduin’s plan you would only be scratching the surface of everything that was available in Skyrim. With the seemingly unlimited quests, vast landscapes, and updates that added so many new game play elements, Skyrim was essentially as vast as any MMORPG but without the multiplayer aspect. So Elder Scrolls Online is in a somewhat unique position of trying to appeal to hardcore fans who might not have ever played an MMO before while also being a strong enough MMO to appeal to those who regularly play (and also would subscribe). And right off the bat both of these elements are present because you start off in a cell and when you interact with the Prophet there’s the usual close up and options associated with the series but as soon as you run outside your cell you see numerous others running as well making it clear this isn’t the usual Elder Scrolls game. Fortunately, everyone doesn’t look the same, aside from the initial tattered clothes that everyone is wearing as prison garb, because the character customization is pretty deep, and there are 9 races (10 if you purchase Imperials) to choose from and you can change everything from height to facial hair to the distance between the eyes and the nose, if you desire. Different races belong to different alliances so you will see the same races initially and My guide to Choosing A Race gives a breakdown of the alliances and racial traits.

     

    2014-04-05_00009

    Many in Tamriel meet a sad fate on the road

     

    There are also 4 different classes: Templar, Dragonknight, Sorcerer and Nightblade. The class you select determines your special abilities but not your style of play necessarily. This initial area, Coldharbour, serves as a tutorial, and regardless of the class you choose you only have a bar of 5 slots to use for your abilities, one quickslot for inventory items, and one slot for an ultimate ability. If you’re accustomed to MMOs this lack of available slots might be jarring despite only having a few abilities available initially. You do get a second bar you can switch seamlessly even in battle at level 15 and you can keep the same weapon while changing all the abilities, or you can even change the weapon and therefore your style in the midst of a quest. For example, one of my characters uses a bow with all long-range abilities slotted for one bar but I switch at times to my second bar where a sword and shield is equipped with all close range abilities slotted. It makes it a hell of a lot of fun when I’m playing and need to adjust to a different enemy (or group I’m with) and it’s necessary to get up close and personal. Combat isn’t complex as you have a light attack, a heavy attack that requires you to hold the button longer, and you can block and bash, which allows you to interrupt enemy attacks allowing you a brief moment to gain an advantage. Special abilities require either the use of stamina or magicka, and your ultimate ability can be used once you fill the meter up, which can be fairly quickly. And when you character levels up you can choose to increase your health, stamina or magicka bar, plus you get a skill point, which you can use to unlock a new skill, active or passive, or upgrade a current skill. However if you’re new to the Elder Scrolls series it’s important to know that your abilities also level up based on your style of play so if you prefer to use a two-handed sword and constantly use it your skill with two-handed swords will constantly improve regardless of your level. So theoretically you could be on level 10 but your two-handed skill could be level 20, so your character adapts to your style of play and this is another level of customization. And here is where the limitation of slots can be frustrating because the game offers you so many abilities and skills to explore, literally dozens, yet you can only choose up to 5 of them at a time so it’s possible you never even explore certain skill lines. And since every skill can be morphed into a different form once you reach a certain level of proficiency with it, you might completely overlook skills you might enjoy the most. However, I’ve been enjoying the combat thoroughly, which feels more like Skyrim than other MMOs, and the clean interface showing only health and level of enemies helps with the immersion. And eventually you do get used to the number of slots available, which was undoubtedly a factor when considering the control scheme for consoles.

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    All NPCs are fully voiced, which helps early on in building the story but when you start to see how massive this world is you’ll appreciate that more. The race you choose, which determines your alliance, determines your starting point once you escape from Coldharbour. As I explain in My guide to choosing a race, the individual stories and characters vary but they all deal with political subterfuge, cults terrorizing areas and random encounters on roads. So aside from the scenery, which is absolutely stunning and makes me gaze like a sightseer often, you won’t feel cheated out of a good story based on your alliance. And the PvE quests thankfully are deep and engrossing story-wise, and you won’t have to worry about picking 10 types of flowers for a quest as the quests in Elder Scrolls Online will have you searching to put a stop to assassinations, overthrowing bandit control in towns, or fighting Daedra either through the dreams of someone else or as part of a quest for one of the NPC guilds. It is true that you can just pick a direction to head in and just run and find quests as the game suggests on loading screens, however you are mostly restricted due to your level since enemies in different areas have specified levels that don’t change based on your level. As can be expected from games that have hundreds of quests, some do seem slightly repetitive in ways such as having to enter someone’s dream or travel through time to play as another character but since the story is always changing it never feels tedious. One thing that does throw me off, and I don’t understand why that’s the case considering the deep level of customizing faces, is the sheer number of human characters that look alike. And I don’t mean every 100 quests but almost every quest on the higher levels that has a number of humans has the same female face among them. This is something that can be rectified easily but the benefit would be much greater as the illusion of a living world would be maintained. The same thing goes for dungeons where the layout for some of them look similar and you might wonder if it’s one you’ve already explored and the only way you can tell, if you can’t recall, is if the location on the map has a white icon and not a black one. But I’ll get back to dungeons a little later. I do feel that players who’ve loved Skyrim for the quests will enjoy the quests in Elder Scrolls Online as they have similar themes and execution. There is a main campaign and approximately every 10 levels you’ll be prompted to return to the Prophet for a new quest and more of main story unfolding, including the identity of the Prophet. I’ve really been enjoying the PvE and I don’t know how I’ve been so fortunate to not come across any quests that are broken due to bugs considering the amount I experienced prior to release, but I have encountered disappearing inventory items, even helmets while they’re being worn, and the occasional lag when entering big cities but it would only be briefly. Some of this is to be expected the first month of launch and knowing how much has improved since I first started playing the beta last year, I would expect these things to be smoothed out with really good support.

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    The map is indeed massive, as expected, and you can travel either by foot, mount, or using wayshrines throughout the land. You can teleport to any wayshrine you’ve discovered for a fee, which is relative to the last time you did that, or you can travel from one wayshrine to another for free. This of course saves time but another way Elder Scrolls Online tries to create an immersive world is through its crafting system, and you won’t find the materials unless you’re willing to just travel the world by foot or mount. There are 6 trades, and the crafting system is the most enjoyable crafting system in any MMO I’ve played. You’re not limited to what type of crafting you can partake in nor how many trades you can pursue at once. Check out my guide to the basics for a more thorough layout of the crafting system. You use skill points to unlock additional crafting abilities of your choice so you have to make a decision whether you want to use your skill points on specific abilities or to unlock crafting perks. One of the problems I have with the crafting system is the amount of time it takes to research certain traits to apply to items. Initially it varied from 6, 12 and 24 hours but lately I’ve had some research times take 3 days. It seems like things have reverted back to the 6-24 hour timeframe so hopefully that remains the case because it’s inexcusable to have research topics take 3 days, especially considering there’s a monthly subscription, and it only punishes players who can’t schedule their free time around research topics. There is no built-in system that allows you to profit off the items you craft by providing them to other players such as an auction house or a posting board, but you can initiate trades with other players even through email using the COD system so items are only exchanged if the price is met. The general chat is teeming with people looking for items so it won’t be difficult to make connections. And you can use the guild store to sell your items to other guild members and you can set your price as well when listing an item.

    And I’m aware that many people choose MMOs based on the community of players and Elder Scrolls tries to make this easy as well. I can’t speak on everyone’s experience but outside of the early gold spammers I’ve had nothing but a positive experience with other players whether they’re veteran MMO players or new MMO players who’ve just enjoyed the Elder Scrolls series, and part of that is because everyone is relatively new to this game and have to become accustomed to its unique aspects. There are plenty of guilds out there you can join, and even though you can only create one guild, you can join up to 5 guilds, which all of your characters will belong. The guild I joined is very helpful with types and that’s how I learned the requirements and where to be turned into a werewolf (and yes you can become a vampire too.)

     

    2014-04-28_00005

    Destroying an anchor with help

    Even if you’re not one to seek out and join a guild there are many ways you’ll receive help from other players even without asking in some cases. It can seem unusual at first if you’re new to MMOs to see many players running to perform the same tasks, and if you’re not then you’ll be pleased to know that who receives loot is never an issue. There are many times you will encounter an enemy that’s too tough to take on alone and few things are better than receiving an unexpected healing as other players enter the area evening the odds. It’s such a good feeling that you might decide to just stop and help another player you’re passing by defeat an enemy by letting off a few shots in a perfect example of pay it forward. And even if you get off just one hit you will receive loot so it’s beneficial to team up. Now there are dungeons where you’re required to form a group in order to stand a chance of completing it and you can use the grouping tool in the game to find others who are looking for a group in that area or for that quest…or you can just look at the players standing in front of the dungeon hoping others come along so they’ll have help. Areas have never felt too cluttered for me or too sparse, and aside from banks (or crafting stations) in major cities I’ve never experienced many players standing around waiting for something to be done for an extended period of time.

    There is no aspect of the Elder Scrolls Online that requires working with other players on a massive scale such as its PvP campaigns. I laid out the basics of PvP in a previous post, and aside from using the same character and having the same control scheme, you’ll have to learn completely new mechanics and strategies, and there are completely separate skill lines for PvP. So it is possible to solely play just the PvP and completely skip the PvE quests once you reach level 10 because in many ways it is a separate world. And this is another area where the limitations of the skills bar comes into play because even though it is thrilling to be involved in a massive assault on a keep complete with siege weapons and you don’t feel limited in the midst of battle, there are some skills that aren’t as effective in PvP as they are in PvE. The classes have been well-balanced in my experience and there’s no advantage for ranged or melee combat that can’t be overcome with a combination of push or pull actions, so it’s not until you get deep into the skill lines do you see this. And if you decide to solely play PvP then you can easily choose the abilities that will help you the most and you can equip assault and support skills that only work in PvP without hesitation. But if you play a combination of PvE and PvP then you’ll have to change your skills every time you enter or leave Cyrodiil to maximize your effectiveness. So even if it’s not possible to have more than 5 skills, since I’m accustomed to switching between bars now, it would be a tremendous help if you were given an additional set of bars you could switch between as soon as you enter PvP and vice versa. It doesn’t have to be possible during combat but only outside of combat. And considering how easy it is to enter PvP it should be equally as easy to leave Cyrodiil instead of being required to use the transportation system and then a wayshrine. Now the PvP has been addictive to me with some of the best battles conjuring up images in my mind of epic sieges such as the one on Helm’s Deep, so it’s definitely possible to be fully engrossed in Cyrodiil.

     

    2014-04-20_00004

    Anyone home?

    So after playing this for a month how does it hold up, and is it worth it considering you have to buy the game and pay an additional monthly fee? Well clearly that’s an economic decision and I can’t factor everyone’s financial situation into the equation. I also won’t discuss whether or not a subscription based model is financially sound in the long run for the company but I can share some viewpoints as a gamer. It’s too late now to pre-order (unless you’re waiting for the console release) and get a month free, which would basically be the equivalent of just purchasing a full priced game. If that was the case then with just the sheer amount of content available and based on the assumption you would play this game as much, if not more, in a month than other full-priced games then it would definitely be worth it. They’ve really nailed the feel of an Elder Scrolls game overall while providing a full MMO experience where you can become so engrossed you’re still saying an hour later, “I’ll do just one more quest.”  As far as a subscription is concerned this is the only subscription based MMO I currently play and will play because it wouldn’t be wise for me to pay for others due to time constraints and not getting the full value if I had more than one subscription. If you’re turned off by the subscription because you’re not sure if it’s worth it then consider this: how many games have you purchased at full price only to pay $15 for an episode as DLC and it only provides you with 2 or 3 hours of additional content? So if you love the series and this is a game you truly enjoy then instead of 2 or 3 hours of additional content you’ll essentially paying for 30 days of additional content. And at this time I’m assuming there will be tremendous support from the developer so if you can see yourself playing this game on a regular basis then it’s worth it to me. I would like to see some additions such as the ability to establish residence somewhere, which could have many benefits for your character (or guild). It’s by no means perfect at the moment but it provides a truly engrossing experience that provides hours of enjoyment and variety.

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    SUMMARY

    The Elder Scrolls Online is a solid and highly entertaining MMO adaptation of the classic series offering enough for fans of the series and MMO players alike to keep them satisfied. The limited skills bar takes away from the deep customization and impressive skills that open up later but being able to switch skill sets in the midst of combat, the combat is addictive mechanically, visually and aurally as your character becomes a true representation of your style of play. The quests are never superficial and the story lines always tie into the greater story arc of Molag Bog’s plans to have dominion over all, which is very intriguing and full of twists and surprises. And the PvP combat exceeds the PvP of other MMOs I’ve played, and with a community of players all learning the same mechanics, players have been nothing but helpful and enthusiastic when facing off against other alliances. If you’re an Elder Scrolls fan then I highly recommend Elder Scrolls Online, and if you’re an MMO player I highly recommend it as well as it provides an online experience that is unique in many ways and very rewarding for the time invested in it.

     

  • Gameplay ( 8 )
    Graphics ( 9 )
    Sound Quality ( 9 )
  • Total score 8.7

2 comments

  1. T-Go Co Games (@TGoCoGames) - April 30, 2014 11:44 PM

    Great read, as usual!

    I disagree that the limited skill bar is a bad thing though. I believe that one of the reason I and many like me get what is known as altitis (the constant making of alt characters rather than just one or two) is the fact that MMOs often get much more complex later in the game, without necessarily getting better. Just because my attack pattern has gone from 3 buttons to 9 doesn’t make it more fun or engaging.

    By limiting the number of skills you can use at one time, you can customize your style without combat becoming a chore of button memorization!

    Also, the worst thing about the game is the constant repetition of bankers and people hanging around crafting areas. If you’ve been to Daggerfall you know that there is a guy at the blacksmiths who would totally buy the hero who saved the king a drink, and the banker thinks that the saying “Neither a borrower or a lender be” is stupid!

    Reply
    • Kareem Ali - May 1, 2014 9:13 AM

      Thanks!
      I don’t feel that it’s completely a bad thing but it does have limitations that sacrifice a greater enjoyment of the skills available and makes it tougher for those who like to switch between PvE and PvP often. I wouldn’t want 3 bars with 10+ skills on each but 2 bars with 6-7 skills would be better. So that way I could add one more stamina based skill as opposed to deciding whether I want to focus more on Magicka based or Stamina based for my class. As a Templar some spaces are taken for healing but some skills will only truly work in a group. And yes I could put stamina based on one bar and just switch but then that would limit my customization. And adding a game play mechanic that switches between a set PvP customization when entering Cyrodiil (but not while in battle) would just save time for players who use different skills in the different modes.
      It always makes me laugh seeing like 30 players standing around a banker and I don’t even hear what they say because I’m trying to identify the banker lol. I liked arrow to the knee better lol

      Reply

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