I first saw the Elder Scrolls Online over a year ago and i was blown away by the concept. Take one of my favorite series of all time, mix in some of the fancy shenanigans from the MMO games everyone seems to like and you get multiplayer Skyrim. I was more than excited. Playing it at QuakeCon last year made me love it even more. As the beta tests continued, I was able to see more of the game and refine my opinion.
The Elder Scrolls Online is similar to Skyrim in allowing either third or first person point-of-view. The first person aspect makes for great immersion into your character, but isn’t as good as third person for the large combat areas. Spells and skills are hot keyed to the number bar letting you keep your favorites ready to go. Characters skilled in magic are much more accessible, and the game is designed to allow players change freely between melee, ranged, and magic attacks.The game play is non-linear, encouraging exploration. Treasure maps are vague enough to be fun, but let you recognize where to look. The side quests will occupy many many hours of gameplay.
The game starts with the player in Coldharbour, the Daedric realm of Molag Bal. You have been sacrificed by cultists to the Daedric prince. After escaping you learn that Molag Bal is making an attempt to merge Tamriel with Coldharbour. You are instructed by a mysterious man called The Prophet on ways you can assist him and defeat the Dardric prince. Meanwhile there are three factions all vying for control of the throne as Emperor of Tamriel. The Aldmeri Dominion is an alliance between the High Elves, Wood Elves, and Khajiit. The Daggerfall Covenant is led by the Bretons, joined by the Redguards and Orsimer, or Orcs. The most tenuous alliance is the Ebonheart Pact: an aggregation of the Nords, Dark Elves, and Argonians.
The graphics of ESO are quite impressive for an MMO. While it isn’t as pretty as my heavily modded Skyrim I was impressed with the level of detail in the game’s textures; especially with how much content a game of this size entails. Being that I was playing a beta, not all the characters had voice acting, but what was in the game was top notch. the music blended well into the surroundings and fit with the atmosphere of the game; so well at times you didn’t really notice it. I prefer a soundtrack I forget is on than one that slaps me in the face reminding me they had to play music to fill the silence.
The pricing of the game is its main failing. The Digital Standard Edition costs $59.99 with the Digital Imperial Edition setting you back $79.99. Both come with 30 days of access to play the game. after that, there is a $15 subscription fee each month. Remember, this game has no offline single player mode. To play ESO for one year costs $225! Zenimax claims that bonus content will repay the monthly fee.
My other complaint about ESO is that it lacks the special appeal of The Elder Scrolls. Yes, it is in the ES universe, but it feels like a generic MMO with an Elder Scrolls skin draped over it more than an Elder Scrolls game that is multi-player. The combat is good, but nothing makes it spectacular. The same goes for the story and characters. Nothing hooked me and made me have to play more, especially as the betas went on and I was exposed to more content.
If six months from now the monthly fee is dropped I would definitely pick up a copy of ESO. I might even buy a new DLC pack or two if they were offered for $20. A $15 monthly fee adds up to an awful lot of money and doesn’t motivate the developers to make the DLC engaging and make me want to play. The bottom line is if you’re a hard-core MMO fan who wants to check out the Elder Scrolls universe, this is the game for you. If you’re an Elder Scrolls fan, ESO may satisfy your thirst for Tamriel until The Elder Scrolls VI comes out, but you’ll pay a premium for it, at least until ESO hopefully becomes free-to-play