The Elder Scrolls Online has met a lot of controversy since it’s initial announcement; the £40/$60 price tag paired with the £8.99/$14.99 monthly subscription fee in particular rubbed long time Elder Scrolls fans the wrong way, and even though Bethesda have been aiming for a genuine Elder Scrolls experience, long time fans of the series have worried about the final quality of the game, and whether longevity is viable in an Elder Scrolls MMO.
Since the beginning of the five day early access I have spent a considerable amount of time in the world of Tamriel–approximately 30 hours–and my Dunmer Nightblade has currently reached level 20.
The world design is surprisingly refreshing. Beaches and forests are extremely colourful and possess enough rolling hills and dank caves to create mystery within the world. The towns, unfortunately, are not as wondrous. Most settlements–so far, at least–are reduced to an anaemic brown or grey colour, filled with seemingly useless buildings and more NPCs than one would ever need.
Most of the time you spend within towns will be on crafting. The crafting system is incredibly deep, enabling you to craft your own gear from the get go, as well as enchant your customised apparel and weaponry with buffs and elemental attack bonuses. What makes the crafting system so enjoyable for me is the fact that it functions identically to that of Skyrim’s. Venturing out to find ore, runes or alchemical ingredients is not any more of a hassle than it should be, and it feels rewarding creating a great potion or bow after all of your mats-grinding.
Questing, again, is somewhat akin to Skyrim. Saving villages or stopping Daedric rituals are all singular, contained experiences that don’t better the plot in any way, but are extremely enjoyable nonetheless. The ability to make binary choices within the quest lines actually immerses me a little more; simple ‘live’ or ‘die’ choices are present, however so are more practical choices such as: ‘I will go and find her,’ or ‘someone else can find her.’ Every line of dialogue is voice acted, and masterfully so. John Cleese, Malcolm McDowell and Kate Beckinsale are but a few of the voice acting cast, bringing a great deal of quality to the final product.
Combat is the core part of The Elder Scrolls Online–much like any MMO. With the LMB assigned to attack, RMB to block, and your hotkeys 1-5 as abilities, with ‘R’ as an ‘ultimate attack’. Attacking is your basic form of damage, something you will fall back upon whilst your abilities are on cool-down; although the animations are great, the basic attacks generally lack any ‘punch’, making you feel as if you aren’t doing much damage. Active abilities play a large part in combat, changing your play style with every upgrade. Ultimately the combat is satisfying and fun, however it can sometimes leave you feeling as If you aren’t contributing much to the fight.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with ESO thus far. Is it worth the subscription fee? My honest answer is I do not yet know, and £40/$60 is a lot of money to invest in something that you may drop in the coming weeks due to lack of content. If you are a fan of the Elder Scrolls, the lore surrounding Tamriel, and Skyrim’s game mechanics, you should feel right at home. Otherwise, stick to Guild Wars 2 or DC Universe Online, as their style and mechanics could scratch your itch, for now.