Well, as promised, here are my impressions of Elder Scrolls Online after playing this weekend. Obviously, since this game is in beta, it is not fully refined, but I felt like I learned some valuable things from my brief playtime.
The Good: Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) has many of the best parts that make Bethesda games great. The exploration is fun and diverse. Even in my few evenings of play, I traversed rolling hills, wide beaches, mountain ranges and populated towns. The landscape is beautiful, even it’s beta format, particularly for an MMO.
The skill tree is equally enjoyable. Some MMOs lock you down into specific weapon sets and style of play based on character choice. While alliances and races affect your skills to some degree, every option has a variety of combinations you can develop for your character – similar to Skyrim. This encourages a lot more experimentation with play styles and weapon sets.
The crafting, the little I was able to delve into, also retained its fun from previous Bethesda titles. Due to time and beta limitations I could not conduct an extended investigation, but my brief forays into cooking and enchanting were some of my favorite parts of my playtime.
The Bad: Quest chains in this game feel very long, and sometimes boring. While it is nice that many of the waypoints in the quests are located fairly close to one another, the tedium of many of the tasks sets in early. The fact that I was bored of quests after only two hours of game time is a very bad sign.
One of the problems, I think, is that you receive no rewards for completing different stages of a quest – unlike games such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2. In fact, you receive VERY little loot/gold for quest chain completion – mostly experience and skill training. Still, I found that completing quests gave me large leveling bonuses, but the time to XP ratio seemed off. I felt as though I leveled up just as fast running around killing things (and frankly, it was more fun) so after a while I ignored the quests all together. For an MMO, a game system built on the quest model, this is also a very bad sign.
The Ugly: Even though it’s in beta, I had a number of issues with my playtime. Problems varying in severity from bugging out quests and graphical glitches to disconnecting from the server altogether. I won’t write ESO off yet, but due to Bethesda’s history with glitchy game launches **cough**PS3 version of Skyrim**cough** it makes me nervous. Specifically for the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game.
Frankly, from what I saw, this game is NOT worth the projected monetary cost. The game is $60 up front, and another $15 per month. That means the first year of play would cost somewhere around $240!
The game, as I saw it, is essentially “Skyrim with friends”. But honestly, the “with friends” part is not done amazingly well (internal player activity is so-so) and the game fails to innovate the MMO franchise in any real way. Perhaps, as things develop further and if it launches successfully, there will be additions to set Elder Scrolls Online apart from other, cheaper, better MMO experiences.
Final Thoughts: While Elder Scrolls Online is a well crafted game, the financial cost of the game is not worth the experience. There might be hope if ESO sees more changes before launch and some innovations after it stakes its claim in the market, but time will tell.
If you wanna spend your money, pick up the Legendary Edition of Skyrim when it goes on sale on Steam. It’ll be just as fun and a tenth of the price.