Hands On: The First Few Hours Of Elder Scrolls Online

By John Walker on February 7th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

Elder Scrolls Online (“The” optional) is out in April. That’s quite soon! So over the last few days Bethesda have opened it up to allow some journalists in, to have a poke around. I’ve played up to level 7, so far, which isn’t enormously far in, but does represent that crucial opening five or six hours. And I’m here to tell you all about them.

While my expectations of Elder Scrolls Online were not enormous, after the disappointed reactions of earlier looks, I like me a bit of solo MMOing. Trundling through quest arcs in that idly satisfying, box ticking way. It recently got me through all of Neverwinter’s launch content, well, content. So, I figured, why not the same for ESO?

Well, it’s just… it’s just a bit boring.

I know this is terrible criticism – I get it. But, well, it is. Now, traditional MMOs are – before you reach the point of massive parties in raids or elaborate PvP battles – a vacuous experience. I like them for that. I’ve no interest in the raids or the PvP; when done well I enjoy the bit where you charge about, picking up strings of quests, killing ten of this or gathering five of those, and then trundling back. If the setting is interesting, and the action engaging, then I will merrily while away afternoons doing this low-energy gaming. So I’m trying to put my finger on what it is that stops it from satisfying me in ESO.

There’s no escaping comparison from the rest of the Elder Scrolls series. And nor should they be. They’ve made a definitive and absolute statement when they chose to call this Elder Scrolls Online. It is that legendary series, taken into a shared space. And so it absolutely must be judged in that context.

While there’s a level of hostility reserved for Skyrim that I’ve never understood, the reality is – whether it’s to your tastes or not – it is an extraordinary, enormous, and flawed game, and a remarkable achievement. Like the games before it, it offered a massive, open world, and allowed you to live, just be, and experience an involved and engrossing story without even touching the game’s main plot. It let you carve your own path.

ESO lets me feel like I’m playing an MMO.

Things begin about as generically as you could imagine. You’re dead, in Cold Harbour within Oblivion, a Soul Shriven. But you’re escaping from a prison, down a long, repeating corridor, guided by Captain FemShep Hale, being told the very basics of looking, hitting and picking up. Then with nary a care for its incrediblityness, you’re brought back to life in the starting zone relevant to your racial grouping. A small area, littered with quest chains, and more stilted acting than you could shake a sofa warehouse advert at.

Quests can be so phenomenally dull. I know TES is hardly renowned for its high calibre storytelling, but this is really the pits. There’s a sequence I encountered at level 5 in which I was involved in a dispute between two factions about something to do with who gets to live on the island. They all had ridiculous names like Wlloner or Pikliqon, and were all grumbling about some treaty, and I was apparently supposed to put in far more effort than I possess to care about who was who and why they were cross. My role was to run between three people who were in the same room and click through the conversation options until it was over.

That done I was sent to a building next door, where SHOCK, someone who was supposed to be alive was dead. It was now my job to run to each of the map arrows in turn, click through the conversation options, and then eventually, after chasing about town for about an hour, decide if someone got to live or die. To no consequence or interest.

At the end of this extended bilge was a character fighting with the choice about whether to kill someone in bloodied revenge for the murder of her loved one, or recognise her partner’s former compassion and show it herself. Except she talked as if she couldn’t decide whether to get green beans or mange tout in the supermarket. What could have been an emotional scene, were it not the most hackneyed gaming “choice” in all of existence, was rendered farcical by the dry, maudlin script, and the chipper am-dram delivery. And so it goes.

At one point a boat’s captain asked me to find three of her missing crewmen. They were within her eyesight.

ESO tries to make changes to the traditional format. So in that opening section, there’s not a single “kill 10” quest to be found. “Great!” you might think – what a refreshing change. Except, so far there’s nothing in its place. Instead, in an effort I suppose to be more true to TES’s nature, the emphasis is on the little vignette you’re playing out. There are rapidly respawning beasts about the land, but they’re incidental to what you’re up to. So in the end, what you’re left with is just the stuff that you’d usually click through in other MMOs to get to the good bits. The banal conversations, scrambled justifications to have you move from point A to point B. Well, in the opening few hours, at least.

Were these encounters, these play-lets, of any interest, this would likely be pretty enticing. But instead it’s all bluster, people telling you how utterly important everything is, because the Grand High Priest Of Cliffaffle Poplington has sworn his enmity to the Wolf Queen Of Qqqqqqqb, which will likely cause the Ancient God Robert to rise from the Tombs Of Fort Backalick, raising the terrifying forces of BasingStoke. As hard as I try to concentrate on what they’re saying, not only my eyes but my entire brain glazes over, until I realise they’ve all stopped speaking and the little arrow on the map has moved one building over. Actually, I needn’t make up my own barely-parodied versions – here’s a genuine sentence from the game:

“The ritual tore the veil between Nirn and Oblivion, allowing Mannimarco to begin stealing the souls his master needed to power the Dark Anchors and initiate the Planemeld.”

Two moments in the opening hour were so awful I had to walk away from the screen. The first was the gratuitous appearance of a blithering John Cleese, as a character wearing a pot on his head because WACKY! IT’S JOHN CLEESE FROM OFF OF THE MONTY PYTHONS, REMEMBER! LOOK! A POT ON HIS HEAD! Bleaurgh. The second occurred when someone emphatically informed me,

“You’re important, and everyone and everything we’ve ever loved is in danger.”

That’s not a parody – that’s word for word what is said.

Every cliché is in place. Your guide once alive again is a mysterious, shady figure you’re not quite sure if you can trust. In one town you meet the SHOUTY LEADER MAN WHO SHOUTS, and then the weepy lady whose husband got eaten by spiders or whatever. To give credit, a lot of the powerful, leader characters are women, but none has anything interesting to say. They’re cardboard, speaking in cardboard.

And yes, it’s fair to level lots of these complaints at Skyrim or Oblivion. While each contained some lovely moments, there was an abundance of witless drivel being murmured by bored actors. But the difference was, you could just hop on your horse and ride off up a mountain to watch a sunset, before stumbling on a hidden cave leading to a ruined dungeon packed with marauding skellingtons, where you find a book that tells you about a secret place in a nearby tower… In ESO’s first few hours, you follow the marker to the next quest giver.

And if you do want to ride off on a horse, that’ll be 17,200 gold please! By the first time I found a horse seller, I’d got 1,173 gold in my pocket, and spent almost nothing. And no, you definitely can’t steal them. Oh good.

Combat, I’m afraid, doesn’t save it from its plague of blandness. I created a Wood Elf nightblade called Hemlock. She’s a hunter, and I’ve specialised her for bow – that’s my favourite class to play. But it’s just the same hotbar spamming of old. I’ve got a few tactics – showering enemies in a rain of arrows (4), then firing a poison arrow as they run toward me (2), turning invisible just before they reach me (1) and then stunning them with my veiled strike (3). 4, 2, 1, 3 mostly does the trick. Sometimes there are two of them, and that means hitting the left mouse button to spam arrows, and almost never remembering that the right button blocks, and both together disables an enemy’s special move – because that doesn’t seem too necessary.

There’s no impact to the combat, and while it shares The Secret World’s cone-of-attack dodging, it feels loose, flimsy and detached, like Elder Scrolls games don’t. Compared to MMOs, it’s regular, uninspired. Compared to the series from which this game spawns, it’s very disappointing.

These are, I stress again, just the opening few hours. But they’re crucial hours. Playing them, one could put together a rationale why Bethesda have opted for a massive up-front fee of £50 to start playing the game, before a monthly tithe thereafter. Were this to use the far more sensible free-to-start option, before asking for a subscription to carry on, I can imagine a lot of players would feel no desire to open their wallet. However, if you’ve put half a hundred quid down, you’re going to feel pretty determined to keep ploughing through in the hope for more.

I’m not going to pretend that the above doesn’t look like a kicking. But I want to reiterate that in delivering a bland, ordinary MMO, Bethesda appear to be succeeding. It’s pretty, detailed, packed with wildlife you can senselessly murder. But the issue is, we’ve got an awful lot of bland, ordinary MMOs, and we don’t have a nice shiny new The Elder Scrolls RPG.

Try as I might, I can’t help but see this as all the worst bits of TES games – the dreadful dialogue, the crummy acting, the god-awful inventories (WHY! Why would they deliberately bring that aspect of TES into the MMO world, so you’ve got endless vertical scrolling lists of items, rather than a nice, useful tiled window?), put into an old-fashioned MMO space.

It MIGHT blossom out into something more familiarly Elder Scrollsy. As the beta continues, I’ll get to see more of what’s on offer, find out whether I’ll be enticed into the thief’s guild, given exciting rooftop crimes to commit, and able to explore and discover fun treats, magical painting worlds, and all the things that make the series such a pleasure. For its opening hours, those things certainly do not appear.

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322 Comments »

  1. Jenks says:

    “You’re important, and everyone and everything we’ve ever loved is in danger.”

    This is why I loved the old MMOs, like UO and EQ. The games went out of their way to constantly and aggressively tell you that you aren’t important. If you want to be, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get to work. It’s a shame how unsatisfying current MMOs are by comparison.

  2. Hebrind says:

    Hello, everyone. This is my first post on RPS so bear with me, I do tend to ramble a little bit. Anyways.

    I started out playing Ultima Online in 1998 when I was 13, and since then I’ve always wondered why developers don’t take a few lessons from what is, really, the granddaddy of all MMOs. In UO, you could make a character and toddle off and fight anything you liked, wherever you liked. Certain skillsets (no hotbar!) and your own personal experience as a player had bearing on how successful you’d be.

    There were no levels, no real “XP” to speak of, the skills you used most got better the most, much like real life. If you wanted to be a healer, you learnt some magic and you learnt how to bandage stuff; if you wanted to be a carpenter, then you went out, got wood from trees, made it into planks and made a bunch of wooden furniture and sold it to players, NPCs or just binned it if it was a terrible job.

    When I first joined UO, I learnt a little bit of animal taming and wandered off into the forest and tamed 2 horses. I then sold these horses for players to ride. The playerbase and economy ultimately drove the world around me, with honestly very little input from Origin (the game’s developers) other than them setting general baseline prices with NPCs.

    What struck me most about UO was how free I felt in it, how I felt like I was part of this world and my friends and I could go out, have a proper adventure of our own making and come back to the tavern, weary but happy, and have a chat about it. Maybe even roll some dice. It was simple, it was liberating, and above all it was fun.

    Fast forward to 2005> World of Warcraft hits the shelves and, to its credit, it’s a brilliant game and continues to be so for the next 6 years or so. Millions subscribe and millions enjoy it, myself included. With WoW being, effectively, a beefed-up version of the Warcraft III engine, it made sense that the hero you played as would level up in pretty much an identical fashion to the heroes you played with in WC3, such as Arthas and Uther. Gain XP > level up > gain spells > kill harder stuff > gain XP > rinse and repeat. Easy. Excellent fun. For a time.

    Now we’re in 2014, and it’s already been done. MMO anfter MMO comes out and they’re all identikit setups with a hotbar, XP bar, and levels to grind through and then a set “Endgame” (apart from, notably, EVE Online but I’ll get to that in a moment.). Where WoW did it best (note I say “best”, and not “first”), others followed suit and did it as well. NeverWinter, ESO, Guild Wars 1&2, and many more, while good games in their own right, followed a formula that had already been worked out and answered.

    My proposal is this:

    MMOs are best when driven by players. EVE Online has shown us, particularly recently, that when players see an opportunity to make waves they damn well take it. When players are given the tools and the options to make an adventure for themselves, they’ll have a properly good go. Some more than others, but that’s why they are usually elected leaders or featured GMs/artists. This paragraph’s point: Give us freedom, none of these linear questlines or stories or anything. I mean, an over-arching storyline to set the stage, sure, but quests? Nobody even reads them anymore. Let us make our own, formally or not. Set us free.

    MMOs today are equally blighted by one common factor: COMBAT IS ALL. TOTAL WAR. KILL EVERYTHING. No, nonono. No. Stop it. some people want to start up an MMO and make a name for themself not by slaying a bunch of monsters, but by being social, trading, crafting, the amassing of fortune and friends by peaceful and sometimes even pacifistic means. My fondest memory of Ultima Online isn’t when I killed ogre #5782, it was when I was sat at Britain blacksmiths (North, of course) and hammering out armour for my mates and for strangers. I mean, I started up ESO for the beta about a month back and I spent the entirety of my second day in Cyrodiil wandering around, harvesting nodes (which by the way are a horrible game mechanic), and then making random people free armour. And I enjoyed that – meeting people, seeing them happy, giving them something of worth – WAY more than I enjoyed any of the quests or combat. Let us interact again, properly. Look at EVE – a proper industrial backbone, and people who never, ever, ever see combat, and still enjoy the game fully.

    Finally, but by no means least, don’t give your game an “endgame”. Make it bloody difficult and impassable at the end if you need to. Wandering around in UO, even with the best armour and the nicest swords, Johnny Lich Lord in a forest could spring out and kill you. I mean, he was a proper threat. He was a monster that you met maybe two-thirds of the way into your character’s progression, but when you were a grandmaster warrior with full plate, he still posed a HUGE threat. That was in 1998, but in 2014 you can level a character to 90 in WoW and go afk in many places, and half an hour later not even be dead in some circumstances. I’m not saying MMOs should be utterly unforgiving, but stop treating us with kid-gloves. Give us enemies that will make an impression, they don’t have to be bosses, they just have to be scary.

    I have just read all that back and I totally forgive you if you don’t read it all. But if you did, please, I welcome your comments.

    Cheers guys.

    • aliksy says:

      This is a good post and I see no faults in it.
      –edit 2 days later to fix horrible, meaning-destroying typo

    • MacTheGeek says:

      I think the root problem with all the post-WoW cookie-cutter MMOs is that they’ve been built by developers whose priorities are in the wrong place. The cookie-cutters are bedazzled by WoW’s revenues, not by the actual worlds and the actual gaming experience; so they crank out a game that feels and plays like WoW and hope that they’ll be able to repeat Blizzard’s success.

      CCP has had success specifically because they created a unique gaming experience. Why aren’t they being copied? Because money talks, and Blizzard still makes more of it than CCP. Therefore (in the minds of the executives who run the companies building cookie-cutter MMOs), Blizzard still has a “better game” and WoW is still the game to imitate.

      • Hebrind says:

        Yeah, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When developers and publishers stop trying to out-WoW WoW, then we’ll see a significant leap in MMO quality and innovation.

        World of Warcraft is the best World of Warcraft. Make a different game!!

    • newprince says:

      I like the comments. I would recommend devs focus on a smaller world. That way, they can cram as much detail and give the illusion of life that they want. And as you point out, make it conducive to the players creating the game world.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      If this is the way you usually think/post.. I’m sad you didn’t start posting sooner.

    • DXN says:

      Nice comment! I don’t play many MMOs but I did have a go at this random no-name Korean MMO once. It had all the aspects you’d expect, though it was at least nice and sunny and happy in vibe. Anyway, after going up a few tiers and starting to get bored, I found out what was fun for me. Going back to the starter areas, buying loads of the best starter kit, and giving it away to people who could find my hiding place, or win a race or a mob-killing tournament, or answer a riddle, or whatever else I could think of. It made loads of people happy and gave them a fun time, I really enjoyed it… I don’t see why MMOs don’t have more leeway for stuff like that rather than just being grind-tastic RPGs with loads of other people in the same room.

    • Crowbar says:

      Great comment. Agree with everything you wrote.

      My first MMO back in the day was also UO and I’ll never understand why current MMO developers don’t seem to understand that challenge = good, that success is not inevitable and the entire game can’t be solo’d.

      Something seriously lacking from the article here for an MMORPG is that there is no mention of the group mechanics (that second M stands for MULTIPLAYER). IMO solid group mechanics are what make a MMO a good MMO. Having to cooperate with other people in order to achieve your goals because they can do things you can’t. How well do the group mechanics stack up? Is group play fun? Is it important in a group for you to do your job right etc..?

      I ask about the above because one of the things I miss from one of my favourite games of all time (DaoC) is that the game simply wasn’t possible to solo to MAX lvl. Grouping was ALWAYS optimal, because you can kill tougher things more quicker by having a bunch of classes with a diverse range of roles and skill sets. The game truly was Massively Multiplayer. Not just single player, and occasionally group with other people because you happen to be doing the same quest. You actually had to perform your role in a group WELL to level up in the game. Success was not inevitable. Like wtf is the point of playing an MMO if it’s just designed like a single player game?

      Sorry, lost my train of thought and got a bit ranty. I hope there is more news about the group mechanics.

    • KaosProphet says:

      Eve Online and UO are, so far, the only MMOs that have held my attention for more than a month.
      But. Eve Online has around 500k subscribers last I checked; and no knowing how many of those are multiple accounts. It’s a niche-driven game that offers a great experience to a small group of people, but not indicative of what the mass market wants. And I would have killed someone for Zenimax to take that direction with ESO.

      But sadly, what the mass market seems to want is hand-holding. They want to be told what to do, even so far as how to build their character. It’s ironic, but while many here are kicking ESO for being too much like WoW… most other places I’ve seen are actually kicking it for not being *enough* like WoW. For not having the scrolly-combat-text to tell them “ability 1 does .2% more DPS than ability 2.” For levelling *too slowly.* For having too much space in between the railroad quests. For not having defined end-game raids, or the ability to randomly inspect people’s gear so you can laugh at their noobishness.

      And those are the people you have to convince the moneymen that you can sell to, if you want a AAA budget for your game. So yeah. I want pretty much what you want out of a game, but we’re not likely going to get it out of a major publishing house in this day and age.

      And as far as themeparks go, regardless of what most of the reviews have said I’m actually liking ESO far more than any of the others. It’s not the “fantasy EVE” I would have preferred, but it’ll do until that game comes along.

      That said, there’s a chance EQN will prove me wrong. Because there is actually an argument in favor of going for the smaller audience with the player-driven-content approach: better margins. And some of what I’ve seen of EQN implies they’re heading in that direction.

      • RanDomino says:

        How crazy it is that 500k players is now considered “niche”. I remember when EQ hit 300k and everyone lost their minds.

        • Machinations says:

          Indeed. The truth is, MMOs are dead until someone stops copying and starts innovating. Where is the open-world sandbox where I don’t have to use a ship as avatar and have clunky combat mechanics.

          I suspect, like many others, I would enjoy an open world EvE style game with an actual avatar instead of ships in space. You know, land to explore instead of infinite backgrounds for different systems.

  3. geldonyetich says:

    When I think, “Massively Multiplayer Elder Scrolls Game,” I think Daggerfall, the MMORPG.

    Have you ever played Daggerfall? Sure, there was no overland traveling, and the combat and RPG mechanics were no better than current Elder Scrolls games. However, it had a massive world on a single CD thanks to utilizing procedural generation (it was the same world every time because it just generated everything from the same seed). They managed to create hundreds of vibrant (albeit completely square) cities, pulsing with hundreds of NPCs each, and you never knew what you were going to run into next. It was a world that felt bigger than you, most individual players would likely visit less than 90% of the overall places on the world map.

    Along came Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, et al – and playing them, I could only think, “Well, this is nice, I suppose, just look at all the detail they put into the architecture? Although I do wish there was more depth to these locations, instead of just the hard limits of handcrafted content.” Indeed, these games were more atmospheric than ever, the gameplay improved subtly, but the scale was much smaller. It was less a world, and more just content to be gobbled up by the player.

    Now, here’s Elder Scrolls Online. I can’t say anything about the game that hasn’t already said, because I’m under the NDA, too. So I’ll just say one thing that’s public knowledge already: This is a theme-park style MMORPG. … Need I say more? There are dozens of MMORPG of this genre out there, and players will be asking themselves, “Would I rather I play ESO or World of Warcraft? Guild Wars 2? Rift?” I can’t answer that for you, but I will say this much: I’m sick of theme-park style MMOs.

    I don’t know if they can afford to take this whole project back to the drawing board and make Elder Scrolls Online as something more like massively multiplayer Daggerfall, but a fellow can dream.

    • JanusForbeare says:

      While I’m as big a fan of Daggerfall as the next child of the ’80s, I really don’t think it’s the best example of depth in gaming, nor do I think it would work particularly well as an MMO. Admittedly, the Iliac Bay was larger, kilometer for kilometer, than the British Isles, but that size came at a price in terms of detail. Every one of the thousands of cities drew from one of three (iirc) tilesets. Towns and people had no personality to speak of. The space between points of interest was a sparse, empty wasteland with no defining geographical features.

      Don’t get me wrong, the game was light-years ahead of its time and led the way into the next generation of gaming, but it painted in broad strokes rather than fine details. That design choice is too bland for an MMORPG. Perhaps it would work in a player-driven system like that of EVE or some private Minecraft servers, where the social interactions drive the world and storyline forwards. However, the folks behind TESO aren’t looking to re-invent online gaming or create a revolutionary new genre. They’re looking to draw in regular funding while they pursue the next chapters of their flagship games.

      This line of thinking makes me wonder if a player-driven approach would have placated more fans of the franchise. TES games have always been, at their heart, about putting the player in a complex world that rearranges itself around their actions and decisions. An EVE-style online game would be much more akin to the spirit of TES than the flavour-of-the-month monstrosity that TESO is turning out to be.

      • geldonyetich says:

        So, in summary, your preferred solution to the finite nature of hand-crafted content is to leverage player-driven content instead of procedurally generated content.

        Fair enough, but I say ye this: these two things can coexist in a properly brilliant design. In fact, in many player-driven content games, they do. Minecraft’s elaborate biomes are procedurally generated, and provide the context that inspire players to build.

        Personally, I want to put a clamp on player-driven content because, in every persistent state game I’ve ever seen it used, it becomes as close to Second Life as restrictions allow. Take a walk around Second Life, a land that is equal parts creative expression and sexual fetishism, and it should become apparent where the problem with that approach is.

        My thought, player-driven content is good, but let procedural content do the heavy lifting. Because the developers’ vision can manifest in the procedural content, while player-driven content tends to lean heavily in the, “Lol Randumb” direction.

        So, basically, The Elder Scrolls could have been Daggerfall with upgraded graphics, actual content for overland travel, and so on, and this would have felt much more “Elder Scrolls” to me than yet-another-theme-park-MMO with an Elder Scrolls paintjob.

        I guess Bethesda is just too successful to be able to take risks anymore. Make that into a nail, put it in the coffin that we inter anything resembling enthusiasm for what they make.

        • JanusForbeare says:

          “So, in summary, your preferred solution to the finite nature of hand-crafted content is to leverage player-driven content instead of procedurally generated content.”

          I wouldn’t say that I prefer player-driven content over procedurally generated content (the topic didn’t come up in my previous post). As you say, they can absolutely co-exist. The combination of those two approaches works successfully on the vast majority of Minecraft servers.

          I don’t know if Bethesda – or Zenimax, of which Bethesda is a subsidiary – would go that route though. Tamriel has a set and detailed geography, and for all their faults, Bethesda has always done a solid job when it comes to building lovingly handcrafted environments. Procedural terrain generation has its issues at the best of times (every Minecraft player has run across hundreds of “sky islands”) and might cause more problems than its worth.

          I’m not sure terrain generation is even the issue; the problems with TESO (from what I’ve heard, I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t tried it) seem to be more fundamental than that. The issue seems to be gameplay mechanics. As people are fond of saying, it’s a WOW-clone. This is why I suggested a player-driven system: it moves away from the fetch quests and allows players to take the reins in determining how they’d like to play the game.

          It’s true that there’s a fairly large segment of the population that’s determined to enforce Rule 34 whenever given a bit of freedom. Unfortunately, that’s always the case on the internet. I ran into ERPers in the FFXIV beta, and that’s a standard WOW-clone (one was a lalafell, which is… disturbing). Drozana station, in Star Trek Online, is also completely taken over by that type. I think it comes down to choosing your friends and server wisely.

          You hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. Bethesda is definitely too successful to take risks or innovate anymore. I said as much recently when explaining to fans of the Atvir Dres mod why I took issue with Beth’s recent design decisions:

          To some degree, it’s the nature of the beast that is the gaming industry: the success of a sequel is judged, at the highest levels, by its ability to exceed the sales figures of the preceding games. Nevertheless, Bethesda seems to have welcomed this stagnation with open arms, emphasizing the expansion of the player base over the retention of their traditional audience at every turn.

      • Machinations says:

        “They’re looking to draw in regular funding while they pursue the next chapters of their flagship games.”

        And they are going to fail, like so many before them.

  4. Thunderballs says:

    Nice review of the first few hours.

    One of the things that isnt helping MMOs is we just cant rob people blind the way we used to be able to.

    When you can con some poor bugger out of something they played 100 hours to get using a few porky pies and a bit of flair or ambush someone and get some of their loot there was something for other players to watch out for and react to.

    You rob people playing rogues or thieves and they whine about stealing from them in an RPG!

    You cant let players change their names or make it easy to transfer of to another server . They need to stay and face the music.

    Anyhow I will play ESO but I don’t hold out much hope for its longevity before the pokemon kids get in after most of the mmorpg players get out.

    • Machinations says:

      good post – sandbox gameplay is where core gamers would get interested, but the MMO makers chase kids, but the kids turn on to games that are ‘cool’ based on…what the core gamers are doing..

      they really seem to have failed to grasp the demographics of these games

  5. newprince says:

    I just want to play DaoC, wot with upgraded graffix. I know it can happen.

    No handholding, no pretending to have a story (just have cool lore and the stories will emerge between players), just pure exploration, strategy, and a focus on killing actual players from 3 different factions in a large, contested, well balanced frontier.

    I went from being an ardent MMO lifer to playing none at all. Devs need to fix that.

    • Howl says:

      Amen. This is the first MMO in about 10 years that I’ve enjoyed. We’ve had 10 years of absolutely terrible triple-A MMOs. I haven’t tried out the PvP yet but I’m hoping for DAoC all over again.

    • Crowbar says:

      DAoC is still one of my favourite games of all time.

      Highly recommend http://www.uthgard.net/ for a nostalgiagasm (pre-ToA DAoC freeshard).

  6. Noelemahc says:

    And now, all of you, take your impressions of ESO as a bland attempt to cash in on a well-developed famous franchise while removing key aspects of the gameplay process, and try to imagine: this is how Oblivion and Skyrim felt to me. Morrowind was the last truly original game in the franchise, content-wise, and that was because it retconned half the setting around (like mushrooms on Vvardenfell, or Khajits being anthropomorphic cats rather than painted humans acting like cats) and introduced the modding.

    The series has been stagnant since then, because the one big palpable change from Morrowind to Oblivion was the addition of the console-oriented interface to the PC build. That’s about it.

    Sure, Arena used pre-built sections of the world and was pretty bland in retrospect, but for its time? Crazy freedom. Daggerfall’s day/night/weather cycle and the accompanying dynamic music shifts have only been barely matched by a few very recent indie titles. And by dynamic, I don’t mean “different movements of the same variation on the main theme” which is the musical plague of TES since Morrowind introduced the aforementioned theme.

    TLDR: I’m an old fart, Buggerfall was the best game in the series and it’s all downhill from there in all respects but the graphics. I liked it when I could ask any NPC in the world for directions. I liked it when there would be taverney music inside taverns. I liked it when you could be a wereboar vampire lizardman and would have crazy LSD-fueled dreams because of it.

    But most of all? I liked it when I could choose the direction I swing my weapon in, and it affected who and how and with what I damage, darnit.

  7. floweringmind says:

    What makes Elder Scrolls Online stand out is:

    1. Ability to mix classes and skills. No other MMO has this to my knowledge. Being a mage in plate is pretty cool.
    2. Once you move out of the starter area and into the main world you can have an effect on areas of the world. This is the first MMO that I actually felt like I was playing a single player game.

    The game is deeper than it appears on the surface but it takes some time to get into it. It has the major features you would expect from an MMO. It is not revolutionary like Everquest Next, but it is a very good game and some parts are boring, but many parts are very exciting. I never found myself worrying about my level. The graphics are great. Personally I am sick of cartoony brightly colored MMOs.

    People who want revolutionary or want Elder Scrolls single player will be disappointed.

    I think most people will enjoy this game and it is a great way to spend some time waiting for really exciting MMOs like Everquest Next, Star Citizen, WildStar and the like.

    You can see features that being released and upcoming features after release here: http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/The_Elder_Scrolls_Online

    • Machinations says:

      Personally there is not a single MMO in development that I am interested in – and I think that goes for many of us old folks – the core gamers

  8. Bull0 says:

    Sounds terrible.

  9. Megakoresh says:

    Am I soup riced? Nope. I always knew this game is a waste of money. Both the developer’s the player’s.
    Wasted opportunity to develop a proper new ES game and improve upon Skyrims unsatisfying and shallow (yet unnecessarily complex) combat system and characters, focus on quality over quantity and make a new engine. All that and far more could have been done with the money they have sank into this stupid MMO that noone ever wanted.

  10. Fuz says:

    Personally, I was ready to really dislike it, then I tried the beta and it’s not half bad. I had fun. Not “subscription fee” fun, tho. Would wait for F2P (which is pratically a certainity, after they milk the first subscribers for a few months).

    I also want to mention one little, but really important, thing that I don’t see mentioned often:
    Despite what they’re claiming on their requirements page, this game does NOT work on Windows XP.
    It crashes every 10 minutes or so thus being, in fact, unplayable.
    This was noted in all the betas, and they never fixed it. It’s not some single isolated cases, it’s all the XP users.
    And they’re still selling as a Windows XP compatible game.

  11. EmmaPJohnson says:

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  12. HisDivineOrder says:

    Sounds like TOR all over again to me.

  13. Beelzebud says:

    I played this once while still under NDA, and after the weekend test I ignored all other invites. It’s truly just another paint-by-numbers standard MMO. I saw nothing new that they were bringing to the table. Frankly I was getting a serious SWTOR vibe from it. It’s like they just took every popular system from every MMO and mashed them up into one game, without bringing anything new in to it.

    • Howl says:

      Well.. doing exactly that made Blizzard a lot of money. WoW was completely derivative at release and the things it added along the years have been neat features from other MMOs that they incorporated Borg-style.

  14. Neurotic says:

    I don’t know, a AAA box price AND a sub seems like a waste of time to me. They’ll do it until they’ve made as much money as they think they can, then they’ll finally either go BTP or FTP, at which point I’ll gladly get my wallet out. Before then? nahhh. Dollars to doughnuts they’ve got an item shop design document in a top drawer somewhere, for when the inevitable occurs.

  15. Corwin71 says:

    Definitely wish they’d spent this time and money on another installment of the single player game. There are always those who argue that one doesn’t detract from the other, but frankly, that’s garbage, in my opinion. Any company has finite resources, financial and temporal, and this game (which I will never, ever play, despite being a long time Elder Scrolls player) sucked down a ton of them.

    • Premium User Badge

      welverin says:

      This has nothing to do with the single player games and the only way taking the money to develop this to make another SP game in the franchise would have worked is if someone other than Bethesda Game Studio to develop it, and would you really want a different studio doing that? Throwing more money at them isn’t going to get you more games at a faster rate, unless they double the size of the studio and that could also lead to the same result as having another studio make the game.

  16. dissentience says:

    purty graphics.

    runs only decently on my comp though.

    here’s a screenshot:

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-OfaBbek6_bI/TuVJa2zeQiI/AAAAAAAAD0U/TawALqjGMHg/s1600/Elder-Scrolls-II-Daggerfall.png

  17. n3burgener says:

    “Now, traditional MMOs are [...] a vacuous experience. I like them for that. I’ve no interest in the raids or the PvP; when done well I enjoy the bit where you charge about, picking up strings of quests, killing ten of this or gathering five of those, and then trundling back. If the setting is interesting, and the action engaging, then I will merrily while away afternoons doing this low-energy gaming. “

    No wonder John liked Kingdoms of Amalur so much.

  18. Dinjoralo says:

    I’m sorry, but the combat described here seems like a vast improvement over what I’ve played in Skyrim. There’s actually seems to be multiple attacks per weapon. Better than only having one button per weapon, with the only upgrades being passive.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Thurgret says:

    I went at the beta – there was a big key giveaway – expecting to dislike it. I was all ready to go ‘this is utter rubbish, I should discard it after an hour and never return’.

    In fact, it’s actually pretty enjoyable.

  20. araczynski says:

    not to resuscitate this dead thread, but I couldn’t take a second beta play session for more than a couple hours, the game just feels dry, and the quest navigation system sucks in my opinion. about the only thing it has in comparison to actual elder scrolls (besides the names/verbiage) is the ability to read scrolls/books in the game from time to time for extra lore/info/quests/etc.

    other than that, i look forward to it becoming F2P sooner than later.

  21. tomimt says:

    And here I was thinking that the only thing they’d need to do was to take Skyrim and add MMO elements in it.

    You can’t ruin the NPC aspect of Skyrim like MMO, as the NPC’s are mostly boring as hell, so if the peeps you meet in the streets and roads are real people that would be an improvement. And perhaps in a world like that things like running civil war would finally feel like a real event, especially when palyers can choose their sides.

  22. BreadBitten says:

    Mannimarco

    That name alone is worth getting this game for.

    • Captain Omega says:

      He was introduced in Daggerfall, actually. He was also in Oblivion.

  23. Kada says:

    I have a few problems with this review. I created an account just to be able to post because I have to say these things, my brain won’t let it go!

    I remember playing WoW years ago, and people criticized the game for having gameplay akin to “Go over here, kill 10 things, find 3 other things, bring them back to the yellow punctuation, rinse, repeat.”
    They criticized it because the game could be telling you anything, the most outlandish stories of where you are and what you are doing. The dark portal has opened, and you go through onto the shattered world of Draenor, and first things first, lets kill those pigs man.

    Seeing someone lamenting about the loss of this sort of mindless drivel is insane. This was the number one thing holding back the mmo market from being taken seriously from those on the outside; the absurd grindy feeling that you’re just chasing a question mark around everywhere. And now we’re going to review games complaining that the game isn’t fun if we play it like that?

    The reviewer goes on to describe a situation where a storyline which I did not get in my beta time where he is, to paraphrase, followed a quest marker into a room, in between three rediculously named people, then next door to someone else, and after it all made a decision who should live and who should die. Maybe something got lost in the translation, but it sounds to me like someone was paying a little bit more attention to the guiding arrow than to the words being said. Maybe this particular section is dreadful and the reviewer was right, but I doubt it, as I did experience a particular section, the ship captain looking for help to recover her crew, and I can say that there was some gross level of embellishment on the part of the reviewer in respect to how this quest did/did not transpire. I can’t imagine he is objective after reading this, among other parts of the review, and that is the most important thing to be when others are relying on your opinion: You need to give answers based on reason, not on preference.

    Myself, I’ve played every game excepting Arena that came out(Of the 1-5, not the tower game and that stuff), I still remember my first time with the daggerfall demo I got on a PC gamer disk, giving me a year living on Betony Island, and how excited I was getting the full version. I also played WoW for a few years, and I can readily say that since 2006 I have not enjoyed the numerous aspects that can be used to label a game part of the MMO genre. I enjoy seperate pieces of this, I am a completionist, I love storyline, and I am obsessed with any and all forms of crafting, to my detriment.

    I loved Skyrim, and was vaguely interested at the concept of a multiplayer mod for it. After seeing some preliminaries, I completely lost interest in the notion and happily went back to my single player game. Upon hearing about TESO, I was thoroughly disinterested. I don’t have the time for an MMO in my life, and surely what I love about the previous games will only be bastardized in a massively multiplayer game.
    This past weekend, I decided to try to get a beta key anyways. When I sat down after work, game installed patched and ready to go, I was actually more excited than I should have been. Getting into creating my character, I was ecstatic to not only be able to match a face with a haircut, but to be able to customize every part of everything.

    In game, I hated the first level in oblivion. But knowing that all MMOs have tutorial areas, I powered through it, trying to at least not miss the story bits. The game quickly picked up, not in main story, but in world exploration, discovering where I was, discovering the various mechanics the game wished to use, like riddles for hidden treasure, the same old mob spawn & attack radious bit that is signature to MMOs, first person/third person dynamic, how the map was labelled for my area, ect… Many things to figure out. And plenty of crafting supplies, for when I filled my inventory(Sorry, no little bag squares. You have to actually scroll through it, wether you like it or not) and went to town.

    Well I can say I was thoroughly suprised and very pleased with the amount of polish on the skill system, and the crafting systems, basically every part of the game that I considered MMOish was either improved or at least made more pleasing in some way to me. Moreover, I did the entire starting area without having to deal with any rediculous “10 gall bladders that may or may not exist in this specific kind of spider over yonder” empty filler punctuation spots. Every quest was richly voiced, and skippable if for some reason you want to skip the story(Why are you playing a TES game?!?) and more importantly had a reasonable objective that made sense at the time and place. And after all of these discoveries I was shipped off to my beloved Betony, and then on to Daggerfall, getting to see the new concepts that made up the old world that I loved so much.

    Sorry, I’ve been blathering. My entire point is that my experience is entirely subjective, but I can tell you, beta crashings and freezings and glitchings and all of that aside, this game highlighted all of the parts that I loved about my WoW days from 2003, and trimmed all the fat of useless, pointless, boring XP and money punctuation machines standing around. As someone who has to do anything and everything I come across in a game, I am thoroughly grateful that so much of it is actually worth seeing and doing, and not some drivel designed for people autopiloting their way through the game.

    So yes, the experience is very subjective, and so I’ve decided to offer up my opposite and just as subjective opinion as that of the reviewer: This game is the first time I’ve enjoyed an MMO in 10 years, and it comes as a huge suprise to me that I have immediately decided to buy it and play it. But don’t take my word for it, or the reviewer. You need to try it for yourself and see if you’re the kind of person who appreciates what the developers have done, or wether you think they’ve ruined everything you’ve ever loved.

    • Ellcrystree says:

      Thank you. I have been playing in the beta’s since August and have seen great improvements. Zenimax has created a dynamic and rich game that has so many levels that I cannot see how anyone could find it mundane once they explore all of the aspects involved.

      It would be impossible for any game to please everyone (I could only stomach Rift for a couple of days but had fun with WoW) and as it also caters for TES fans (which I am first and foremost) then I think the gaming aspect and the type of people playing will be unique to any other MMO out there.

      I don’t think anyone who has played this game less than 30 hours could possibly be in a position to even grasp how addictive it could be. Most of my guild mates are already getting withdrawal.

      • Machinations says:

        because it is rote, bog-standard MMO gameplay with hotbars and cooldowns and all the things we have come to hate, basically

        Bethesda is about to take a bath on this one.

    • Captain Omega says:

      It seems like the cool thing to do is to bash this game, usually based on very specific personal preferences, or a small area of the game that is not representative of the game as a whole. A typical complaint is “This isn’t like Skyrim. It’s like an MMO! I hate it.” It seems like the reviewer was looking for reasons not to like it, like complaining that there weren’t enough “collect 10 innards”, and complaining about the voice actors, when in most MMOs you just skip through walls of text instead.

      I was, like you, expecting to not like it much, but once the game world opened up, it was pretty great. I agree the beginning was pretty dull, but that has been the case with most MMOs, whether that’s an excuse or not. I am sold, despite the financial model.

  24. mhalemary says:

    my best friend’s step-mother makes $71 /hour on the laptop . She has been without work for nine months but last month her pay check was $17837 just working on the laptop for a few hours. why not try here

    http://WWW.jobsaa.COM

  25. Ellcrystree says:

    It seems to me that people have gone into these betas grinding the quests and then saying it is boring, however I have been in about 10 beta tests since August and although at first I found myself working through quests, they have attempted as best as they could to disguise them and make them varied, rather than the typical: “collect 10 flowers”, “kill 5 guar” etc. Quests are always going to feel a little boring, but there are so many more options to the game (which are improved in each beta).

    If someone has only played a few hours of the game they are certainly not in a position to write an opinion that could negatively influence people’s choice to play this game.

    When you start any MMO, you are guided by the quests as it is your gateway to the game, but once you decide to become more independent, ESO feels much more like a TES game in many respects. I can spend hours just exploring, in which you find small hidden quests that tend to be more interesting, as well as gaining experience points for the exploration itself. The crafting system is more complex than that in the TES games and there are so many levels to the skill trees that it could take a long time to find a perfect build (by using skills from your class, race, guild, armor, weapon, PvP etc.). In addition you also have dark anchors, raids, PvP etc. to occupy your time.
    If people are really willing to go into this game with an open mind, without ‘expecting’ certain aspects nor comparing to other games, I really see it as a possible great success. ESO will also have a unique group of players, bringing those from TES with little MMO experience as well as MMO players who will experience the TES world for the first time. Give it more than a few hours chance please.

  26. RanDomino says:

    There’s been a lot of discussion on sandbox vs themepark, and having a functional story vs having player freedom, and to me what the determining factor is is whether or not the NPCs have motives and the ability to act on them. Like how Radiant AI was going to be in Oblivion, until they couldn’t stop evil NPCs from assassinating the quest-vital good NPCs. As if that’s a bad thing! They should have rolled with it, and added some features to let the player and even the NPCs compensate. Worried about someone’s safety? Assign them some bodyguards. Investigate plots against them and strike first. There are many ways it could be done. And not just who attacks who, but also merchant activity, NPC wars, who knows? The first game that implements Dwarf Fortress and Drox Operative-like freeform motivation into an open-world RPG is the game that gets all of my money.

  27. fenriz says:

    Ctrl-F

    word: sandbox.

    no beating round the bush: MMo’s need to be full simulations again

  28. Captain Omega says:

    I think it’s important to point out that the game opens up around level 10. I was sceptical before trying it, but I was sold at the end of the beta. When I finally got to explore, and go wherever I wanted, as well as the amazing PVP, the game really started to shine. I also played a melee character, and I actually liked the combat. The best parts for me was the art direction, the music, and the skill system.

  29. LordDamien says:

    Congratulations! You have read too much posts to either have social life or a decent job.

  30. PenGunn says:

    You have no idea. It’s pretty funny, you and the rest of the lame ass game review sites, not company I expected you to keep, will have a lot of word eating to do.

    I have maybe 60 hours in the game with three characters and I know quite a bit about it. Everything else aside the PvP is just hilarious fun. There are no negative PvP reviews I know about.

    The game kills. This MMO stuff is all new to me and it”s immense fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      You have no idea.

      This MMO stuff is all new to me

      I think you might have highlighted the reason for the difference in opinions. I do rather envy you though, and the enjoyment that novelty brings.

      • PenGunn says:

        I have been playing games since Doom. Was online for the first Quake multiplayer with a hacked up, boosted TCP stack on DOS.

        Sure I understand MMOs have a different take on multiplayer and my good ‘shoot you in the head’ skills mean very little but this is a fine game, outside of any specific type. I think that’s what a lot of you are missing.

  31. uhlsla says:

    Ok. For all those people whining about the Elder Scrolls Online in general, what MMORPG’s, new or old online or not, would YOU recommend? Same with Single player RPG’s, which would you say were better? I know it’s subjective but I haven’t really heard anyone say “Well ESO sucks, play X instead”. Or single player ES sucked… I have played most of the ES series, and I’d say my favorites have been Morrowind and Skyrim. I started with UO and played it for a few years, I still on occasion log in even now and then to play. Then I moved on to EQ played it for quite some time to but it didn’t have the same “feel” to it like UO did, not saying it was a bad game by any means. I’ll probably try out the new EQ when it comes out. I also played most of the newer ones too. Now if they redid UO as first person and have it play just like the “old days” I’d jump all over that. (Yes, I know chances of that are less than none….but still) Just my 2 cents. I’m still on the fence about getting ESO.

    • Machinations says:

      I would recommend getting off the MMO crack while you can before it rots your brain. Coop games – even RPG’s – with friends are 10x more rewarding – plus you get a variety of experiences instead of being able to regale everyone with your exact knowledge of the GPS coordinates of Mandrik’s wife’s corpse in the Barrens.

      I play less MMO’s, but more games now, and I enjoy it much more.

      • Captain Omega says:

        You forgot to be specific with titles of coop RPGs. And MMOs can be played in a variety of ways. You don’t have to play them as grindy running simulators, trying to get through the levels quickly.

      • uhlsla says:

        Well, what coop games do you recommend? See I”m trying to find out what everyone thinks should be played instead of Elderscrolls or ES online.

  32. Snailgoop says:

    This is a great article and unlike other articles out there, perfectly reflects my own experience with ESO beta. One of the things I very much appreciate about ESO are the graphics, which I think are beautiful, and the fact that there are lots of women leaders for once. It’s not entirely free of sexism but it does a much better job of treating female gamers with respect than most current games out there. But, as a long term beta tester (and hardcore Skyrim fan), I’ve had several months of opportunity to progress levels and I just can’t do it because I can’t make myself interested enough to play the game. It’s the quests. They are dull and you hit the nail on the head with your descriptions of them and beyond that there really isn’t much to do. That said, it seems like some of the high level testers who are already in veteran ranks above level 50 are having a lot of fun with the PvP experience in Cyrodiil. I wish I had the patience to slog through 50 levels, so I can experience that too, but I guess I’m just not enough of a masochist to get myself there.