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The Tamriel World: A Billion Elder Scrolls Online Screens

This man's clearly being Dovahkiin for Hallowiin.

Hello there, The Elder Scrolls Online. Sort-of-a-long-time, no see. You’re looking quite… hm. Well, you’re looking significantly less like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning than the last time we saw you. I’m serious, though. I could swear that a couple of your most recent mythical e-runes – hewn from the Internet’s holy ore – come straight from Skyrim. And another one even looks a bit like Morrowind. Sometimes. From the correct angle. When my glasses are in space. Yes, it’s dim praise, but the latest screenshot batch does, I think, show some fairly significant improvement. At least, environmentally speaking.

See? A few are at least visually evocative of the good old adventuring days – even if I’m not really seeing anything here that suggests my concerns from TESO’s E3 showcase have been addressed. Moreover, the creature designs still look distinctly un-Elder-Scrolls, which nudges the meter more in the direction of generic fantasy. Granted, I wouldn’t call TES a paragon of unique world development by any measure. Its little quirks and oddities are, however, a frequently under-recognized part of why I think people love the series so much. TESO, then, strikes me as the uncanny valley of Elder Scrolls. It’s exceedingly close to getting a few things right, so the warts – both large and small – stand out all the more.

Combine that with a seemingly unremarkable MMO quest structure, and there’s certainly reason to be concerned. That said, I don’t think the TESO team at Zenimax is lacking in passion for the franchise at all. But honestly, how do you turn The Elder Scrolls into a truly interesting, wholly unique MMO that also captures the spirit of the single-player games? Given that those goals are so at odds with each other, is that even possible? Who knows, though? Maybe Zenimax will surprise us all with a solid answer. I’d really like that, actually.

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Nathan Grayson

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