The Elder Scrolls Online launches week-long trial

The Elder Scrolls Online [official site], the other MMORPG with orcs and elves, has just launched a week-long full-game free trial. I know, I too half-remember it going free-to-play but no, it has only dropped mandatory subscriptions. I’ve little interest in the world of The Elder Scrolls myself, our boy Brendy was not a fan when it came out, and Cobbo last year found it still too bland, but some others folks whose opinions I also respect do find things to like in TESO so… I might have a look-see during this trial.

The free trial started at 3pm today (hey, that’s minutes ago!) and will end up Tuesday, April 18th at 3pm. It offers the full base game but not any of the DLC expansion bits. Players will also get a little spending money for the microtransaction store – enough to buy one of the cheaper costumes. Go on, buy yourself something kinda-nice-but-not-too-fancy.

Progress from the trial will be saved if you fancy buying the game in full afterwards. TESO is on sale for keepsies too, down to £6.60 for the regular version and £19.99 for the Gold Edition which includes several expansions.

Swing on by Steam for the trial on Windows and Mac and all that. Trials aren’t usually rare or special for MMORPGs but TESO doesn’t have one as standard.

Our Alec recently had a look at the next TESO expansion, which will revisit the lands of Morrowind. You’ll have to wait until June to follow in his footsteps and wander Vvardenfell remembering when you were so young and the sunsets glowed with the excitement of an evening to come not the quiet dread of the dark.


  1. N'Al says:

    I downloaded however many gigabytes the last time they had a weekend trial of this; got to play around 3 hours, tops. Not sure I’m willing to go through all this again, even if the trial period is longer this time.

    The game was decent enough, at least, judging from those 3 hours.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    In a sense, everyone is right. Judging by the standards of MMOs, it’s a very competent game with an unusal degree of player choice in builds and how they want to gain experience. This is good.

    But Richard is also right in that it’s all so very, very dull. Every quest is dull, and not just for people who don’t care about the lore – I love Morrowind to death and read every book in it, and here the quests are always “blah blah daedra blah blah use magic crystal to cleanse the dark crystals.” It’s even *visually* dull (though this may be exacerbated by the fact that the last MMO I played was FF 14).

    If you’re into MMOS this is certainly one to try, but for anyone who is frustrated by their quantity-over-quality approach, this isn’t going to change your mind.

    • Bradamantium says:

      Yeah, I played it for a week or two and it’s just so unforgivably boring. It’s admirable that they tried so hard to extrapolate The Elder Scrolls into an MMO and succeeded on some fronts, but an Elder Scrolls world where you can’t wander off the beaten path and fall into a dozen hours of screwing around makes for a tepid experience.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        I’ve largely (albeit slowly) come to agree with the “boring” sentiment regarding the quests, although there are certainly some gems in there. I think the biggest crime is that they never or only rarely reach the highs of my favorite TES III, IV, and V’s quests*, which aren’t commonplace in those games anyway, to be honest. In particular, in ESO, the last stretch of the overall “main” quest was an awesome deus ex machina…thing, at least for me as a wizard, and the end of the Ebonheart Pact quest had me in stitches with how horrendously anticlimactic it was. I’ve heard EP is the worst alliance from a narrative standpoint, including its main and side quests, but I still haven’t bothered with more than a quarter of the other two alliances’ quests, due solely to the stuff in my next paragraph. The Mages’ Guild was abstractly cool with a couple likable characters, but Sheogorath grated on me after a while (“grates, as in cheeeeeeeese!”, but missing the RPS delivery). I haven’t played much of any of the other guilds’ questlines, but I’ve heard some good things, and the Fighter’s Guild became more intriguing to me when I did a Skyrim-related “hmmm!” at it. The side quests are often just as dull as Oblivion’s and Skyrim’s “radiant” quests, but again, there are some good ones to be found in there, and the Aldmeri Dominion in particular even has some pretty cool interrelated side quests if you pay attention to them. I generally don’t go on long questing quests, so that’s probably diluted the effect of the dull ones.

        Now, here’s where I disagree about the low potential for screwing around, because I’ve had a blast doing just that for most of my time with this game. Right off the bat, I should say that I’ve mostly been playing with a good friend these past ~two years, which has probably helped a bundle.** Since the start, I’ve spent loads of time simply exploring, with quest markers and occasionally the whole UI turned off. It was more exciting to sneak around high-level areas before they leveled everything to you, but now you can easily explore almost everywhere and only go after challenges when you fancy doing so.*** For me, at least, there was and still is plenty to enjoy in just wandering around the world looking at the landscape and architecture, reading the odd convenient journal lying next to some stuff (though they’re not as often as enjoyable as in past games), rampaging through some trash mobs, taking on a regional and easily avoided “boss”****, watching other players do inexplicable things (not everyone’s bag, but it is an MMO), occasionally attempting to produce my own absurdist but non-trolling humor through actions (I tend not to produce the dreaded RP text), jumping-climbing up mountains, …and stuff. For the past half a year or so, though, I’ve also been engaging with more challenging “content” with someone who’s really into strategic character builds and stuff, and I’ve both had loads more fun in normal play and group dungeons by listening to their advice, and thoroughly enjoyed support roles in PvP while completely disregarding said advice. So. Depends on what one’s bag is, of course, but screwing around is in my opinion the best thing one can do in this game. One thing from the past two TES games which could improve that for me would be jerk physics, but then I’d have other MMO players with access to jerk physics.

        *For subjective reference: I thought Skyrim’s Mages Guild, Dwemer cavern thingy, and Dawnguard quests (“ugh vampires”, I otherwise think) were awesome. I loved Oblivion’s “enter the painting” quest, as well as Morrowind’s “Hainab stole my pants” and Tribunal quests, but asking any more of my memory will have you waiting quite a while.

        **If you happen to be on the game’s US server (or maybe the European one intermittently during the trial, we’ll see), try “/w @particlese [message]” in chat, or try sending an in-game message to the same handle if you want to join what I ramble on about.

        ***A couple small locations are still stashed behind guild quests, and group-oriented dungeons have varying difficulty barriers associated with them. Some of htem look pretty neat, but they’re just a handful of dungeons, in the end.

        ****This footnote marker almost looks like I censored something, but these “world bosses” can be great fun. Some are soloable if you know what you’re doing and are reasonably equipped (far removed from that “best in slot” hooey), while others are complete beasts unless taken on by a group of a dozen or so players, and both cases can be really exciting, if you’re into that sort of thing. Certain Daedra spawns (“Dolmens”; listen for the war tubas as you run around), which are meant as imposing challenges, become wonderfully farcical in certain regions, with around 50 people just completely obliterating everything that spawns in the area within seconds.

        • Premium User Badge

          particlese says:

          Oh, good grief… Well, hopefully someone who might enjoy these things in the game doesn’t get eaten by my comment.

        • Neutrino says:

          A couple of

          …otherwise interesting post. Thanks.

          • Premium User Badge

            particlese says:

            Hmmm. Merriam-Webster’s opinion is that it’s an established, if casual, Americanism, but I’ve never really thought about it before and like your correction better. Thanks for calling attention to it!

  3. stringerdell says:

    There are so many great games out there that I don’t have time to play, an MMO would have to do something pretty special to stand out as worth the grind these days.

  4. trollomat says:

    […] but some others folks whose opinions I also respect do find things to like in TESO […]

    Care to point us in their direction?

  5. niksus says:

    71GB – estimated download time 1.1 days…

    • Sound says:

      I think it’s actually half that – Half to download the files, half reserved for installation. Might be wrong.

  6. Sound says:

    Well this is ironic. I bought ESO 2 weeks ago. Played it one week, and haven’t returned.

    I would agree that the gameplay and questing is fairly boring and bland. It’s easy, when playing an MMO, to have the thought “Why am I even doing this?” as you go through the motions, keep moving forward. But for me, ESO made that thought surface earlier, and more often.

    I wonder if this is a side-effect of the level-scaling? Where you can go anywhere at level 1, and still find roughly the same difficulty. A diminished feeling of progression or achievement. A sense of stasis around the whole endeavor.

    I’m interested in hearing from ESO players who think there’s a way to break free of this feeling.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Hi! I think the most concise advice I can give is that if you happen to like wandering around in games, try to play this one in moderation and to ignore the urge to Make Progress. The long answer is me dumping my related experience into this Internet box:

      One might not guess it from my walls of text in this and other RPS ESO articles, but I twice almost stopped playing the game with similar sentiments. The first was when I decided I should really work my way through some of the story in the game instead of just wandering around at my leisure. While I enjoyed some of the quests, they eventually wore me down, and I took a break for a good month or so after. I came back, resumed the wandering but with main story quests woven in at a tolerable pace, and eventually finished both the main and EP quest lines, including most of the side quests in the latter. At the time, I was a sorcerer with a pet*-centric build, which promoted much laziness in combat, and eventually I got bored of it and started to drift away again. I don’t have time to level and learn 50 characters with different play styles. But before I drifted away too much, I said to heck with it and took my friend’s advice on a more active build — one without my beloved pets and where it was possible to fully sustain myself by keeping certain effects active and using skills. It kept me more engaged with what I was doing when in combat and helped me get out of combat more quickly, which broadened my options quite a bit when wandering around (the game wasn’t uniformly leveled yet) and let me get back to wandering more quickly.

      Since then, I’ve been playing more PvP and doing the “daily” group dungeons at a rate of a couple a week to keep the variety up while I continue to goof off most of the time. With the majority of the game leveled to uniformity, it does feel more bland, I think. There aren’t whole regions which are fatally dangerous (aside from Craglorn), or previously-challenging regions you can suddenly decimate with a wave of your hand. However, there are world bosses and group dungeons to keep things interesting, if combat’s your bag, and alliance-mode PvP for an even further diversion from the rest of the game.** I’ve also taken up crafting and helping out new players since I very gradually built up my main character and avoided all the skill farming burnout.

      Such advice might not work for everyone***, but there ya go!

      *Technically summoned Daedra longing to rip your throat out in the game’s fiction, but for all intents and purposes, they’re just game-pets used for both attacking and healing purposes.

      **There are 1-on-1 duals now, and there will soon be 6-on-6 battles or something, but for now, I recommend the alliance mode on either the “under 50” or Azura’s Star instances. (Hit L by default, then attempt to find your way through the incomprehensible UI they’ve created for it.) Once in, ask zone chat for a group, if you’re up for it. Social norms and play style vary widely between instances and alliances, but I currently find Aldmeri Dominion on Azura’s Star to be the most agreeable. (At least on the US megaserver.) Groups of 30 or 50 players thrashing forts together, sometimes with temporary truces between alliances to overthrow the current dominant party, provide a game experience I’ve not had elsewhere. The truces aren’t excedingly common, but they do actually happen and function, and it’s great fun when they do. Also, travelling with groups will help deter the “gankers” (sneak attackers), who basically exist to repeatedly ruin the days of lone travelers. …though I have done it once for science, and I found that it was indeed good, if really guilty fun.

      ***Last footnote, I swear.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        I think I broke the comments system with this last one. I also wanted to say that there are some good resources on Reddit here, if you feel like reading a bit more before/after testing the waters again.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        It also broke my grammar and punctuation in a few more spots than usual, it seems…

  7. RaraAvis says:

    I bought this game when it first came out and played it a bit then left. I recently came back in the past couple months and have been having a blast. While some of the quests may be boring, I think this is paid off by none (or virtually none) are just “go kill X things” or “Fetch this item.” There is always a story behind them – especially the overall story in each zone I find interesting, if not original. This is one of the few MMOs which you really feel can be played as a single player game also, which fits the Elder Scrolls theme.

    • Sound says:

      Not that I’m disputing your fun here. But I think noting the lack of Kill 10 Mudcrabs misses the problem at hand, and Zenimax’s failure for many players.

      It seems to me that ESO still has kill 10 Wolves quests, in function, but they’re just under so much makeup that it’s not immediately noticeable. The vast majority of quests actually still require you to kill 10 Beetles, in practice.

      Ultimately, all of the game-like experience revolves around combat, and in the most direct and repetitive way. When the dialogue ends, and you go to the place, your actions are the same. There’s no other source of tension or gameplay. Decisions are few and far between, as is any variety in your planning or execution. The player’s involvement with Tamriel is funneled completely through the combat system, and a hallway with 10 spiders. If you’re not doing that, you’re reading about the impact and will of the NPCs(the real power here).

      There’s generally one direct approach to any given quest, typically necessitating that you clear the 10 goblins along the path in order to fetch the mcguffin without any skepticism. You then proceed to blindly turn the mcguffin over to an NPC who does the interesting part. Then some other phase happens that requires you to be the thoughtless killer, again, utilizing the exact same combination of triggered moves to put the foe down, and the next. And now the story comes to a conclusion through the drama and decisions of NPC’s, with you given the empty title of “hero” in spite of being so utterly unimportant to the crafting and deciding anyone’s fate.

      Where’s the agency? Hell, where’s the need to adapt, decide, change?

      I mean, credit to Zenimax to putting decent makeup on it, but they didn’t break out of WoW’s paradigm. At all. And this is the larger point when people complain about Kill 10 Rats quests:
      Not only is the mechanical goal so similar from one quest to the next, but so is the gameplay, and so is the player’s distance from the drama or variety that the narrative attempts evoke. ESO only addresses one of those three factors – and the least impactful one, at that.

      • RaraAvis says:

        I get your point here, and I have experienced this. I guess my point is just what you’re describing is common among all MMOs. ESO shouldn’t be judged on some sliding scale because it doesn’t change the paradigm of MMO questing forever. It wasn’t about that, as far as I know. For me the stuff I think it does well – character customization, crafting, removing restrictions on weapon and armor use or even playstyle for each “class” more than balances out for the at-times bland questing.

        • Sound says:

          Yeah, you’re right that this is an issue much broader than ESO, and so directing my objection so narrowly is questionable.

          Which leads me to something I wonder about: At what point is this category of disappointment with a single title justified? When is it finally OK to single out a specific title for underachieving?

          I can critique ESO’s lack of combat variety, thinking that they could have done better without triggering a massive paradigm change in the industry. But this tends to be true-ish of all of ’em. So does ESO have some element of immunity in this regard?

          Both stances seem to be true at once.

      • poliovaccine says:

        It’s always regrettable when you’re given a great big open game world, with reachable horizons aglow with sunrise and possibility, only to find that your one meaningful way of interacting with the world is to kill it.

        I don’t have much experience w MMOs, but I certainly know TES games, and I also know some MMOs let people do things like farm, fish, buy homesteads, raise cattle, open shops, be traders of varying degree, etc. I think the TES world is one of those which many people are just as happy to *live in,* to pretend at a whole existence within, than to simply fight and action-pack their way through it. Allowing people to be mere residents and to contribute to/create an ingame economy/industries, instead of always being some questing hero by default, would probably do a lot to expand the scope of this game.

        Mind you, for all I know, they already have that, but if so, it can’t be very well implemented. I remember reading an RPS thing about Black Desert, which was maybe the first MMO I actually felt even a remote interest in, besides maybe EVE, and what made me so interested was precisely that – the way it seemed you could simply be a citizen of that world, not necessarily its champion. I just don’t think that works so well in a world like TES.

        It’d be cool if being a questing type mercenary was just one of many paths you could take. Like I say, that may be already, but if it is, it clearly isn’t much of a focus for people, cus I haven’t even heard of it.

        • Solrax says:

          I agree poliovaccine. When I heard this game was coming out (in the afterglow of many hours of Skyrim), I dreamed of an open world where I could, for instance, work as a caravan guard, defending trade caravans between cities from NPCs and player Bandits.

          That doesn’t sound like what we ended up with, but I am downloading it to see for myself.

  8. BaronKreight says:

    I played this game for a while at the start then quit. Recently I’ve returned and played it again for a while and then quit again.

    Overall this is an expensive theme park MMO in the world of f2p and open world games. The freedom of choice of ES series is an illusion in this game. Players are guided by developers. The variety of builds is meta based. The game does not encourage hybrids, you go either magika or stamina with only a couple meta builds available. The game has class restrictions and class skills which ES games didn’t have. The game uses HERO engine which now feels outdated compared to visuals of other games like BDO or Bless.

    Anyway what am I talking about here. This stuff has been known right from launch. Just read the reviews from 2013-2014.

  9. Flank Sinatra says:

    I really just like the fact that it’s an MMO you can play with a gamepad on the sofa. It looks pretty nice at 4K on a big screen tv and all the players running around makes the game world feel more alive. The quests are kinda boring compared to Skyrim, but for 10 bucks I can’t complain.