The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Written by Rick Lane

April 22, 2014 | 09:02

Tags: #elder-scrolls #elder-scrolls-online #planetside-2 #skyrim #tamriel #world-of-warcraft

Companies: #bethesda #zenimax-online

So, is there anything good about ESO? A few things. The flexible class system is impressive, allowing you to specialise skills once they've reached a certain level, and adding skill trees to your character depending on what guilds you join. Combat too has some merit to it. I chose to play as a Templar, who comes with the ability to throw a spear of light into the enemy, which damages them and knocks them down. Later on I unlocked a power that called down a tiny sun that seared enemy flesh with area-of-effect damage. Unfortunately, striking with weapons still feels too much like slapping the enemy with those giant foam hands you see people wearing at sports events, and the difficulty balancing is such that you'll either breeze through enemies without trouble or be quickly mulched into hero-flavour baby food. There's no tension to it and therefore no thrill.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The exception to this, annoyingly, is when ESO bothers to involve other players in your story. The multiplayer dungeons, such as Daggerfall's Spindleclutch, provide a much stiffer challenge and so require cooperation and planning to overcome. The same goes for the "Daedric Anchors", huge portals which spawn periodically at specific locations on the map, for which you'll need at least five other players to close. With lots of people working together firing off lots of powers, you get a sense of how good this game could have been.
And then of course, there's the PvP component, which takes place across the entirety of Cryodiil - the setting for Oblivion. Unlocked at level ten, this sees you teaming up with other players in your faction to gain control of the Elder Scrolls, housed in three temples, each of which is protected by a ring of fortresses supplied by nearby farmsteads and villages. To capture a scroll, players must work together to besiege the fortresses before assaulting the temple itself.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

It's basically Planetside 2 with more traditional MMO combat, but it's still by far and away the most entertaining part of the game, making the most of the vast player-base the Elder Scrolls license was inevitably going to attract. Rather than marching all its players through parallel universes, it actually gives them a say in the ebb and flow of the conflict, requiring them to communicate and work together. It's also the best place to play the game with friends, as you can take on special missions, such as scouting an enemy fortification, or assassinating a particularly troublesome opponent, which are ideal to be played either solo or in small groups.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Sadly, the PvP and the other multiplayer-centric content only represent a small percentage of the overall game. In all my years playing games I have never known one to have so much content, and offer so little that is interesting. I can't think of a single quest that really grabbed me, a fight that really thrilled me. Even if the endgame is the greatest thing ever put into pixels, it wouldn't justify the hours upon hours of hodgepodge fantasy tedium you must wade through to get there. The Elder Scrolls Online could have been something special. It could have been Skyrim with your friends. Instead, it's like playing World of Warcraft on your own; repetitive, isolating, and monotonous.
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