Elder Scrolls Online takes place during the Second Era of The Elder Scrolls universe, before all of the singleplayer games. Tamriel is world divided, three alliances fight for the throne and right to rule the realm.
Unlike the other Elder Scrolls games, ESO is an MMO and uses megaservers, meaning everyone plays on the same server, but everyone is put into an instance of the zone they are with a few hundred other players. You can join your friends in their instances whenever you wish.
I fully came into ESO expecting it to be nothing like the single player games, as to not be disappointed, but they have really nailed the TES feel when it comes to the stories, quests and exploration parts of the game. During some of the quests I felt very emotionally attached to the NPCs, a feeling I’ve only gotten from other TES games.
ESO is not like other MMOs, there are no quests that have you retrieving 50 bear asses, or killing ‘X amount of Y’. Every quest is highly story-based and usually has some kind of interesting twist or decision the player needs to make. You really feel like part of the game world, even though there are thousands of other players.
Never once did I feel like I was grinding to try and level up, I got immersed in quests and explored around and found I was being rewarded for it, I didn’t have to worry about where I should be at my current level or what gear I should be using, I was able to just immerse myself in the game world and play without thinking about the meta all the time, like you are forced to do in other MMOs.
However when it comes to the other factors that go into making a great TES game ESO doesn’t quite make it. You cannot be a murdering psychopath and kill everyone in each town, you cannot steal every single plate and cup and dump them all in your house. Obviously as an MMO, ESO has it’s limitations and it will never be able to embody all the greatest things from the single player series, but it really is a masterpiece in its own way.
As most Elder Scrolls fans know, the games have been getting more and more casualized and simplified with each release… Morrowind had a huge amount of skills, weapon types and gameplay systems, then Oblivion had less and Skyrim had significantly less. ESO does follow this pattern with having only 6 weapon ‘skill lines’ and 4 different classes. Its only redeeming factor regarding this is that it’s an MMO and things need to be kept simple to be properly balanced.
I felt that the character development, despite there only being 4 unique classes, was very good. You can build your character however you want, even if you started as a Sorcerer, you can still be a very good tank by assigning skill points appropriately. The skill points you spend on your class skills are the very same skill points you use on your crafting, armor and other skills, meaning you can make your character however you like and play your own way. Want to be a Nightblade that uses a healing staff and heavy armor? Depending on how you spend your skill points, this could be a very good combination!
The crafting system was also very nice, a bit complex but once I figured it out I really enjoyed it. You can craft your gear in a variety of different racial styles and with different traits depending on what styles you have learned and what traits you have researched from other items.
The only way to PvP in ESO is in the Alliance War, which plays very similar to Guild Wars 2’s World versus World system. The three alliances fight each other and capture castles, camps and forts in an effort to take over Cyrodiil. Players can buy and build seige equipment to attack castles and other fortifications. I found the large scale battles to be very enjoyable, but the actual zone is a bit to big for those that just want to jump into some PvP and fight other players straight away.
Depending on what kind of person you are, you will either love or hate Elder Scrolls Online… you might hate that the game isn’t enough like the previous TES games to be enjoyable, or you might be happy you have finally found something that is close enough to TES and can be played with your friends. I am the latter.
Elder Scrolls Online brings a very refreshing change to the MMO scene with story-driven content and highly immersive experiences, while it doesn’t play exactly like the rest of the series, it definitely tries embody much of what The Elder Scrolls is about into an online experience.
I give Elder Scrolls Online 8.5/10.