The Elder Scrolls Online, or ESO as it is called among the fans, was off to a rocky start when it was released back in 2014.
Reviews were quite awful, and in all honesty, the game was most likely pretty bad.
But is it still bad? No, no it’s not, quite the opposite.
As someone who never played it at all up until earlier this year (2018), here’s my take on it in its current condition.
Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is arguably the best MMO out there currently.
It has so much to offer, atmosphere, great community, dungeons, PVP (Player VS Player) and much…. muuuuuuch more.
ESO is quite a complicated game, it will take you a good chunk of time to fully understand the game. We are talking weeks/months. During this time, you will constantly find yourself awestruck by the sense of adventure and exploration. Finding new things, discovering new landscapes and things to do in the world. Especially if you embark on this adventure with a friend or friends.
However, once you do figure out the structure of the game, it will start to become quite repetitive.
New content is fresh and frequent but offers very little new except for some new environments.
If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, RPG, MMO or open world games, I highly recommend this game.
Word of warning: This game tends to suck every waking hour of your day if you allow it. If you are prone to become addicted to video games and would like to avoid that – do NOT play this game.
As a huge fan of World of Warcraft in the mid 2000s, I was always on the lookout for a new game that could bring me the same satisfaction.
When ESO was announced both my wife and I were thrilled and we really wanted to play it (we are both Elder Scrolls fans). As reviews came in talking about it being empty, grindy and so forth, I could all too well relate to the less great things about WoW. Especially since Bethesda outsourced the work, I simply didn’t feel compelled enough to even give it a try anymore.
It’s been 4 years, and Zenimax Online have been working tirelessly on updating ESO with new expansions and content. After looking into it, it seemed that they had actually fixed the biggest issues and people seemed very happy with the result.
We decided to give it a try.
My wife and I picked this game up as we wanted a nice adventure game we could play together. We had always talked about trying ESO, but just never did.
From the moment we created our first characters, we were hooked. I love games that allow you to create your own avatar, nurture it, grow it, and let it become part of who you are. (Nerd warning… I know, whatever).
We immediately set off to do some quests and explore the world. We met a few other players, helped some NPCs out, leveled up and acquired new skills and spells. Got a horse to ride on and upgraded our armor.
The game seemed endless, quests were different, interesting and had their own story lines you could follow along with.
Dungeons and other features were around the corner anywhere you went, offering a new experience with epic loot and achievements to carry out of there.
It truly felt like we were in this world adventuring together.
As an ex Warcraft player, I was concerned about the grind, I did not want to play another game that would require a solid month of grinding to get to the highest level in order to start enjoying the actual game.
To my surprise, the first month of playing did not feel grindy for even one minute. Hats off. This is all thanks to some innovative and non conventional design. Read on as we explore further.
In terms of how the game works, it’s quite neatly balanced.
Every character can be whatever you want pretty much without restrictions. You can create a Sorcerer, load him/her up with heavy armor, a two handed sword and go full melee if you wish. This allows players to be creative and experiment with their character unlike most RPGs.
The leveling system is designed so that lower level players can play with higher level players. This is great as you don’t have to be in the exact same level range as your friends.
Combat is very polished and feels dynamic. You have your spells/abilities, you can block, dodge, perform charged up attacks and other neat things. The combat in general feels more skill based than other MMOs in this sense.
As you become accustomed to the world of ESO, you will discover the many things there are to do in the world.
We will talk more about each feature, but here is a short summary.
There is of course the general questing in the world, you find a village that need your help with some threat or political drama. You run around and help villagers with various tasks. Surprisingly, the game features very few fetch quests which is nice. Zenimax have clearly taken the time to craft unique quest lines that takes you through a mini story within the world.
Dungeons are a big part of the game and they come in many flavors. Ranging from very easy, beginner friendly ones all the way up to the really challenging stuff.
PVP plays a slightly smaller part in ESO, but it is definitely there, and the Alliance war is truly something different from anything else I’ve ever played. We will talk more about that in the PVP section.
Crafting plays a big part in eso and is quite in depth and will require you to do some reading to fully understand. Don’t worry, it is just the right level of complexity 🙂
Achievements such as “Defeat the X boss without anyone in your party dying” gives you an endless list of things to do if this is your sort of thing. I still haven’t even finished 10% of all the achievements, there are just sooooo many. And they are varied too, it’s not just “kill this, kill that”.
World bosses and other encounters in the world are lush and will keep you exploring for days and weeks.
End game Trials put 12 players together to face the most fearsome challenges in Tamriel.
Trading is a big part of ESO and some players seem to only have the goal of making tons of in game money.
And this is just scratching the very surface of ESO.
Your first experience with ESO will most likely be some early game quests, so let’s start with that.
Questing in ESO is quite an interesting experience, the quest lines are fleshed out and unique. If you take the time to listen to all the dialogue, you feel part of a bigger world, get some laughs, and even tears at times.
They are generally not grindy at all, very limited fetch quests and have a hand crafted feel to them.
There is a main story line which you can go through, featuring a deeper story, nice cut scenes and and interesting plot.
Your first few quests will feel quite challenging, you will even die a few times. But as you gain a few levels, the difficulty drops and never goes back up again.
As you become more powerful, the world quests become a cake walk and you can go through all of them half asleep, this is quite a shame in my opinion as it takes the sense of victory out of the equation. However, they are still entertaining and are fun to do as they take you through the different environments of Tamriel, which are beautiful to look at.
Don’t worry though, there are plenty of other way more challenging things to do, let’s take a look at some of them in the next section.
You join 3 other players in the attempt to fight your way through a dungeon cleansing it of evil. Encountering fiends, bosses and sometimes puzzles along the way to reach the final boss.
There are a lot of dungeons in ESO ranging from lava filled caves, catacombs, shipwrecked islands to the elven islands of Summerset.. and of course again, much much more.
The dungeons come in all difficulty levels, from very beginner friendly to super hard. Each dungeon also features a “Veteran” difficulty, allowing you to enjoy all dungeons at your own pace.
The later game dungeons in Veteran mode are very, very difficult. So don’t let the easy quests earlier on fool you. They also offer improved loot of course giving you a nice incentive to do them.
Some of the bosses have some quite tricky mechanics forcing your group to play strategic and communicate. We’ve spent several hours dying over and over on some of the bosses. Needless to say, finally defeating it is an awesome feeling.
Once you have done most of them though, you start to see a repeating pattern, they become quite repetitive. Even as Zenimax release new content with new dungeons, they still remind you very much of the ones you’ve already done. This is a bummer, it would be nice to see some new stuff introduced.
All in all though, dungeons are super fun and offer a nice challenge for you and your friends to take.
Pvp is still an area that doesn’t feel fully integrated in the game yet. Rewards are dull and battlegrounds are repetitive and quite dull to be honest. However, the alliance war is reeeeally cool!
First thing’s first, Battlegrounds put you in a team of 4 facing 2 other teams. There are various modes, deathmatch, hold the flag and a few others. It’s not fun at first, because you will be utterly destroyed, and it’s not really fun once you become good at it as it will feel so repetitive at that point. But it’s there and if you love killing other players, you can do that here.
The other PVP mode is the Alliance War. There are 3 factions in Tamriel, and you choose which one you will be a part of when creating your character.
The alliance war take place in the very middle of the map and covers a HUGE area. Within this area your faction fights to capture and hold keeps and little towns that give a variety of benefits.
These battles go on for 30 days, non stop! So you can drop in and out as you please. At the end of each 30 days, a winning alliance is announced, and the player who did overall best, gets crowned as Emperor for the next month.
Hundreds of players can be within this zone at any given time, we are talking all out war.
To capture a keep you need to bring a lot of friends, ballistas and trebuchets. You will need to bring down the outer walls in order to make your way into the keep and capture it. This combined with everyone fighting, spells flying everywhere and just the sheer amount of chaos is an experience I will not forget soon. It can sometimes feel like a battle straight out of Lord Of The Rings.
Sometimes it’s quite empty in there and since it’s such a huge area, it can get a bit lonely. But when it’s good – it’s really good.
There ain’t no fantasy without crafting.
ESO has a fantastic crafting system allowing you to make pretty much anything you want in terms of weapons, armor, food, elixirs and jewelry.
You can take on any profession you want not limiting you to anything specific, but to get really skilled in something takes time.
This is also a great way to make in game money as you can craft things and sell to other players.
The system is quite advanced, but not crazy complex. It will take some time to learn and provides an interesting and fun thing to do.
You of course need to gather resources to craft, some easy to come by, some harder, a lot harder. Another option is to buy the materials you need from other players.
End Game Content
Trials are similar to Dungeons, except you will be in a party of 12 instead of 4. They are also a lot tougher and offer some of the best items in the game.
Trials is something you generally do once you are at a higher level and have a good understanding of the game.
There are other things you can do as you reach a higher level in ESO.
There is the infamous Maelstrom Arena which is VERY VERY tough to beat in Veteran mode. This is one of the pinnacles of your ESO career, the satisfaction of beating this beast is comparable to winning the lottery. It also offers some of the best weapons in the game if you conquer it. You face it alone, pitted against waves of enemies through 9 arenas. This is not for the faint of heart and will truly put your skills to the test.
PVP is something you can always work at and become better at, although, I’d love to see some more content here.
When you want a more relaxing time, scrolling through the endless list of achievements you can complete will keep you busy for a few months or years. These come in all sorts of difficulties and flavors. There are just too many to even begin to cover.
Now here is a surprise, while you definitely have the odd toxic 12 year old screaming at you in the chat while sucking their mummy’s…
The community is in general very friendly and helpful. The low level of toxic players in this game is astounding. I had a very pleasant time meeting people and learning things from more experienced players.
There is definitely some elitism going on when attempting some higher end content. If you join a guild with friendly players, you can do all the harder stuff with them and have a great time.
All in all, considering the scale of the game, community: 10/10
Yes, they do have what is called the crown store where you can purchase things for real money.
However, the things offered in the crown store are purely cosmetic and is not a pay to win model at all.
If you do not want to spend real money, you can happily ignore the crown store and enjoy the game.
Things offered are things like mounts (purely cosmetic, does not affect speed or anything like that), costumes, emotes and other cosmetics.
While a subscription is not necessary to play, it offers a few sneaky features which will more or less force you to subscribe if you want to take the game seriously.
The biggest thing, which sounds stupid, is the craft bag.
On your adventures in ESO you will be picking up a lot of crafting ingredients as you loot monsters etc. A LOT. And you will definitely want to keep these for crafting or selling. The problem is that you will run out of inventory space really quickly.
If you pay for the monthly ESO subscription, you get a nifty thing called a craft bag, which store an unlimited amount of crafting materials. This immediately frees up a lot of inventory space allowing you to pick up all the resources you want while also grabbing all those weapons and other things you want.
I do not approve of this, corporate greed is what I call it.
Don’t get me wrong, you get a lot of other things when you subscribe. For example, ALL the DLCs are unlocked, ready for you to explore including the expansion “Morrowind” as long as you have an active subscription.
So you definitely get some bang for your buck, but I still find it cheeky with the crafting bag. As people who actually buy the DLCs don’t have access to the crafting bag and have very little incentive to subscribe as they already have the DLCs.
Subscription to ESO Plus as they call it ranges from $12 – $15 USD per month depending on how long you sign up for.
To their defense, I do understand that sever cost is a reality. But I can bet my wife on that the Crown Store pays that bill and then some on it’s own.
The Small Things
While I’ve covered the main features of the game, there are just so many more things to explore. World bosses, caves you randomly stumble upon, collecting things and discover new places.
You can buy your own house and decorate it with things you find in dungeons or furniture that you can craft!
Endless combinations to try with your character, skills, spells, abilities and gear.
You can customize your appearance with different outfits and collectible clothing/armor. As you complete achievements you also unlock dyes which you can use to color your armor with. This sounds stupid but is so addictive, especially as some of the rarer dyes look BADASS.
Many community made addons are offered (all free), adding interface related functions. This is a problem as some very basic things are not included in the base game. Such as a mini map. For PC players, you can just download an addon – but if you are on console, you are out of luck. I don’t understand how you can play this game without addons.
As you get familiar with the game’s structure, you start seeing a lot of repetition. Each zone looks different, but contains all the same stuff as the last one you were in. I wish they would have mixed things up a bit more.
DLCs offer very little new in terms of gameplay. It looks new and shiny, new dungeons etc. But it’s all the same as the last DLC, just a different package, you know what to expect.
Subscription model feels greedy and cheeky.
Corporate greed aside, Zenimax Online have done a fantastic work bringing the world of Tamriel alive.
The game offers something that few others can even dream of offering. ESO needs to be experienced.
The world truly feels alive and it’s a place you can’t wait to get back into while you are not playing. You feel like you are part of a fairy tale that never ends.
I really want to give this game a 10/10, but the cheeky subscription plan model and the repetitive nature of the end game content pushes it over the edge to a solid 9/10.
Get the best deal over at cdkeys.com!
That’s where I bought it for a great discount 🙂