Here are some early thoughts on The Elder Scrolls Online. Early for me at least as I'm only level 16, thanks to holidays, work, and house renovation, and the game has been out for almost a month! So once again, I'm one of the last to write down what I think, but here it is anyway.
Regular readers may already know I have mixed feelings on the Elder Scrolls games. I've gone into the details before, so won't repeat myself here. Suffice to say I wasn't planning on getting The Elder Scrolls Online, especially after a brief flirtation in early beta didn't impress and word coming out of the first beta weekends wasn't particularly positive.
Something weird happened during pre-launch though. My twitter feed was full of opinion from people whom I trust, and it was almost all very enthusiastic. What's more, some people who had played the early beta weekends were saying things had improved. I wanted to join in, but the £50 price tag seemed steep. Luckily I managed to pick up the game with Explorer's pack for less than half price.
Registration, download, and log-in all went fine, apart from the game insisting I needed 60GB of free disk space to install, which required a little re-jigging of my drives. Character creation was good, with a huge host of options, though as in most of these systems you still end up with a relatively generic-looking character.
Oh for more customisation systems like The Secret World where your diverse apparel can distinguish your character. No-one is going to notice that the bridge of your character's nose is slightly more bumpy than the next guy's. Anyway, I digress. Character creation was satisfying at least and didn't suffer from the incredibly ugly creations of the earlier Elder Scrolls games.
Let's not beat about the bush. The tutorial section of the game is pretty awful. It doesn't make sense, lacks context, takes place in a rather uninspired location, and doesn't actually teach you that much about the game. Plus it's pretty boring. It wasn't a great first impression, but things got much better once I Daggerfall and started to explore.
There really is a lot to like about the game, despite some big issues, all of which are not beyond sorting out if Zenimax pull their finger out. I find it quite idiosyncratic for an MMO, doing lots of little things in a different way to most, and it can take a little readjustment for an MMO veteran. Those who came to the game from Skyrim should feel at home as the UI, graphics, lore and feel of the game is immediately familiar, though it necessarily lacks the open-world sandbox nature of the single player game.
Graphics are good, and on occasion stunning, with some great vistas to be had. I'm hoping the landscape and fog lessen a little when I begin to visit more areas outside Glenumbra, but my screenshot folder is already growing at quite a rate. Character animations still leave a little to be desired however, which seems to be a common fault with many MMOs. I still don't understand why!
The game's UI is definitely of the minimal type, with no mini-map and very little combat feedback other than animations, sound and a health bar pop-up. I actually like it, it makes the game feel more like an Elder Scrolls game than an MMO, but there are plenty of great add-ons available already for those who want a little more traditional MMO UI style. You can play in first-person if you like, but I don't like the lack of spatial awareness it gives.
Combat itself is quite fun, and is action focused; even more so than other MMOs as it uses aim-targeting rather than tab-targeting. When facing harder enemies missing a block or interrupt can really turn the tide of the battle against you, so it certainly does require more attention than the usual combat systems found in these games.
TESO really shines in two areas. The first is the skill and character class system, which at first seems oddly restrictive (only four classes?!) but actually turns out to be deep, complex, meaningful and offers many, many different ways of building your character. It encourages experimentation but doesn't fall into the trap of having obvious ultimate builds or allowing you to easily gimp yourself. If you want a dual-wielding, heavy armour-wearing, sorcerer you can do that and remain effective. I already have two different working builds for using in different situations (and using Wykkyd's Framework add-on I can switch between the two on the fly).
The other area where TESO raises it's game is in it's world-building (I should say that I don't mean the lore, which I have always found to be a little dull and generic in Elder Scrolls games). The quests are sparse compared to some games in the genre, but generally more involved and interesting. It does a good job of hiding the kill-quest and courier-quest staples of the genre. Additionally the game seems to encourage exploration, and I've found myself a few times just heading off into the wilderness to explore beyond a ridge and see what's there. I might find a quest line, a rare boss mob, a treasure chest or tower or dungeon to explore.
I've yet to try the pvp, but I've heard plenty of good things about it and I'm looking forwards to jumping in this weekend with a few of my friends.
The game does have some serious issues. The impressive megaserver tech has lead to lag issues and problems with phasing (it can still be difficult to meet up with other group members sometimes when you get stuck inside different phases). Additionally the game is currently overflowing with gold seller spam and gold farming bots. Zenimax really need to crack down on this quickly.
I have to say I find it strange that the game is getting so hammered in the press reviews.
It's nowhere near as bad as they are making out, and despite some
obvious (but fixable) flaws has a lot to offer. Zenimax should come up
with some kind of trial system, as the high price tag and subscription
will be barriers to those who might be put off by the bad press.
Despite the issues with the game, which can be sorted (hopefully before people start to leave), I'm really enjoying myself. The Elder Scrolls Online hasn't blown me away like The Secret World did, but it's still a great game with a large and interesting world to explore and one of the best class/skill systems in the genre.