Elder Scrolls Online Review - Stumbling through Growing Pains
by Mary Yeager
Elder Scrolls Online is a game where you will either love it or hate it. I played a fair amount during the closed beta period and shared my first impression. Since then, I have found my liking for the game to increase. Sure, the game has had its issues, but the positives have outweighed the flaws (or bugs).
Soulless Am I
Be the hero and save the world. That's a theme that follows most MMOs and earlier Elder Scrolls games. The hero here is known as the Vestige and they have lost their soul to Molag Bal. It is the player's job to decipher through the story to find out what happened to cause the chaos of Oblivion merging with Tamriel and to stop it.
While ESO is a MMO, parts of the main storyline are in single player instances. It kind of takes away from the social aspect of the game. Some parts of instances are also phasing based. This means that if you have completed that part of the story, your version of the instance is different from someone who has not passed it. This keeps players from being able to aid because they exist on essentially different planes. Developers are trying to change how phasing works so that people can help others who might be stuck in things they have already completed.
Only One Action Bar
ESO differs from other games by only allowing a player to use so many abilities at a time. This means a player has to spend more time to strategize their character's abilities. A person has to spend a bit of time getting to really know his or her skills and how best to use them.
Visuals are Stunning
I have fallen in love with the landscaping of Elder Scrolls Online. From the rise of mountains to the swamps, the differences in the zones flow rather well. While you still have the loading screens in-between zones, it's not a sudden lurch into a different topography. You don't just cross a bridge and go from lush hills to instant barren desert.
I have noticed one interesting feature with the horses' animations. All horse animations are simultaneous. Two people could mount their horses at different times but the horses will be on the same cycle of animation. The horse moves in whatever cycle the server is at. It is neat to watch when a big group is all mounted together.
The soundtrack underlying the game follows well in line with older Bethesda games in the series. While the music is not exactly the same track as the earlier games, it is in the same realm of sound. It has very dramatic movements that is in pace with what is going on in the game at the time. It is well-composed.
Bugs and Issues
Zenimax Online did not have the smoothest launch with this game. It has its fair amount of bugs. Complaints on the forums have ranged from game progression bugs to skills not working right. The game also suffered heavily with gold-seller spam and botters early on. With heavy maintenance periods and lots of updates, the company has been busy trying to fix issues and deal with millions of customers all at one. In the early days, customer service was slow to respond due to the high volume of service requests.
Zenimax has responded to issues as best they can. I had one where it escalated to where an agent reached out to me through the in-game system after several emails corresponded over a 24 hour period.
Overall, the game is challenging. A fair amount of boss fights do require being thought out and well executed. Death at least once is almost a certainty. Despite issues and bugs, I have still found a lot of enjoyment while playing Elder Scrolls Online.