Why, Bethesda? An In Depth Look At ESO

Elder Scrolls Online offers plenty of new experiences, from exploring Tamriel to interacting with, and even having the possibility of marrying, other players.

For those of us who did not beta test it, or maybe you're like me and couldn't manage to update in time, most of us, prior to Elder Scrolls Online's release, had only seen the logo.

That would be this guy right here, which if you look at the design, is three different animals eating each other. With such an epic design, I was so excited for the release, and so sure that Bethesda would never let me down. Good Arceus, was I wrong. Here is an in-depth look at ESO's ups and downs.

After hearing about a new game from the almighty Bethesda, I was really excited. With such an arsenal of amazing games, I had no reason to not be optimistic about the MMO's release. Bethesda teamed up with Zenimax and Havok to bring players a game that's out of this world.

Before we dive in, I'd like to briefly flesh out the game for those who haven't played or beta tested but are still interested. Elder Scrolls Online takes place between Savirien-Chorak and Tiber Septum, known as the Interregnum period, when the Ruby Throne was empty. There had been an emperor on the throne a few years before the game is set, but his desire to become Dragonborn brought about madness and chaos.

There are three factions wanting to lay claim to the throne: the Ebonheart Pact, led by Jorunn the Skald King, Daggerfall Covenant, led by King Emeric, and the Aldmeri Dominion, led by Queen Ayrenn. The player  has to choose one at the beginning of the game, and depending on which you pick, you can choose which race to be. The Kajiit, Altmer, and Bosmer are with the Dominion, the Redguards, Orcs, and Bretons are with the Covenant, and the Nords, Dunmers, and Argonians are with the Pact. Each faction has their own territory, and the unclaimed territory is fought over. Practically all of Tamriel can be travelled in the game, though you have to be at least level 10 to have access to Cyrodiil, which is player vs. player, in the short a mad dash to claim more territory for your faction. Now that you've been filled in a little, lets take a look at the game, the good and the bad.

I would just like to say, that this is just my opinion based on my own personal experiences. If you have a different opinion based on different experiences, feel free to comment, I love hearing about other people's time playing the games I play.

The Good

Bethesda teamed up with Zenimax and Havok to bring players a game that's out of this world.

It's an MMO

I'm a huge sucker for a good RPG, and after its release, Skyrim very quickly became the game I turned to when I had an hour or more to burn. It had a wonderful plot, awesome characters, and come on, how many of you aren't humming or at least thinking about a part of the soundtrack right now? I won't go into detail on what I think of the graphics and fluidity of movement because I'd be stuck on it for hours, but I will say the only games I've ever played that were anywhere near as gorgeous as Skyrim were Dragon's Dogma and White Knight Chronicles, and both were breathtaking.

In short, I was very impressed with Skyrim, to say the least. It could get lonely, sometimes, being the only non-NPC in the game, but that's how the game was and there's only room for one Dragonborn, and in my game that was me. Then I was informed of a new Elder Scrolls coming out, called Elder Scrolls Online. I didn't know anything else at the time, but it didn't take much to put two and two together and figure out they were making an MMO. Finally, I could play with my friends, and people from all over the world!

More Choices

Plot wise, the game is like Skyrim meets Fable. There are a bunch of quests to do all at once, two which are arguably of equal importance while superior to the other smaller quests. In, once again, a very Skyrim-like manner, one of the quests is related to the politics of the game, while the other is much more about the player's character, and other characters involved in the world. Sorry for being vague, but since it is part of the story line, I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone.

Then comes a Fable type of influence. In case you haven't played Fable, your choices in the game affect not only the story and the ending of the game, it also affects your physical traits: choices considered 'good' make you more physically attractive, while making 'bad' choices makes you look more demonic. ESO took the first part and softened it a bit, so your choices on branch quests don't exactly alter your entire gameplay, but oftentimes they give you the power to allow an NPC to do what they want, or persuade or intimidate someone to do otherwise.      

 

Groups, Factions and Guilds

If you loved belonging to the college of Winterhold, or my personal favorite, The Dark Brotherhood, fear not. There are plenty of groups to join, and just like in Skyrim, you can join them all if you so choose. Players can create guilds as well, but you can only belong to five of them at a time. Currently, there are the Fighter's Guild, the Mage's Guild, and Undaunted. For those of you heartbroken over the lack of my two favorite groups, I hope you'll be happy to know that it has been announced that there are plans to include the Thieves' Guild and The Dark Brotherhood in a future update. Hopefully a very near future update, and after reading his journals and doing the math in my head, I'm hoping to see a bit more of this guy.

Graphics

My account has a lower visual quality to help the game run faster, because I don't have a very good computer, but I've seen screen shots other people have taken while playing the game, and they are pretty impressive. Even the loading screens are beautiful.

This is the loading picture while you are in Auridon, a territory in the Aldmeri Dominion. Like what you see? Well then don't worry, you'll be seeing a lot of it, and by 'it', I mean loading screens. Now it's time for the bad.

The Bad

I hope you like the loading screen artwork, because there will be plenty of time to look.

Loading Time

I hope you like the loading screen artwork, because there will be plenty of time to look at it. ESO is set in a very expansive world, with many people wanting to play in the expansive world... and this is causes problems. They used the same approach to loading as they did in Skyrim, which was that once the world was initially loaded it was all one big chunk of land, and only when you went inside buildings or dungeons did it have to load again. Now that worked really well for the single-player RPG, but I'm not sure if it occurred to them how messy it would get when there were countless other players all inhabiting the same space, filling and slowing the server. This made for countless moments of frustration.

The problem with having it load all at once? What it really does is load where you are, load a bit of everywhere else, and hope that everything is fully loaded by the time you get to it. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out. I cannot count how many times I've been hit and even killed by enemies I didn't know were there, because visually, they hadn't rendered yet. If you can't see them, you can't hit them, but they can sure hit you. Then that lovely loading screen pops up while the player sits there listening to their character getting their butt handed to them, and they can't do anything about it. By the time the loading is done, the character is long dead. How's that pretty loading screen looking now?

...there's a better chance of getting out of lag alive...

Lag

The lag is strong in this one. So strong, in fact, that it has led to my character being killed much more than once. The screen will freeze, leaving a player powerless. Similar to the loading screen, however, you still get to hear your opponent landing hits on your character. It might stop just in time to let you watch the last blow. Fatality.

Now you have to start the dungeon again. At least the loading screens give you something to look at, they even have little hints or information about the area under the picture. But, during lag, you have to sit and wait to see the outcome. Granted, there's a better chance of getting out of lag alive, since lagging is an indefinite amount of time, while seeing a loading screen means there's time for a bathroom and snack break.

Updating

There's nothing wrong with the updates themselves, in fact I love them. It lets me know there are people hard at work trying to smooth everything out that I have so far complained about. I appreciate the updates and improvements.

But updating can be an absolute nightmare.

You never know how long it will take, so if you do already have ESO and get tired of how long updates take, I'd recommend keeping the loading screen open on your desktop when you're using your computer. It'll let you know when it needs to update. Sometimes, more often than not in my experience, the game will either finish updating or just be about to end, and then a small window pops up saying something to the effect of the game couldn't download correctly so it has to start all over. Well why didn't you tell me that three hours ago when you were at fifteen percent??? I had initially been hoping that ESO would take the World of Warcraft approach, having a necessary part of the data downloaded, and then the player can play in-game while the rest of the game loads. Now that I've seen the gameplay, however, I understand why they could not do this.

Getting the Boot

Disconnect errors are a common problem in online gaming so I understand that this game would, logically, suffer the same problem. But I'm less understanding about how often it happens. It starts with the realization that no one is around you, or if they are then they aren't moving. You get suspicious, so to confirm it you go to an NPC vendor, who, despite you clicking on him or her furiously, refuses to respond to you. Then, not long after, you are brought back to the log in screen with a small window explaining why, although sometimes even the window doesn't know. When this happens, it's bound to look something like this:

Grrr...

No Dragons

Okay, so I honestly just wanted an excuse to use the picture, but that still kinda sucks. I mean this is justified, considering the game takes place in 2E 582, a time when there were no dragons, but still. While I did like the dragons I'm actually pleased they stuck with their timeline, I dig accuracy. But it is disapointing to leave Skyrim for a dragon-less Tamriel.

Final Judgement


What it comes down to is that, in all honesty, this game isn't really all that bad. It just becomes disappointing because it comes from such a big name company who is so good at what they do, that when I saw the game on the shelf, I brought it home with me immediately, only to find a disappointment that I payed monthly for.

It's not all bad, however, because the PC and Mac version of the MMO must have made them realize something; it just wasn't ready. Because of this, in late May there was an announcement made by Pete Hines, Bethesda's vice president of marketing and PR, that there would be a delay in the release of the game to PS4 and Xbox One.

My final judgement: give it some time. Yes it's buggy right now, but the best part about this game is that it's an MMO, there will be countless updates to make this game better. For now, it's not worth the money to play the game.

The game does have promise and potential, so stick around and keep your eye on it. In the meantime, I hear World of Warcraft has a new expansion coming out... 

Our Rating
5
Elder Scrolls Online offers plenty of new experiences, from exploring Tamriel to interacting with, and even having the possibility of marrying, other players.

Contributor

Published Oct. 23rd 2014

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