After months of silence, The Elder Scrolls Online has finally done the sensible thing and lifted its sealed lips spell to let its community talk about the game. Naturally, this means that there is a ton of feedback ahead, to show if the massively multiplayer online (MMO) element of this roleplaying game (RPG) is as apt as once imagined.
While there is a definite change in tone around the adventure, the atmosphere of The Elder Scrolls is still engrained in the giant world. Gameplay branches off depending on a selection of classes, skill trees and customization options that has leeway enough for most adventurers to mold something unique, but it isn’t completely free. There is, luckily, a ton of different design elements scattered around, to once more get lost in Tamriel and never want to retreat.
Production values being what they are on this giant project, the universe after the linear tutorial section is vast and filled with activity. Players are roaming around desert areas, closely followed by oases and city environments, with caves nearby or forest environments lurking around. While the plains filled with vegetation and prompts look expansive, there are usually new and different landscapes at arm’s reach, leading to a different journey within similar regions. Adventuring is exponentially enhanced through a series of distinguished voices and orchestrated soundtracks. Some may even recognize a star-studded cast joining the world.
Still, the most important part is the gameplay element of The Elder Scrolls Online and that has just droves of things to discover. From taking on quests to exploring the world, collecting ingredients to finding runes; there’s something for both the active player as the tinkerer. Sporadic shards can be found, which yield points in the many skill trees. Clues to mythical treasures can lead to a wild goose chase all around the map. Spontaneous locked chests can appear for the adept rogue to pick. Those who need a break can even do a bit of fishing.
All these elements are just about the world and not the auxiliary things that can be done inside of it, like crafting in many tiers. Potions can be concocted, food can be produced, weapons can be forged and charms can be enchanted to put on selected equipment. When not going through the locales for loot, the spoils can be turned into their own timewaster. It’s the grand old adventure of past Elder Scrolls game, but shared with many others.
Perhaps this won’t be to the purist’s likings, but The Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO in spirit. Any singular player is but one cog in a giant machine with people running around. It is possible to employ stealth, it is possible to have some quiet time, but most of the sessions will be shared with many different adventurers that are there to do their thing. Those who don’t enjoy being interrupted and subsequently have an immensely low frustration barrier won’t enjoy this game. There are people. They’ll hit stuff, even if it’s not convenient. That, hopefully, will only affect the most fringe audience, as the world of the Elder Scrolls and MMO meet well enough on every aspect. It’s just not a one-man, save-the-world operation anymore.
Making sure the kill is scored individually will therefore depend on a solid build, engineered from aforementioned customization tools and the execution of skills in combat. A set of abilities can be used in fights and grow in prowess as they’re employed. Better use then turns into more powerful effects and so on. After that branch of content is known, it’s possible to morph it into a slightly different thing. This will ensure characters are always tuned towards their player’s affinity. For instance, it’s possible to make a spell more damaging, for the big hitters, but it can also have more varied effects for those who enjoy control over just bulk. Whenever a skill doesn’t look completely optimal, this is a way to turn it around and make it work.
Level design is another quality in the game, where dungeons try and offer a variety of approaches, mixing together powerful enemies and a series of traps to overcome. It’s a welcome change from just having a pit with monsters. Together with the varied locations, this can keep the adventure atmosphere going for quite some time, as few areas feel the same. Before long, hours will melt away.
If there is one restriction that feels like a reduction, it would be the breadth of freedom within the creation of a character. While the above mentioned customization is extensive and well worth the effort, it isn’t possible to create just any character from scratch. Some skills don’t apply to certain classes and some combat elements simply don’t appear to be present. So, just picking any class and molding it to something outlandish won’t reach its full potential, though it isn’t limited either, just a bit diminishing. It would’ve been nice to have eccentric builds for classes that sound appealing, yet could be something completely different. This game, however, wants choices to feel like a direction, at the very least. It’ll do, for sure.
There is a lot to love in The Elder Scrolls Online for those who enjoy being carried off into the MMO world. With prompts beckoning everywhere and wide array of customization choices, there once more is an RPG to get lost in, even if the impact isn’t the one-man-army of old. That ship has sailed.