We had hoped to give you a review of The Elder Scrolls Online today. Share our opinions and explain why you should spend your time and money on Zenimax's expensive and expansive MMORPG.
But we can't, not yet. Not unexpectedly, and even with a week's worth of exploration, we're not near the point we can deliver a definite verdict. So we're going to continue adventuring until we're certain.
However, what we can do as of right now, is share some early impressions along with screenshots from our travels. Here's our initial impressions on a variety of things within the MMORPG...
This isn't Skyrim with friends
No matter how hard Zenimax tried, this isn't Skyrim with friends. The first-person camera perspective is not a viable option, the environments are lifeless, we can't pick things up and mess with the world, the physics engine has completely different rules, and the missions follow a markedly different structure. If you're looking to play Skyrim with a friend, this is certainly as close as you can come, but it 's definitely not there yet.
It's graphically impressive and realistic
It's a joy to look at The Elder Scrolls Online; investigating how light shines through the leaves and see how shadows fall on the rocks from the evening sun. For an MMO, this is really, really impressive, but comparing this with modern single-player titles is, of course, ridiculous. Consider that there will be situations where 200 players will be crammed into the same area; your computer and the Zenimax servers needs to be able to handle that, and pulling all this off is worthy of worthy.
The visual design is relatively realistic. It is, for the most part, something completely different than the extreme colour palate we're used to seeing in the genre and instead highlights colours that can be found in real life. As usual, human races are less convincing than the khajit, argonian, orcs and elves.
It's quiet. Too quiet.
City life lacks the bustle of single player Elder Scrolls, a direct result of the need to know where each NPC is. But if you, like us, associate Elder Scrolls with weird disappearances, merchants who lock their doors and go to sleep at night, and the severe consequences if you "accidentally" kill off a significant character - you're in for a shock.
We're guessing that real players are supposed to fill the gaps, but it doesn't really work in an immersive way when 14 characters are cramped next to an anvil (doing nothing by the way) rather than being spread out, living their peaceful lives.
... Which brings us to the story
Spirits from the past, captured arch-mages in alien dimensions and gods from hell... the list goes on. TESO is crammed with stories but lacks the sense of deep lore that we had time to soak in during the slower-paced, single player Elder Scrolls titles.
It seems Zenimax have been in a panicked hurry writing these stories, bouncing us between these different tales. When everything is about life and death and traitors, old men and women who lived 4000 years ago, and portals to other dimensions, it is, at least for us, impossible to keep up. As soon as I've gotten to know a character, the game throws something new at you.
The music is good though
The music is lovely. Perhaps the best in the series so far. Well-known melodies evoke memories from adventures in the distant past, while new tunes whip up a properly epic atmosphere. You should buy the music if the opportunity arises, actually, whether you plan to play the game or not.
A dark elf ran past us and our horse the other day. On foot. The mounts aren't too fast, but if you log in every day and feed the animal you can increases its speed, endurance or strength depending on the type of food you choose. You can also buy different types of horses and if you have collected a considerable amount of money, you can buy an animal whose statistical speed is high straight away.
A loop of assignments
The mission structure works better than most MMOs, but it's far from perfect. Unlike, for example World of Warcraft, we very rarely have to kill ten X to gather 10 Y. Then again, what we do have to do is constantly run from place to place and press the E key which stands for "use" in The Elder Scrolls Online. Go to the portal and press E, walk through a corridor and open the door by pressing E, kill a few enemies and find a crystal. Press E on the crystal. Go back to the guy in need and press E. Listen to the eternal gratitude, venture further and press E at the next client.
Regardless of the chosen method, it seems like MMOs can never offer truly engaging, original and exciting missions the whole way through. Such is the case here as well, and we soon discover that we have the most fun when we simply stop following mission chains and instead wander off in a random direction. It allows you to engage with the material in a much more immersive fashion; it suddenly feels real, and right there and then The Elder Scrolls Online is at its very best.
Our final verdict on The Elder Scrolls Online will appear on the site in the near future.