If you know your Elder Scrolls you will no doubt be happy that you still improve the abilities you use, down to the smallest detail. If you wear medium armour your medium armour level will rise, and if you fight with two knives your dual wielding will improve. Since we're dealing with an MMORPG you can also add various attacks that you can bind these to keys 1 through 5.
By using abilities of a specific type - such as Nightblade's "Assassination" - you will be able to unlock better abilities, and upgrade the ones you already have. At level 15 you will unlock the ability to switch weapons and ability on the fly with simple a press of a button, which opens up for even more options and tactics.
It works wonderfully well. We began our careers as an archer wearing heavy armour until we realised that stealth assassinations with two knives was more fun. High endurance proved important so we placed a couple of points as medium armour bonuses to get more out of the abilities. If you're looking for an MMORPG where you can really build a unique character, you will love this aspect of The Elder Scrolls Online.
One of the most unique aspects of the game is the option of playing it from a first-person perspective, or from a third-person perspective where the camera is placed a little behind the character. Sadly combat in first-person proved a frustrating experience for us, and it was nigh on impossible to gain an overview when three or more enemies surrounded us. Camera problems become obvious when we tried to make precision jumps or step through a door, and soon we settled on playing it a bit zoomed out - like other MMORPGs in other words.
Starting at level 10 you can teleport to Cyrodiil, the province where The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion took place, to partake in some PvP action. This is where the three factions; Aldmeri, Ebonheart and Daggerfall, face off in glorious combat to gain control of forts, mines, and mills, and literally gain Elder Scrolls that gives bonuses to the entire army. The idea is that the two losing factions should work together and then stab the other in the back - a great idea in theory, but so far we haven't seen any great examples of this.
Perhaps it's too soon in the life of the game for players to take up PvP in larger numbers, or perhaps we made some poor choices in the difficult to decipher PvP menus? At any rate, there is potential here, and regardless of the greater schemes it's no less impressive to see tons of players face each other with ballistas and abilities even if we belong to the category of players who prefer the synchronised strategy of boss battles over the chaos of PvP combat.
If you read our first week journal, you'll be familiar with the horse and the concept of feeding it every day in order to evolve it in the area the food represents. One week ago we wrote that the horse was too slow and that it was overtaken by a small Elf, but we're happy to report that it has improved a lot in this area after a week-long diet of speedy apples. If we hadn't been lucky enough to have the Imperial Edition we would have had to save up the rather large sum of 17,200 gold to buy our first horse (or 42,700 for a prized stallion), but with the Imperial Edition it only cost us a single gold coin.
Strange, but not as strange as when two players typed in /flute in short succession, while the soundtrack was playing and we were talking to a quest-giver. It was completely impossible to hear (and hard to focus on reading for that matter) a single word of what the quest-giver had to say. These sort of minor annoyances and mistakes should have been rooted out a long time ago during the beta, but as it is now it remains and soils the experience.
How do we sum it all up in the end then? It's a tough one as The Elder Scrolls Online offers both highs and lows. One moment we're enjoying it tremendously in a dungeon with just the right level of challenge with other players. The next moment we're yawning as four new characters we've never seen before are presented in a short piece of dialogue where the characters appears to switch voices all of a sudden. One moment we're taking in stunning vistas accompanied by the best music the series has offered to date. The next moment we're violently kicked off the server or find ourselves stuck on a loading screen for the fourth time in a day.
The Elder Scrolls Online offers something unique for those who treasure exploration and want to immerse themselves in the rich history of Tamriel, but the game is far from finished at launch. And what is finished is often not very engaging or captivating, which results in long passages that you have to endure in order to enjoy the really rewarding content.
That's not how an MMORPG is supposed to work in our opinion, and we've got a feeling in our guts that we won't spend any major amount of time with it now that we've reviewed it. This in spite of a tempting system with veteran levels from level 50 and a constant current of new content from Zenimax Online Studios as they're eager to prove their longterm approach.
Give it a shot if you have one or more friends who love Elder Scrolls and have no issue putting up with equal parts frustration and enjoyment, while you also contribute some money to the continued development of the game each month. We're sadly forced to conclude we weren't given what we'd been hoping for, but we remain hopeful that the genre has a bright future with games like Wildstar, Everquest Next and World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor on the horizon.