Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Bethesda based on their long-running and well regarded Elder Scrolls games which started in 1994. I had previously tried to enter the Elder Scrolls world with their first-person game ‘Oblivion’ in 2006 but only really appreciated the game until the award-winning release of Skyrim in 2012.
ESO is not my first MMO or RPG. I find the depth of adventure available from RPG’s is all-encompassing. I loved Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, Mass Effect and of course the one that started it all for me – Baldur’s Gate. With regards to MMO’s, I was a latecomer to the genre. My first foray was with my first love, Star Trek. I joined Star Trek Online in 2010 and am still a player. From there I moved onto Star War: The Old Republic which I stuck with for several years. I dabbled with Neverwinter and World of Warcraft but neither really grabbed my attention. I desperately wanted a fantasy type MMO that would fill the gap. I fell upon Lord of the Rings Online which I have played for many years but for some reason have stopped for the time being.
I loved Skyrim as a game and so I watched with interest as ESO was developed and released in 2014, but it was only until a few weeks ago that took a deep breath and dived in.
The look and extent of the game is vast and it is nice to be thrust into a universe in which I am not already steeped. As a new character, I am learning alongside my avatar and building up a heroic tale. The graphics are excellent and the gameplay well tuned. Jumping into a well established game is daunting and there are many systems that I have no idea how to use, but the guided tutorials give you enough knowledge to begin playing assured that in time you will pick up the skills as you go, after all nowadays there a plenty of websites, youtube clips and wikis to the novice.
Character creation is simple but comprehensive, allowing you to really but some unique identity to your alter ego. Combat is well thought out and requires more skill and thought than just button mashing. It might seem odd but the combat is of the least interest to me. I am all about the story and Elder Scrolls has story in abundance. The first set of missions are a truly heroic quest and these are partnered with other quest lines in expansions such as Morrowind and Summerset. Hundreds of smaller quests are dotted across the map which is nearly completely accessible.
What I find nearly unique in the MMO world for ESO is the ability for you to shape your characters evolution from day one. Although a class system of a sort exists you are not bound to one gameplay style, you can start as a warrior and shift to a mage. You can skill up as a two-handed expert or shift to being an archer. This flexibility comes from the abundant skill points awarded and the comprehensive skill lines on which to spend them on.
There is enough going on in this game to keep a solo player entertained for months. Those with a love of multiplayer work shouldn’t be disappointed either with co-op dungeons and PvP. There is a dazzling array of costumes, skins, weapons, tools, crafts and armour upon which to spend your time. In regards to spending, there is, of course, the question of money. ESO started as a monthly subscription game but transitioned to a free to play model in which expansions and regions became but to play. This means you can spend as much or as little as you want. There is, of course, the ubiquitous store, the crown store, where you can buy extra items but it is definitely not pay to win and you can succeed in all missions using the levelling alone and the weapons provided as mission rewards.
I must confess I am at a loss to find much to say that is negative. The world is a little overwhelming and the lore very deep for a newcomer. In the same way, the skills are a little complex, meaning you have to really delve deep into them to understand what will be best.
I would recommend ESO to any fantasy lover who wants a new IP aside from Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons. It should appeal to the hardcore MMO’er and the story lovers like me.