The Elder Scrolls Online: All the obsessive fun of ‘Skyrim,’ but now with friends!

The-Elder-Scrolls-Online---AldcroftCheck out our review of The Elder Scrolls Online.

Despite Skyrim’s incredibly sophisticated digital world, it can be a lonely place. There are only so many times that you can lure a companion or a random NPC directly into the path of a giant and watch as they are punted into orbit before you begin to wonder how much more fun it would be if you could do that with – or to – a friend. Some moments in Skyrim only work as a single player campaign of course, like when you unwittingly eat human flesh or accidentally stab your NPC companion in the back of the head 63 times before they turn on you, but the appeal of adding real players to that world is undeniable. In fact, there may never have been a property that evolved so naturally to fit into an MMO universe as The Elder Scrolls.

At a recent playable demo of The Elder Scrolls Online, we were given a chance to play through an early section with a character at level six. Being level six means that charging a beast powerful enough to imprison a god and fearsome enough to make the world cry is an unwise decision. It’s powerful enough to get a sense of the gameplay, but only as a slight taste of the potential addiction.

The problem with playing early builds of MMOs is that you are just seeing the outline of the game. It’s a bit like seeing an unfurnished, unpainted house with unfinished floors. The real game won’t begin until the mega-server (the game will use one “mega-server” rather than shards) is populated. The demo showed only a fraction of a world that features massive areas and different sections for things like PvP, but it was enough to get an idea of the direction it’s headed in.

Elder Scrolls Online snakesStory/Concept

Once More into the World of Nirn: The Elder Scrolls Online takes place in the familiar world of Nirn, on the same “mortal plane” used in all the Elder Scrolls games. It takes place 1000 years before the events of Skyrim and 800 years prior to Morrowind and Oblivion, so locations will be familiar, but radically altered. You may wander into Winterhold just as you would in Skyrim, but a thousand years will separate the two versions of the city.

TES

Your Mission(s): As with most MMOs, you have several choices at the beginning of the game while creating your character, and these will help to determine many of your abilities. It’s at this point that you aly yourself with one of the three factions fighting over the the continent of Tamriel: The Aldmeri Domionion, The Dagerfall Covenant, and the Ebonhart Pact. Each faction contains specific races, so your allegiance also determines your initial character build. The aesthetic options are significant as well, and you can tailor your player to look almost any way you want (provided you have incredible patience). After that you are released into the wild, where you are quickly swept up in the events of the area you begin in.

Like all Elder Scrolls games, there will be plenty of side quests, many of which will be major story arcs in their own right. You can load up on quests, then pick and choose the ones you want. The main objective, however, is to defeat the Daedric Prince Molag Bal. And that will require time and improved skills.

Team up, Choose a Direction: Joining friends is easy, and you can join anyone, anywhere (although you might regret it if you aren’t properly leveled). Each quest is unique to the individual. So while you can’t progress in the story with friends, if you are in a group everyone shares experience. 

The character level cap is currently at level 50, and ZeniMax estimates that it will take around 150 hours to reach it. The game is very much skill progression based though, meaning that if you hit level 50 but never once used a bow, you will start at zero on that weapon and need to put in time, much like Skyrim.

elderscrollsonline

Gameplay

Click, click, boom: The gameplay is more of a traditional MMO than Skyrim’s first- or third-person combat, but it won’t be completely foreign to fans of that game. The setup is similar to Diablo and countless others, with you clicking on the mouse buttons to attack before unleashing a cooldown-limited magic or power move by using one of five designated keys. Whack, loot, repeat.

The enemies are similarly inspired by traditional MMO rules. Their diminishing health bars tell you how much damage you are doing, but their attacks tend to follow very simple patterns of punching you in the face, or lobbing magic attacks from a distance.

The Undiscovered Country: The game takes place on the continent of Tamriel, with different sections representing different play types. ZeniMax Online isn’t quite ready to unveil everything here yet, but one area, for example, will be Cyrodiil, the setting used in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The story casts this area as a warring kingdom in which the people turned to black magic to survive. That’s the setup for this section of the world being PvP.

Some regions will be blocked off initially, but expansions are already being planned. At launch, the game will be big enough to incorporate the lands seen in Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, plus more. The scale is different, so it won’t take you as long to run across this Skyrim as it did in The Elder Scrolls V, but the sense of scale is incredible.

Elder Scrolls Online

Presentation

Work in Progress: The beta on display represents a mostly completed game, with some obvious fine tuning still to go. However, the graphics and the look of the game represent a fairly accurate portrayal of what Elder Scrolls Online will look like on release. The audio is still incomplete, but that isn’t surprising.

The quality of the visuals will of course depend on the power of your PC/Mac, of course, but the game looks like an MMO rather than a single-player first-person RPG like Skyrim. The land is varied, but it also repeats itself, and the level of detail is good, but not on the same level as the previous Elder Scrolls games – at least not in what was shown. That isn’t isn’t surprising for a game of this scale though. As far as MMOs go, it’s on par, and perhaps better than most.

Takeaway

The Elder Scrolls Online may not look or play exactly like Skyrim, but it carries over all the same addictive qualities that made the 2011 release so loved by gamers (and reviled by their spouses/friends/roommates/etc). The amount of work and time already spent to build this world over the years in previous games is a major boon, as the land comes equipped with its own rich history, mythology, and even legends. Longtime fans should love that, while casual and new fans get a sense of the depth. 

The Elder Scrolls Online enters a competitive and changing field, and it still has a lot of questions to answer – starting with whether or not there is a subscription fee – but few properties have ever been as ripe for reimagining as an MMO. It has all the tools in place to win over genre fans, while possibly creating new ones as well.

Product Review

Metro Exodus is a journey through a nuclear hellscape that lures you in

Metro Exodus moves the action out of the Moscow subway system and across a devastated Russia, but 4A Games’ latest shooter didn’t forget what made the series so beloved in the first place.
Gaming

Feel the love this Valentine’s Day with these 12 romantic video games

In celebration of Valentine's Day, we take a look at games that offer heartfelt romances. From the Mass Effect series to Stardew Valley, each of these romantic video games offers a layered depiction of love and relationships.
Gaming

Feeling bored in real life? Pursue a new persona in the best open-world games

Open-world games are among the most popular in the medium. These are the best open-world games of all-time, including titles in series like Assassin's Creed, The Elder Scrolls, and The Legend of Zelda.
Gaming

You can play these classic Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One

The Xbox One supports backward compatibility with a growing library of Xbox 360 games. These are the best Xbox 360 games that are backward compatible with Xbox One, including action games, shooters, and more.
Gaming

Buy a new Switch console and get a $35 eShop gift card at some retailers

Multiple retailers are currently offering the Neon Blue and Red Nintendo Switch console with a free $35 eShop gift card. The system still costs the standard $300 and includes Joy-Con controllers and the dock.
Gaming

Thrive in the nuclear apocalypse with our Metro Exodus survival guide

Metro Exodus is a difficult shooter, especially if you're new to the series' blend of stealth, action, and scavenging. Here is what you need to know to survive the nuclear apocalypse.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Gaming

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Gaming

Transport your Nintendo Switch in style with these nifty cases

The Nintendo Switch, which boasts both wired and handheld modes, needs a good case to ensure it doesn't get beat up while you're on the go. We scoured through dozens of Switch cases to bring you the best ones.
Gaming

These are the best weapons for taking down mutants and bandits in Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is a very difficult game, and choosing the right weapons is key for surviving the post-apocalyptic Russia that 4A Games has created. These are the best weapons in Metro Exodus.
Gaming

Exotic Masterwork Weapons are in Destiny 2. Here's how to upgrade

Destiny 2's new Masterwork gear offers a number of special bonuses. Here is what you need to know about it, including how to find the gear in the game and even create it yourself.
Gaming

How to keep a PS4 in your pocket with the PlayStation Mobile app

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can get the most out of the system while on the go.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.