Elder Scrolls Online Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Elder Scrolls Online Review



It’s hard not to be extremely cynical when an old, beloved franchise announces that they’re releasing an MMO. I rarely hear any demand for such a thing; no Conan fans suddenly felt the need for an MMO and fans of Knights of the Old Republic would (still) rather see a third entry in the series. That hasn’t stopped Bethesda from spending the last 7 years looking at World of Warcraft in envy and wanting a slice of that pie. In trying to satisfy both Elder Scroll and MMO fans, ZeniMax have created a game that, while not without it’s merits, is hard to recommend on the current subscription basis.

Like all Elder Scrolls games, you start in prison, eventually escape, then are told that you are meant for great things before trotting off to do whatever you like. The tale is incredibly forgettable and is barely even worthy of mention, for all the bells and whistles it has.

A major problem I’ve always had with the Elder Scrolls narrative is that no matter how grandiose or epic the stories get, they are always told through awkward close up shots of characters you make unblinking eye contact with you, whilst talking in the voices of one of the very few actors they’ve hired outside of Michael Gambon and John Cleese.

The RPG genre always seems like the perfect fit for an MMO due to the levelling up nature of the games, but not in terms of story. In Skyrim, you are the Dragonborn, an incredibly important character that can single handily change the face of the world. Here however, that prophecy rings a little hollow as there are countless heroes running around, being told the same thing by Michael Gambon. You don’t even get to make any choices or leave your own stamp on missions, even The Old Republic had moral choices. Here you simply follow the objective marker, kill people, listen to bad dialogue then receive your reward.

Futhermore, something I’ve always loved about the Elder Scrolls games is that you are free to explore right from the get go. The story rarely interested me so exploring and levelling up was always the most interesting part of the series, as I discover my own adventures, run across bandits or even become a Vampire. Here however, wander too far and you’ll get smashed by monsters that far out level you. The world may well be very large, yet it can take an age before you can actually explore. Even when you do, there is rarely anything interesting to find.

The major problem with the gameplay is that the weight has been removed. In Skyrim, when you smashed a skeleton with a heavy battle axe or slashed at a Dragon, you felt it. The combat may not have been perfect but you truly felt like a badass, watching enemies buckle under your power. Here, however, you throw stats at the enemies until the numbers dictate that they should fall over. It’s by no means bad, it’s just very Skyrim lite.

That being said, it is still more involving than the combat system we’ve come to expect from MMOs these days. Attacks don’t seem to have much of a cool down, so as long as you have the mana or stamina, you can hack and cast to your hearts content. While this usually results in the same amount of button mashing you’d expect from an MMO, I did still feel more in control here than I have in similar titles. Something else that also transfer well into this genre are the alchemy and blacksmith sections, which for those interested, can prove as addictive and rewarding as ever.

ZeniMax have tried to make the game more accommodating for single player fans, not just in terms of story, but gameplay too. You have a lot of freedom when it comes to levelling up your character; don’t feel that your opening class choice will limit you in any way; if you change your mind whilst playing or simply want to dip your toe in both warrior and healing classes, you can do that. As great as this is, it doesn’t gel well with what people come to expect from an MMO, in terms of joining parties, where certain players need to assume certain roles, such as Tanks, healers, damage dealers etc. Not being proficient enough in your area can make you useless.

This problem translates over to the social aspect as a whole which seems to be almost discouraged. Even with people in your party, you are going to be fighting for exp points. Seeing a stranger clear a cave in-front of you as you can do nothing but watch can get annoying. This also detracts the usefulness of playing as a stealthy character, which just means you are giving other players more of an opportunity to just run past you and take the kill for themselves.

Online games are usually plagued with issues upon release, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find next to none of them here. I worried about latency issues during combat, but it all seems to work perfectly well; blocks have no delay (though feel rather useless), attacks are mostly responsive and the game only crashed once after I fidgeted with the graphics settings.

All these complaints basically boil down to one simple fact; this is more an MMO than an Elder Scrolls game. Attempts are certainly made to make it more appealing to ES fans, but the trappings of MMO often clash with this mindset. Some may be fine with this, but the simple matter is that the ES brand is clearly the draw of this game and in the end of the day, despite a few ES touches, this could have been rebranded into anything without much needing to be changed.