First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My bosmer admiring the Ebonheart Pact landscape.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - So reminiscent of Morrowind.

This is going to be a slightly different First Impressions post, as all of my previous posts in the series have been overwhelmingly positive, and as an upfront disclaimer this post won’t be. Some of you have probably read my post on why I won’t be playing ESO, so this one may come as a surprise to you. That’s right, I picked up The Elder Scrolls Online despite promising myself I wouldn’t. Before you try to burn me at the stake, in my defence I got a great deal on it and stuck to my guns on the Imperial Edition being the worst thing to happen to gaming ever (okay…not ever, but it was still pretty bad!)

I’m really glad I tried the game. It’s surprisingly pretty in a lot of ways, particularly the environments. The Ebonheart Pact zones are so reminiscent of Morrowind, the first TES game I played, and frankly I appreciate that, even if it is what some would consider slightly fan-servicey. The environments are a lot more lore friendly than I thought, and while the quests are a bit “fetch and return”, there’s still a bit more variety to them which makes them more entertaining than your average grindy questing experience in MMOs.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My bosmer nightblade, Sirantha.

I went with Ebonheart Pact because I initially planned to when I was excited about the game last year, and Nord was the race I planned on going before I picked up the preorder copy allowing me to play any race in any faction. Also, my boss was there and offered to get me into a guild he’s a member of, and the environments appealed to me. I have a Nord Dragonknight and a Bosmer Nightblade primarily, with a focus on the latter. The combat is fun, if a little confusing due to the skill trees, but at least it still feels somewhat open to allow for a lot of self-development and lack of restricted weapons and armour combinations. This makes for interesting class combinations like Sorcerer tanks and healing Templars, which is alien to me but seems fun.

Exploration is rewarding, as well as a great deal of fun to do. I love finding little hidden chests and battling to unlock them, then receiving some small item to say, “Good job! You found this before other people did.” There’s also vampires and werewolves in-game, and how you become one of either is pretty interesting — one method is to have players bite you at a ritual site (which they can do once every seven days) to contract the disease that morphs into these two supernatural beings, giving you an additional skill tree to draw on.

I have genuinely enjoyed the time I’ve invested so far, and will definitely be playing a little bit more. However, despite the fun I’ve had and the few hours I’ve invested, I don’t think I’ll be subscribing, at least not yet. Why? Apart from the fact that I’m already invested in two subscription MMOs, there are a lot of flaws I see that are putting me off, at least for now. The paygated race still sticks in my craw; despite it not giving any bonuses it still feels like a cheap trick. But that’s something I knew before buying the game, so what else gets me?

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - Pretty skies that remind me of my first night in Skyrim.

First of all, I’ve always played every single game in The Elder Scrolls series in first person. I find it far more immersive and have always enjoyed it. It just doesn’t feel like a valid option in TESO; the FoV is absolutely wretched and I can’t find a way to modify it so far, and as there’s a large amount of PvP in the game — with it arguably being the whole point — being in first person would put me at an obvious disadvantage. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for how awkward third person feels. It’s clunky, and I’m not sure I like it. The combat is punishing, which is fine, but it is relatively frustrating to die repeatedly even in low level PvE content. Yes, this is somewhat a case of l2p, but I don’t know if I’m willing to put in the effort when this was never a problem in previous TES games, even on the hardest difficulties.

I’m also not a big fan of PvP in MMOs, with very rare exceptions (EVE Online being a very notable one where I went full PvP and even pirating) so I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be getting out of the game, particularly if I don’t want to do end-game since I’m already invested in and enjoying another MMO full-time.

There are a lot of oddities that bother me, such as the fact that you only receive one copy of the preorder/beta items, and if you happen to delete your character that received the item, as many people have done due to playing around with classes, that’s the item gone forever. Can you contact support to have it returned? Probably. Should you have to? Absolutely not.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My Nord Dragonknight exploring the old starter island.

Ultimately, I won’t be continuing my subscription after my free 30 days are up. Will I come back to it? Probably, because it is a lot of fun, but not for a little while yet. It may not be the game for me right now, but it’s certainly not deserving of the huge amount of hate it’s received (though, nor is it particularly deserving of the massive hype surrounding it either, in my humble opinion.) Should you pick it up? That depends. If you’re looking for just another MMO, this won’t be for you, the same for if you’re looking for an Elder Scrolls game. It isn’t really either, it’s somewhere in between. It’s definitely a change of pace, with some adopted features from Guild Wars 2, and a lot of similarities to Dark Age of Camelot and even to some extent Warhammer: Age of Reckoning in its Realm vs Realm style combat and keep sieges. If you think you’ll enjoy that, by all means, this might just be the game for you. It’s fun, but something I will keep on the backburner for when I have the time to invest into it fully.

  • J.

    Yeah the game can be fun but like you I won’t be actively subscribing at the moment. Also I thought I was the only one constantly dying. That’s one of the main reasons I’m not enjoying it too much. It feels like it’s almost impossible to solo if that’s what you really wanted to do. Another reason I won’t be subbing right now is it’s still filled with soooo many bugs preventing progression. I can’t get much done… But again I feel they rushed the release and should have pushed it back. And the last reason I won’t be subbing right now is the fact that they are charging you $15 to activate your free 30 days. I know they’re doing it to make sure you have the funds for your sub but most companies only charge like a dollar and then refund it. I think it’s so sneaky of them imo. Eventually I’ll pick it back up but right now I’ll just stick to WoW until they work out some of their bugs.

    • Wow, I had no idea they pulled that kind of shady business! I agree with what you’re saying though, a lot of it does feel pretty rushed but in some ways I feel like this is just how the game is. I haven’t encountered any major game-changing bugs, but the first and third person issues really bother me because the game just doesn’t feel as immersive and frankly, in third person my character looks a bit derpy running around!

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes it but will probably give it a break for a while.

  • I just couldn’t get in to in the beta. I tried it on all the weekends thinking that maybe I might of forced myself to like it but it just didn’t work I’ll give that the artwork and graphics look amazing. The other half got further than what I did and he said it was good but he’d rather play Day Z, bless him.

    • I tried it in the beta and couldn’t even play, but I was so excited a year ago because I’ve loved the TES games for so long that I just couldn’t not try it. DayZ is a good choice though!

  • Agagor

    Very well written, as usual ;-).

    I’m currently reconsidering, if I will get TESO at the end of the month …
    I also said before, that it wasn’t the game for me, judging from the beta …
    But who knows, maybe it has changed that much, that it might lean more towards being something for me …

    Currently my point is, that IF (still a quite big IF) I will get it, that I will at least have a look at it for the first month (if they really charge 15 currency units for the first 30 days, then it’s an absolute no-go), but currently I don’t think, I would play longer … still IF ๐Ÿ˜€ …

    There is too much other stuff going on as well, and I see TESO as a full-time game after all, which also lights up some alarm lights, but we’ll see ..

    • Late reply, thank you so much for your kind words!

      It’s a fun game, but I do feel like there’s a few issues. I haven’t really played since the post, because I’ve been busy with other games. Let me know if you do decide to get it and what you think!

  • Awesome write-up. I tried it in beta, but due to bugs I never got much playing done, I enjoyed Skyrim but based on the bugs, the dying early (something that stopped me from playing FFXI) I feel like I will wait until it probably goes F2P (if it does), with other games I am playing including another MMO, can’t really justify another $15 a month for a game that will be tertiary

    • I didn’t find many bugs since launch, however I’ve heard of a few people who did. For me, beta was a problem because I just couldn’t load into zones! Dying a lot was a pain though. I didn’t mind in FFXI because I generally didn’t find deaths a big problem til I was doing group work. It was frustrating, but in ESO I feel like I really do die a lot.

      Thanks for your thoughts Cer!