Let’s just say that when I heard that ZeniMax Online Studios were developing an online Elder Scrolls game to be published by Bethesda Softworks, I was less than excited. I felt that the aptly named Elder Scrolls Online seemed like a cash grab using an intellectual property that was better than that. Don’t get me wrong, I think a multiplayer Elder Scrolls game could be amazing. But not a massively multiplayer one.
I had no intention in buying ESO, but I thought I should give it a chance at least. After all, I have played Morrowind and Skyrim and liked the one and loved the other respectively. I felt it was only fair to see if my knee jerk reaction was wrong. And so, I signed up for one of the last betas for the game before it’s release date of April 4th.
The first thing that struck me was the quality of the graphics, in my opinion, was not as good as Skyrim. I understand that MMOs usually have to sacrifice on graphics a bit to make it possible for the widest number of systems to be able to run tolerably. However, it was still jarring given that I had been playing Skyrim very recently. I let this issue go and proceeded to try and enjoy the game.
I thought the opening of the game was handled very well. Your character starts in the middle of a prison break from Molag Bal’s realm of Coldharbor, a demonic realm where the dead are imprisoned. The great thing about this opening is that it makes far more sense that dozens of other player characters are running around with you in a jail break than say an equal number of players running around in a starting area in WoW killing wolves. I was actually very pleased with this and had a glimmer of hope that ESO was going to live up to my love of Skyrim.
Alas, it was not to be.
Once I got out into the world at large I realized I was back in another MMO that wasn’t striving to be anything other than a WoW clone. More fetch, kill X number of things, and talk to Y NPC quests. I didn’t really expect anything more than this, but given the small innovations that several MMOs have implemented in the last 5 years, I expected more. It just felt tired. It felt wrong. It felt exactly like what it is. A cash grab. Like some people at ZeniMax and Bethesda got together and asked themselves, “How can we leverage our intellectual property into something like the wild success that Blizzard has had with WoW?”
And that’s exactly how ESO plays in my opinion.
One of the thing that keeps my interested in an RPG is character progression. I love hitting a new level and getting to see what new skill or abilities have become available to me. In ESO I really didn’t see much difference between my character’s abilities before and after I would choose something. That’s no good for a player like me. I need to see some actual improvement or effect to my skills. It made leveling feel completely empty to me. Which is a very bad thing when you level as slowly as you do in ESO. I don’t remember for certain, but I don’t think I made it to level 10. In any other MMO I’ve ever played you would probably hit level 10 in the first hour or two of play.
I’m going to be very honest here. I played ESO for around six hours. After the first hour I was bored to tears. The game had literally became a chore to slog through. Yet, I kept at it for another five hours. Complaining bitterly the whole time and causing my wife to ask me why I was keeping at it. Finally, I realized there is a difference between giving something a fair chance and beating your head against a wall.