Looking at Elder Scrolls Online

In this video, we’re playing Elder Scrolls Online, the MMO based in the second era of the Elder Scrolls universe, a long time before the events of Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim. Molag Bal, the daedric prince of domination and incredibly nasty things, is tag-teaming with Mannimarco, a necromancer, to merge the real world, Tamriel, with his own realm, Cold Harbor. You are one of many people sacrificed in their attempts to do this, but through sheer luck, you get saved during a rebellion and find a way back to Tamriel… without your soul. The story follows you throughout a gigantic civil war between three factions – the Aldmeri Dominion, the Daggerfall Covenant and the Ebonheart Pact, and your own quest to defeat Molag Bal and retrieve your stolen soul.

Now, considering that this game has Elder Scrolls in the title, you’d expect it to be very much like the single player games. Apart from the quests and sneaking, it isn’t really. It’s an RPG, with abilities and levels and grinding, set in the Elder Scrolls universe.

When it comes to gameplay, it’s pretty standard. Long walks, getting quests, killing people, trying not to get killed, things like that. I haven’t reached the PvP areas yet, but that is a bad idea at level 6, and it seems to take a while to level up. Areas are roughly level-restricted, with the starting areas being level 1-5, and levels increasing the further you walk, the higher the level everything is. The area I currently am in, around the city of Ebonheart, ranges from level 1 to level 12, and I’ve sneaked across most of it.. During four hours of play, I only managed to get 75% through level 6. Which sounds good, except for the fact that firstly, I was using a level 5 character I had made a year ago and secondly, I completed a set of quests meant for level 10 players. Still no level 7. Meanwhile, I bumped into someone who was level 304, who was abusing their level to kill guards in Ebonheart for some reason. I walked all the way to the Rift, a level 40+ area, and completed a quest there, only just reaching level 7.

That all being said, I’m enjoying not grinding. The world of Elder Scrolls Online is absolutely beautiful. I’ve wasted most of my time randomly walking around, exploring rather than fighting. You can really get yourself lost… up until you have to fight something. As amazing as Elder Scrolls Online looks, I don’t particularly like the combat system, especially as an archer. You are much more reliant on using your class’s abilities than you are the weapons in your hand, and although many big enemy attacks are clearly indicated, others aren’t so much and it takes time to learn if and when you can dodge.

The early game loot is pretty mediocre too. I got to level 6 wearing starter armour. I’ve now found a spot that spawns level 6 armour on a regular basis, but it turns out nearby loot scales to your level, so I couldn’t steal a cool high level sword in Riften.

My biggest problem with Elder Scrolls Online though is an odd one. Despite how beautiful the world looks, it feels lonely and dead. You see people running around, doing quests and stuff but nothing ever seems to happen. The NPCs are stationary 90% of the time, to the point that I was shocked to see a quest-giver run up to me half-way through her quest. I thought I was being arrested. The players make this far worse than it actually is. No one ever says anything, unless they are advertising for a guild, a quest or items. I tried striking up conversations with people and got one reply in five hours. Even me saying thank you after accidentally helping destroy a dark anchor (one of Molag Bal’s evil devices) got no response at all.

It’s a shame. Elder Scrolls Online is a nice game, but despite all the people running around and being next to a giant volcano, everything feels a bit cold and dead. Elder Scrolls Online is a game to play with friends, not on your own.

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