My first impressions of Elder Scrolls Online

For my birthday, I was given some lovely gifts. The best moderator ever, known as Fish-E, gave me Fallout New Vegas, about which I’ll write an article about at a later date. The second awesome gift I got was Elder Scrolls Online. You know, that really expensive MMO set in the Elder Scrolls series. Well, now, it no longer requires a subscription fee, so you can spent €60 on it and not pay any more ever again. Yay!

My very first impression on this game, after waiting 4 hours to install the game via the 4 DVDs in the box, then waiting another 28 hours to install the 20GB worth of patches and updates, is how lovely the art is. Really nice. Wonderful. Elder Scrolls Online has some of the best loading screen art I’ve ever seen. Which is a good thing, because this game can take quite a while to load. Unfortunately, my early efforts were thwarted by a bug which meant I couldn’t even load the game, because you have to start the game using the patcher uploading thingy first, like all Bethesda games. Minus the ability to mod the game. I’ll come back to that. Thankfully, a good old search managed to get me a solution. I just need to run the game as an admin.

The game has finally loaded. I’m presented with a log-in screen. The log-in screen requires that I validate my email, just like I would if I used Steam on a different computer. I get the code, put it in and am greeted with a lot of stuff that was seen on the cinematic trailer for the game. Oh yay, cheerful, I get sacrificed to Molag Bal! Hooray!

Time to make my character. Of course, I pick an Argonian. Because Nords are boring, elves all have their asses stuck up their asses, Orcs actually look pretty good in ESO but I’ve never been a fan (they’re always my second choice after more exotic races in games) and Bretons are also boring. The Khajiit are alright, but if I had to choose between lizard man and cat man, I’d pick lizard man. Because I have the Explorer’s Edition of the game, I also have the choice to pick which faction I want to join – Ebonheart Pact (i.e. Nords, Dunmer and Argonians, three races who hate each other are working together), Daggerfall Convent (Seem vaguely normal) and Aldermeri Dominion. Now, the Aldermeri Dominion was present in TES V: Skyrim, and they were utter scum and I routinely kill them whenever I can. I decide to be traitorous and join the Daggerfall dudes, because Daggerfall sounds cool. I also pick my class, because you’re forced to pick a class at the start of the game, instead of CHOOSING WHAT YOU WANT TO BE AS YOU PLAY AND EXPLORE. I pick Dragonknight, because it sounds cooler than Sorcerer, Templar and whatever the assassin one was called. There’s no ranged archer class, which is what I normally pick. This first character of mine is called Lokmahro, based off my Skyrim Argonian character of the same name.

So the game starts. I’m in a cell and my loot detector makes me look around for anything to steal. I’m freed by some giant Nord. Apparently there is genuine giant blood in her, which makes me worry about how the fuck her parents got together. She tells me to grab a broken two-handed sword and help her kill some guy then escape from Coldharbour. Coldharbour is essentially the Deadlands from Oblivion but with more blue and Molag Bal and less lava and Mehrunes Dagon. Either way, it’s a shitty place, and before I can leave, I have to save this Prophet person. I’m stuck with this crap greatsword for ages, until I enter this maze place, in which I can grab some decent weapons. I grab literally everything I can find, to sell off later.

Finally, we find this Prophet person, the half-giant switches places with him to free him, I fight this boss thing called a Child of Bones and we head back to Nirn.

I wake up in Glenumbra, in the Daggerfall area in someone’s house. The Prophet says I’m free to do as I must. So I steal everything that isn’t nailed down and head out into the world.

Now, with the summary over, here’s some pros and cons.

Firstly, everything is worthless early on. Things sell for no more than 20 gold really. But horses cost 10k gold and armour costs a fortune if you buy it from a merchant. You do get some armour when you get out of Coldharbour, but it’s completely random and not very good. I steal some armour later on, but even that’s not great. Ah, crappy beginner’s gear. Fun. If you want a horse, you need to get your ass crafting and enchanting and trading. Also, you get very, very little gold off enemies, no more than 10 gold. That brings me on to my second issue…

Not everything is lootable. By my estimations, every 4th or 5th enemy killed will allow you to loot it. I’m not sure how other people fit in, but it seems to be whoever started the fight gets to loot the corpse. You also have the case of barrels and crates being 99% empty, or containing like 2 bits of wheat. Because all the crates and barrels contain a couple of ingredients though, you rarely find genuinely usable stuff, you need to craft it all. Standard MMO stuff, I guess.

The combat is also incredibly different. You have your normal sword swinging and all that, but you also have 5 abilities and an ultimate, in a rather RTS/MOBA-like way. This leads to a weird thing where your sword swings and your arrows are pretty much worthless compared to your spells. An example, a sneak attack with a bow doesn’t seem to do much damage, but my poison arrow can do a third of an enemy’s health. Normal fighting is incredibly clunky in comparison with the smoothness of using your abilities.

What hurts me the most though is the inability to explore. When I first played Skyrim, I walked to every single city on the map before I was even a quarter of the way through the main quest. As I played through Oblivion, I spent more time finding new places than anything else. I can’t do that in ESO though because everything, and I mean everything, quickly out-levels me. I was barely 500m outside the starting city for Daggerfall and I was facing enemies 2-5 levels higher than me. I lost half my health fighting a fucking mudcrab!

There’s some personal grievances that bother me too. Sneaking uses stamina. Lockpicking is a timed minigame, which forces you to wait if you fuck it up, and it’s really unclear when you’re supposed to actually put it into place. Archery is uselessly slow, you’re better off using a staff. And sneak attacks don’t seem to make much difference. Basically, my three main skills in Oblivion/Skyrim are weak as heck compared to other skills in ESO. Also, who the fuck thought it was a good idea to bind OPENING THE MENU to ALT? ALT is a sprint/walk key in most games, not a menu key! It should be bound to Tab, like every other game.

The final thing that bugs me is the restrictions. You’re locked into a class and its skill sets. You’re locked into your faction. You’re locked into where you start, what you can make and craft and where you can go because of level restrictions. Gold also comes into it, you need money to constantly repair your items and to use fast travel. Merchants will take all your money too. Scum. I know it’s all because it’s an MMO, but when you build an MMO based off something that gives you so much freedom, it hurts. You also can’t really mod the game at all. It’s an MMO, so that’s not going to work.

Weirdly, despite the fact that this game is an MMO though, I  have spent the majority of the game alone, ignored by everyone. No one really says anything.

On the plus side, the whole game is beautiful. Apart from Argonians. They’re actually uglier than their Skyrim counterparts, despite all the options you have. But it’s all so wonderful to look at, it’s a work of art. The graphics are amazing. The connection is actually really good too, but I haven’t tried PvP yet, so let’s not jump to conclusions. They’ve also worked incredibly hard to cram all this lore in, so it fits with the other games. I even found M’aiq the Liar. I was actually really surprised how quickly I found him, considering how long it took me to find him in the previous games.

In the end, Elder Scrolls Online isn’t an Elder Scrolls game at all. It’s a rather generic (but pretty) MMO wearing the skin of an Elder Scrolls game. Complete with the weird bugs. Bugs like the Prophet appearing in the wrong place, getting stuck in the ground and entire rooms not loading.

AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE SUICIDAL ARGONIAN.

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