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Checking in with Elder Scrolls Online

elder-scrolls-online-logoI’ve played through a fair amount of Elder Scrolls Online’s beginning quest zones across three of the four different classes and various races available in game. I still think I’m far off from providing a solid review of the entire game, but I wanted to toss up my initial impressions for those that are thinking about picking the game up soon.

I’ll give Elder Scrolls Online credit for not strictly adhering to the MMO mold set by World of Warcraft. Quest structures and exploration feel vastly different, there’s a larger variety in skills and skill point allocation, and the game doesn’t feel as heavily focused on combat or monster hunting as WoW. You’ll still run into sub-standard quests that involve collecting X number of beast hides, or killing X number of foes, but my early exposure to quests is that they’re a bit more involved and plot heavy. I’ve helped solve a murder, drugged a guard to get to the room behind him, provided aid to ship-wrecked soldiers, and shut down a storm brewing ritual. Really, most of the quest chains I’ve encountered thus far have been fun.

elder scrolls online 003I’ve toyed around with the classes available, and I’ve settled on the Templar class as my current go to favorite. I began with Dragon Knight, a melee focused class with magical enhancements, and then moved on to Sorcerer. But Templar has been a lot of fun for me at the moment, and I think it’ll be interesting to see how valuable the class can be for groups and dungeon clears with their healing abilities. I’ve not had much opportunity or need to group in the early levels of the game, but I imagine that will change soon.

I also think that Elder Scrolls Online does a pretty solid job with the license at use here. Granted, the open world immersion of the Elder Scrolls series is a bit lost in translation. This doesn’t have that sandbox feel that Skyrim or Oblivion had, and you’re more or less forced to stick to the script when it comes to quest solving. Exploration is emphasized however, and Elder Scrolls Online is unique in that it forces you to seek out additional quests to tackle. There’s a main quest line that will run throughout, pointing you in new directions and areas. But additional quests aren’t just grouped together in some sort of central hub. You’ll often need to go off the beaten path in order to find them. This can get a bit frustrating at times, since experience gains are only worthwhile when completing quests. I’ve found myself a bit underpowered on occasion, forcing me to backtrack through areas in the hopes that there were quests that I missed.

elder scrolls online 004The couple weeks after launch have been a bit spotty from a performance perspective. Servers have come up and down at odd times, even peak times, which is disappointing. I’ve run into bugged quests that require me to either abandon and restart the quest completely, or literally log out and back in to clear the bug. These aren’t necessarily unexpected issues with a new MMO, but it doesn’t make them any less frustrating. Granted, players are within their free month (outside of that initial game purchase), but I would strongly hope that the developers clear up some of these issues going into month two.

Elder Scrolls Online is a really great looking game, despite my dislike of the character models. You’ve got a lot of customization options when creating your character, a number of unique race types with fan favorites from the Elder Scrolls series tossed in, and some neat looking pieces of equipment to discover. The overall world looks great, with lots of fantastic vistas to behold and unique structures to explore. I’ve playing on a modest rig, an i5 4670k with a GeForce 750ti card, and I’ve had virtually no trouble playing on High settings across the board, maintaining somewhere between 80-100 fps at 1080p.

elder scrolls online 002I still have a lot to uncover with Elder Scrolls Online though. I’ve only scratched the surface of the crafting mechanics, and have yet to sample the PvP side of things. I haven’t engaged in any party required quests or instances either, and I’m curious to see how ESO handles boss fights and other significant encounters. I’m certainly enjoying the experience the more I play of it though, and have found that the game definitely grows on you the more you become acclimated to the fact that this isn’t just another WoW clone. It’ll take some adjusting to for long time WoW players, but it provides a nice alternative to those burnt out by other MMO’s.