The Elder Scrolls Online BETA – First Impressions
You may remember that I had a strong fear that The Elder Scrolls online would take over my life, rendering me jobless and let’s be honest – pantsless. I’d like to say that’s still the case. And who knows, it may still be, but I came away from my ESO experience just a little underwhelmed, and I think I finally put my finger on why.
I should probably start by saying that the game is incredibly beautiful. At the highest graphics setting I was truly impressed with the world, the people, my toon and everything else in whatever direction I looked. There are a great many things in this game that so far appear really fantastic. Gameplay itself was generally fluid, and the user interface was nice and recessed allowing for some good immersion. NPCs are well voiced, lore and story is predictably dense and enjoyable, and the music as always is a treat for the ears. I really did have a pretty fun experience with it. But there was just something missing for me.
I think my biggest observation for the whole experience is that The Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t really feel like an Elder Scrolls game to me. It somehow lacks the kind of magic that made the previous single player games so great. It’s a hard thing to define, this special something, this “it” factor, but for me it just wasn’t there.
The atmosphere, while immersive in its own way didn’t seem as mysterious and majestic. I didn’t feel like at any moment I would stumble across some really cool secret or random experience while exploring. Actually, I didn’t even do much exploring. I didn’t feel like I should, and that was a bit troubling to me. Part of what makes the Elder Scrolls game series so great is the player’s ability to run off into the great wide open and do anything, nothing, something other than the main quests. Players are rewarded for exploring the world, whereas in ESO my path was laid out for me very specifically. The quests guided me from place to place in a much more structured way than I would have preferred. There wasn’t much to figure out. Go here. Do this. Bring me this. In a way it felt a bit like a grind. I’m sure I could have gone off and explored, but I didn’t really want to. I felt that in doing so I wouldn’t be playing the game correctly. As it was, ESO felt a little like every other MMO for me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was expecting more.
To be fair, I didn’t get to experience grouping or dungeons so I can’t really comment on that. I will say that enjoyed the progression of my character with the skill set and classes and had a nice time learning new things. It’s good to see that searching endless barrels will still garner some fun loot (oh god did I loot all the things), and I’m glad the game is made in keeping with the tradition of discovering every book in Tamriel.
The Elder Scrolls Online is a good game. Maybe it’s even a great game! It’s sometimes difficult to fully tell from a BETA event, and what I didn’t like is absolutely forgivable and maybe will even be addressed. The experience did put a slight damper on my overwhelming excitement for the game, but it certainly didn’t kill it completely. I’ll be interested to see what the final released product looks like.
All of this is of course just my personal experience and opinion. You may find others that had the best time ever, and that’s super. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll definitely still be giving ESO a real go of it at some point, though I may not be doing so on day one like I had originally thought.