Hands On: The Elder Scrolls Online

I’m probably the last person who should be sent to play The Elder Scrolls Online, and yet I did. I’m not a regular player of RPGs, let alone MMORPGs, for one thing, and I don’t think I’ve ever played an Elder Scrolls game in the past.

It’s not that I don’t see the appeal of dropping into a fantasy world of this scale, and I actually think it’s quite a cool idea and achievement to create something so huge and obviously involving to so many people. It’s like ham, where I’m perfectly happy to eat it, but the idea of having to eat it is off-putting. So it is with TESO, which, once I’d started playing, I found quite easy to get on with, but the idea of coming back and putting in another few hours doesn’t appeal.

It starts off with creating your character, as you pick from various combinations, with my choice between Dark Elves, Nord and Argonians, combined with a choice of class, such as Dragonknight, Templar or Sorcerer. There’s comprehensive customisation of your character, of course, and your class doesn’t pigeonhole you into a particular form of armour or weaponry.

My choice of these three races set me as part of the Ebonheart Pact, who are in a long fight for the continent of Tamriel with the Daggerfall Covenant – Bretons, Redguard and Orcs – and Aldmeri Dominion – High Elves, Wood Elves and Khajiit. Their struggle occurs roughly a millennium before the events of Skyrim.

However, my character awakens in a small town, with decidedly smaller objectives than waging war, or delving into the overarching plot. Instead I was tasked with finding an regrouping the lost villagers of the town, that we might escape ahead of the Daggerfall Covenant advance.

It’s an introductory section of gameplay, which can actually take several hours if you want to take your time. The area is a fairly small island, in the grander scheme of things, with the snowy climes that those coming straight from Skyrim will be most familiar with. Venturing out from the town in practically any direction will see you stumbling across characters from the town and picking up quests to rescue these villagers.

One task saw me having to track down and return a handful of animals back to their human forms, whilst another saw me delving into a huge cave, to try and rescue someone’s brother. A nice twist here was the notion that I was pitting my wits against a ghostly visage that had imprisoned this brother in ice, trying to discover his identity whilst coming across and slaughtering a few too many polar bears for my liking.

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I didn’t rescue all 15 villagers though, and in the interests of time told the town’s captain that we had to pack up and go before the Covenant arrived. This was cut a little too fine, and the climactic events of the area saw me sneaking and battling through the village, as it was being razed by the invading forces.

It was around this point that I really felt myself getting to grips with the combat system, which was fairly alien to me when I started, and using my stealth-based skills to good effect for quick and effective takedowns. It was really quite satisfying to tear through this group of, admittedly quite dimwitted, opponents.

With my group rescued, we left the snowy Skyrim-esque island to head for Davon’s Watch and send a warning of the Convenant’s invasion across the alliance. Pleasingly, it changed up the environment entirely taking us to the environmental stylings of Morrowind.

TES Online is really tackling the entire continent of Tamriel, and that means that you’ll be able to revisit many of the places which you have fond memories of from previous games. Not just that, but it means that the graphical stylings of the game will change up, and you won’t be looking at the same environments for hour after hour.

That’s something quite important, when each faction holds well over a hundred hours of story-based gameplay and questing, and you’re able to jump straight from one faction to the next and preserve the same character.

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However, through all of this, I feel that this will be a game best played with friends. The entire point of taking The Elder Scrolls to an online setting is to get people to play together, and it feels like it’s geared towards that, with a merry band jaunting off on quests.

Certainly that’s the point behind Bethesda working to create a seamless, single-server world, with ESO’s Megaserver technology. The game will automatically populate your game with friends, guild members and others, so that you can just jump in and play without worry about picking the right server.

Having friends should take away from a little of the drudgery of travelling from place to place, too, and liven up some of the quests as you unravel the story of the evil machinations of Daedric Prince Molag Bal.

However, the main sticking point for many people will be that this is to be a subscription-supported game. It will come to PC & Mac, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – each with individual Megaservers – but across the board, it will be £8.99 per month.

It is admittedly a strange, and somewhat hypocritical bone of contention, given the widespread dislike of free-to-play titles. If you’re an Elder Scrolls fan, and can get past the need to pay, the The Elder Scrolls Online should be right up your street.

TESO is going to have a healthy playable presence at Eurogamer Expo this week. We’ll be sure to try and get someone more familiar with the series to try it out, too.

7 Comments

  1. *razed :)

    Sounds fantastic, I am really excited about this game

  2. Sounds cool but the online sub means its a pass from me.

  3. It would be nice to experience this but I just couldn’t justify paying full price for the game and then a monthly subscription. I don’t think I’d have the time to get my money’s worth.

    I wonder if it will end up being free to play down the road.

    • Same here. Not prepared to fork out £40 then an ongoing £9 a month to keep playing. If the main game was a free download followed by a sub like Eve then I would possibly consider it.

      • Really lol, and how much money do you people justify on cigarettes, alcohol, fast food, smart phones, or any other “latest” gadget. You all know your going to end up getting the game anyways, so quit complaining about the fee, god knows most of us spend our money on tons of other useless hobbies in our life. God forbid gaming companies make money. First rule of business (believe it or not) is to make money… I know this seems too “unrealistic” for the gaming community. By the way who is going to pay for the constant updates, customer service, expansions, and so forth. There business model completely makes since for what there our trying to achieve. Achieve it or not is there responsibility. But god knows, each one of y’all will give it a shot, at least for a month or two.

  4. I love the subscription model. I would much rather pay $14.99 a month and ensure consist customer support and game development, than hit “pay gates” where I have to “pay to win.” You can have a sub fee to ensure a quality game, or you can have free to play with pay to win. The ladder takes users out of their in-game element and into the real qorld where they have to pay real dollars to play the game. You get what you pay for. You want a game to cost $50 than nothing afterwards? Great, you get a game that never has new content. Same as any other game out there. You want a game that evolves and has new content? You pay for that. Nothing is free. Take my money, and give me a good game.

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