Along with a cool pint in a beer garden on a summer’s day, or plunging into an icy shower after a jaunt in a sauna, (remember any of those things?) there’s nothing quite as refreshing for gamers as being able to clear 100Gb from your hard drive with a clear conscience. As titles become more extravagant, with expansive worlds and higher production values, game installs have become ever more bloated, threatening to squeeze out other, more restrained games from your daily life. Elder Scrolls Online has been a major culprit for many years, but now, with its arrival on Stadia, that’s all just melted away for me.
Yes, I know. Here I am again, proselytising for Google’s streaming service, but before you get each and every one of your hackles up let’s have a good think about this one. ESO by its very nature requires an online connection, and a solid one at that, and that does away with most people’s main problem with Stadia. You can’t play ESO offline, even if you wanted to – it’s literally in the game’s name – so the fact that it’s sat on Google’s servers somewhere instead of in your house, makes no immediate difference.
The immediate difference comes in the shape of install sizes, downloads and patches. While never exactly svelte, Elder Scrolls Online regularly finds itself at an overwhelming size, and though the odd optimisation pass might briefly shrink it back down, it’s soon back to its old tricks, chewing up space like a hungry hippo chomps on marbles. Stadia provides a moment to moment version, whenever you want to play, without a hint of hard drive heft. You can forget about those horrific times where you’ve planned to meet up with your clan mates only to find there’s a patch waiting to download. It’s ready to go whenever you are.
Elder Scrolls Online on Stadia isn’t a locked down console version either. Even with the base game and its Morrowind DLC being included as part of the Stadia Pro subscription, the servers would be… sparsely populated if it was just made up of Stadia owners.
To that end, ESO on Stadia is connected with the PC servers, giving players a vast number of other people to interact with on day one. As an extension of that, there’s also cross-progression so you can carry your PC progress over as well. Sadly it doesn’t include any console progress, but if PC players fancy a blast on the living room TV instead of their desktop, then you can hop on Stadia and stick with your favourite hero – or loveable rogue – without pause.
That’s the other huge benefit of Elder Scrolls Online on Google Stadia. You can play anywhere you’ve got an internet connection; PC, laptop and Chromecast-equipped TV are all fairly standard places to play, but you can now also play ESO on your phone. You don’t even need a controller, with newly added touchscreen controls meaning you can truly play whenever the mood takes you.
There are some limitations to that, but ESO actually plays a pretty decent game with touchscreen controls, and the opportunity to run one or two quest lines at lunch, or simply hop on to grab your daily rewards, is fairly compelling. If you’re a dedicated ESO fan, it’s intoxicating. Everything scales perfectly well to your average smartphone screen, with dialogue and quest information easy to read, while combat works perfectly as well, with ESO always having had relatively loose handling.
As a game that centres around interaction, daily challenges and rewards, and at this stage boasts an incredible amount of content, the option of being able to play at any time can’t be understated. A truly online experience means that all of the hard work is being done elsewhere, letting you and your teammates simply enjoy the game. Having switched from playing on my PC account to Stadia has meant that I’ve been able to heap myself in ESO shenanigans all week, while freeing me from my desk. Hell, I did actually spend Sunday morning playing it on my phone, and it was as good there as anywhere else.
The Stadia version of Elder Scrolls Online is a visual match for the game running on PS4 and Xbox One, while benefitting from being rendered at 1440p. It looks great, with crisp, clear architecture and detailed character models. The one major concession is that the Stadia version’s frame rate is locked to 30fps, while PC players obviously aim higher depending on their gaming rig.
You do obviously have to factor in the price of admission, but that’s currently negligible. ESO is bundled in with Stadia Pro (and you can still get one month of this for free by just signing up), but you can buy the base game outright for £14.99 or the Greymoor bundle with previous expansions for £54.99, all right in line with the pricing on Steam. More importantly, existing PC players won’t need to repurchase expansions or ESO Plus memberships, as that will carry over via your Bethesda.net account.
Elder Scrolls Online on Google’s Stadia is honestly one of the most compelling additions to the streaming service’s line-up. With full cross-play with the PC version, it does away with any concerns about lower player counts on Stadia, while opening up a plenty of benefits and flexibility for an always-online game. Whether you’re a super fan or you’ve decided to get into ESO for the first time, its arrival on Stadia is a big moment for the MMO and Google’s streaming platform.