The Elder Scrolls Online has been the subject of much debate within the Elder Scrolls fandom, even before its announcement in May 2021. After changing its appearance and menus to distance itself from World of Warcraft, ESO positioned itself as an outstanding online Elder Scrolls experience.
After a rocky start plagued with bugs and server issues, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited was released in March 2015 as a buy to play service. In other words, it dropped the mandatory subscription fee with ESO Plus introducing an optional premium tier for hardcore fans. Fast forward to 2021, ESO has enjoyed back-to-back expansions and a growing player base across multiple platforms. With the recent launch of The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood having just launched, there’s no better time for lapsed players and curious newcomers to dive right in.
Unlike other games in the series, The Elder Scrolls Online is developed by ZeniMax Online Studios instead of Bethesda, who have taken on publishing duties. It’s set within the ESO canon and predates main titles in the series by a millennium, giving the developers free rein in terms of gameplay and story.
Players will start their adventure much like every other Elder Scrolls title, at a character creation screen. While it’s essential to factor in specific statistics for the character build that’s right for you, some choices don’t hold much weight outside of PvP (player vs player) scenarios. For example, choosing one of the three in-game faction won’t limit a casual player. It’s wise to pick a race that matches up statistically with the desired build, although class choice can be modified with specialisations down the line.
Skills are probably the most crucial choice when starting in ESO, with chosen skills levelling up as they are used. Although the skills system is flexible, it’s good to make sure race statistics complement selected skills for boosts in experience points.
ESO isn’t an offline single-player experience, but players can go it alone if they wish. You can enter quests with other players ad-hoc as they progress, but it’s always a great idea to join a guild for beginners. MMOs have communities in mind, and ESO is no different. Finding a good guild enhances the multiplayer experience and makes gameplay, in general, a lot more rewarding. The in-game guild finder is a valuable tool for this. In-game guilds can offer some great items for completing quests; amongst other benefits, they are great starting points for new players.
Trying to take on ESO’s various systems and features early on isn’t the best idea and can often overwhelm players. Although it’s an obvious suggestion, the best thing to do initially is to follow questlines. ESO is a complete voice -acted and lore-rich landscape, and questlines get players accustomed to the story and gameplay available in Tamriel’s various locations.
It’s excellent having various lands to explore, but it can take a while on foot. Make sure to visit stables for daily quests and to save up a bit to buy a mount. These can come in various shapes and forms as the game progresses, but it’s something to consider early on. Using the bank system is a great way to stock up on necessities, but just dumping all kinds of junk in your proverbial trunk isn’t the best way to manage an inventory. Sell what you don’t need and keep essential items like potions, souls gems etc early on.
Waypoints serve as travel markers throughout ESO, giving players convenient spawn points throughout the map. It’s good practice to keep an eye out for them, primarily if you’ve run out of charged soul gems. As players progress, taking on more challenging quests and participating in PvP events (Alliance Wars), players will become more dependent on both.
A character’s chosen faction will determine which side of the Alliance War a player is on. By winning Alliance Wars, the victorious will take command of the Imperial City. Taking control of the city allows players to take on big baddie Daedra and challenge Molag Bal and his armies. Naturally, the only province where PvP is permitted is in Cyrodiil, where the Imperial City is located.
Players looking to avoid PvP may do so in other provinces and by avoiding PvP zones in Cyrodiil. If you wish to fight, it’s best to do so after reaching level 50. Of course, players are welcome to fight from level 10 onwards and benefit from battle scaling. But this mechanic does not make the player quite as strong as level 50, nor does it give them any scaled class benefits. Objectives provide each alliance with a town, keep or landmark to protect. The more goals an alliance has conquered, the better standing they are in for winning the war.
There’s plenty of meat on the bones of ESO when downloading the base game on Game Pass Ultimate, which contains the Morrowind expansion. The game’s newest add-on, Blackwood, promises 30+ hours of brand new quest content, a new zone (The Imperial City of Leyawiin), the Niben Forest, wetlands of the Blackwood Bog, a new 12-player trial named Rockgrove, Oblivion portal world events and more.
The year-long ‘Gates of Oblivion’ storyline will see a further two DLC drops this year in Q3 and Q4, the latter most likely being a dungeon based on the planes of Oblivion. Another significant addition this year is companion NPCs: something that single-player Bethesda titles have used in the past. Players will be able to explore, quest, and customise with them – a landmark edition that Fallout 76 received first.
Many years after taking our first steps in Tamriel, there’s still so much Zenimax and Bethesda have left unexplored. ESO will no doubt continue to uncover more of this enchanting fantasy world, and it will be interesting to see where the next mainline game, The Elder Scrolls VI, will take us when finally revealed. Until then, this an opportunity time to choose a faction and get stuck into The Elder Scrolls Online. Create a create, level up, and get ready to close shut the jaws of Oblivion!