Elder Scrolls Online BETA Preview


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21 comments, 824 points

WARNING: This review will wholeheartedly document the journey of a complete and utter noob.

So the time has come… the next stage of BETA testing for The Elder Scrolls Online has gone public. I must admit, this was a game I’d not particularly reconnoitered with interest over the year – partly because MMO’s aren’t my thing and partly because of Skyrim’s successful longevity. I still have many miles to go in that chapter of the Elder Scrolls saga, therefore Elder Scrolls Online to me would prove to be a brief dalliance into an unknown realm that I had very little knowledge of/interest in.

Getting set up was as easy as 1, 2, 3 – a pleasant surprise for me, as historically the PC games I’ve invested in have demanded too much from my machine and therefore have either not worked or have been a slow, laborious chore to play. I am undoubtedly a console gamer at heart, however the slick load times and a simplistic character creation menu meant that I was suddenly being swayed to the ‘other’ side.

I opted to call my creation ‘Meaty Tackler’ as that’s also the semi-humorous name of the 5-aside football team I play for (well, Marston’s Meaty Tacklers to be precise). I had every intention of making Meaty Tackler an investable character, however when I realized there wasn’t an option to have my hair in a quiff Elvis-style I soon abandoned that line of thought. Therefore, Meaty Tackler became a Templar Wood Elf with a ginger Super Mario moustache and ‘no gear’ because I thought it’d be funny to see my elf run around his pants. What happened next stunned me.

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I was thrust into a genuine Bethesda Elder Scrolls game. No if’s, ands or buts – this wasn’t some cheap knock-off MMO, this was a believable, immersive Elder Scrolls game. I couldn’t believe my luck. I also instantly recognized some of the voice talent on offer – I hope the majority of players recognized The Prophet’s voice; he’s the one and only Albus Dumbledore/Michael Gambon.  Normally I’d rinse through the oodles of NPC chatter but the clearly high standard of voice acting on offer earned my respect and attention. This was continued by my comradery with the Nord half-giant Lyris Titanborn, voiced by Jennifer Hale – and eventually meeting up with the cheerful Cadwell played by the emphatic John Cleese. This abundance of talent, may I add, all available to the player before they’ve even finished the tutorial.

I worked my way through the tutorial, which didn’t take too long at all. Here we discovered the general plot outline – your character has sadly been sacrificed by the evil Molag Bal (Malcolm McDowell) who schemes to enslave all the mortal souls of Tamriel, with you now existing in this weird hellish state of limbo called Coldharbour. With the help of The Prophet, a blind, mysterious Dumbledore wannabe – you learn your way around the game’s fairly simplistic MMO set-up and transport yourself into the real world of Tamriel. From one Coldharbour to a sort of warmer-harbour, you wake up on the deck of a ship. You gather your thoughts, take a deep breath and leave the docking station in the glorious sunshine with the promise of adventure ahead of you.

ESO 1

This is immediately where I began to lose my way. Perhaps I’m not accustomed to the MMO way of things, however as soon as I stopped having my hand held I lost all sense of direction. I was a free agent, I could do whatever I wanted – Meaty Tackler could get high on leftover bits of cheap red wine and join a guild if he wanted to. And that’s exactly what he did. I stumbled into the first town I could find, already at this point Level 5. I had a look around all of the available buildings before deciding to see what the Mage’s Guild was like. It was here I joined without any hassle, spoke to a few friendly NPC faces and was given one of my first quests – to explore an empty ruin north of the town to discover some new intel. Now we were cooking with gas!

As I left the guild I discovered my first online pals, a couple of fellow BETA-testers who scrambled around the town like headless chickens. I pursued them for a while – typing random things into the chat box in an attempt to get them to talk to me/be my friend. When I say random things – I mean the truly outrageous ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ sorts of things. Suffice to say they ignored me and carried on their questing. This may be because I did something wrong, or it may be because I was playing on a special press server reserved for only select members of the UK press. While at first I felt very privileged, I soon began to feel extremely lonely and found that talking to a world full of repetitive NPC drones really began to grind my gears.

ESO 2

I ignored some of the more blatant story-progressing quests and decided to complete this first assignment for the guild, thinking it would help progress my characters stats. As soon as I took 10 steps north of the town I encountered a floating beastie (level 6) who killed me in 3 hits. Suffice to say, I probably needed some armor and a better weapon. Did I heed that warning? Nah. With a cheeky tap of the ‘R’ key I found you could respawn exactly where you died with a slight degrade to your inventory – not that I noticed it whatsoever. I continued northwards, ignoring every dangerous looking enemy I encountered and pinging arrows at things like snakes and rats and monkeys (the latter of which I felt very sad about killing). Eventually I discovered the forgotten ruins and entered. The graphics were fantastic, taking me immediately back to Oblivion on the Xbox 360, and I felt fully immersed in my press-only, lonely, meddlesome Mage quest. I was certainly ill-prepared, only knowing 2 spells and having no real weapon or amour to speak of. I managed to kill one dark creature before I was ambushed by 4 others and was repeatedly murdered. That, ladies and gentlemen, was where I called time on my BETA experience and decided to write this review.

I can see the very evident pros and cons to The Elder Scrolls online. The music and voice acting have been developed and produced so carefully with real passion and heart that this could easily be a grade A title on a console (which I believe it will be in a few months time). Graphically, ESO harks back to the very best of the Bethesda Elder Scrolls games, with similar enemy designs and a wonderful, polished appeal of Tamriel and its many dungeons. I’ve heard for many hardcore MMO gamers this game is too basic, it feels like a watered down version of Skyrim – which is probably, for me, exactly why I enjoyed it so much. Granted, it’s probably a very entry-level MMO title but it serves its purpose and I appreciated it for not over-encumbering me with gallons of text to read through and revise. The character progression was fabulous and I enjoyed being free to roam a world with other gamers – despite the general lack of press BETA testers. I imagine tackling those forgotten ruins in a team would take the pressure of a solo adventurer and therefore makes the thrill of the game more apparent – working as a group to complete objectives. Sadly, despite all the positives for the game I can’t help but feel it’s very steeply priced. The £50 initial price seems fair and reasonable to me in this gaming economy, however the subscription free rings to me a massive no-no – it’s exactly why I avoided games like these in the first place. There also doesn’t seem, at the moment, to be too much content to justify that monthly fee – and I’ve also heard a lot of content is locked behind a pay-wall, which many faithful gamers take as an insult. So while I would definitely sink more hours into Elder Scrolls Online (and look forward to) I can see it requires some work before it becomes a real World of Warcraft killer. Good job Bethesda team –Meaty Tackler certainly enjoyed his stay.


21 Comments

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  1. Your comment that “a lot of content is locked behind a paywall” is absolutely false and very misleading – no! Bad! Very bad!

    There’s an extra class you can unlock only by buying the collectors edition, but all content is available to everyone.

    For that matter subscriptions are far better than micro transactions making the game some cheap, junky, pay-for-advantages mess of a game. You who view subscription fees as “too steep” are the reason that gaming has turned to this horrendous tactic in recent years. Those who want regular, quality updates pay the fee. Everyone else go play clash of clans.

    1. “There’s an extra class you can unlock only by buying the collectors edition, but all content is available to everyone.”

      You know a class is content right? If you can’t play as a class but people that pay more can, then clearly content isn’t available to everyone.

      1. It isn’t a class it’s a race. And a Paywall is a “you can’t do more zones before you pay more” not “you can’t have this class which is only cosmetically different unless you pay more one time or if you preorder through a good site with a coupon (green man gaming) you get it for the same price”

        The comment makes I sound like you have to keep putting in quarters… Not true

      2. No, no, no. Subscription fees are the worst method of payment. That’s like $200 a year. Some people will be playing for 3+ years, they’ll end up paying approx. $600. I’m sorry, but that’s just messed up.

  2. I agree with Ash. I’ve found the experience of free to play much less enjoyable than paying the 15 dollars a month. Though it is a high amount some, fortunately I can fit it in my budget. Especially when I look back a realize that while I play an mmo I typically dont buy any new games. Anyway I dont expect everyone to agree but I hope people give this game a decent chance first. Have fun everyone!

  3. A lazy review. Seriously, you get access to beta on a press server, and you purposefully set out to fail and not engage with game at all? What a waste of your time, and mine for reading it.

  4. IF you are gonna make a rewiev, atleast take then half an hour extra time to do the research required. You seem to havet missed that its a zenimax game (or you just formulated yourself in a silly way) and you dont take the time to explain why monthly fees can be good – in other words showing just pure ignorance.

  5. The game is amazing. Regarding the subscription: When you break it down its not far off from WoW. Both have a $14.99 monthly fee. Difference is ESO is $60 upfront and WoW is $20 (plus expansions and a store >.<). Subscriptions keep out hackers, gold farmers, and insure you have all the GM`s (Game masters) needed to save your butt when you get into a mess or are being harassed. When you enter a new area "arrows" will appear on your navigator letting you know who to talk to which easily progresses you on the right path. Theres no reason to be lost in this game at all. Once you hit level 10 and can enter PvP its a whole other world and its amazing to say the least. I dont know how many of you have actually gotten to play, and if you havnt I highly recommend putting in a beta application so you can experience it.

    1. the game is amazing and ill be playing ESO iv even pre-ordered it after testing this weekend …. only thing i wud change in your comment is ‘eso is 60 wow is 20 …. well yeah eso is a new game wow is what? 10 years old now lol? … go back 10 years wow was the same price.

  6. . Review the game not the price tag people can choose to pay themselves. For non-cheapskates the price is very reasonable for what you get. I guess Console players just don’t get it.

    1. im a console player … ps4 and i have pre-ordered the game …. for the fact sony waved the ps plus cost … legends … cant say id b playing if i owned a xbone .. wudnt pay monthly + xbox live … as they have too 😛 ms being greedy as always.

      anyways looking forward to my ps4 beta.

  7. I am not sure why everyone in the review section is getting all emotionally charged here…this kind of response from sites reviewing the game is pretty standard now. Most agree…it’s a mediocre MMORPG that does nothing to revolutionize the genre and is not worth the sub fee.

    It is a very average MMORPG. Combat is dull, questing is dull, graphics are pretty damn good, and animations are not bad.

    This is my 3rd Beta and I heard a lot of people say that once you get to level 10 and beyond the game really starts opening up. However, upon hitting level 10 I stumbled across a level 10 quest that allowed me to kill 10 bad guys and press “E” on each one while waiting 15 seconds per kill for a spell to be cast. Worse yet, the spawn rate was very slow and so you had 5-6 people waiting around to kill a bad guy and press “E” on it to wait 15 seconds to complete a quest.

    There is a reason Todd Howard did not want to touch an Elder Scrolls online game and now we see why.

    1. lol another 1 stuck up there own arse … read the guys statement .. level 10 = pvp is a whole new world yet ur just talking about quests … pvp is big in this game and very enjoyable … and what game doesnt have basically the same repeatable quests ? have u ever played a mmo before lmao? … kill these do tht pickup this … everygame ever made is the same quest wise . so dont use that as a excuse to ‘moan’ at the game or you shud moan at every other mmo / mmorpg made .. its also still in beta …. at the end of the day the game will be better of without people like you 🙂 go play your other ‘non grindy same questline mmo /mmorpg’ 😉 peaceout.

    2. I’m OK with people not liking the game. I’m on the fence myself. But this review seems to be intentionally misinforming

  8. Massively uninformed review. This isn’t game journalism, this is cheap tabloid trying to cash in as first “review” with sloppily thrown together bits of information gathered from hearsay and blind speculation.

  9. Good god, what a lazy, horrible review. Even on top of the insanity of doing an MMO “review” of a beta build, and only playing it a few days (it would take WEEKS to get through and assess the content), this article is just sloppy and inaccurate, as many commentors have documented below.

  10. I stumbled across this “review” and needless to say I won’t be coming back to this site. If you don’t intend to give other people’s products a fair chance than I shall do the same.

  11. I’ve been playing for the last three beta weekends and to be honest I think a lot of the hype is significantly overrated.

    1. The beta’s have been very poor in my opinion, most especially this last one right before release. If your trying to entice me into a $70 up front fee and $15 dollars a month you do it by wowing me with QUALITY gameplay and new and exciting areas that make me want to explore the game in more detail. The gross amount of quests that are inoperable, bugged, shut down, unresponsive and/or simply just don’t work and have done so for over 3 beta’s and still in most cases have yet to work does not entice me to invest in a game. If anything it tells me that you are releasing the game far earlier then it should be and you’ve done a half assed job of creating a stream-lined project. The whole point in beta testing is to test, not to literally do nothing but “waste time” trying to do even the beginners quests that have been bugged and will continue to be bugged with no resolution in sight.

    2. You don’t break what already works, the last minute changes that prevented even siege equipment from being utilized in pvp is beyond me. Again if you want me to invest in your game show me what works not what is broken.

    3. Fix the server lag, if it takes 80-90% of the people playing 20-40 seconds to see a response when using a skill/ability while both in pve/pvp you are demonstrating that you are not prepared to handle the load the game is expecting. I can appreciate the fact that they are “stress” testing the servers to establish limits but do so in a way that does not affect the game play. Back to what I stated before, if you want me to consider investing in a game then show me a product that works not one that doesn’t.

    4. Story line/pve is crap, there is no reason to invest in a game that does a poor job of mimicking what has already been in place for YEARS. WoW did it, Age of Conan, EQ, and the list goes on and on, same boring quest lines, go from point a to point b, same old same old.

    To sum it up I was very excited for this game to release two betas ago, but the resurgent problems, the general lack of beneficial changes, limited content, poor performance and overall lack of originality not only makes this game a poor choice in my opinion but just continues to re-certify the fact that games are not being made with the players in mind but the price tag associated with them. You wouldn’t buy a car that bucks and jumps and makes all sorts of noises when you take it for a test drive off the lot so why would you buy a game that they can’t even get close to right two weeks before release?