In the interest of full disclosure, I did not purchase or play Elder Scrolls Online at launch. I played in two of the beta/stress test weekends. My first impression of the game was… less-than-favorable. I wouldn’t say I hated it, but certainly didn’t fall in love.
I decided to give it another chance a couple of weeks later, in case I was originally too hasty to form an opinion. It still failed to impress, as evidenced, clearly, by my reluctance to drop money on the game at launch.
And I was tempted, even though my initial experiences should have cured me of that outright. I certainly don’t want ESO to fail… I’m not trying to dislike it. It looks like it should be good, but it just doesn’t feel that way.
I think I’ve narrowed my dislike for the game down to a couple of main points. First and foremost, allow me to go on record again as saying I am far from the biggest Elder Scrolls fan. I’ve played all of them since Daggerfall, but I don’t love the franchise. I think lately the games are being crushed under their own weight.
But one constant about the Elder Scrolls franchise, flawed as it may be, is that you are the center of the universe in those games. You regularly feel like the entire world is there solely to function as your playground. The people populating it, simply carrying on a mundane routine, waiting for your to grace them with your presence and fuck up their little lives. If you want to break into some poor bastards house and fill it to the eyeballs with plates you’ve stolen from across the kingdom, nobody can tell you otherwise.
Cut to Elder Scrolls Online, an MMO. And in MMOs you are constantly reminded that you are not the center of the universe. Whatever you’re doing, dozens of people are also doing all around you. You do not have complete reign, the world is not your personal sandbox.
And when you remove that element from an Elder Scrolls game, as rich as the lore might be, in my opinion you are left with a fairly generic fantasy game.
Which leads me to my second point… if all we (and by “we” I mean those who are just that invested in the ES lore/world) really have here is a generic fantasy game, then at least that game’s mechanics had better be spot-on.
I don’t think ESO’s mechanics are spot-on.
This is going to boil down to combat. Fuck the rest, combat is 90% of the game anyway, and in ESO, I just didn’t think it felt… impactful. In first-person view, your character swings his weapon in a variety of directions that all look well enough, and if you’re close enough to an enemy, they take damage. But those two events, to me, felt disconnected. I didn’t feel like there was any weight or contact behind combat, or my character’s swings. It just didn’t feel good.
And if the combat doesn’t feel good, I can’t see myself spending dozens of hours engaging in it.
I’ve heard from people that the more they played ESO and the further they got, the more engaging the game became. I only got to about level fifteen-ish in my time with the game. Maybe it does pick up and improve later on. If the game were F2P, I’d probably stick it through just to find out. But it’s not a gamble worth $60 based on my hands-on with it.