Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 21, 2014
Should I try The Elder Scrolls Online?

There is a number of new MMORPGs coming out, and I think I will buy both Wildstar and Everquest Next. That is not to say that I plan to spend years in those games, but at least I will buy the initial box and play the first month to then decide how much I like them. For The Elder Scrolls Online I am not so sure. I am reading reviews like this one from Clockwork, and they make me want to give the game a miss. Even the fans of TESO are making me want to not play the game, for example when I see how some flew into a rage and completely misrepresented my rather neutral post on the tutorial and starting area of the game. Up to now I have seen A) negative reviews and B) fans attacking those negative reviews, but I haven't seen a detailed and positive review yet.

My experience with TESO is limited to reading reviews, seeing screenshots, and a few YouTube videos. Personally I prefer the cartoony WoW / Wildstar style of graphics to the "let's keep the game in grey and brown tones" of games like EQ2 and TESO. The graphical style also tends to affect the user interface, for example Clockwork talks about TESO missing the floating numbers to indicate damage: Those floating numbers fit much better into a comic look than into graphics that aspire to be photo-realistic.

But ultimately I am most concerned with gameplay. And with a MMORPG my prime concern is always the combat system, because you spend so much time doing combat. The combat system was the prime reason why I didn't play that much LotRO, in spite of having paid for a lifetime subscription. I loved playing a hobbit in the Shire, but I hated that combat system where you pushed buttons and then waited for things to happen much later. That is not related to whether a combat system is twitchy and full of action, but simply to how involved you feel with combat when there is an immediate reaction of the game to your key press. So when I read that this is a problem with TESO, that could be the deciding factor not to buy the game.

I would be grateful if somebody you post a link here in the comments (Pro tip: Use HTML tags in the comment to turn the URL into a clickable link) to a detailed and positive review of The Elder Scrolls Online. I am more than aware of the negative things said about the game and would like to see the positive sides described in more detail before I make a final decision.

Positive review:

Comprehensive review from Tamriel Foundry
I have no idea on ESO but you shouldn't need to make any actual buying decisions for EQNext. Although there's been no announcement of a payment model, it seems likely it will be F2P with no box purchase and no compulsory subscription, at least if you believe John Smedley's oft-restated commitment to the hybrid F2P model SOE has developed these last few years.

Of course, EQNext won't appear for a year or two and if ESO and WildStar soar to success on a sub model the entire market could have flipped by then and we could all be back to subscribing like it's 1999 so I guess we shouldn't presume too much.

At the time of writing it Belghast was still under NDA of sorts. He said that NDA has dropped. Take it for what you will, but this is a guy that has been playing it since alpha for over a year. He also was a GW2 alpha player and predicted the shortcomings of that game. He loves TESO and his opinion is based on over a year of playing not weekend betas or press previews to level 15.
Take a look at Angry Joe's review who started with a very negative review and than changed his mind after playing for some time:

For me it was the most immersive experience I ever had in a MMO.

If I remember correctly you are / understand German? Then have a look at GamersGlobal Preview. It is one of those still written while under the NDA, but you should get a mostly positive review without hiding the limitations / possible flaws of TESO.

I personally gave up during the second stress test somewhere around level 8. It felt like a well polished Triple-A MMO but it was as you described in one of your posts: "questing on rails".
Not to keep plugging Belghast, but he did address those early "rails" in TESO which are intentional here-

A lot of the time us veterans forget there are younger new MMOers that need their hand held. I remember playing EQ and DAoC for the first time, those games took me weeks to get my head out of my ass (not sure if I can say ass here. I usually don't comment here. I lurk, but never thought to ask if I can say ass. Is ass Ok?). Then WoW changed that by holding my hand more. Man it was refreshing to log into WoW.

Just saying there are assloads of new MMOers that need those first 10 levels bottle fed.

I said ass again sorry.
ESO is in every sense an Elder Scrolls Game... you either love them or hate them... or at least never understood the fuss about them. Like every single Elder Scrolls game you begin the game with a "prisoner" sequence. You had to play through this is Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind.... and at this point I really don't remember the intro sequence in Daggerfall but I believe it was a prisoner scene as well. It would not be TES were it not for this start of the game. The tutorial/introduction is rather short and pending you don't stop and smell the roses much, you can get through it quickly. After that it is once again like a TES game. There is a clear sequence of quests you can follow, but you can also choose to go off script pretty much from the start and faff about.

In any given area there are one or two quests you need to complete to progress the story to the next area. However you do not have to pick up any additional quests if you do not choose to. Personally when I start a new character I rush through the introduction and wander around the starter islands killing random mobs and collecting ore to craft my own gear. That is not to say that the quests are not well worth your time spent, because they tend to be the easiest way to level... but that is completely optional. I love the crafting system... has more depth that pretty much any crafting system I have gamed under. The awesome thing about it is that it has a heavy exploration component.

Remember how cool it was the first time you realized you would have to go down into Blackrock Depths to use the Black Forge to craft any of the Dark Iron items? That was at least a really cool moment for me. There are hidden crafting stations scattered throughout the world, each one can produce a certain type of gear that you can ONLY get through using those stations. So when you find a crafter that can make it, you two will have to venture to that area to get the items crafted. I like that I have multiple options of getting materials. I can either run around the world looking for Iron, or I can go on a murderous rampage and melt down gear into raw resources.

The game has proven to be extremely divisive. It controls pretty much the same as any other TES game. If you didn't like Skyrim... then chances are you will not like ESO. Playing the game in first person feels almost exactly like playing Skyrim to me. I personally play in zoomed out third person mode, but you can shift back and forth between the two views instantly by hitting the V key. As you move further in the game it continues to open up more, so by the time you reach 15 the world feels extremely wide open. But like I said in my "rails are what you make of them" post... it is entirely your choice if you want to stay on those rails or not from the moment you exit the prison sequence.

The thing I have struggled with the most is the extremely minimalist user interface. I personally don't like that, but the intent was to provide an interface as familiar as possible to those players used to playing a skyrim type game. Something that does not get talked about a ton, but has been mentioned publicly is that the game will have a WoW-style LUA based addon structure. So pretty much anything you want to add back into the minimalist base... like scrolling combat text or unit frames or the other trappings of traditional MMOs, should be achievable without a lot of effort by downloading a mod. if it is any indication.. already has an addon prepped and ready for data mining (

It is SW:TOR and every other homogenized multiplayer, lobby-system, heavily instanced, fantasy first-person shooter all over again.
You know I'm not a fan of SWTOR and I'm not a TESO fanboy or Wildstar or this or that, but I would like to K omw where you're coming from with this comment. Do you have experience past the weekend betas? Have you played the game? I'd like your thoughts on how you came up with the idea how it's like SWTOR. Opinions are great if they don't sound like a regurgitated script written over and over to sound witty. Don't take my comment wrong I really want to know your experience with the game. I feel people play off comments like this as trolling, but you might just be too busy or she to really express your experience. The gaming community gets a bad reputation for dumbed down blanket statements. Please expand on your thoughts so we all can understand because it could help Tobold decided if he wants to play TESO or not.
No reviews to link, just a little beta experience to share - take it for what you will.

I went into the beta thinking "there is no way an Elder Scrolls game will transfer well to MMO." The impression I got was that it felt a lot like a multiplayer version of Skyrim that actually does work as well as most MMOs. I was pleasantly surprised and mildly impressed.

That said, I didn't see anything that felt revolutionary or "must play" to me. It's something I would seriously consider buying to play, but there's no way I can justify paying a subscription fee without serious buy-in by people I know (thus making for a community experience), and that is lacking. So I'll be sitting this release out.
"It is SW:TOR and every other homogenized multiplayer, lobby-system, heavily instanced, fantasy first-person shooter all over again."

This is like some sort of platonic ideal of inaccuracy. Wait, no, SWTOR is multiplayer, you got one thing right.

Anyway, regarding ESO, the combat seemed fine to me. I played it until level 10 with a Templar and level 7 with a Thief-y person. You run around, you stab things, they bleed, it works.

But then, I've never much agreed or understood most criticism/enthusiasm for combat systems in other games either. Skyrim was described as 'floaty' and 'no impact'. I don't know what those things mean. Tera was described as fun and involving; it struck me as tedious and simplistic.

So take what you will from that. The one thing I can say is that it's relatively challenging for an MMO. At low levels, you're not one-shotting everything, unconcerned about death. You need to interrupt/dodge/block as appropriate, be cautious of engaging groups, etc. (although you *can* sometimes manage two or three enemies at once, depending on your skills and theirs)
One thing about the ESO combat system is that it has a relatively steep learning curve. The game is extremely good at messaging when you should be doing something, but if you choose not to do whatever that thing is... you will die or come really close to dying. This can be extremely frustrating for a player just starting out. Once you master the active combat to block when you need to block, interrupt when you need to interrupt and get the hell out of the way when you need to... it becomes much more fluid and enjoyable. The complaint of floaty combat... well honestly I like floaty I guess. The games that have been complained about for having floaty combat... tend to be the games I enjoy.
master the active combat to block when you need to block, interrupt when you need to interrupt and get the hell out of the way when you need to

What is the time-scale of that? Would you for example be rather unhappy with a 200 ms ping?
Would like to know that too since here in Africa the average ping to MMO servers is about 350ms own ESO review wasn't exactly shiny but to anyone who asks me if they should 'try an MMO' I always say yes. try and see for yourself :) ofc I understand wanting to wait for f2p.....let's face it, that will happen soon enough.
@Tobold - honestly the amount of time you have to react feels rather lengthy to me. They are not really short cast times generally. They essentially channel the attack for a bit before casting or swinging. I have had a ping that high during some of the massive "cattle call" beta tests and have still been able to do what needed to be done.
My impressions were positive overall:
Explanation of why I'm fairly positive at http:/
when there is an immediate reaction of the game to your key press. So when I read that this is a problem with TESO, that could be the deciding factor not to buy the game.

That's simply not the case, at least not anymore. The game is quite responsive. The problem people are having is with the "impact" of the combat, the feeling (or lack of) hitting something when you attack. I didn't personally find it to be off-putting (and I am usually quite picky about the issue) but apparently it's something the devs are aware of and are actively working to address:

Here's a review I wrote a week or two ago:

ESO beta review.
I have attacked negative reviews because they criticised the genre and not the game. Not that genres should necessarily be beyond criticism of course. But these people weren't attacking the genre per say, they were attacking the game for being in that genre.

I've not been critical of those people who prefer the traditional MMO control system and cannot handle the action combat system. One of my best friends who I met playing WoW is in that category. That is personal choice and fair enough.

I've not really seen any legitimate negative reviews as most have criticised staple aspects of MMO's or Elder Scrolls. Aside from that you just woolly and vague criticisms which to me sound like those people who dislike something that differs from their favourite MMO X.

As for positives, well I like the combat system which is kind of an easier version of TERA and much better than the old tab target system.

It has the Elder Scrolls style of graphics that look realistic and atmospheric. For me that atmosphere is of vital importance when playing MMO's as the actually gameplay doesn't offer as high a concentration of excitement as other genres. But having the atmosphere when exploring the world makes up for that.

The voice acting was great and I didn't find the quests I did to be grindy like most MMO's. Possibly helped by the combat being more fun.

The game had far more character customisation options than most MMORPG's depending on your choice of weapon etc. Similar to GW2 in that respect.

Oh and the game was very well optimised. Of the more graphically advanced MMO's that have been released in the past 5 years I'd say that TESO was by far the best optimised running smooth at max detail 1440p on one GPU (780). TERA, RIFT and GW2 can drop under 60fps at times when running on two GPU's, SWTOR is just a complete disaster and FFXIV is fine on both GPU's but wouldn't be anywhere near as smooth on just one.


Imagine a very well optimised MMO with Skryims graphics, a combat system halfway between GW2/TERA, voicing acting from SWTOR, character play style options from GW2 and a less grindy version of the questing you have seen in all of the above...apart from GW2 which I actually disliked because it gave me too much freedom and left me lost and feeling like I was wandering aimlessly and not following much of a story.
The only "Floaty" bits about combat for me seem to be that there weren't a lot of instant attacks. You have to initiate an attack and then wait for it to land before doing something else. There were still a few instant abilities that I saw but most attacks and abilities have a brief delay. Given that PvP is supposed to be a huge part of the game this makes great sense. Nobody likes being on the receiving end of a coordinated group of instant attacks and being dead before they can do anything. That said it felt less floaty to me than Skyrim's combat.
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I tried 2 different melee styles in the beta, a 2-handed mace and duel axes. The animations and "impact" from the 2-hander was fine but the duel axes was easily described as floaty as the health drop didn't coincide with the animation.

I think some of the conflicting opinions may be because, some of the combat is still a little wonky but some is fine.

I didn't get to try a caster out.

As for the experience, I wouldn't say the tutorial is boring so much as it is quite generic, I think we have got to the point in time though that we should treat these things like a plane journey. Eventually we will take off and go to new places but we always get the flight attendents describing how to put a mask on at the start.
My feeling about ESO as similar to the ones I have for SW:TOR. A rather well-executed single player game put in a multiplayer environment for marketing reason. Not a bad game to spend time on but definitely not a multiplayer experience, rather a single player game made more expensive by subscription.
The only multiplayer aspect of ESO is PVP which I know Tobold is not fond of.

I didn't find the freedom of action and adventure which is in Skyrim and which really made it unique.

Last observation, I played in the SW:TOR beta and the ESO beta and the ESO beta was generally more buggy.

Good as single player game. Unconvinced whether good as a MMO
I will say that I played in 3 beta weekends, and played all weekend each time. I never partied a single time (if that helps you decide the direction the game goes in).

I found it to be a pretty cookie cutter MMO similar to most Rift/SWTOR type games with quest focus and smallish areas/instances etc. However, it did have a LOT of lore and elder scrolls 'feel'. if you like reading 5 page 'books' you find around... there are a ton of them.

although the zones are pretty 'quest hub driven' there are some nice reasons to explore in that there are caves, ruins and places that are not for quest that can give your character a stat boost if you read books and things you find in them.

the pvp is in a very large area but still very much 'zerg rules' and is a lot like DaoC and/or warhammer - run around, take keeps (usually doors down in about 2 minutes) rush in and kill defenders, move on... etc.

overall, I am passing on due to high cost of box and monthly.
To tell u the truth, i'm trying to stay away from MMO RPG, all of them, since I recently quit World of Warcraft that consumed 6 years of my life and i'm afraid to be sucked into another one. Nowdays I enjoy playing silly cooking flash games like Papas Freezeria Ice Cream Game but if you're you have plenty of time, yeah, why not, Elder Scrolls is one of the best RPG games in the gaming industry so why not give it a shot.
Thank you for the link Tobold! I should say my comment about the numbers was not meant to indicate I felt they were better or worse, but that they add to the feeling of combat having "impact". Without them, I feel like my character and the enemy are just two models performing animations near each other; it doesn't give a sense that I am affecting my enemy.
I'd like to second the link. Mark seems to be the same type of MMO player as I am, and he confirms that exploring and crafting are very much alive in ESO.
No link alas, but my wife and her guildies have been obsessively playing in the ESO beta whenever its up and running. Her cohorts are a fairly large group of diehards, and they tend to zone in on the next big thing (usually; they're tastes run toward whatever game caters to their RP interests the best) but they love it. Personally, I'm keen to play ESO so I've deliberately stayed away from the beta (I've found I never, ever actually enjoy a game I've already seen in beta).
" you shouldn't need to make any actual buying decisions for EQNext. Although there's been no announcement of a payment model"

Pretty sure i read that when they launched the alpha for Landmark that they said EQnext will follow the same payment model. That being free to play, with optional packs that net you free stuff and a cash shop.
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