The Elder Scrolls Online Review
Brace yourselves, this is a long one!
The Elder Scrolls Online is an MMORPG developed by Zenimax Online Studios. It has been my go-to game for the past few years and by the looks of it, I will probably keep playing it for a long time to come. It’s really good. 🙂
This review will obviously be based on my personal opinions, but I will do my best to cover pretty much anything of interest and further revisions of this page will be made in time, based on the input and questions I get from players and generally people interested in the game.
With that being said, I just want to make one thing clear. If I say that something is very good, or even excellent, that doesn’t mean it’s 100% there yet and not in need of any additional attention.
Also, if I say that something is terrible and not performing well at all, it doesn’t mean that it’s game breaking, or otherwise I wouldn’t be playing it.
So with those little disclaimers in mind, let’s dive right into it!
Basic Setup, Size, Platforms, Pricing & Subscriptions
Believe it or not, I have no clue how much exactly ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) costs as of now. What I mean by that, is that the pricing changes depending on the country of the buyer, the recent Morrowind expansion has a different price if you have the base game (or not), the subscription changes depending on your currency, so it’s basically a mess in my mind as soon as we talk ‘pricing’.
Also, all of these online stores, new & used copies, digital & physical editions, gold & standard editions, and so on and so on, doesn’t help at all.
For me it was simple, I paid about 60+ EURs some years ago for the base game, and for a long time subscription was mandatory, but not anymore.
Right now, you can explore all these different shops and key sellers and probably find a much better deal than I did. Although, if you’re buying the recent Morrowind expansion, it will cost. Quite a bit. You’ve been warned. 😉
ESO comes for PC/Mac & major consoles such as PS4 & Xbox One. I never played it on the consoles, since I don’t own any (hardcore PC gamer here!) and back then it wasn’t out on consoles anyway. Pricing should be the same pretty much.
Nowadays the subscription is optional, it should be priced at around $15 a month and apart from providing (at the time) some minor in-game benefits, the main reason (at least I think) why players sub, is because it unlocks all the recent DLCs.
DLCs are additions to the game that get rolled out a few times per year, usually new zones, maps and things like that. They can also be purchased with ‘crowns’ which is the official currency in the game (bought with real money).
Most of the stuff in the crownstore is not of any interest to me, but I know quite a few of my friends spent a bunch of crowns on all types of things. I just bought a few costumes with my left-over crowns and that’s about it. Maybe a DLC or two that I really wanted and nothing since then.
As for the size of the game, it’s massive. Really massive. I’ll check exactly how much. Oh wow, over 107 GBs on my hard drive! I didn’t even know we’ve gone from 40 GBs to over a 100 in a short few years!
Congratulations, now I’ll have to back this stuff up because if I ever have to download this again, it will take me days with my slow internet connection.
Oh, one more thing. If you’re getting started, make sure you also select your region with no mistake. I’ve heard quite a few players complain about going over to the wrong one.
Generally speaking, both North & South Americans play on the US server, while Europeans and everyone else is on the EU platform. This goes for consoles as well, there are PC/Mac US/EU servers, PS4 US/EU servers, Xbox One US/EU servers etc.
There were options to copy PC/Mac accounts over to consoles (but not from consoles to PC/Mac) so some players did that, but don’t mess up your region because your characters and all the stuff in the game is NOT shared between them and you WILL have to start over, which is very, very, very freaking time consuming, depending on how much you’ve invested yourself.
So What Can I Do In The Elder Scrolls Online?
Well, there’s tons of different things you can do and the learning curve shouldn’t be too bad, the combat is intuitive, you aim, you click, press buttons and things drop dead. Simple right?
You can do the following (roughly speaking):
- Player versus Environment (PVE) content.
- Player versus Player (PVP) content.
- Mix of Both.
- Solo PVE, small group PVE, large group PVE.
- Solo PVP, small group PVP, large group PVP.
- Socializing, joining guilds & communities.
- Crafting and playing around with different professions.
- Building your house/estate/mansion/whatever, furnishing it until you pass out.
- Tons of other stuff that I can’t think of right now.
Basically, the game is huge nowadays. Maps are big and spacious, there’s who knows how many quests of all kinds, dozens of dungeons to run and explore, quite a few ‘trials’ (the big group PVE content, end-game usually, you know, ‘raiding’) and so on.
For me personally, I prefer PVP more than anything else, but there’s literally dozens and dozens of different things you can ‘do’ in ESO. Which is great, and hopefully will be built upon a lot more in the future.
ESO is supposed to be this blend between a solo and a multiplayer game. I would say that it’s doing a good job, because you can totally enjoy it solo, or in smaller/bigger groups, both in PVE and PVP. Sometimes finding bigger groups might be a problem, but that’s why players form communities and guilds of all kinds.
Gameplay, Controls, User Interface, Ease of Use
One thing I always liked about ESO’s gameplay, is that you can make it as empty or filled up as you want it to be. You can literally disable all UI elements if you want, or install a bunch of add-ons and transform it into a mess of a game.
For me personally, I always preferred the clean version of ESO without much stuff going on my screen, apart from the actual game elements. Not a big fan of combat add-ons, but I do support certain misc. ones that make my life easier and extend game functionality when it comes to other aspects of the game.
Controls are easy, very easy to get used to, UI is very nice and also easy to get used to, the game is not hard to grasp and learn, compared to some other MMOs out there, it’s a no contest (at least by my standards).
As an Elder Scrolls games fan, I was really surprised when I first delved into it, really loved it from the get-go.
Graphics, Audio, Design, World, Zones
The game is absolutely gorgeous. The world is huge, filled with beautiful and artistic landscapes. I don’t recall seeing many MMOs out there that can rival it, especially on max graphic settings. I’m not a big fan of Asian MMOs and how they look & feel, so for me ESO is absolutely gorgeous.
There are dozens of different zones, or maps, each with its unique feel to it.
Audio, sound effects & music is beautiful too.
Performance & Server Lag
One area that ESO has always kinda been lacking a bit, is its performance.
Especially in PVP zones. Server lag can be unbearable sometimes, but it is being worked on constantly for the past few years and from what I can see, is slowly being done away with (at least it’s not as bad as it used to be).
On the other hand, client performance is generally very flexible, I’ve been running it fairly well on a fairly old system for a fairly long time.
I’ve been seeing reports from players with top end systems, again, especially in PVP, that they just can’t pass a certain threshold, no matter how much computing power they add.
For consoles you can expect 30fps or whatever the limit is, for PC you can generally hit a higher mark but at a certain point there just isn’t anything you can do about those frame drops (again, especially in PVP).
Decreasing certain settings seems to help, but in huge PVP battles it’s always going to spiral down and this is something that devs need to improve tremendously ASAP.
Nobody wants to play a 10fps game in a laggy environment, no matter how good or bad the game looks and feels like.
The performance can be terrible sometimes, but I still have hope to see massive improvements over time.
I also need to improve my gaming setup a bit, so maybe one day when things get polished a bit more on both ends, it will be a better experience for me too.
Latency on the other hand (lag) is something that doesn’t have much to do with you, but more with the server itself and that’s totally up to the developer team to improve.
Character Creation, Progression & Champion System
Character creation tool is very good with tons of options about every little detail. There are 10 races that you can choose from as of now, and they are:
- Altmer (High Elves)
- Bosmer (Wood Elves)
- Dunmer (Dark Elves)
You can definitely feel your character progressing in dozens and dozens of different ways.
There are achievements for pretty much everything, and you can specialize in quite a few different things too.
Crafting achievements, housing, pve, pvp, dungeons, trials and so on. Everything.
Champion system kicks in once you hit level 50 and this is also an end-game progression system where you earn ‘champion points’ over time, based on experience earned, that you can then place within ‘constellations’ to further advance your character in detailed ways.
The CP system needs to be adjusted a bit and make it a bit easier for new players to catch up. This has already been done over time, it used to be much harder to get new CPs, but now it’s way easier due to the ‘catch up’ mechanic, as well as an array of additional experience boosters in the game.
Character progression feels good and comprehensive. There are also tons of different styles and dyes, so you will rarely see someone looking (almost) exactly like you. The uniqueness aspect is definitely there.
Classes & Combat
Right now, there are 5 different classes in ESO:
Warden is the new one that came with Morrowind, but was supposed to be in here since launch. This leads me to believe that there will be more classes in the future with each ‘expansion’ that might come every year or so.
I won’t go in the details of how each class performs, balance between them, but I will say that each class can be played in a few different ways and there are no lock-ins in terms of armor and weapons, you can use any armor & weapons that you choose, focus on magically oriented stuff, or physically oriented stuff, or anything in between, you’re given freedom here to do what you want.
Combat is good, you have an option to play in 1st or 3rd person (I strongly suggest 3rd for at least PVP), it feels good and it’s not hard to get used to. Compared to other MMOs I’ve been reviewing, there’s no comparison, it’s much better and enjoyable for me.
You have 3 general stat pools, and they are:
You can draw from both, depending on the abilities that you use, and generally speaking certain classes/races perform better in some aspects than others, but nothing drastic.
Health is the most important one, and once it’s out, you’re out too.
One of the problems, has always been the way that damage and healing/shielding scales in this game.
In addition to your magicka/stamina pool, there is also something that’s called weapon damage, and spell damage.
This also influences how hard your character ‘hits’ or heals, and certain abilities and spells need to ‘scale’ a bit differently to avoid extremes that we often see in combat.
Many times players will simply stack in their two primary stats and achieve not only top offense, but top defense too.
In addition to class/ability imbalances, armor imbalances, there has been a lot of controversy with regards to this.
My suggestion is to separate this into logical categories, so that if you’re pushing one stat (let’s say your ‘damage’), you won’t be benefiting tremendously in terms of healing too.
This will promote balanced builds & setups, and probably also improve server performance since not everyone will be smashing their heads into their keyboards without a cooldown, not worrying about running out of resources (also one of the big problems of the past).
Guilds & Social Aspect
It’s fairly easy to hook up with new players and expand your social circles. Being a part of, running a, or managing a guild in ESO is very easy too. The permissions system is nice, there are tons of other goodies and generally speaking I’m having fun running one of the biggest PVP & Dueling guilds in ESO.
There are certain things that we hope to see implemented in the future in terms of guild tools and what you can do as a leader or an officer of any rank.
But for now you can only be a part of 5 different guilds, and each guild has a maximum capacity of up to 500 members. This is why I’m often cleaning up my guild and making sure we don’t go over that, otherwise you won’t be able to invite more people.
Grouping up with players is very easy too and you can also form groups and choose roles easily.
Overall, I am happy with how the ‘social’ things work, guilds and stuff like that.
I would just like to see more options such as sending mails to guildies (I have to use an add-on for this), renaming the guild if possible, additional guild bank and guild store improvements, heraldry options and whatever else creative players have thought of.
Perhaps auto-kick after x days of inactivity and so on. Basically, more guild tools for us guildmasters!
Quests & NPCs
NPCs (Non-Playable-Character) are almost everywhere. The world feels alive and vibrant because of this. All NPCs are voiced, quests are voiced and acted out by professional voice actors, dialogues are fully voiced as well etc.
This is a huge plus for ESO, you don’t have to read any dialogues if you don’t want to, just sit back and enjoy the conversations. Of course, there are quests with no NPCs so in that case, you will have to read. Or not.
Quests are generally entertaining and nice, after awhile it gets boring of course, but there are different types of quest structures out there, so not everything follows the same pattern in the end. For the first time, on my main character, I have genuinely enjoyed the great majority of quests in ESO.
I don’t think I even finished all of them, especially with the DLCs and additional content over the years, there’s tons of more quests that I can do and probably will soon.
You can also group up with a partner (or more) and enjoy the quests with your spouse, child, cousin, whoever. Rarely will a quest require multiple people, but certain ones in certain zones like Craglorn might require groups of 4.
Delves, Dungeons, Trials & PVE Raids
Basic PVE break-up would look like this:
- Questing (solo or group).
- Delves & Instances (solo or group).
- Normal Instanced Dungeons (4 people).
- Veteran Instanced Dungeons (same like above but for the more brave ones, also 4 people).
- Solo Instanced PVE Arena, Maelstrom Arena in Wrothgar (both normal & veteran mode available).
- 4 Player Group Instanced PVE Arena, Dragonstar Arena in Craglorn (both normal & veteran mode available).
- Additional smaller arenas that are either open or closed in nature (Kvatch, Imperial City, various quests etc).
- Trials (12 man instanced raids, both normal & veteran modes available).
And that’s basically it for the PVE content. There’s a lot of it though and it’s impossible for me to remember if I forgot something right now, the game is massive.
More dungeons are being worked on, more trials, more arenas probably, more of everything. The amount of content packed in this game is truly impressive.
Alliance War, Battlegrounds & Dueling
Now, for the players such as myself, let’s see what we have here.
Alliance war focuses on 3 alliances battling it out to control Cyrodiil, the main PVP zone in ESO. Cyrodiil comes tied to different campaigns with different rules and each is instanced. You also have to select your primary and secondary one, but you can end up in other ones as well if someone takes you with them.
There are also quests, delves and pve content in Cyrodiil, so it’s not like it’s just a war raging over there, there’s everything. Mini-towns and tons of beautiful landscapes, areas to explore etc.
The first PVP/PVE DLC brought us Imperial City, and each Cyrodiil campaign has one of those attached to it. IC (Imperial City) is a separate instanced zone (although attached to your own campaign of course) where you can go and battle it out with players as well, fight to control districts, and there’s a new currency with that update, telvar stones.
Basic alliance war currency is alliance points, or AP.
I won’t give you much details about these two, but you can use them to buy a lot of different stuff in Cyrodiil or Imperial City.
Imperial City also has a lot of mobs and PVE stuff, so it’s open to anyone. Under IC, you have the Imperial Sewers, which is a huge network of sewers where players also go to battle it out, hunt each other, do pve content and so on. Each alliance has a base in the sewers, and the system is truly massive.
Nowadays with the Morrowind update, we will see the additions of Battlegrounds, and there will be 3 modes:
- Capture the Flag
If I’m a bit off on these, or something changes, excuse me of course. There should be more match types in the future, as well as more battlegrounds too. I personally plan to have a lot of fun there in addition to Cyrodiil & IC, and I also hope to see a smaller 1v1 PVP arena in the future.
Crafting, Economy & Housing
Economy in ESO is mostly player driven. A lot of the stuff is sold in player made trading guilds, and there are guild trader locations (NPCs) that guilds are bidding to own on a weekly basis. There is a small tax system with sales and it’s usually used by guildmasters to place bids on their traders, week after week.
Housing was a huge update for the game, there are inn rooms, small houses, medium, big ones and manors. There are two huge locations that can only be bought with in-game crowns, and they don’t always seem to be available in the crown store, but I did check them out on the public test server and they’re massive.
Tons of furnishing plans, misc. items and so on. The housing editor is extensive as well, you can fully customize your home the way you want it to be, and of course, you can own as many as you want.
Crafting is a decently large system as well. Crafted armor sets aren’t generally as popular as dropped sets from world bosses and dungeons/trials, but some of them are really good and used often by players.
There are 6 crafting professions, with possibly spell crafting coming in the future (at the moment it’s shelved as far as I know). They are:
Housing stuff is tied to these professions as well, so ultimately there is a huge amount of ‘stuff’ that you can craft and use, as well as lots of achievements. This can also make you some decent gold in a player-driven economy. All in all, a good system and hopefully expanded in the future.
Holidays & Events
At the moment there are about 3 different festivals that I am aware of, all of these come with separate achievements, mini-quests and generally fun things to do.
We have the witches festival, jester’s festival, new life festival and I can’t remember if there’s any other, but these are the main ones.
There might be some more in the future, they seem to be tied to in-game lore and dates so that’s nice and fun. Generally they last a week or two and then they’re gone until next year. I hope to see them expanded over time and improved, I’m not a big festival fan but I do enjoy some aspects of it.
Final Verdict & My Predictions
ESO seems to be going in the right direction. The pricing needs to go down a bit and there should be a bit more of open weekends where people can try the game for free.
Balancing needs to be worked on constantly, abilities, sets, crafted sets, all of this stuff needs to be improved and balanced better. Experienced players need to be brought together to discuss these with the devs, especially when PVP is in question.
For a couple of years now we have seen some trivial bugs and imbalances not being addressed, therefore the only possible solution for this is to utilize the power of the community, there are hundreds and hundreds of players out there that would gladly help free of charge, myself included, so that we can see a better balanced game in the future.
Other than that, I predict that ESO will be a fairly popular game for a very long time, I have been seeing a lot of good improvements and expansions, so that’s all good, but again, go easy on the cash grab please, some stuff is just way over priced for my taste, I’m sure a lot of other players will agree too.
My final verdict is that the game is very fun and enjoyable, it has good re-playability (PVP especially), it delivers on hours and hours of entertainment and it’s definitely worth a try.
For now, it will keep its place on my hard drive and it remains worthy of me covering it! 🙂
You should definitely try it out when you get a chance.