Elder Scrolls Online – The good, the bad, the ugly

I must have played TESO for at least 200 hours by now. It’s not a heck of a lot in the grand scheme of things – particularly in the world of MMORPG’s. This is however, the first MMO into which I have invested so much time (played WoW and SWToR a fair bit – both got to around level 40). When Skyrim first came out, I took a week off and played it more or less solid through the week. Over the years, Skyrim had me traipse through its landscape for over 150 hours.

While this post will talk about my gripes with the game, it should be noted that I still love this game and look forward to hundreds more hours of playtime. The gripes are on paper to get them off my chest and hope that they will be resolved. Gripes about TESO are not hard to find – the eso forums are rife with complaints and bugs – but that’s really besides the point… :-p

TESO was a game I was very much waiting for; breath baited. Took time off work, got my brother to take time of work and played it in earnest. It is difficult to put my finger on what was expected from this. In all honesty a multiplayer version of Skyrim would have been fine for me. It was not the MMO elements that attracted me but the multiplayer elements.

If they had merged Skyrim and Borderlands (2), it would be a perfect game – or so went the thought process. The features of Elder Scrolls Online do seem to be (on paper at least) a good mix of MMO Features and Elder Scrolls Features.

I don’t care about the “bugs” since they seem to be pretty on the ball with regards to getting them fixed and while there are a ton of them, and they are annoying – let’s be fair – would it be an Elder Scrolls Series without more bugs than a dark and damp cave?

Forced Single Player – Really?

The first gripe with the game and still by far the largest is this. For an MMO, there is an awful lot of content that you are forced to play single player. This makes no sense to me!

When the game was designed / developed, did they not know that this was an MMO? Why create a story that follows the entire Elder Scrolls series when you are someone uniquely special? It was such a massive opportunity wasted to create a story line where you could have an immersive experience accepting all the other people jumping around the place.

I think it was DC Universe Online that made it so powers were like essences that were scattered and “creating” a number of superheroes. This makes sense and maintains the immersion. Most MMO’s seem to have this kind of a story – and it makes a lot of sense. Why would you make an MMO where you are ‘the Vestige/Soulless One’ – a unique hero? I mean, you get out of coldharbour and instantly meet thousands of other Vestiges… :-/ WTH man, you said I was special!

In TESO, this immersion is regularly and quite badly broken. You are asked to do some missions and you see other people do the same mission – not a big deal in itself except when the completion of the mission is supposed to change the world – and you see someone else finish it – but nothing happens – you still have to finish it. If the other players were just not displayed, that would have been better.

Back to the soloing of missions – I can completely understand the need to instance areas to a group(for bosses perhaps). However, for the main mission and the missions for the two guilds (fighters and mages), you are forced to solo it. This makes no sense. If I wanted to do missions on my own – I’d play Skyrim, Oblivion or Morrowind – or indeed other single player games.

I guess in summary – they seem to have failed in making it an MMO OR a Single player game. In the main MMO area, there is too much immersion breaking interaction with other players and where you do want to be able to group, you are forced to solo.

Another gripe – but its a small one because they are getting fixed are the sheer number of mission bugs – some of them are hard progress blocking bugs. The team seems to be working hard on resolving these so this should just be a matter of time. Unfortunately, it’s the early adopters who suffer the most.

XP – In an Elder Scrolls Game?

Oh the next gripe is about this game being called Elder Scrolls Online but one of the critical parts of what an Elders Scrolls game should be is only half implemented. The main reason I started playing the Elder Scrolls games was that the skills levelled up not based on XP but on how much it was used.

Sure, Morrowind had some problems in that skills levelled up quicker as you levelled up since it levelled skills based on successful use of a skill and the better you were at it, the higher chance you had of success.

In my mind, this would be easily solved by changing it to level up based on how much it was used – successfully or not. Of course, this may have other complications.

In no way, however, does it make sense to level skills based on XP gained. This at best just breaks immersion – but its just heartbreaking. If I want to get better at a skill, I should be using it – not just swapping my toolbar and handing in the missions!

Class Specific Skills… Yeah?

If we were to pick one word to define the entire Elder Scrolls Series – which word do you think would be picked? No matter what you think – the word Freedom would be up at the top or very near it… How does class specific skills fit into that? Each class has three skill lines, and at this point, there are four classes. This means that that any given point, every character is missing out on 9 entire skill lines.

It very much feels like they got an MMO expert in to consult and they were told “There is only one way to do MMOs and that’s to follow all the other ones out there.” Well, let’s be fair, if we wanted to play a game like the other ones out there – well, we would just play the other ones out there.. The same goes for why I prefer Skyrim to the plethora of other games.

Shoehorning in the Elder Scrolls system of skill progression and getting XP seems to have been a “compromise” they struck – but let me tell ya – I don’t like it! The whole idea of skills progressing as you use it works because it feels “real”. “Oh I found a new location and look, I am better at fighting with swords…” – eh?

Feels like a lazy way of bringing balance to a game and if you ask me – it makes balancing more difficult since you now have to ensure that entire skill lines are balances instead of just skills

Finally

Am I going to stop playing TESO? Am I going to recommend not playing it? Hell no! It is still, in my opinion, the best MMO out there… What breaks my heart is that it could have been oh so much more. I very much think that they should have maintained their faith in the product – one which has been massively successful thus far! I can only hope that they see the light at some point and open it all up…

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