Normally, I don’t fancy myself as a usual MMORPG player. The endless clicking and tedious quests usually make me stop playing after a handful of hours. However, when I started up The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, I had a feeling this would be different, and I was right. The game, based on the massive Elder Scrolls universe, manages to be a pretty fun experience overall. After a long time waiting, TESO finally comes out for the console users, and ZeniMax Online Studios hasn’t disappointed.
For those who don’t know, TESO has been out for PC for some time; an entire year has separated the console release from the PC version. After a number of setbacks and delays, the game was finally released earlier this month. As is with every Elder Scrolls game, you are placed in the world of Tamriel, almost 800 years before the events of Morrowind and Oblivion, and multiple lifetimes behind Skyrim. While most of the world is available to explore, some parts of the game have been locked in anticipation for future expansions. Where most MMORPG’s falter, TESO seems to rise. Besides the initial payment for the game, there is absolutely no subscription fee to play, something that will immediately bring in a larger number of gamers than had there been some sort of subscription service.
Like countless other games of its kind, and much like any other Elder Scrolls game, The Elder Scrolls Online has a nonlinear storyline. Quests, missions, and roaming around the world are just some of the things the player can do. For those who remember Skyrim, the story behind TESO will seem a bit similar: two factions are fighting for control of both Tamriel and the world. Both conflicts progress with each other and we once again have pretty much full control over where the story turns. In this regard, TESO has managed to make itself feel like a true Elder Scrolls game, something that I truthfully doubted would happen when I first began playing.
As I stated above, I don’t normally find myself playing MMORPG’s. One of the reasons why I get unattached quickly is the combat, and how dull it usually feels and looks. There’s a myriad of attacks to do, of course, but I’m oftentimes stuck just clicking around until either I or my enemy dies. While TESO still feels very much MMO-ey in that regard, the console version does a fantastic job in mapping only essential buttons to the Xbox One controller. Your action bar is limited to five buttons (ten, once you hit level 15), and combat feels a bit more fluid and responsive than many other MMO’s I’ve played. This is critical in a game that features an enormous PvP zone, raid-like missions called Trials, and 4-player dungeons, so it’s refreshing to see a studio making an effort to make the transition from PC to console smooth for everyone.
While freedom in combat is a huge plus, that’s not the only place TESO offers it to you. Unlike nearly every MMO that I’ve come across, you are allowed to use any weapon at any weight across the four playable classes. This not only extends the gameplay, but results in a ton of different play styles to explore. Do you want your sorcerer to wield a giant sword instead of a staff? Well, go for it! With this one addition, the game stops feeling completely restrictive and opens the door for you to really spread your wings and do whatever pleases you as a player, something other MMO’s should be looking at.
When TESO first came out, one of the (many) problems players found themselves complaining about was the leveling process. It seems ZeniMax has listened to the cries, and for the console versions of TESO, there is now something called the Champion Point system. Once you hit level 50 (the cap for now), you will venture into what is known as “Veteran Ranks.” The game allows you to assign points to constellations that will determine factors like power for certain attacks, or even how much stamina it costs to use an ability. While this isn’t a perfect fix, it shows that the team is at least trying, and this is better than nothing.
Teamwork is huge in mostly all MMO’s, and TESO is no different. Communication is key in every scenario a team finds itself in, which is why it’s such a shame that the game fails in this area. While a single-player style seems to work (exploring the game actually feels a lot like playing Skyrim), the chat functions in TESO fall incredibly short. The entire system is based on Group and Area voice chat, which often results in you just listening to random people either listening to music or doing something else non-game related. This works wonderfully when it’s just you and some friends in a dungeon, but should you be the exploring type, you’ll be wishing you could mute a lot of people, which you can’t.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if I can myself investing hundreds upon hundreds of hours into The Elder Scrolls Online, but I could easily see myself losing quite some time in the world of Tamriel. ZeniMax clearly worked hard on this version of TESO, and it shows in early every facet. While some things could be improved (leveling and communication being the major two), they managed to take a largely populated world on the PC and shrink it down, albeit slightly, into a much more relaxed game. Fans of the Elder Scrolls games would be doing themselves a disservice by not giving this a chance.
This review is based on a digital copy of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited for the Xbox One provided by ZeniMax Online Studios.