The Elder Scrolls Online: A First Hour Mini-Review

The_Elder_Scrolls_OnlineI thought I’d deliver an initial verdict on The Elder Scrolls Online. Its been a hectic weekend so I’ve only played the TESO beta for a little over an hour, hence the title of the review. So no flaming with ‘but you barely checked out the game!!’ comments. I have no doubt the bigger and better quests are further down the track, but all MMOs live or die on their initial areas, so but here’s my impressions for what they’re worth:

Character creation:  Love it, lots of customisation options (although some don’t appear to be working quite yet), but you can skip them if you want to get set up quickly. I like the number of classes on offer too.

Graphics: TESO copped a hammering from the gaming community based on early leaked footage. Like many others have already said, TESO has come a long way from then and I liked the graphics a lot. Some of the facial features on NPCs are a little bit bland but that may improve further by launch. Loading times for screens seemed very good and I did enjoy the lighting and atmospherics I saw.

Sound: Kudos for both the soundtrack and atmospheric sounds – lots to like here.

Interface: Making a judgement on this is a hard one as I’m guessing a lot of people will like it, but I for one HATE the ‘point your mouse / reticule in the direction you want to go’ style of gameplay. I find it hard on the eyes even with a decent mouse and it doesn’t allow the level of free movement that I like. That said, it does making visual scanning of your surrounds a lot easier. As I said, I think I’m in the minority here, but this is one of the main reasons I won’t be playing TESO ongoing.

Gameplay: this isn’t a criticism, just a fact – TESO is another bog standard questing MMO. For Elder Scrolls fans, I have no doubt you’ll be enjoying the storyline. For me as a first-timer to the franchise, it neither disappointed or impressed me. I like the speed of conversations with NPCs and although the map looks terribly generic in the beta, I’m sure that’ll improve. The mouse-aiming interface annoyed me for combat but again I’m guessing I’m in the minority. Nothing particularly innovative in the quests, but again that’s standard MMO fare.

Performance: I’m impressed with the frame rate and speed of the game overall – I was using the Mac version and it seemed to run much better than WoW for me, and streets ahead of SWTOR and The Secret World, though given I run them on a virtual box it’s not a fair comparison.

Overall impressions: This is a solid MMO, but for me there’s nowhere near enough interesting stuff in it for me to pay a subscription. For our New Zealand readers, you’re being scalped on the subscription price as well. Even if my unreasonable hatred of the reticule / mouse pointing  system weren’t an issue, I can’t see me playing this game ongoing – there’s just nothing unique for me to get excited about. For someone new to MMOs or a long time fan of the franchise – you should have a close look at TESO.

More impressions from the whole team next week on the podcast.

Did you play the open beta? What did you think?




  1. Sibakero says

    Hi David,

    Played(playing) the Beta this weekend as well, but I have, somewhat, the opposite experience. I ‘joined’ the oceanicgamer because of SWTOR, and have been playing SWTOR since launch(sub). But these past few months, logging into SWTOR has been a ‘chore’ because i’m just a casual gamer(2 kids), basically log in for 30mins to tank a HM 55 FP then log off,then do that 2 more times for the weekly. If it wasn’t for the Star Wars IP, might have quit a long time ago.

    Point, with all its flaws, I still enjoyed SWTOR, so it didn’t take much for me to enjoy TESO. Not saying TESO is simple, actually, very far from it. Haven’t gone past level 5, but for the 1st time ever in more than a decade of MMOs, I never felt that I needed to rush leveling or anything. The world was 1 of the most beautiful i’ve ever seen created for an MMO, and the best ting about it was, almost everything in it, I could interact with. With that in mind, I was never bored and found a lot of stuff to do just by doing ‘nothing’, like” hey, a fishing hole, let me try fishing!” or “hey, what’s this maple stump doing here? Oh, you could collect wood from it!”. And I didn’t even have to go to a place in town to buy the tools to gather. I like how you can grab all crafting/gathering professions(though you have to add points in it to be really proficient at it) and make decent wares, and the materials you gather aren’t really tied down to any level(from what I’ve experienced).

    Like you, I never played any of the other games of the series, so it was a 1st time playing an ES game title. I agree that lore wise, there’s nothing groundbreaking, but that’s probably the only thing negative thing I have for it.

    As for the reticule thing, it does take a lot of getting use to, but it’s different than what i’ve always been subjected to in other AAA MMO titles, so it’s growing on me. I like how proactive you need to be. I also love the little things, like how you leave footprints and the way the sand and dust kicks up when you suddenly stop from a sprint. I didn’t get that from SWTOR.

    But what really sold it for me was how Zenimax was thoughtful enough to make a mac client, and how smoothly it runs on mine, even on Ultra high, on 2560 x 1440. Thanks Zenimax. ;P Glad I pre-ordered.

    Also, I’m just loving(predicting) how even with only 5-6 hours of gameplay a week, I can see myself having a relaxed, productive, fun filled time inside Tamriel. And with what I’ve been hearing from various sites, the PVP(Cyrodil, haven’t levelled to 10 to try it myself) seems like even if you were a casual, you could log in and do some thing significant. I’ve always said that having a “Carrot-On-A-Stick” for MMOs is a must, but for me, just exploring the world is already a carrot. I don’t know, maybe it’s just age, but it’s sold me enough that even the knowledge that i’ll be scalped on price won’t faze me from buying and subbing, and I only make slightly above minimum wage.

    • David Holloway says

      Hi Sibakero – some brilliant thoughts there and absolutely agree that Zenimax deserve praise for the Mac client 🙂 Would love to hear your thoughts as you progress through the game too! And some very valid points on SWTOR 😉

  2. It’s very bold to do a partial review of an mmo with only 1-hour game play. Yes you said don’t flame and I won’t but it does get better when it opens up. For a comparison, go back and play other mmo’s for the first hour, I’m sure you will think differently. I found wild star the most boring 1st hour, 2nd hour I have seen in a long time but that’s my own opinion.

    Yes we all saw that early footage and was noted that it was done to make the game look as bad as possible. I’m sure we all could as well if we played it on an old pc with a less than average graphics card with everything turned down.

    I was a bit on the fence but after playing a few beta weekends, I’m sold. Love the graphics, sound, music, environmental effect, story, and quest options. An old pvp friend loved what the game is showing him in that respect.
    It is interesting that exploration has you finding other things to do, so you don’t need to follow the breadcrumbs that other mmo’s lay out for you. To be honest I’ve played several characters
    in several zones for the first 10 levels and each one has done something different even though they were in the same starting area.
    I really think that we all are looking for the holy grail of mmo’s to come. It isn’t going to happen anytime soon so just enjoy.

    Really looking forward to the launch and i hope it does ok.

    • David Holloway says

      Hi Daz – not looking for the holy grail, just something that’s different enough to make me jump from the subs I already have. TESO isn’t that for me, but as I said in the brief review, I loved the music / graphics etc. And I also hope the launch goes really well: the more robust, successful MMOs there are the better in my opinion. I do feel for NZ customers though.

  3. Delegator says

    I didn’t play the open beta, but played the load test beta for something on the order of 12 hours. I played three different classes/races to try to get a feel for them.

    I found it curiously boring and detached. I have no history with the Elder Scrolls franchise, so whether it is true to that world or not is irrelevant to me. I am not a fan of the control system (I kept looking for a way to turn on an MMO-standard mouse look control scheme). I never once felt anything close to being in danger or in need of more than my one or two abilities that caused damage in some way.

    Moreover, the abilities didn’t really differentiate themselves in any meaningful way. As a melee type I could attack, or attack harder. Whether I was dual-wielding axes as a night blade or a big-ass two-handed sword as a dragon knight, it wasn’t clear which attack would be better or whether it mattered at all which I used. With my sorcerer, the graphic effects on my 2 spells were a bit different, but again it never mattered whether I spammed one or the other, or alternated between the two.

    Maybe it’s the “easy mode” introduction for the first several levels or skill points or whatever advancement system you like, but that’s another thing — advancement was amazingly blasé. I didn’t even know when I had acquired another skill point, I just checked every so often and Oh Yeah, I guess I have a point to spend.

    The story itself was run-of-the-mill. I played characters in each of the three different alliances, but you really wouldn’t know it from the first couple or 4 hours of play. It was practically like a Mad Libs quest engine where you just into the same basic story line. Run around, look for the people on the map, kill anything that attacks you or looks at you funny, collect insect parts and bits of plants for crafting at some uncertain point in the future…been there, done that.

    I have been on hiatus from MMOs waiting for the next interesting one to come along. Over the years I spent about 3 years playing EQ, another 2-3 playing Dark Age of Camelot, Several more playing WoW in about 3 different periods, about 2 weeks playing Warhammer Online, several years playing City of Heroes, about a year in aggregate playing Dungeons and Dragons Online. My favorite of those was DAOC with its three-way RvR combat, so I was really wanting to like ESO because it inherited many of the developers and the same basic game structure. But, based on Beta this won’t be my next game.

  4. I’ve played most of the ES games and some I’ve liked more then others but I’m loving my taste of TESO. Once I found the class that suited me best, my enjoyment levels have increased (just couldn’t get into the fighter or assassin classes) and I even like results from crafting. But what’s got me most excited is the PvP/Cyrodil part.

    I’ve never been that full on about PvP … more of a PvEer in all the MMOs I’ve played … but taking part in large battles to capture or hold castles is a blast. It even has me keen to get into a guild early on which is new for me. Usually the guild stuff is what ends up turning me off a MMO … it always starts well with having people/friends to play with and do raids or dungeons … then I feel bad because I want to do my own thing because I’m bored with the same old thing all the time … which generally leads to me to not logging in as much because the end game stuff is so repetitive. But the Cyrodil stuff looks like an ever changing thing that just might keep my interest so long as the devs balance it out. I hear that if one of the three factions is dominating, that gaining the points needed to build siege gear is slower while it increases with the less dominant faction. This should hopefully stop one faction from steamrolling over the other two and it also makes it appealing to create a character to fight for the least dominant faction.

    I mean, as usual with MMOs, it all comes down to how things are executed. They all generally start out with great ideas … or at least how we imagine them being, is great. As much as I like SWTOR, it is nothing like how I imagined it was going to be … or how I hoped it would be.