Review in Progress Part 1
The Elder Scrolls Online is easily the most anticipated and biggest MMO launch since Star Wars: The Old Republic. Indeed, many people probably wrote ESO off as another SWTOR in terms of hype and let down, but so far... I believe those people are mistaken. There are a lot of wonderful design choices in ESO, some not so great ones, and plenty of bugs to grind an axe on. But in my nearly 20 hours played since head start, one thing’s prevailed: I’m having a lot of fun, and the rabbit hole keeps going deeper. I don't want to stop playing, but for some reason I'm told I should eat and drink, maybe shower and stretch a bit. Whatever...
Let’s not be coy though. Elder Scrolls Online’s first handful of days have been shaky. Not quite Aion or FFXIV levels of “ouch”, but certainly shaky. Our Polish category is going to be ESO’s biggest hurdle, in all honesty. Here’s a list of some of the major bugs that have stood out to me, and I’ll mark those that have been fixed:
- Broken quests which halt story progression (mostly fixed)
- Broken doors to zones, preventing public dungeon access (fixed)
- All guild functions were disrupted briefly (fixed)
- Mail was disrupted (fixed)
- Random dismounts from horses (fixed)
- Launcher patching issues.
I feel like I’m in Mordor, man.
Those are some of the more minor issues. There was also the fact that when I logged in last night, my character couldn’t be seen, I couldn’t move, mount, or do any world interaction. But I could teleport and use /stuck... just to come back to the same problem. The only fix came via a guildmate, who told me logging in on a proxy or VPN IP (a different IP address than my own) would force the server to locate my character. He apparently had to /bug this in beta, but it’s obviously still an issue.
Worse still, there was an issue late Tuesday night into Wednesday which caused a lengthy 12+ hour downtime. Players were getting disconnected from the game and then logging back into someone else’s account by no fault of their own. The downtime also added in a patch which fixed a lot of my above issues, but chances are the real reason was to fix whatever database error caused the whole giant security mess.
So to anyone claiming that ESO’s head start experience has been smooth, we might have to disagree on what that word means. What I will say is that despite all of the aforementioned woes, I’m absolutely enthralled with the game. Its crafting, exploration, achievements, and class building permeate all of my thoughts. I find myself giving a damn about the story in an MMO for once, and unlike SWTOR, I’m not already getting tired of quests. Why? Because they’re very rarely anything mundane. And even the mundane tasks like stealing a bottle of wine involve throwing rats onto the floor, or scaring the PTSD-suffering innkeeper so she leaves her post.
Why are Argonians always killing themselves for nature? Hippies.
In short, Elder Scrolls Online’s world and systems are expertly crafted. They may not be the most polished, but what’s here is very good, very deep, and very entertaining.
Some of the issues I had during beta, such as the lack of impact on melee combat, have been righted quite well. The collision detection on NPCs and screen-shaking really does help to make melee a bit more impactful. This is where vibration on an Xbox controller would help even more, I’d imagine, but I like my mouse and keyboard, thanks. I will say that I think ESO needs to be a little less stingy on handing out gold. With no real auction house (all selling to other players is via the guild system or in the zone chat), you might find yourself often broke. You’ll want and need potions and food. You’ll need to repair, and want to teleport to a location from time to time. And the gold you earn from mobs, quests, selling junk, and sometimes great items to vendors, is just not enough to keep up with the other needs and allow you to save up for other horses at higher levels. It doesn’t need to be a drastic increase, something as little as allowing all the items which sell for 0 gold to vendors sell for 1 gold would likely do the trick.
That said, I’m really enjoying the idea of having up to five guilds, and selling to and from players that way. I’m part of a rather large guild, and we have separate branches to fit our members. But because of the multi-guild system I can be with all of my members, as well as a guild specifically made to use as a Trade Bazaar (ESO Bazaar). I’m not always comfortable straight up selling to guildies, as I’d rather give them stuff. But I need to make a living too, so the ESO Bazaar works wonders and has tons of stuff for sale.
I vote that Zenimax make a seafaring expansion, pronto.
I’ve spent a lot of time so far just making sure I explore every corner of the map. Why? Because ESO doesn’t just send you off on quest hub quest grinds. The storyline tends to move linearly through each map, but if all you do is the main zone’s story, you’re going to miss so many side dungeons, crafting spots, skyshards (a way to earn more skill points), world bosses, side quests, and on and on and on. It boggles my mind that once I hit level 50 and complete all of my Ebonheart Pact zones, I’ll have two other whole factions’ zones to explore. Even if I never intended to do Cyrodiil PVP, there’s enough content in ESO right now to last me several months. And if I’m lucky, by the time I’ve done all three factions’ zones, I’ll have adventure zones, more dungeons, and of course more everything else to work on. I’ve already made up my mind that ESO is certainly worthy of its subscription, especially if they keep adding content as often as they plan.
All of this, and I’m level 12 of 50, I haven’t touched PVP (because our guild picks a campaign this weekend), and I’m not even out of the first main zone for the Pact. I know it’s not the sandbox some hoped for, and I know some can’t get past the MMO-isms that Zenimax had to put onto the IP, but I wish they could put those all aside and just play this MMORPG. Bugs and launch struggles aside, ESO is a truly mammoth and deep MMO. I’ve got a lot more playtime to get in before our final scoring in late April or very early May. ESO won’t be for everyone, as no game ever is. But it certainly seems to be mind kind of game, and I’ll gladly keep playing it... so long as the servers stay up.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.