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The Console Version Review in Progress

William Murphy Posted:
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It’s been a long but insanely productive year for Zenimax Online Studios. Elder Scrolls Online came out, held its own, but was a rather contentious title for such a widely adored franchise. Fast forward several months and ESO is now buy to play, rebranded as “Tamriel Unlimited”, and quite frankly, it’s one of the best theme park MMORPGs on the market. And now it’s also on the PS4 and XBOX ONE. So, how does it play?

I’ve been dabbling since the wee hours Tuesday morning, well after ZOS sneakily turned on the servers for the Eastern Time Zone a bit ahead of schedule.  I didn’t go with my established Orc from the PC version, rather preferring to see things with as fresh eyes as I can. Ergo, the Breton Nightblade known as Thryston Lundvale was born. I’m leveling slowly but surely up through the Daggerfall Content, watching tons of brand new players come to grips with the different way ESO tends to do things, and learning that yes… there are still people out there who haven’t played an MMO and don’t really get their ins and outs.

You thought World of Warcraft widened a net, and it did. But console gamers love them some Skyrim, and the lure of even a fraction of that world in a persistent online settings seems to have proven strong as the servers have been jam-packed these first few days. Thankfully, the megaserver seems to be handling it well during my hours, but not everyone has been so lucky.

Lock’s thoughts on console ESO.

It’s important to know, if you haven’t been following ESO’s console port, that this is the full Elder Scrolls Online experience. Nothing has been removed from the game aside from the ability to use add-ons, and in some cases, there are even more features on the console version of ESO. What features? 

Well, PS4 and XBOX One players get in-game voice chat which is positional and location based, akin to Planetside 2 (seriously, I want this on the PC version badly).  In addition, they get handheld play via the Vita Remote Play feature (something I adore as I play in bed, far away from my console). And in a year or so, Sony’s Project Morpheus will be fully-compatible with ESO and likely far cheaper than trying to run with the Vive or Oculus.  Don’t get me wrong, I want the Vive, Oculus, and Morpheus, but the latter will probably be far more affordable when you don’t have to factor in PC component upgrades as well.  But hey, if you already have Oculus, you could always be playing in Tamriel with VR already.

The big drawback for me, personally is the lack of add-ons. I’ve become accustomed to my improved UI, and my Skyshard map. Console players won’t get these, ever.  I will say that ultimately, the in game VOIP is a fantastic addition. Roleplaying with this would be a dream. But sometimes, people have hot mics. You hear family, dogs, coughs, sniffles… it’s a little annoying. Luckily, you can tweak the VOIP options and turn it off completely if you’d like. Same with the FOV for 3rd person and 1st person views, though I’d have liked to see the FOV for 1st person go even wider.

The UI on the console has cumbersome inventory, but tight everything else.

The UI is also quite different from the existing PC game, even without mods on the PC. For one, it seems somehow more polished and has more “punch” behind the health/magicka/stamina bars.  But beyond that, the management of gear and whatnot is much more cumbersome here. Don’t expect to enjoy selling things or sorting them, which is already a hassle in the un-modded PC ESO.  Still, it works… and competently. The UI for an MMO is always going to be a game’s limitation, but I think ZOS did well here.

The controls though… those are pitch-perfect. I don’t even like playing with my mouse and keyboard anymore on the PC, and I’m a PC gamer at the core.  It just feels too good on the controller with the force-feedback, the comfort of the PS4 controller in general, and the relaxed way I can sit back on the couch or in my chair to enjoy the MMO. Yes the animations are the same, but the vibration in the controller helps a lot to make combat feel more tactile.  Firing rounds of ice bolts out of my staff actually feels impactful, where on the PC it’s very much the opposite.

I expect next week or the week after we’ll be putting up the final score to ESOTU on PS4. After all, it’s not like we haven’t reviewed this game twice already. I want to get some more time with group content, the AVA, and see how it all shapes up before assigning the score. But if you’re a fan of ESO, or have been waiting for the console edition to try it out, I’d definitely recommend doing so. It’s a deep and engaging MMO that feels really at home on the console, and that’s rare indeed.  If on the other hand you’ve never been a fan, I doubt the controller and new UI will change your mind. So that’s food for thought as well.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.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.