Elder Scrolls Online Impression Log #1: Getting lost in Tamriel
I first played Elder Scrolls Online over a year ago. It was at PAX East 2013 and I spent two hours behind the Bethesda booth exploring Tamriel. My impression was as follows: “It’s an Elder Scrolls game that happens to be an MMO. *shrug*” This feeling remained after playing through a couple of beta sessions. There was little doubt in my mind that the foundation for a good game was there, but would it be engrossing enough? Could Elder Scrolls Online be an enjoyable experience?
After one week of playing, I’ve come back with some thoughts. Well, not quite some. More like, plenty of thoughts.
Coincidentally, that initial impression still hasn’t worn off. At its heart, this is an Elder Scrolls game that also happens to be an MMO. It also happens to be a very good Elder Scrolls game. This allows it to avoid some of the pitfalls we typically see in the genre, specifically when it comes to questing. It seems that regardless of what type of gimmick is employed, killing X monsters and looting Y items is the same. No amount of voice acting or combat tricks can fix that. What does help, however, is the removal of quest hubs.
That’s right; Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t feature questing hubs. You won’t travel from point to point on a map, circle the surrounding area, return to said point on the map, and move to the next one. Instead, you’ll be guided along a suggested (taken very literally) route as you follow the main quests. From there, your travels will take you as far as your heart desires. The world around you is begging to be explored and new quests will seemingly pop from out of nowhere. This creates an inviting experience that plays like takes place in a massive world, compared to the boring old grind other MMOs have offered.
It does need to be stated, however, that not all starting areas are created equal. In the live version of the game, I’ve been playing with the Aldmeri Dominion. Compared to the Daggerfall Covenant, the difference is night and day. The environment is brighter, the characters are more interesting, and the stories are actually entertaining. I’m finding myself getting involved with the twists and turns instead of frantically skipping through the dialogue. They’re not all winners, mind you, but they’re still enjoyable, helping to create a constant sense of wonder that's filled the game's opening hours. I'm not dreading exploring the world, I'm actually looking forward to it.
To say that the opening moments of Elder Scrolls Online have been enjoyable would be an understatement. There are some hiccups, i.e. plenty of bugs, constant logging off and on to get items to properly load in the world, and a conflicting interests between whether or not I should be using first or third person view. Still, I really, really want to keep playing. You better believe that’s exactly what I’m doing now that this write-up is done.
There's still alot more waiting to be discovered and talk about, such as public dungeons, combat, crafting, PVP, and what the game's like after your leave the "newbie" areas. Throughout the coming weeks, we'll contiune to update our impressions on the game as see fit before our review hits sometime next month. In the meantime, enjoy some screenshots we've collected along along the way. Happy questing!