A few days ago, I submitted an article that stated I wasn’t quite ready to post a formal review for Elder Scrolls Online because there was still a lot of content I wanted to see. Then I stopped, paused, and deleted that article; I had realized that I no longer cared about seeing that content. My free month was running out and I was faced with the defining choice of every MMORPG: do I keep paying to keep playing?
With the Elder Scrolls Online, the answer was no. Not because it’s a bad game, but instead because I was far too busy exploring the world of Tamriel alone. Why would I bother paying a subscription fee if I have five other Elder Scrolls games to explore?
The constant uphill climb that ESO had to unfairly face was the question of whether or not we even needed a persistently online Tamriel. It turns out that it’s actually a pretty nice place, filled with dungeons ripe for exploring, enormous battlefields, and lots of crafting and trading to be done. It’s just a shame that things never seem to work the way they were intended to.
It’s no secret that Elder Scrolls Online has suffered from constant problems. From grouping issues to interface blunders, the game has been plagued with issues. Yet one wonders if the trade-off for all this is all worth it. Ultimately it comes down to the following: do you want the constant phasing in a game or do you want to be able to seamlessly play with friends? The most logical answer is the latter, but consider this: all of that phasing that separates the players helps give off the impression that your actions carry weight. How many times have we played an MMO, saved a city, and then see it under duress all but five minutes later. That doesn’t happen in Elder Scrolls Online. But again, is it all worth it?
It’s a constant question I asked myself while playing and for a while, that answer was yes. The desire to explore uncharted areas on my map and get rewarded with surprises, the welcome enjoyment of actually paying attention to quest dialogue, the fact that there isn’t a “right and wrong” way to play a class, these are all things that MMO genre desperately needed. Still, Elder Scrolls Online couldn’t avoid the one thing the genre desperately did not need: a rocky launch. It was nice being able to explore dungeon after dungeon at my own leisurely pace. It wasn't nice, however, to see dozens of bots camping the boss for loot. It was refreshing to get invested into each quest and keep up with the narrative being told. It refreshing to have to log out and back in to complete a quest. I called Elder Scrolls Online schizophrenic, and for good reason: it does equal things good and bad, giving off feelings of joy and frustration simultaneously.
I guess the bright side to the game’s first month is the fact that we’re able to play it, albeit not in an ideal manner. Looking back to World of Warcraft and how absolutely horrendous that game’s launch was, it’s a night and day difference. But there’s a question that still begs to be answered: is it all worth it? There are games out there that provide an enjoyable enough experience despite the issues they have. Is Elder Scrolls Online one of these games? For what it's worth, I'll personally miss playing, but I'm not you. I don't know how you, the reader of this review, will feel about your experience.
Ultimately how you answer that question will determine how much you enjoy Elder Scrolls Online. There’s an absolutely fantastic game to be found beneath the hiccups, one that I honestly will miss playing. I found it to be an enjoyable Elder Scrolls game, but just an okay MMO; there are better ones currently on the market. It’s going to be tough to go back to them, though, despite the constant peer pressure Facebook is giving me to dive back into Final Fantasy XIV.