Elder Scrolls Online Second Impressions

An MMORPG is optimally something that people stick with and come back to over the course on months or years, is a game of habit and rhythm – break the rhythm and it can break your sense of investment in the game. Personally I’ve had this happen over and over again.

But as I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls Online pretty casually for a couple of weeks, with a couple of different characters. I expected, based on my past history, that my interest would wither after a few days out of town on business. To my mild surprise that didn’t happen — when I got home I wanted to play ESO, even though it had to wait for a recovery day to pass. And during the travel time I watched a fair bit of video to get a better handle on ESO’s fairly baroque character development system and interface.


One of the interesting things that system does, although it isn’t at all transparent when you start, is to largely divorce playstyle from the actual classes. The Dragon Knight, for example, appears tanky at a glance, but by picking the right stuff as you advance (or after a respec) you could also heal or DPS. Same with the other classes, all of which can also pick their own weapons, armor and other skills without any restriction. Only the three class skills are restricted to a particular class, and those represent only a subset of the combat-relevant skills. Class in ESO is meaningful but in a different way than it is in other games in the same space.

In terms of feel, in addition to the Elder Scrolls vibe that it tries (not entirely successfully) to embody, ESO also gives me hints of EQ2, Age of Conan and (perhaps most importantly for me) Vanguard. I am finding this odd melange to be more effective the more I play, despite the variances from single-player Elder Scrolls games and more conventional MMORPGs reading as off-putting at first. That I also prefer less twitchy games was also a barrier… but then, I did play a lot of Skyrim, and at least a little bit of that does carry over. I’m very slowly getting less inept.

Sooooo… does this mean that I am back on the MMO wagon? I will commit to nothing, but at this instant I am inclined to keep playing. Which means I will continue to write about it.

4 responses to “Elder Scrolls Online Second Impressions

  1. It very faintly reminded me of Vanguard too, but the awful combat was too much to put up with. Also the quests are verbose in the worst way, the font and palette for the quest interface is grim and the world is strangely uninvolving. I keep thinking of giving it another try but then I remember just how tedious it was the first time and i don’t bother. I might find that it has changed a lot though – MMOs do that.

    Did you try Black Desert? I thought that was a lot more entertaining.

    • I’ll have more to say later on, but I had much the same first impression. I STILL think ESO’s initial experience is pretty terrible. But beyond that it’s working for me right now.

      There’s also mods you can use to give it an Oblivion (or Morrowind or Skyrim) styled UI.

    • Oy, also, I did try BDO. I think there’s a lot to like there, but the cookie-cutter characters never feel entirely yours, and a lot of the it’s mechanics are too gamey for me.

    • Hmm. Makes me wonder what you mean with “tedious”. Depending on what you actually refer to, things might have changed drastically or not at all.

      I mean, i also checked out ESO at launch and again about a year later during a free trial week. Both times i found that the game had many bugs and issues, felt broken, incomplete and no fun at all. I dismissed it as an utter wreck which could never get my attention again.

      Alas, about 10 months or so ago, not long after the One Tamriel update, there was another free trial. Despite my doubts,
      my wife managed to persuade me to check it out again and alas, i had to find that the developers did a miracle: many of the problems we experienced the first time were gone. It seems like the developers considered not only the issues of the remaining playerbase, but also many things got people to give up on the game. By doing so, they turned ESO into a very enjoyable game and it seems to be getting better still.

      Don’t get me wrong, starting out in the game still feels like you set out to climb the Mount Everest in sandals. Just like in many other MMOs, there are so many things to learn, and ESO also sometimes coats them in lore, which makes them prettier but also harder to immediately understand. Combat still feels similar to launch, so if core combat was your gripe, you might still not enjoy it. (Although a plethora of combat bugs are gone, so if bugs were the problem in earlier times, that’s again something which got much better. )

      And also to be noted: the next big patch brings in a better player introduction system. Not only will people get a free horse, but also some helping hands and a lot of info. From what i read, those who are on the testserver consider it to be well done. So apparently the developers identified the next big problem from launch and went to address it. I hope they keep it up, at lest in my eyes the game keeps getting better at constant pace.