ESO has some things going for it. It’s a shame that the core of it consists of completely standard and, honestly, supremely boring MMORPG gameplay which feels like a chore.
The world of Elder Scrolls Online has its fair share of eye catching visuals. Even the first tutorial, or the starting zone, has a lot to offer. Dark shadows, lighting, excellent enemy models, cold walls… Even the player models look great, even if they are a bit generic, samey and boring. Of course, the game opens up further after leaving the first zone, and it offers truly lovely environments covering deserts, swamps, forests, dungeons and settlements. It has to be said that the world looks great. It is far more bright and inviting than the cold, depressing and threatening nordic setting that greets players of Skyrim upon entering the game. This is not to undermine the wonderful world of Skyrim, but simply to note that a different approach works and is in play here.
However, while playing Elder Scrolls Online, one simply can’t shake the tiresome feeling of hilariously boring MMO questing. Once you realize that all quests are of the standard ‘kill that – fetch this’ variety, the voice acting, which is as uningenuitive as the quests, does nothing to pull one in anymore. After a while, you find yourself skipping through the actors narration and frantically clicking on the equivalent of the ‘Accept Quest’ button. In general, it feels like all the money they put into voice acting is completely wasted, as the characters are uninteresting and unimaginative, and the dialogue is, well, just boring.
I simply couldn’t stop myself bursting into laughter whenever I opened up the inventory.
The user interface in ESO is minimal. It is unintrusive, pops up in combat and leaves the player to focus on the tasks at hand. This approach is refreshing and it does have clear advantages over the standard ability, health and mana bars, which can clutter the screen and serve as a constant distraction from the world around you. However, it is impossible not to note one major UI fault which transfered over from Skyrim. The simply retarded inventory system is back and it is unfriendly, unnecessary, slow and as frustrating as ever. I simply couldn’t stop myself bursting into laughter whenever I opened up the inventory. The entertainment value of it is almost endless and it serves as a blunt reminder of pondering to consoles, for which it was clearly designed for. The baffling part is that the developers chose to completely ignore this on the PC beta version of the game, even if it is more than clear that some sort of a point and click solution and a wide overview of items is natural for the platform. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 users will be quite content with it, but one would think that a more satisfying solution for the inventory would be available, especially when considering the budget of the game.
Elder Scrolls Online is still in beta and it might be unfair to simply dismiss it at this point in time, even if everything I’ve seen in beta leads to such a conclusion. With that taken in consideration, it’s best to say the following: if the project leaders choose to eliminate or undermine its weak points and focus on its advantages, we might have something here someday. The world, setting and lore of The Elder Scrolls in general is rich and, at times, quite interesting. This opens Elder Scrolls Online up to a lot of potentially interesting future content. However, at this point, its price (€54.99/$59.99 Standard Edition), monthly fee of €12.99/$14.99 and the completely generic overall feel to it make it impossible to recommend the game. Although unlikely, this might change in the future. Elder Scrolls Online is set to release on PC and Mac on April 4th, 2014., and on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in June 2014..