If you’ve been following the Elder Scrolls series for as long as I have, or longer depending on when you started playing it, then you’ll probably be feeling the same mix of emotions as I am over the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online. That cocktail of excitement and anxiety, you know the one. It has all of the makings of a fantastic game, the Elder Scrolls universe, MMORPG, amazing storytelling and fun side quests – perhaps the sort of game that could even challenge World of Warcraft? The closed beta has been up for on the PC for the past few days and, after reading a good few opinions about ESO, it sounds as though they have a lot of work to do if they’re going to be challenging WoW for the supreme title of ‘most awesome MMORPG’.
But, then, that was to be expected. WoW have been doing what they’re doing for years now. They know the formula to a great MMORPG, people wouldn’t still play it if they didn’t. We need to remember, first off, that this is a beta, so it isn’t going to be the finished product. Still, some of the complaints that I’ve read focus on the gameplay itself, rather than the bugs. I’ll focus this post on three opinions, one slightly negative over at Gamertechtv.com, one rather positive from a YouTube reviewer and then a balanced voice from a close friend of mine who has been selected for the beta. Let’s start with the bad, shall we?
Gamertechtv writer, Gerry J R, didn’t seem to overly enjoy the beta. He seems like a hard-core MMORPG gamer, with an impressive catalogue of games played in the genre. So, I’ll take his word for it that he probably knows a thing or two about MMORPGs. He highlighted a number of faults with the game, ranging from the poor graphics (which is something many agree with), to mundane gameplay and unimpressive AI. He closes by saying:
“ESO is plain boring to play, painfully immediately boring, with no feeling that there are other players there working together to achieve quests or goals, if I wanted to solo play I would play Skyrim, not ESO, and I would absolutely not pay a monthly fee in its current state.”
Clearly, he wasn’t that much of a fan. But then he does spend some time comparing it to World of Warcraft, which we know ESO couldn’t ever compare to. He also disliked the first mission, your usual ‘escape the dungeon’ quest that allows you to learn the controls and the various menus, etc. The second opinion, the YouTube video, feels differently, however. He thoroughly enjoyed the introductory mission, though he seemed to be a massive Elder Scrolls fan. This could have swayed his perception slightly. I personally love the introductory missions for the game series, the dungeon escape in Oblivion and the execution escape in Skyrim were works of art, in my opinion. He clearly agrees, which is probably why he enjoyed it. He really enjoyed the missions and thought that the character creation was incredibly detailed, again in contrast to the first reviewer. Overall, he seems incredibly excited to play the full game in June, and he’s not the only one.
A more balanced opinion can be found from my close friend. He also enjoyed ESO, but pointed out a few faults that need to be addressed before release (though that is the point of a beta test, after all). He notes that it’s a great game, but he doubts it will ever meet the success of WoW. He also points out that there were a number of changes made to the Elder Scrolls cocktail for it to fit with an MMO, feeling that the first person view option was pointless and that the combat was completely different due to the introduction of a hotbar. He did say, however, that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So, what can we gather from all of this? Elder Scrolls Online is shaping up pretty well, but there are some changes that ZeniMax need to make before its final release this summer. Here’s hoping that they take the criticisms from the beta on board! But, if it stays as it is (which is pretty unlikely, I should hope) then I can see it being a bit of a flop. I’m already a little sceptical as to how long the monthly subscription fee will last as it is and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s free to play by mid-2015.