Oblivion and Skyrim were huge games for me. I spent around three hundred hours in Oblivion on PS3, despite the lack of trophies. I didn’t even do everything. The majority of the time I was running around, murdering my way across Tamriel as I closed Oblivion gates before eventually sighing and deciding to finish the story. Skyrim was a different experience. I was a few years older. I had played Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. I’m obviously joking, in Skyrim I never even finished the ‘civil war’ main quest. I spent just the 200 hours roaming the land going on whatever adventure I saw fit. I then played Skyrim on PS4. I then very maturely played properly and got the platinum. Then I spent about 20 hours messing around and pretty much killed every person I could. Recently I got the chance to jump into Elder Scrolls Online.
I went in totally blind. I knew nothing about this game. I read no reviews or guides and decided that I would take my time. I started the way all Elder Scrolls games begin and made my character. Patches the Kindly Orc was born. As I have access to the base game, as well as DLC expansions Morrowind and Summerset, I was dropped into the tutorial in Summerset. I’ve never actually played an MMO, or at least never a traditional MMO (does Destiny count?) so this was an interesting experience, seeing players running around, offering help and trades immediately, there’s a sense of excellent of being part of the group without even needing to communicate. After progressing through the tutorial, the world opens up and immediately you’re overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale that’s on offer. As someone who’s only issue with Oblivion in Skyrim is that I had explored the worlds so much that they lost some magic, this was an experience. The surge of excitement that came over me with all the possibility of exploration was incredible.
Right away I noticed that there is a lot more going on graphically here. Especially in Summerset, the world is beautiful and full of color. I was blown away by the bright foliage on trees and the interesting little environmental touches like waterfalls and bridges. The sense of scale is hammered home when you come across your first proper keep. Honestly, I was taken aback when I saw Alinor in Summerset for the first time, even more, astounded when I reached its gates. It’s downright epic. I can’t speak to the rest of the world yet as I haven’t played enough but the island of Summerset is really intriguing with great environmental variety. From the numerous beaches to the ruins and vineyards in the mainland there’s just a ton going on despite it not being a massive space. The visit to the Psijic isle in the story is similarly stunning. There are so many magical elements here that color and effects burst to life on your screen.
The combat here is somehow similar and incredibly different to the other titles. Right away with the skills system, both active and passive, you’ll notice there is much more depth and nuance here. The added dodge function is cool and the fact that you can read enemies’ attacks thanks to it being obvious when they’re building charged attacks and red cones show their area of effect is a brilliant addition to ES combat. It feels a lot more deliberate and not just like you’re swinging a sword side by side until something dies.
Story and Quests
I loved this aspect of all the Elder Scrolls titles. Even when the main quest was bland, *cough* civil war *cough*, there was so much variety in the side quests that you’d be completely enamored with the world. From getting into a bind with Sheogorath to getting drunk and retracing your steps or dealing with a ghost ship, Elder Scrolls games always give the player something interesting. So far I’ve only done a handful of quests. The main quests have actually been very interesting, Summerset is currently experiencing an immigration crisis and the addressed issues are very topical which adds an extra level of intrigue.
The side quests are still the stars though. After only a few hours I had solved a double murder and unveiled a grand betrayal years in the making. I had reunited a mother and son and met the Daenerys Targaryen inspired Mother of Rats. I had been invited to relieve a city of a siege but I was way too low a level and so had to run away. The spectacle was cool though. One time I was randomly exploring and came across a huge rift battle with around fifteen other players involved. It was a brilliant experience to charge in and overcome the threat. Even the side quest area pictured involving a werewolf cult was excellent. It was exciting and the involvement of other players made it accessible to me at a lower level. Rather than the usual drab caverns or ruins of Skyrim and Oblivion, it was a nice open ‘min-dungeon’ with plenty of colors and aesthetic touches.
Summary so far
I’ve loved my experience so far. It has really captured the spirit of adventure that I wanted. The game is more complex than I expected, after being so used to killing someone in an Elder Scrolls game then immediately looting EVERYTHING they own, it’s odd to not get constant loot here. I still haven’t moved past my base weapon because I haven’t found anything. I probably have to invest more time in MMO elements such as crafting. But honestly, if you’re looking for something huge to get lost in exploring, this is for you. If you’re looking for a beautiful world you can have fun experiences with friends in, this is for you. If you want to do fun quests without overly investing in the game, this is for you! It’s worked for me so far. I’m going to keep playing and start trying to understand the MMO aspects, I’m really looking forward to getting properly to grips with it. For now though, I would definitely recommend ESO to people. It’s on sale in the PS Summer sale! Like with Oblivion and Skyrim, there’s something magical here and I can’t wait to experience more.