Wednesday, April 09, 2014

First Impressions of The Elder Scrolls Online

I am not yet sure if The Elder Scrolls Online is a good game. But if you have any interest in MMOs from an observational or theoretical point of view, you really should give this game a spin.

ESO does so many things differently from what has become the norm. It is worth seeing exactly how things change.

For example, there is no minimap. I found this to be a surprisingly huge change. Apparently I primarily navigate by minimap, rather than looking at the world. The loss of the minimap seems to force you into the world a bit more, make you navigate by recognizing landmarks.

It's also amusing that your character uses a map animation when you bring up the map. So a very common sight is seeing other adventurers standing around looking at their map. Everyone is slightly lost and trying to figure out where they are.

ESO is the first game in a while that feels like it is in a world once again, rather than a highly-choreographed play or fa├žade.

Character Creation

Character creation is pretty extensive. There are 9 races (though most are variants of human and elf) that give you a base to work with. There's a billion sliders where you can change your face and body shape.

I'm beginning to hate these slider-based character creators. I'm terrible with them. I simply cannot make a decent-looking character. I'll get something that is not bad, but then I'll log in a day later and it just looks worse and worse.

Sadly, I'm beginning to look at extensive character creators as a negative. The game company artists are much better than me at this sort of stuff, and I would prefer to leverage their expertise.


The game can be played in first or third person. I switched to third person pretty quickly, mostly because it is what I am used to. The mouse is locked to the center of the screen, and pretty much everything is handled by targeting the element and pressing E.

The color scheme is more towards the realistic, rather than the cartoony. It seems fine to me.

There are tons of barrels and bags that you can ransack. Most of them have pretty useless stuff, but this seems traditional for an Elder Scrolls game.


The ability system is pretty interesting. It's a cross between a point-based system and a use-based system.  Basically skills come from a lot of different areas. Some come from your class, some come from the type of weapon you use, some from armor, some from your race, etc. You can invest points in picking up skills, and put 5-6 skills on your bar. Those 5-6 skills level up as you do stuff.

The skill system is a bit wide open. You can take healing abilities as any class, or tanking abilities. Of course, the class skills emphasize the role, so I don't know how effective going against type will be.


Combat consists of your hotkeys, plus left-click to attack, hold left-click to do a big attack, right-click to block, right-click + left-click to interrupt.  It is certainly serviceable, and is "good enough".

However, my first thought after engaging in combat was "I wish the TERA team had done this combat." Combat is very similar to TERA combat, only TERA combat is far superior in performance and responsiveness.

Heh, in a lot of ways, ESO world-building and design, combined with TERA combat, would have been an amazing game.


Quests are interesting. There are relatively few of them, but they are long, multi-stage affairs. You can only track one quest at a time, which somewhat forces you to focus.

As well, there's lots of activities that aren't tied into the formal questing system. For example, I found a treasure map on a pirate I killed. It showed a sketch of a tower on a hill, with several large rocks in the foreground. As I was wandering around, I saw the tower. I found the correct perspective that matched the sketch, and dug where the map was marked. And I found treasure!

All that didn't involve the formal quest system at all.


I am not very far in yet. I cannot tell you whether The Elder Scrolls Online is a good game or a bad game. But I can say for certain that it is an interesting game. And sometimes, that's enough.


  1. Nice to see I'm not the only one who navigates via minimap. The only exception to that rule is SWTOR, which the main map will fade to being transparent while you're on the move.

    Still, I can't afford another sub, so TESO (and Wildstar) will have to be passed on.

  2. I agree. TESO is definitely a good game so far. And that's not something I say lightly about an MMO nowadays.

    As far as I read there's also lots to discover later on. So right now, I'd say TESO is a hot bet. It has a chance to become huge - similar to Rift. More I dare not say at this point in time.

  3. I admit I freaking love this game and all the differences from most modern mmos you listed.

    As for the crates and barrels, those seemingly random things you get are actually the materials you need to level up the provisioning skill making food and drink that provides you with pretty great buffs. Basically think of random containers as harvesting nodes for provisioning heh.

  4. FYI there is a minimap addon.

  5. "Heh, in a lot of ways, ESO world-building and design, combined with TERA combat, would have been an amazing game."

    That was/is my problem about TESO. Combat feel/responsiveness and fluid/natural animations is too vital for me to overlook :( This is why I blamed lotro for long had a beautiful immersive world, great leveling and pve content but...

    anyway, I really wish they could allow mod community to "fix" the ugly characters and animations as they do in all single player TES games..

  6. "Of course, the class skills emphasize the role, so I don't know how effective going against type will be."

    This is actually not true. Every class has defensive and offensive buffs, ranged and melee capabilities, ability to heal/boost heals. The classes simply govern the graphical look of the class skills and add a bit of "flavor" to how you might play a certain character, but you're still not locked into that. My dragonknight is a fire wizard, not a tank. My rogue is a blood wizard with a big ranged execute, not a stabbity sneaky type. But my sorcerer is a sneaky stabbity type, augmented by his spells, and so far he's actually my favorite character.

    I go into it in a lot more detail here if you care to give it a look.

    There are plenty of youtube videos of people in the private closed beta in the veteran ranks beyond 50 that spec'd "against type" and were able to solo dungeons in this "off spec" just fine. In fact, my nightblade "blood wizard" came to be because I liked one of those videos so much so I'm seeing how well the spec does in the low levels too (answer: pretty good), since the guy said he leveled "traditionally" and then respec'd once her was VR2

  7. Everything I've seen about TESO makes me think it should have been not an MMO and just been a small-party co-op title instead.

    People wanted to be able to Skyrim with friends, not play World of Skyrim.

  8. My trick for character creation: Pick your hairstyle, skin color, eye color,height, scars, etc... The easy stuff that really matters. Hit the lock button on each one.

    And then hit the randomize button until you get a body shape and face that you like. The locked items do not change.