Elder scrolls online is one of the most eagerly anticipated massive online games of 2014, and one I have been very much looking forward to, so how is it shaping up just three months from release?, well I have recently had the opportunity to play the 2 day stress test closed BETA, here are my impressions.
I was eager to get a feel for how well ESO was progressing, anticipating spending the whole weekend getting lost in the Elder scrolls rich mythology, but oh how wrong I was.
Before I get into my impressions I just want to clarify a few points, I have been playing MMORPGs since, UO, then I moved on to Everquest which I played for over 5 years, and I go back to every now and again, then DaoC, AO, COH, WoW, Warhammer online, KOTOR, and a lot in between, like Vanguard and many others.
I guess you could say I love MMORPGs especially high fantasy RPGs, so obviously ESO was high on my MMO radar,
So whats wrong with ESO?
Well lets start at the beginning its a 21GIG install, no streaming install here, you must download the whole thing before playing, not a big deal but it seems a little old fashioned.
After the install you have your character creation, which was unimpressive, you choose from 3 factions, each faction has a number of races, the usual humans, orcs, evil, good, etc races to chose from, but the customization felt lazy and an after thought, no City of Heroes levels of customization here, in game much of the players looked the same or very similar as a result, but again not the end of the world.
Because all classes can wear any armor, it also becomes difficult to tell in game what class they actually were, as a caster could have plate and a two handed sword.
After you jump into the game you are presented with a training instance mission, the usual escape from a dungeon type quest, its function is to show you controls, combat etc, fine, BUT it’s the same for all characters you create, you cant skip it the second time, and its so generic, totally lacking the interesting start from Oblivion and Skyrim, so it gets tedious fast.
One thing I did like was it did not hold your hand too much with quest markers, you actually had to look at the landscape and map to figure where to go next, no glowing paths here ala EQ2 showing you exactly where to go, it forced you to look at the world and figure out where things where.
The graphics really are quite good and ran well on my gaming laptop in 1080P, I also like the graphic style, but not as much as in Skyrim, the problem is the world is just not as well realized, or immersive, no wolves hunting stags, or mobs interacting intelligently with the environment like Skyrim, which is a huge disappointment, quest givers just stand there, everything seems static except for other human players running / jumping around.
Game-play / quests and mob AI
This is where things fall apart as you spend much of the time doing quests and killings mobs, the quests were horribly generic kill 3 x, deliver this to that, escort that druid to save the plants, and all the while you have monster spawning and attacking in groups just rushing you, utterly brainless, no mobs healing another mob, or any strategy, they just rush you 1 or 2 or more at a time, the archers dont rush just shoot, but the rest just rush.
Monster behavior AI is actually worse and less interesting than EQ1 and thats 10+ years old, in EQ1 when a monster was about to die it ran, then would call other monsters when it ran into their vicinity, so crowd control was important, not so in ESO, in EQ1 you had necro and shaman and enchanter mobs, they would heal each other charm you, curse or fear you, I didnt see much of this in ESO, perhaps later in ESO you see this behavior , but why leave until later?.
I never actually grouped with anyone and the chat interface is rudimentary with NO chat bubbles, so who is saying what?, it was like chat was an after thought, like it didnt matter somehow, no one much talked anyway, just rushed around killing stuff, and why bother because everything is solo-able at the early levels.
It feels like everyone is an archer, as its ranged and quite good at early levels, as everyone can use every weapon, sorcerers can use bows also, all classes can also use all armor, classes can train different spells or abilities which are unique to their specialization which I like very much.
When you level up you can train the usual Health, Magic, or stamina, but the stats on the armor like strength etc seem disconnected from your leveling up with no obvious indication of what effect they have on your character. Itimization and actual items that drop look boring and feel like an after thought, theyre small looking with a simple inventory to assign to you via the character screen, perhaps this changes later on, I dont know, I hope so
There are no player BUFFS as far as I can see, no BUFF class, so you cant give a strength buff to another player for example, why would you want this in a multi-player game?, it might foster a need for grouping or cooperation.
Healing is AOE (area of effect), you heal people within a range around you, this is because you dont target players or mobs like WOW or EQ, you have to aim at them just like Skyrim, which is not a bad thing, but it seems it precludes healing single players as this might require skill, the other player would need to stay still and wait for the cast timer. This had never been a problem in Skyrim as youre the only player, but its a big problem in ESO.
The information on the HUD is non existent, how much health does my pet have?, I dont know, I dont know how much damage Im doing, it works similar to Skyrim just showing damage relative to the monsters total health, however this does not work as well in ESO, as when you level up and attack a higher level mob you do the same relative damage percentage, therefore you dont feel any stronger (even though you’re actually doing more damage), how much am I healing?, I dont know. Why not jsut show numbers over their heads? whats wrong with that?.
I never played PVP which is a shame as people in chat basically said thats the point of the game, and where it gets fun, and explained I need to grind up to level 10 before I was given the chance to PVP, but should it be a grind?, should the PVE experience fell like such a chore just to get to the interesting PVP Real game?
Im really shocked how much of a miss-fire ESO is, its almost like none of the game designers have ever played a massively multi player game before, Im not saying they should copy WoW, but what made WoW successful was that it took what worked from other MMOs at the time and refined them, taking the best from other games, and mixing them into their own lore, then added that Blizzard polish.
ESO seems to have taken the worst from Skyrim (the combat) and somehow made it even worse, if someone ever asked you what was the best part of Skyrim you would not say the combat, its the immersive living breathing world, which is lost in ESO.
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.
Its still BETA so of course it can improve before release, and lets hope it does, but can it keeping in mind its launching in just a couple of months time?, a major saving grace might be its PVP and when it goes Free to play, which it will have to do in order to survive.
See Everything you need to know about Elder scrolls Online for more info