The Elder Scrolls Online – Worth Its Weight in Gold

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Released on: April 4, 2014 (PC and macOS release)

Available Platforms: PC, macOS, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, XBOX One, XBOX Series X/S, Google Stadia

Price: $24.99 CAD ($19.99 US) (Has microtransactions)

Developed by: Zenimax Online Published by: Bethesda Softworks

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim again. It’s a game that I occasionally pick back up on a whim. I always seem to forget how much fun I have with the Elder Scrolls series of games. Since then, during downtime at work, I started
thinking about the Elder Scrolls games as a whole. Wondering what my co-worker thought of the series, I turned to him and asked: “What is your favorite Elder Scrolls game?” I anticipated something along the lines of Oblivion or Morrowind, but his answer took me by surprise. “The one I put the most hours in,” he said, “it would have to be Skyrim. As for the one I enjoyed the most, it would have to be Elder Scrolls Online.”

That answer surprised me because I saw reviews when the game launched that said the game’s rewards were paltry, and that grouping up was useless. That put me off of Elder Scrolls Online for some time, since a “Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG)” that has useless multiplayer defeats its purpose for existing. Nevertheless, after the glowing recommendation from my co-worker, I decided to give Elder Scrolls Online a shot. Is Elder Scrolls Online a valid contender in the MMORPG scene?

Elder Scrolls Online Title screen

The game opens with the player on a boat. Shortly, however, their ship capsizes, and the player gets thrown overboard. The player wakes up in a prison, beginning the character creation process. The race the player chooses will determine where they find themselves in the world. Since I play as a Nord, I found myself in a slaver’s prison poised to become a slave. Thankfully, a rogue freed me. Thus, I began the tutorial. After the tutorial, I found myself in Vvardenfell, where I made my way to Vivec City to truly being my journey.

The Elder Scrolls games have some of the best writing when it comes to quests; this is also true for Elder Scrolls Online. One of the first things I did was expose a drug creation lab in a cavern. I told the quest giver that I wouldn’t tell the authorities about him, to which I then told the first guard I saw about the quest giver’s secret drug lab. Other times, the quest will give the player a choice of who they want to help. I found myself pleasantly entangled in Elder Scrolls Online’s quests, something I tend to glance over in most other MMOs.

While there are certainly better-looking MMOs out there, Elder Scrolls Online is no slouch in the visuals department. Where the graphics impressed me the most was in the genuinely fantastical places in Tamriel. Vvardenfell, for example, has giant mushrooms growing everywhere, lava pits near mountains, and plenty of ancient ruins. There is no shortage of things to experience in Elder Scrolls Online.

Elder Scrolls Online Mushrooms
I bet the shade underneath the mushroom caps feel nice in the summer.

At the start of the game, Elder Scrolls Online plays very similarly to other Elder Scrolls games. The game primarily takes place in a first-person perspective, where the player engages enemies in real-time combat, where they can attack and block. This is where the similarities to other Elder Scrolls end, however, as blocking specific attacks will
leave enemies stunned, to which a power attack will knock them down. Pressing any of the movement keys twice will make the player dodge in that direction. It costs stamina to dodge, but it will save the player’s life in a pinch. Elder Scrolls Online also has various classes, giving the player unique abilities based on their character class.

As is tradition in Elder Scrolls games, the more the player uses a skill, the stronger that skill will become. Levelling up skills will increase the character’s overall experience points. Once the player levels up, they can grant attribute points to their magic (known as magika), their health, or stamina. Levelling up also gives the player skill points to assign to their active abilities to use in combat or passive skills that grant the player bonuses or dialog options during quests.

I wasn’t impressed by the gameplay at first. I thought it played like Skyrim, but with less impact. That changed quickly, however, as I got more skills, and the enemies became more formidable. I found myself having to decide which skills I should use during the
game since the player only has a limited about of skill slots (less so at the beginning of the game). While Elder Scrolls Online’s combat is nowhere near as exciting as, say, Phantasy Star Online 2, its combat is fascinating enough to keep me engaged.

I mentioned that the quests had excellent writing earlier. Not only are the quests well written, but they are numerous. I could probably write many articles about the number of quests I completed, and I still wouldn’t scratch the surface. My quest log is currently full, and I have about fifty quests on the go. There is a staggering amount of things to
do in Elder Scrolls Online.

Despite the myriad of quests available in Elder Scrolls Online, the different zones are completable. I recently discovered everything on Bleakrock Island, which shocked me. I can’t remember the last time I saw a “100%” completion message on a zone in an MMORPG. Being able to 100 percent an area made Elder Scrolls Online feel possible to
achieve everything the game offers.

Elder Scrolls Online map completion.
It feels satisfying knowing I found all of the points of interest in an area.

Of the reviews I saw when the game was first released, the consensus was that Elder Scrolls Online’s loot was lackluster. Either this is an issue they fixed with later versions of the game, or I’m more tolerant of the kind of stuff I get from killing bosses. While it is true that the gold the player earns is less abundant at the beginning of the game, after a few levels, the player begins finding salable equipment. I often have to clear inventory space to try and fit the stuff I find to make a profit out of it. The player mainly earns gold through quest completion, but there is opportunity for profit from looting defeated enemies and bosses.

The abundance of items does lead me to my first issue with Elder Scrolls Online: inventory space. At the beginning of the game, the player only has sixty spots for items in their inventory. The player can upgrade their inventory space by visiting the bag merchant found in most cities. They get a free inventory upgrade at level twelve (provided they didn’t buy any inventory upgrades yet). Even now, I find myself running out of inventory space, and my current limit is ninety.

One tradition that reigns true in Elder Scrolls games is glitches. Thankfully, I haven’t come across a game-breaking glitch yet in Elder Scrolls Online, but I did find several visual glitches. MMOs can also house some graphical bugs here and there, so that isn’t anything new either, but it is worth point out if only to find humor in merging with another humanoid model.

Elder Scrolls Online glitch
“You might not understand now, but this is the peak of human evolution!”

It wouldn’t be a Sergie review if I didn’t point out microtransactions in games, and Elder Scrolls Online does not get a pass on this. Some zones are downloadable content, and others are part of more extensive expansions that the player must purchase if they wish to visit said places. What’s more, the player can buy inventory space, boosts, potent potions, and downloadable content using Crowns, the game’s premium currency. There is also an option that allows players to spend Crowns on crates. Those crates are Elder Scrolls Online’s version of the loot box. Admittedly, Crowns are easy enough to ignore until I see that flashing icon in my inventory directing me to the Crown Store.

Elder Scrolls Online Crown Store
The amount of thing available in the Crown Store (which uses Crowns exclusively, which can be bought with real money) is staggering.

I’m glad I decided to give Elder Scrolls Online a try. Well written quests, a fascinating world, and loot galore make it a game worth checking out. I would recommend new players begin with the base game before getting the expansions, as even by itself, the game will give the player hundreds of hours of game time.

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