Is The Elder Scrolls Online Really Elder Scrolls?

Elder Scrolls Online

This has been my main thought concerning The Elder Scrolls Online recently. I’d like to think that I have a pretty open mind when it comes to games, and I don’t just offhandedly dismiss a game simply because it’s not one of my preferred styles. I play games from all styles, and all forms, and will try anything once.

So being a huge Elder Scrolls fan, when I received a beta invite for TESO I excitedly jumped in head first! What I saw in TESO, though, confused me.

See, if you’re going to create a game based on previous fantastic games, it needs to retain the same “feel”. Mechanics can change, for example, but the Final Fantasy games have always “felt” like Final Fantasy. Why was there so much flak about the new Dungeon Keeper game? The feeling changed, it went from a fun dungeon builder to a P2W time grind. Why has the Assassin’s Creed series been so successful? The feeling has stayed the same.

The Elder Scrolls Online simply doesn’t feel like Elder Scrolls.

I should know that feel, too. Of the Elder Scrolls games I have fully completed, there’s Arena, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. The only one I haven’t really played is Daggerfall. That’s always been on my list of games to play, though, and I do plan on eventually getting around to it. How could I not? It’s one of my favorite series.

So I went into TESO already having a loose plan about my character. I was going to be swinging a one hand mace, bearing a shield, wearing leather armor, and wielding a combo of illusion magic and healing magic. This combo in other TES games is wicked. The shield gives great survivability and control, the mace stuns, the armor is light enough to be stealthy, but can take a few hits, illusion magic confuses enemies, gives more control, and healing gives me an “oh shit” button. It’s a stealth character overall, very rogue-esque but in a “hiding in plain sight” sort of way, and awesome to play.

Well what did I find when I got there? Same old trinity. I was told my build would be most suited for a healer, and that it would be a bad healer. I’d have to get a staff, and ditch the leather armor. I’d be crippling my character from the start. Listen, I get it, it’s an MMO and has to come with the illusions of choice that gamers demand. MMOs “have to work” under “trinity guidelines” with “classes” in order to “work right”. Or something. It has to be just like every other MMO out there or it will fail… for reasons.

And the questing, although I hear it’s a little different when you reach the top, is still very linear. Right off the boat (or right out of jail, as most Elder Scrolls games work), I couldn’t just pick a direction and go, only coming back to the main story when I reach a “oh yeah, I forgot that was even there” moment. I’ve heard you can do this once you reach higher levels, but by then what’s the point? You’ve already been led by the carrot from ride to ride, and suddenly be given a different game. Well where was that game in the beginning? Consistency is much better than Bait and switch.

Elder Scrolls Online

I physically have TESO currency! Maybe I could use it to buy more interest in the game itself… It’s awesome, though, given to me by Tushar from Technical Fowl.

In other words, it may have the lore and be dressed as Elder Scrolls but it doesn’t have that feeling, that spark, that makes the Elder Scrolls games a masterpiece of modern gaming.  This difference is more than enough to kill it for me.

The sad thing is that if the game wasn’t using the Elder Scrolls IP and was using a totally new IP, I would probably have more interest. But this? This is a spinoff. Just like the show Joey was a spinoff of Friends.

Will it do well? Who is the primary audience? Elder Scrolls fans like myself, who see it for what it is? Or MMO fans who don’t see much bother in playing single player games, but want the powerful zeitgeist that is Elder Scrolls? I really hope it does well. I’m curious to see if ZeniMax can keep up the expectations of monthly, meaningful content (at least past the first three months). And who knows, down the line it may turn into a game that lives up to the Elder Scrolls name, and I may find myself picking it up when it goes on sale.

However, until it starts living up to that name I’ll be on the sidelines holding onto my wallet in the hopes of receiving a product I’ll be happy with.

// Ocho

13 thoughts on “Is The Elder Scrolls Online Really Elder Scrolls?

  1. Hmm someone else told me that it disappointed them as an Elder Scrolls fan as well. Definitely curious to see how it does among MMO players who may not be as familiar with Elder Scrolls, like you said. I didn’t get very far into the beta, but it’s too bad there’s so much linear questing. I don’t mind that in other single player games, but it’s not what Elder Scrolls is about.

    Also, your character build sounds awesome! Even if it didn’t work as well in this game. That’s what I love most about playing Skyrim over and over again — being able to really, really fine-tune what your character specializes in, mixing and matching skills to create a totally unique combat style. So much fun.


    • For someone who isn’t that familiar with Elder Scrolls, but familiar with MMOs… I think they’ll get the most out of TESO, honestly. With it’s phasing and structure, the quests themselves had a similar Skyrim feel to them, but the linearity threw me off. “You have to complete this quest to move on” WHY?! It’s Elder Scrolls! That’s not the point! Heck, even missions. TES, you don’t have to do a single mission, you can just dungeon hop and STILL make great progress. Bah. Humbug. 😛


  2. If you want absolute freedom in an MMO like you have in the single-player ES games, then you’d have to find a level-less MMO, and there really aren’t any of them out there. Even TSW’s claim to be level-less falls flat. Go ahead and try going to Transylvania right out of your starting area. Sure.. you can get there, but you won’t do jack except die and die and die some more when you get there. Heck, go to Savage Coast straight out of the newbie area. It will be exaclty the same rsult, and SC’s only the 2nd zone.

    Anyway, some trade-offs had to be made to the IP in order to make it into an MMO, and I found when I was in the beta weekends that the early linearity didn’t bother me one bit. In the later weekends and when the game launches they’ve removed some of it from the early levels. You start right in your initial city, but have the option of questing in that area, or going back and doing the “newbie” areas.

    But in a tip to the MMO, no matter what you choose, you’ll be too low to quest and adventure in the NEXT zones until you level up a bit. Yeah, I know… the ES Singles didn’t have a whole lot of that (though there were certainly enemies that you really wanted to level up a bit before going back and giving them another go), but still….. MMO. There’s only so much they can do to port the single-player-everything-is-scaled-to-you into an MMO. Personally, I wasn’t bothered at all by the tradeoffs and found my time in the ESO beta weekends to be very enjoyable, and I’ll be up bright and early on Sunday morning to create my name-reservation characters during the early access.

    FWIW, here my impressions of the various weekends: I’m in full agreement that it’s not perfect, nor is it the 2nd coming of the MMO, but what game is? Especially right at launch?


    • Yeah, I understand the trade offs. In the same way that when turning a book into a movie (and vice versa), tradeoffs happen in order to fit the genre. In this case, they’re eschewing the trademark freedom that TES has to fit it more into a rigid MMO format. I guess that’s my main concern is I’m not even sure WHY it had to be made into an MMO in the first place. It might be for the same dilemma that Hollywood is going through: nothing is original anymore, and if it is original, it’s lack of history is too big a risk.

      The best game that I can think of that comes closest to the “level-less” ideal is probably Guild Wars 2. The only reason levels exist in GW2 is only as gates for progressing zones, and that’s it. In TSW, it’s relatively the same, except your level is basically your QL gear level. True in that It falls flat in that you can’t rush to endgame zones from the gate. Even in GW2, though, when upleveled for certain content, your gear is also boosted by percentages. It’s not perfect, mind you, but it’s better than not.

      So I don’t see why TESO couldn’t be the same way. Difficulty could be based on the setup of the zones themselves. The mobs get more complex, have different tactics. So a new player might not WANT to go there, but if they are skilled enough, could still make slower progress, they could. Gear could be individual and drop based on YOUR level, not those around you. If a newb walks into a higher level, he gets a boost, if a vet comes into a lower level, they get downscaled. And then, just to appease the crowds, have dungeons that ARE level/gear based. This would be a lot more in line with TES ideals and yet still facilitate multiple players. Yeah, if they just reskinned GW2 with TESO, I’d be totally cool with that, and probably have more interest. Progressing in skill lines could open up MORE skills. 10 skill in blades gives you x ability, but 100 skill gives you a full suite to pick from, or start adding conditions. In other words, there could be better ways than what they have picked.

      Essentially, they butchered the spirit of TES to make it an MMO, and they butchered what we know of MMOs to fit it into TES. IMO, The two halves do not add up to be more than the sum of their parts.


  3. I fully expect a MMO version of a major series to make radical changes, but they need to have some decent reasoning behind them. TESO plays everything too safe. Sure, do a themepark MMO, but how about shaking up the whole class system they typically have and bring in a free-form skill system ala UO that helps capture some ES flavor? OR SOMETHING.

    I fully believe the only reason people are buying, playing, and will continue to play this game is the branding. That’s it. TESO is essentially the name brand version of generic themepark crap.


  4. So TESO turns off several ES fans due to the MMOish elements, and it turns off several MMO fans due to console-ish elements (the control scheme, in my case). I won’t be playing, but I do hope TESO is a success. Seems like a lot of folks enjoy it.


  5. Yup, this article is spot on, ESO is a con, just another point and click mmo with nothing that makes it stand out. I have been in the. Eta from day one and gave up, cancelled my pre order and jumped onto the Shroud Of The Avatar bandwagon, now that IS an impressive rpg!


    • I hope it will be. I’ve bought quite a bit into SotA from my days playing Ultima (I’m at the Explorer tier). The alphas are still way too rough to really get a feel on what it’s going to be overall, though, but it DOES feel like an Ultima. Garriott earned my money just for that. I’m really hoping it turns into something great, but I have yet to 100% fully believe it.

      During the AMA Garriott and co had last Thursday at MMORPG, I asked him what he defines SotA as, a single player with multiplayer elements (as you can completely play it as a single player if you want), or more like an MMO as we know it, and he emphatically said it’s going to be an MMO and focus more on multiplayer elements, like UO. I guess we’ll see.


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