The Elder Scrolls Online, Still Not Quite Getting it Right

Elder Scrolls Online

I’m picky. This should not come as a surprise to anybody by now, I’m very finicky about the way that I play the games I do. What this leads to, though, is a bunch of games that are just not designed for my playstyle, and that’s completely fine! That’s what makes gaming a great hobby, that not every game has to be made for everybody. However, when a game you really think and hope is made for you turns out not to be, it can be quite disappointing. This is kind of how I feel after trying out The Elder Scrolls Online.

Now, the last time I played Elder Scrolls Online, it was during the game’s beta, and I commented how I liked the look of the game, but felt that it just didn’t capture the “feel” of Elder Scrolls, that feeling of total freedom in a huge explorable world, chock full of so much lore that a full playthrough only scratches the surface. But I’m not one to judge a game fully in beta, especially one I *really* hope to like. So when Elder Scrolls Online flipped the switch to the buy-the-game-and-then-you-can-play-it model, I jumped on board with both feet.

Elder Scrolls Online, Fishing

I’m fishing! I have no idea why, but I can fish!


I should’ve trusted my initial instincts, though, which so far have been pretty spot-on. I jumped back into TESO, and due to streamers like the awesome CrazMadSci, I was pretty pumped to do so. There are immediate differences, the intro changed and dumps you right into your head city. I created a Redguard character in the Daggerfall Covenant, because Hammerfell is right next to High Rock, and after the intro I was dropped right into the city of Daggerfall! This is good. This feels open. You have the *option* of heading to the two intro islands or not, and options are good. Options are Elder Scrolls. Heck, in pretty much every TES game I’ve ever played I initially run off into a random direction, and when I get pretty powerful finally remember that “oh yeah, there’s a main story I could follow, too!”  Elder Scrolls is about options, not about linearity.

But it was also during the character creator that I found my first “huh?” moment. When creating a Redguard, I found that I could make their skin color… well… white. This immediately struck me as wrong. There aren’t any white Redguards! There could be light-brown skinned Redguards, sure, but not white. But… MMO. I get it. Also, a human race can join the Aldmeri Dominion? Generally, the only race other than elves that would be allowed into the Aldmeri Dominion are khajiit, because the high elves have basically tricked the khajiit over and over again over the millennia. To see *any* other race that’s not an elf take the Emperor’s throne would cause a reaction, and yet, human races can *join* the Dominion?! This makes no sense. But… MMO. I get it. It’s a bit of fracturing the lore to fit the game … it’s just too bad the lore is a tenet of the series… but whatever.

Elder Scrolls Online

Stros M’Kai, we meet again.


The skipping of the intro Islands, though? It lies, it’s not really an option. On the intro islands are collectible Skyshards that, if ignored, mean less skill points for your character. It’s an illusion of choice. Sure, you *could* not do them, but then you set yourself at a disadvantage with less skill points at your level until you come back to play them. So, fine, I did them. But I wasn’t happy about it.

My character sits at level 12 now, and making my way through Glenumbra from one quest chain ride leading right into the next quest chain ride (Grrrrr. It’s crazy, actually. I just finished up a quest chain to help rid a giant tree of… evil, I guess, and what did they tell me but “Oh! Someone stopped by while you were helping us! You should go find and help them!” This is about as far from options as one could get.) and I’ve been building him into what I love playing in Elder Scrolls, or pretty much any classless game that will allow me to, a leather-wearing, mace-and-shield wielding sneaking powerhouse that backs up his mace with healing magic. I’m almost ready for the first dungeon, I think, but when I see in chat people ask about DPS or tank or healing classes, I’m really not sure what I would fall into. DPS, as my armor gives me crit bonuses, I think? I use a shield, have taunt abilities, and heal myself, so maybe tank? I can heal others pretty well, too, so healer? I… have no idea, really. I’m all 3? Been pretty successful so far soloing, no problem keeping myself alive and beating down the enemy, but classifying myself in “standard” MMO terms? No idea.

And thus, if I can’t classify myself then others will judge me, as MMO players do. In fact, they already have a few times. The first time I tried to group up for the first dungeon I was *kicked out* of the group for my build. My DPS isn’t on par with pure-DPS players, my healing doesn’t stack up to healers, and I can’t tank like tanks can. Am I screwing myself over by not sticking to a trope? Basically, even though I’m playing the way I want, it’s quite possible I’m playing “wrong”. Any other Elder Scrolls game, I’m an unstoppable powerhouse and I have a blast. Here? I’m a noob, I’m a scrub. Not exactly a feeling that makes me want to log in.

Elder Scrolls Online

I have my mace, I have my shield, I’m wearing my leather. Come at me… nature!


It’s not all bad, though. Take a look at some of these screenshots! The game is drop dead gorgeous. Also, the quests themselves? Fascinating and well written stuff! Though not adding much to the overall story, they are quite Elder Scrollsy tableaus and are fun. Also, the few choices that I’ve made seem to have made differences. At the end of the Betnikh island chain, I pissed off the Captain of the ship I was sailing on so much that she kicked me off! She might’ve kicked me off anyway, again another illusion, but the choices *feel* pretty hefty, about as much heft as you can have in an MMO, I guess.

I don’t feel like these positives make up for the negatives, though. So once more I’m holding on to my initial assessment: The Elder Scrolls Online, though a very pretty WoW clone in it’s own right, does not live up to it’s Elder Scrolls pedigree. It’s too linear, it doesn’t respect and breaks it’s own hardcore lore just because, and they lie to the player that they can truly play the way they want to. If anything, playing TESO has made me want to research the lore a lot more, and even has given me cravings to jump back into the previous single player games!

Elder Scrolls Online

Dude, look at this place. Ballin’.



I may still level to cap, anyway, just because doing so might convince me to change my mind. I’m hoping it does, just because I hate being so disappointed with a game that labels itself as Elder Scrolls.



14 thoughts on “The Elder Scrolls Online, Still Not Quite Getting it Right

  1. Rebuttal:

    1) What your doing would be akin to telling George RR Martin that white walkers shouldn’t be able to talk because they didn’t talk at all in the first book (or two or three or whatever). He’s the author, you’re the reader. He gets to decide what is lore. But beyond that, the only humans in the Dominion at this point should be Imperials, and there is a specific lore related reason for them to be there (doing the storyline is helpful here). There are a smattering of others (people who preordered) and I personally didn’t agree with the move, but hey, there’s always room for exceptions when it comes to PC’s, that is a gospel truth of RPG’s.

    2) It really is a choice because you will accumulate far more skill points than you can put to use in a given build. In ten levels you will have skill points coming out of your ears and no idea what to do with them.

    3) WoW clone? Really? You can place a mace-n-shield leather armor wearing healing magic class in WoW? :-p

    Seriously though, if its not your cup of tea, I get that. (-: But I think its definitely an Elder Scrolls game. It looks and feels like one to me. And I played this *before* I played Skyrim.


    • 3) Yes, a WoW clone. Moving from quest-hub to quest hub, abilities and areas gated by level, class, trinity-based characters. Just because it’s production values and the capability of making “wrong” choices far outshine WoW doesn’t alleviate the fact that it is still a WoW clone. Skyrim, Skyrim was good. Far from being the best Elder Scrolls game, though, which Morrowind holds the title of.

      1) Basically what I’m saying is that TESO is to the Elder Scrolls Series as Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, and 3 are to Star Wars Episodes 4, 5, and 6. As the Reboot of Star Trek by JJ Abrams is to Star Trek’s Prime Universe. Canon-light, let’s call it. I mean, Lucas did create Episodes 1, 2, and 3, right? That means we’re to take them as completely canon, right? A lot of Star Wars fans have issues with this. Considered “canon”, but not by anyone who actually cares about the lore. As for what the Imperials as a race have to do with the Dominion, okay. But the Imperials joining with the elves story could be okay, seeing as how the Imperials during the 2nd age were fractured, and it wasn’t until Tiber Septim showed up that things really changed for them. TESO is before Tiber Septim. Still, the elves are very anti-human, and always have been. They allowed a human to take the throne, after being conquered into doing so. So Imperials could join the elves storywise, but there is NO WAY that the elves would allow one of them to take the throne, not with them in charge. The Dark Elves, Bretons, and Orcs make *some* sense at least as they are all descended from elves, but the elves are too prideful to let one of them take the throne, anyway. “I would sooner place an Altmer infant on the Ruby Throne than surrender Tamriel to [Man’s] capricious whims.”- Ayrenn Arana Aldmeri, from TESO’s original descriptive text of the Aldmeri Dominion.

      So yes, as I said, it’s an MMO… if pacifying the crowd and altering lore will sell more games, then sure, what is lore more than just a tablecloth, anyway, to be honest. Lore doesn’t mean anything without a substantial game to back it up.

      and 2) That’s what I’m hoping, that the amount of skill points will be almost infinite, that my choices in skills across my bar will weigh in heavier than my initial point allocations. This is good, still, though, it didn’t do anything to alleviate the feeling of force, plus, my other option was heading into Glenumbra, which quickly turned into a quest-hub to quest-hub romp anyway, not real choice there either, though dropping us into the main city did give the “feel” of choice, despite it actually not meaning much.

      Overall, after having played through TES 1-5. it’s just really hard to see Elder Scrolls done in such a fashion. I blame Zenimax, though, and the real constrictions needed to make an MMO over a more-experimental single player, and I take heart that TES 6 is still on it’s way.


  2. Ocho,

    Thank you for the shout out! I really appreciate it. You make several very on topic points both positives and negatives about this game. First of all I significantly understand any disappointment you might have that this is not a “Elder Scrolls game.” I agree that there are some significantly lore breaking and immersion breaking mechanics, stories, and features about the game that can ruin the experience for some players. In many ways this attests to Zenimax Online Studios being the creators for the game and not Bethesda who has made TES 1-V. The other reason you have already touched upon…. it is a MMO. In order to make the PvP element of the game functional they needed balanced factions. In order for programming sakes and continuation the leveling system 1-50 is very linear. I can only image how difficult it would be to make a zone playable and fun for a level 30 and a level 10.

    However there are several things that I want to argue that make ESO an incredible addition to the TES universe. Although the TES games have been created for over 20 years it is incredibly difficult to pack in every feature you love about every game into this MMO. With that being said the developers of ZOS have gone through tremendous strides to keep as much of the world and lore alive. In my own recent adventures with TES Arena the first of the Elder Scrolls game. You can see that the locations of all the cities and even stories, behavior, and quests are matching that of the ESO. I do not know how to tell you how much I had when I had to play in Crypt of Hearts and Selene’s Web in TES Arena. Both of those dungeons are normal dungeons for ESO with similar plots and enemies. I mean WOW! That is over 20 years of game development and something so small is apart of the game.

    As for your first grouping experience in game. I must for one feel the need to apologize for the community. Due to the B2P conversion unfortunately many players are joining in to the ESO community not for the love of the Elder Scrolls games but for an alternative to other MMO’s. Many players do not understand how to think outside of the box of healers, DPS, or tanks. Because of this fact the dynamic for grouping is still sometimes difficult to accomplish. I have only personally been kicked out of 1 group due to not being “up to par” because I had the nerve to tell them that their instantaneous deaths were due to not having enough health to live through the heavy attack of the boss to even allow me to heal them. Do not let the fools of new players and rash opinions mark what the community or the game as a whole is all about.

    Yes the ESO game does allow you to do anything you want the way you want. Although for dungeons if you are not in a group that understands the dynamic of each other it is easier to fall into a healer, DPS, tank mindset. The champion system allows you to customize yourself so much more than ever before. As long as you are keeping your team alive, taking the hit, or doing the damage the group will not care what you do. In all honestly i’m super surprised that you got kicked out. I mean if healers by the time they do the first dungeons only have 1 heal unlocked, 2 if they know what they are doing.

    Do not let those people ruin your experience. Joining a quality guild of like minded individuals to run quality is what makes this game. Keep trying it out man. It will get better.


    • Anytime, Sci. Your streams are very entertaining, I’m always happy to watch them. And right, most of my gripes fall into one basic overall statement: Turning a historied single-player game into an MMO is like turning a beloved novel into a movie. The mediums are too different in scope, that major adjustments have to be made in order to make it fit. When WoW made the jump to MMO, it did so by completely changing genres. RTS made the jump to RPG. That felt natural. In this case, a very open RPG is turned into a very linear RPG. Add other players, but lose substance. And oh yeah, the devs used all the canon they had at their fingers and put as many references into TESO as they could find, especially from the earlier Arena and Daggerfall. Heck, in the first encounter with Sheogorath, he mentions both the Numidium AND the Staff of Chaos. Being a daedra lord, he knows things. That is cool. But it’s the “soul” that changed, and if it were any other series, heck if it were a new IP that Zenimax created, I’d probably be giving it a LOT more slack. New IP, doesn’t matter about the history of the series, I’d probably be praising it up and down. A game this pretty, with this interesting quests, solid combat, and a varied character builder? Sounds awesome. Call it Elder Scrolls, though, and that comes with expectations, expectations they can’t meet.

      As for the community, would you believe this was *before* the transition. I bought the game back in February, knowing about the transition, so these were people who were subscribing and creating alts, etc. I won’t hold it against the community as a whole, mainly because I’M part of the community, and I know I wouldn’t pull that shit on anyone. It does happen to me a lot, though, mainly because I do kind of refuse to conform, especially when the game allows me to refuse to conform. I play for me, afterall. If I’m not having fun, or I feel like I’m allowing someone else to play the game *for* me, then why play at all?


    • Tbh in an MMO a hybrid build is not uncommon in choosing a character class. The problem, In my opinion, for the reason you were most likely kicked is when completing a dungeon Hybrid builds in aomost every MMO is not recomended.

      This is simply because as a leather the tanks don’t want and or need you to tank, nor do they wish you to heal as ur gear helps with dps. Therefore they expect a pure dps build out of a leather.

      To be honest this does not mean there is no choice I play a Dragon Knight Tank in dungeons but I switch my skills around for pve back to my hybrid this isn’t a lack of choice as much as optimizing for a situation.

      I belive the problem you are having is the idea of a the typical WoW hybrid “Mage Tank” and “Healing Rouge” just isn’t the case in TES while question this works an MMO by its nature requires teamwork and this means Classroles or at least adjusting your skills to better the team -not saying your build wouldn’t as I would run with your build in a heatbeat-

      As for humans IDC what anyone else says I agree with you fully Humans is a nogo I kinda feel as this pre-order allowed a kind of cheat that defies lore by allowing any race to any faction the default players did not recive this perk which fits more within the lore.

      I chalk the humans being in dominion more or less to an -Infinate ammo perk- in RE6 or even the GoW 3 Athena Skin its all more or less an extra provided to add to the fun while not meaning to make sense.

      I think we can all relate to saying “I know this could never happen but what if it did?” Purest hate it but we have all been there id imagine


      • I should also mention I only collected 4 of the skyshards and by level 13 I have already comepleted my tank build and am halfway through a full dps spec assuming you don’t want a build at all I find it more than possible to have true freedom over your skills even if they don’t work together


      • “typical WoW hybrid “Mage Tank” and “Healing Rouge” just isn’t the case in TES” Sooooo… you’ve obviously never played a TES game other than TESO, then. This statement is 100% false. You absolutely can play a “Mage Tank” or “Healing Rogue” in the TES games, the freedom of character builds being a staple of the series. If anything, by dumbing down TESO so that using cross-builds isn’t “optimal” (because gamers these days are so conditioned into the WoW method of thinking that they whine and complain at anything outside of the trinity), they’ve absolutely lost what an Elder Scrolls game is at it’s heart. What a waste of a fantastic IP.

        Why should I have to change my build to what others say is optimal, just to fit some childish social convention? Who’s playing this game, me or them? Whenever you let someone else decide your courses of action, you become a puppet. Which is totally fine if you don’t really care about the game you’re playing, or whether you care about anyone taking you seriously. … As I said, I think the problem is twofold. 1) the developers created the builds to not work optimally together, thus creating an illusion of choice, you stick to rote rolls, or you are ostracized; and 2) the players play the game like it’s every other MMO out there, not caring a single bit about the IP. May as well be “yet another fantasy sim” online to them, so they go back to playing it like they’ve been taught by WoW, Pure Tank-Pure Healer-Pure DPS… no flexibility, no creativity, no Elder Scrolls.


  3. Just thought I’d mention that I have never enjoyed any of the previous Elder Scrolls games – I played Daggerfall and Morrowind and never felt the desire to play Oblivion or Skyrim. As someone who has no affection for or even interest in the pre-existing lore, I was surprised how much I enjoyed ESO. Maybe it’s the ESO game for people who don’t really like ESO games.

    If it had traditional MMO hotbar combat and let me use my mouse pointer the way Bill Gates intended then without doubt I’d be playing it all the way to the level cap at the very least. Unfortunately it does have that awful fixed-cursor, hobbled combat so I’ll probably never do more than dabble.


    • I wonder how ESO would’ve sold if they had just said “screw making it like the series” and made it about as trope an MMO as you can find, with hotbars for miles and tab-combat. Hate to say, but probably better than it has sold. I mean truly make it WoW, but with better graphics and the deep Elder Scrolls lore behind it, and it probably would’ve been a hit. I totally think you’re right, it really is the ESO for those who don’t like ESO. 🙂


      • xD Im seeing this as, “well wait guys, what if they… did the exact same thing, but we didnt whine about it because they hit ctrl F and replaced every mention of the series TES with qqsolvent#1 itd be a totally different game that we couldnt whine about!”


  4. I was very disappointed with the beta as well, and although I really agree with you that it’s not fair to judge a game on its beta state, I have not had the time or urge to buy and play TESO after release. The impression that I get from your blog post is that it’s a game that’s from a certain perspective torn between being a single-player game and an MMO. And it’s of course down to the individual player’s taste whether that’s a good or bad thing. I think my experience would be the same as yours if I’d try it, though.

    I do like the previous ESO games, so maybe Bhagpuss’ assessment is indeed true! 😉


    • You know, I do say it’s not fair to judge a game while it’s still in beta, but you know what? There hasn’t been a single game that when I played in beta that release caused me to change my mind. I played TSW in beta and thought it was awesome, and I still do. I played Rift in beta and didn’t like it, and though it has markedly improved, I’m still not a fan. I guess they have stuff that can be fixed and changed, which is what really shouldn’t be judged, and they have things that are ingrained design decisions that never change, which you *can* and should judge.

      Yeah, I think Bhagpuss is dead on for this instance. I made the point in a previous reply post that TESO is like the “movie” version of the Elder Scrolls series “books”. It’s condensed, not as deep gameplay, and a too-linear progression, which they had to do to make it work. The difference between a good single player game and an MMO is like the difference between a book and a movie, concessions have to be made to make it fit the genre. And true, it doesn’t mean that ESO is bad, quite the contrary it has a lot of good selling points, but I’ve enjoyed the “books” too much to really get a lot out of the “movie”.


  5. Lmao I can’t stop laughing. There is no purpose to beta beyond breaking things. If you have something to say about the number of bugs or glitches, or errors or whatever youd like to say beyond the feel and look and playstyle without being specific, well you aren’t in closed beta because you are speaking about the game. If you are doing these things, you are not “working as intended”. You break shit in a beta. Then report it. Period. Any talk about oo too many bugs wah wah, stop playing the damn beta, you are making the game worse by not contributing to the effort of improving it where another in your place could have.
    Its a fucking mmo, no duh not taking advantage of opportunities or sinking an extra bit of time is going to be a detriment to you.
    “Well this guy studied harder, why on Earth did he score higher?” read as “Well he planned, completed each zone, and crafted set gear that gave him bonuses, but i STILL don’t understand why he outperforms me! I should be better than him without having done those things!”

    tl;dr QQ I used beta for reasons it wasnt made for. QQ the game is an mmo. QQ they changed lore. QQ its so good…but QQ?


  6. Since when was WoW an adjective? I get it, coca cola is super popular BUT. I dont call my shirley temple coca cola’s ripoff because its made from sprite, WHICH is in the same kind of bottle as coca cola sometimes, pluuuuus its fizzy. Look at all those things it has in common? They both have bottles, and are fizzy. Its godamn amazing, obviously the more popular one is being ripped off of.


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