Critic’s Corner: The Elder Scrolls Online

Is the mass multiplayer iteration of the classic PC series worth your attention? We check in with a few international critics to find out

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Massive multiplayer online games are tough beasts to critique. What initially begins as a possibly big-sized RPG can change into something else entirely within a span of a year and beyond. It may annul its original subscription plan ala Star Wars: The Old Republic and Secret World. In the case of League of Legends, it can go from an average title to the biggest gaming phenomenon after a multitude of patches and fixes.

It’s hard to predict the future of the recent online RPG The Elder Scrolls Online, but so far the critical consensus is positive to middling gameplay-wise. Despite the game being out on April 4, most of the international publications sought to play it thoroughly; enough to justify a beginner’s score of sort that may fluctuate from time to time.

The game’s handling of the Elder Scrolls story and lore is mixed from the perspective of critics. Gamesbeat praised this element for keeping true to the past Elder Scrolls games. PC Gamer said that the game’s tepid writing and lamentable voice acting act to the severe detriment of the game’s atmosphere.

The game’s player-versus-player elements also bear mentioning, as critics from Polygon and US Gamer said that the action from the mode is a blast, as each task a player does for his faction in the battlefield is meaningful for them. All of the outlets featured here said that the game’s extra systems like guilds and crafting add more to the MMO experience. Besides, an MMO without any form of extraneous options is unheard of in this day and age.

Because of the franchise’s previous single-player focus (see Skyrim, Oblivion, Morrowind), The Elder Scrolls Online was said to be schizophrenic in nature. GameSpot’s review cites that the single player and multiplayer aspects clash with one another and break player immersion as a result.

Polygon stated that instead of being an ambitious project that blends the strengths of these two styles of role-playing game, it settles for a much less exciting middle ground; “a sloppy mix that waters down what’s great about Elder Scrolls while flat-out ruining the best parts of an MMO.” Some reviewers don’t mind its dual nature: The Escapist said that it doesn’t detract from the game due to the multitude of quests, crafting and PvP gameplay that shine within the first 20 levels of the experience.

One thing is for certain: Bethesda’s MMO marathon for relevance and longevity is far from over. We have already stated our thoughts on the game’s subscription model; time will tell if this online venture will get stronger as months go by to justify it.

Here’s the current aggregated scores for the online MMO from six reviews from renowned international game sites.

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Gamesbeat
“Where The Elder Scrolls Online fails is when it doesn’t break enough from the traditional MMO formula, which is the same mistake other massively multiplayer games keep making, but the only places I’ve felt that weakness so far are in the monster behaviour and quest systems. If the endgame and player-versus-player content I haven’t gotten to yet also stick too close to typical MMO formulas, then it’s going to be difficult for Bethesda to justify the cost of a subscription for The Elder Scrolls Online unless additional, fresh, and substantial story material is regularly added to the game for high-level players, maybe even on a monthly basis.

Elder Scrolls veterans who don’t normally play massively multiplayer games but decide to jump into The Elder Scrolls Online because they think this might be the MMO they can enjoy are likely to find the rubber-banding enemies, the overly simplistic quests, and the lack of dungeons in the open world alienating and/or dissatisfying.

However, enough defining design elements of the Elder Scrolls single-player RPGs have been successfully grafted onto the traditional MMO template to make The Elder Scrolls Online feel like what an Elder Scrolls massively multiplayer online game ought to be. In that sense, not only is a comparison to the single-player games in the Elder Scrolls franchise rendered irrelevant, it also makes The Elder Scrolls Online a success.”

The Escapist
“Just the first 20 levels is almost worth the box price, but whether the subscription fee is worth committing to is still up in the air. It’s not the be all end all of Elder Scrolls by any means, but it’s an enjoyable experience with few serious issues. If you like Elder Scrolls or MMOs, take it out for a spin. As long as you can commit a couple hours a day to it, you’ll more than get your money’s worth in the 30 days that comes with the purchase.”

US Gamer
“Elder Scrolls Online is full of good ideas and it’s well-crafted. Zenimax Online did a good job making an MMO that feels like it’s connected to the best-selling series. It has everything you’d need from a big-budget MMO, but I don’t feel connected to the game like I did for World or Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, or Final Fantasy XIV. That’s maybe because I’m not tied to the Elder Scrolls universe; I have no particular affinity for its lore in the same way I did for Final Fantasy XIV. The graphics won’t knock you back on your feet, but they do their job.

So, if you’re really jonesing for an Elder Scrolls MMO, Zenimax Online has delivered. Otherwise, there are much better options, some of which won’t drag money out of your wallet every month.”

PC Gamer
“This is an MMORPG of moderate scope with a few good ideas and the resources invested in it seem sufficient to expect new dungeons, daily quests and armour sets to collect at a decent clip for the next couple of months. If you’re tired of your current fantasy haunt and looking for somewhere to transfer your guild, this game may suit you for a time. For everyone else, though, I’d advise caution. There’s no game that I’d be happy recommending on the basis that it’s at best ‘okay’ for thirty-plus hours. ‘Okay’ isn’t good enough when you’re facing down this much of a premium, and I can’t imagine paying a monthly fee to visit somewhere I’ve been many times before.”

GameSpot
“[The game’s technical issues] can be patched, as can The Elder Scrolls Online’s other continuing troubles, a few too many broken quests chief among them. I’m less certain, however, that the single-player and multiplayer sides of this fantastical coin will ever complement each other. That’s too bad, because when the stars align, I get that special tingle in my brain, the kind that heralds upcoming heroism in the face of danger. It happens when the soundtrack’s solo cello climbs an arpeggio and then hangs there knowingly, just as I engage a group of harpies. It happens when I face a decision that has no clear right answer. Hopefully, The Elder Scrolls Online will one day get out of its own way, and stop trying to stifle the very fun it’s trying to provide.”

Polygon
“We approached Elder Scrolls Online as fans of the series and as MMO lovers, but it came up short from both perspectives. It’s missing that spark of magic that enticed us to get lost in Skyrim or Morrowind for months, or that made us happy to fork over a monthly fee just to access our current favourite game. It seems like so much effort was put into forcibly translating Elder Scrolls’ style into the genre’s norms, but the payoff for that effort isn’t there.”

Jonathan Toyad

If you want an elaborate answer on who would win in a fight between Ultraman and Godzilla, Jonathan Toyad is your man. A six-year veteran in the game journalism industry, he did words and videos for outlets such as GameSpot, GameAxis, IGN and Stuff.TV. Fears coyotes and scorched earths.

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