So it’s safe to say that Bethesda had a pretty decent time at E3; but just before everyone started getting sexually aroused by the long-awaited announcements of Doom and Fallout 4 they had just released The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited for next-gen consoles. Now I’ve never been a big fan of the Elder Scrolls series, not that I don’t like them but it hasn’t been a game that made me go out and buy a new release, while everyone was playing Skyrim for example I was happy playing through Borderlands and Football Manager repeatedly. So considering TESO had been available on PC for some time with mixed reviews, would the port to console be a better hit with fans of the franchise or at least win over some new fans?
Well, first impressions are important with any game, not necessarily with how good the game looks but your experience settling into the game. My journey began with an agonising wait for the game to install, over 6 hours to get 15gb of data on my HDD (longer than it should’ve been as I decided to stream Netflix whilst waiting). Once the wait was over I couldn’t wait to actually get some game time under my belt, so I go and select the European server but what’s this? “unable to connect to server”. Bloody typical isn’t it, you wait 6 hours to play a game for it to not even work properly, luckily I was able to connect to the North American server instead and finally get the tutorial under way which lays the foundation for the game’s story.
You awaken in a dungeon on the other side (yeah you’re dead before you even start) to be greeted by an unknown figure at the door to your cell. She unlike you isn’t dead but has come to rescue the damned souls who reside there and rescue the prophet who acts as your guide on your journey throughout Tamriel. This lays the foundation for the first part of the story which sees you on a quest to battle the Daedric Prince Molag Bal as the fate of the world as you know it hangs in the balance. The second story is slightly different as it relies on which mortal race you select for your character because each is assigned to a specific alliance, and each alliance is in a battle with the others for supreme power in Tamriel to claim the vacant imperial throne. This means friendships will be broken as those you called brother will now be enemies as you find yourself fighting those in different allegiances to come out on top.
The stories are okay, nothing totally gripping but they’re easy to follow and get into. The benefit with the story for the imperial throne though is with each alliance you can join you will find yourself starting in a different town and so this provides you with different quests and missions, meaning you essentially have 3 separate storylines you can follow giving the game great replayability value. One issue with this being an MMO though is that as you embark on quests you can find yourself arriving at a location with nearly 30 other people there battling a specific enemy, and you may often find that when you arrive it will only take a couple more blows to kill the enemy, meaning you’ve done little work for the reward. Now you can wait around for enemies to respawn and battle them for real so you don’t feel like you are cheating the game, but whether people will do that is up to them.
Now as for gameplay it’s a bit of a strange one because I did enjoy playing and the buttons are easy to understand as is the upgrading and skill system thanks to the tutorial which takes you through it all, but at the same time there were some things that annoyed me. Firstly was that the game lags pretty bad, you can be alright for a while and then your screen begins to stutter and movement is jagged. They may blame this on the internet but I ran tests and my connection was perfectly fine, so I think it is more an issue with the servers which I’d recommend they upgrade (especially the European one). Getting passed that I started to enjoy the game as my sorcerer High Elf using magic as my main attack allowing me to attack from afar, but it was so easy to activate a spell in the middle of town and if you do that, prepare to run for your life as people will be after you before you can say zippity doodah. I can understand if you kill someone, but I cast a spell which didn’t come into effect unless the enemy was killed whilst under the influence of the spell, then suddenly I have a 25 gold bounty which I would happily pay, but never got the chance and was killed before I could get out of the town.
The other thing for me which spoils gameplay a little as well is that the game has in-game purchasing for a special currency called crowns. Now whilst I understand that this will help fund the game’s future to allow for new stories and missions, new weapons, server maintenance and other such things you’d associate with games, I think it also spoils games. Why? Because you often get little rich kids or sad people who spend their money on a game to get ahead of everyone else, which means they breeze through the game without putting any effort or game time in whilst others play the game the way it was intended to be played and not using money as a way to give yourself an easier ride. Now it’s not so bad in TESO because a lot of the stuff you buy is cosmetic at best like pets for example, similar to the way you buy outfits in games like Smite, whereas other games like Gran Turismo let you buy faster cars to beat your opponents, so I will give Bethesda some credit for that.
Going back to upgrading skills through the levelling up system, I have to praise Bethesda for a job well done because I couldn’t fault it. It’s so easy to follow and understand, you essentially earn EXP for completing quests and killing enemies (the tougher the better as it means more EXP). As you hit levels you will be awarded a point to upgrade your health, magika or stamina and another point to upgrade your skills and powers which are where you will assign abilities and spells. Now you are limited to how many you can choose so make your decisions wisely. As you level up more there will be more options open to you but if you’re happy with what you already have then you can develop existing spells to make their effects last longer or even add new effects to it. You can also collect sky shards which are hidden around Tamriel and for every three you find you’ll be awarded another upgrade point which can help benefit you.
Graphically the game is a beautiful world with many different environments from lush woodlands, rocky mountains and beaches that put the bahamas to shame. Obviously it is going to look better on the PC than it is on my PS4 which sometimes seems struggle keeping up with the frame rate. However I should not take away the work which has been put into such a massive game world which combines all the areas that have been previously covered in games such as Morrowind and Skyrim. What I enjoy most about the graphical side of the game though is how customisable your character is, you can change everything from the slant of your forehead, the width of your jaw or how high your cheekbones are, allowing you to replicate as closely as possible your own image onto your character (a little more difficult if you select to go the Argonians or the Khajiit). Would’ve been a good idea though for those with Kinect or the PS4 camera to be able to scan your face and for it to automatically transfer it onto your character.
Anyway to summarise, TESO could be much better than it is. My main disappointment was with the servers, if it wasn’t connecting to them that was the problem it was being kicked or serious lag issues; I mean I thought Destiny was bad occasionally on Bungie’s servers but this makes them look fantastic. I was also disappointed to see in-game purchasing of exclusive currency which I don’t like in games, it makes sense for the developer but when you pay for a game I don’t think you should be paying more in the game, if it was free-to-play then fair enough but it has honestly left a sour taste in my mouth. It isn’t all bad though, the fact there are multiple stories keeps the replayability factor high and no doubt there will be more content added over time, I just hope it is free due to money made from the in-game purchasing rather than releasing content as DLC you pay for. The graphics side of things are another positive with so much detail going into both the massive game world and the creation of characters. But with all those positives is it enjoyable? Well, being an MMO it is more enjoyable to play with friends than alone but it’s an ok game to pass the time with, it is more for fans of the series I’d say and may struggle to win over new fans as I was a little let down finding the game rather lacklustre. Worth trying out anyway.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.