The Elder Scrolls Online
Top Critic Average
A few well-designed systems struggle to overcome lifeless presentation. Capable, but ultimately hard to recommend.
It's tempting to write off subscription MMOs completely, but there are some signs of life in the sector: Final Fantasy 14 is doing quite well, and the forthcoming WildStar is in the final stages of a persuasive charm offensive with the MMO community. But there are only fleeting signs of life in The Elder Scrolls Online itself - and few of them have anything to do with The Elder Scrolls. Maybe this grand project sounded like a good idea in 2007, but now it feels like a leftover obligation: a game no-one really asked for, and a flawed premise from the start.
ESO is missing the spark that got us lost in Skyrim and Morrowind
The Elder Scrolls Online immerses you in its intricate quests and fantasy landscapes, only to undercut its strengths at every turn.
Elder Scrolls Online doesn't tear down everything that came before in the MMO field and thrust the Elder Scrolls gameplay into the world of massively-multiplayer. In the end, the game is a theme park MMO in the standard World of Warcraft style, wearing the lore, characters, and locations of the Elder Scrolls universe. Visually, the game is consistent, but that consistency is boring and drab. The game itself is punctuated with exciting moments, but overall it's just above average and I have a hard time recommending that in a subscription MMO. If you're a big Elder Scrolls fan, give it a try. If not, there are better choices out there.
[I]f you can stick through the starting areas to around Level 10, find several friends to group with, and stomach the litany of technical flaws, The Elder Scrolls Online will more than grow on you. Whether it remains that way will be determined when I review the endgame content more thoroughly several weeks from now.
Personally as an MMO player, I think I'm mostly going to be putting my time in the near future into Final Fantasy XIV and WildStar until that happens.
Inferior to competitors and predecessors in every respect.
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 behavior 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.
So here we are at the end of a very long review for a very big game, and the question of whether or not The Elder Scrolls Online has captured the magic of its single single contemporaries still remains to be answered. I think the framework is there, but there are some painful missteps that are holding it back. MMOs are a constantly evolving ecospace, so it's possible we'll get there, but for now I'll cautiously say…maybe.