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Zenimax’s attempt at a massively multiplayer role-playing game, The Elder Scrolls Online, is now live for players in North America and Europe. It promises to bring the franchise’s memorable world and open gameplay into a multiplayer format, but it sells for full retail and has a subscription fee. Is it worth your hard-earned cash?

Setting Foot On Tamriel

The Elder Scrolls Online takes place on the continent of Tamriel. While the last three games in the series have focused on only a chunk of this landmass, ESO covers swaths of it. Cyrodiil, the interior landmass explored in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, serves as the PvP map, while other zones touch upon, but don’t cover the same ground as, Morrowind and Skyrim 3 Reasons All Gamers Need To Play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim [MUO Gaming] 3 Reasons All Gamers Need To Play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim [MUO Gaming] One of the most anticipated games of this holiday season was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Call of Duty and Battlefield are terrific games, but it’s delightful to see something a little different become a... Read More .

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In fact, there are many areas that ESO fleshes out for the first time, most notably the homelands of the Elven races and the far northwestern reaches. This will be a treat for fans of the Elder Scrolls lore, and like previous games in the franchise, ESO is filled with ruins to explore, history books to find, and secrets to uncover.

Suggesting that lore is a selling point may be excessively nerdy, but the rich history of the Elder Scrolls fiction has become a franchise feature. And unlike many competitors, ESO ties exploration to tangible rewards via Skyshards. You receive one skill point for every three you find, and most are off the beaten path.

The Writers Earn Their Pay

The Elder Scrolls, like most fantasy worlds, has a fair share of gobbly-gook. There’s a long list of cults, factions, gods and demons, all with strange names that can be hard to keep straight. Lore fans will love the detail, but other players may be left scratching their heads.

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Look underneath the high-fantasy lore, however, and you’ll find some solid writing. You’ll talk to recurring quest characters who are genuinely likable and become involved in political intrigue that is genuinely interesting. There’s even subtle humor; in a village belonging to the Khajit, a race of humanoid cats, I came across a caged dog surrounded by curious and horrified onlooker who seemed scarcely able to believe such a creature exists.

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The depth of the story is helped along by the optional first-person perspective and the deep character creation system. While everyone has access to the same quests, not every character looks the same, and that helps create a sense of ownership. You’ll find it easier to believe what you do matters than in most recent MMOs, though ESO doesn’t quite match Star Wars: The Old Republic 5 Reasons Why Star Wars: The Old Republic Will Be A Success [Gaming] 5 Reasons Why Star Wars: The Old Republic Will Be A Success [Gaming] Star Wars: The Old Republic has launched. Though there were the typical launch issues like a few scheduled downtimes that took several hours, the servers remain running and not on fire. Now that hurdle has... Read More in that regard.

MMO, Elder Scrolls Style

ESO’s franchise flavor is impossible to miss. You’ll find it in crafting, character customization, questing and even player-versus-player combat. This game is more willing to let you mess up than some other recent titles, and it also feels completely uninterested in helping players reach max level. Quest chains don’t link up seamlessly, quest hubs are rare, and you’ll occasionally find yourself lost.

With that said, this is still an MMO. Though well written, most quests boil down to the tried-and-tired “go here, do X, come back” formula. Skills are activated via a hotbar, gear upgrades are extremely important, and AI enemies aren’t very intelligent.

The game’s PvP is also familiar. There are keeps that must be stormed and defended, small outposts that support them, and a wide variety of PvE quests that can be accomplished in the PvP area. All of this is fine, but also hardly unique; many games have tried the same, and most have failed. Whether ESO will be different is impossible to know so early in the game’s life.

The Elder Bugs

Bugs have always been a part of the Elder Scrolls franchise. Even Skyrim had its share of glitches Elder Scrolls Skyrim Update Launches - Do NOT Update, It Has Major Problems [News] Elder Scrolls Skyrim Update Launches - Do NOT Update, It Has Major Problems [News] Bethesda has issued the highly anticipated patch for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and all seemed right with the world. It fixed the issue that PlayStation 3 owners were having with playing the game for... Read More , but the problems were tolerable because the game was a single-player experience. A physics bug that sent an enemy flying into the sky, for example, was more hilarious than disappointing.

ESO is different. The game is online, so bugged quests are harder to ignore and glitches can impact many players at once. Unfortunately, this hasn’t made Zenimax double-down on quality assurance. I ran across several bugged quests that had to be reset, and most friends and guildmates report the same. I also fell through the world twice and encountered a few opponents who clipped through the ground or a wall. One of these monsters managed to attack me while inside a cliff face!

The servers have had issues, too. Unexpected maintenance has occurred and features like mail and guilds had to be turned off temporarily because of duping bugs discovered by players. While disconnects are rare, lag is not uncommon, and I’ve occasionally struggled with login attempts that inexplicably failed.

So, Should You Buy The Elder Scrolls Online?

ESO is a bit vexing because its gameplay doesn’t entirely mimic modern MMOs, yet it also differs from a traditional Elder Scrolls title. The game feels more akin to console sandboxes like Dragons Dogma and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, both of which have large worlds filled with areas too dangerous for a low-level character to explore. This perhaps makes sense, as ESO is slated for release on both next-gen consoles.

If you’re an MMO veteran looking for a new game for raiding and end-game PVP, or you’re a die-hard Elder Scrolls fan looking to explore an open world, you should leave your money in your wallet. ESO is not going to satisfy either taste. This game is best for RPG loyalists and casual Elder Scrolls players who want a story-driven experience with room for some (but not too much) exploration.

You’ll also need to bring a healthy tolerance for bugs. While the launch of ESO is far from the worst on record (The Secret World, for example, was in shambles by comparison), there are some quest-killing bugs and unexplainable glitches. More polish is needed, and players with little tolerance for buggy games should wait a few months for the kinks to be ironed out.

What do you think of The Elder Scrolls Online? Is it worth $60 with a $15 subscription fee, or should it have launched as a free-to-play game? Let us know in the comments.

  1. g33ky
    September 8, 2016 at 7:50 am

    The article sounds quite exact to my mind, but I have to correct something :

    > The game's price is around 60$, correct
    But you may find keys for a lower price using online key resellers (goclecd, acheteclecd...yea I'm french x)....)
    > The monthly subscription is just an OPTION ! You DO NOT HAVE TO PAY monthly to play TESO

    For anyone wishing to contact me IG, my nick is @g33ky

    Wishing all good game :)

  2. The truth hurts
    January 3, 2015 at 2:44 am

    If they make it so you have to pay monthly or even annually, there is no way I'm getting it for ps4. If you play skyrim you would see so many glitches that went unfixed. Why should I pay an arm and a leg to play a game that Bethesda is going to give up on when they get their next big idea?

  3. ElderScrollsOnlineTruth
    August 5, 2014 at 5:20 am

    I think people should gibe this game patience. Every MMORPG starts like this. This is not a game that last one week which is the time you complete it. It is a game in which you can last over 8 years playing it. Eventually bugs and problems will be fixed. Your choicw if you want to get this game now or later...

  4. Kristian R.
    May 23, 2014 at 5:56 am

    I went here to see arguments for and against this game in case I want to buy it. I played a lot of Age Of Conan, despite what everyone else thinks i really liked it (i still do, but do not play anymore because of the low active players count). I recently tried out world of warcraft, gave it a fair go as i reached lvl 63 before getting tired of it. I think wow does not suit me because i appreciate the more realistic nature views that aoc offer and the different combat system etc.

    Now, as a person who likes Age of Conan more than World of Warcraft, do you think i would be pleased with Elder Scrolls Online? I have played Skyrim and Oblivion, what I loved about Skyrim was exploring and finding/reading interesting story books (much like in the horror game amnesia/penumbra).

    Thanks !

  5. Robert B
    May 13, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Hello,
    I was lucky enough to have gotten one of the closed beta tester invites so I was able to get a feel for ESO. I was really looking forward to ESO when it was first announced back when I was playing Skyrim which was one of my top favorite games. I am glad I had the opportunity to play the game during the Beta test because I quickly discovered that ESO and MMO's are not for me and was really disappointed because I knew that this new MMO would spell the death for ever having anything like Skyrim being developed in the future . It was my first MMO experience and I have to admit that I hate this style of gaming and after playing in 3 different Betas I did not play the remaining ones that I was sent invites to because I knew that I would never pay $60 + $15 dollars a month for this game, I would not even by the game even if there were no monthly subscription fee. I really feel that ESO would have been much better to have been developed not as an MMO which for me is far too chaotic but to have been modeled after Gearboxes Borderlands and Borderlands 2. I wish that they had taken Skyrim and made it into this type of co-op multi player game. Both Borderlands versions for me were a blast to play with a group of 3 other guys and I feel that Skyrim would have been an ideal game to have been like this instead of some lame AI follower you had a group of other guys to run around and do quests. They could have still had a rich and ever expansive environment in the form of additional DLC and other more extensive areas like Borderlands did with their season pass content. I would be willing to keep buying this type of add ons for a game like Skyrim for ever if they made it available for a co-op version of Skyrim. Instead of calling it Skyrim they could have just called it Elder Scrolls.

  6. JULIAN
    May 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    I have played Morrowwind , Oblivion , and Skyrim ( if you wish to step back farther Baulders Gate) I have never played any of them online, New games these days are not worth the $60.oo price tag ( anyone else tried the new THIEF ) let alone a subscription just to play the D@^% thing.
    I will NEVER buy a subscription just to play a game.
    in the late 90s i used to play a game called Delta Force 2 for PC, there they had a online website that you could access from inside the game. IT DID NOT COST ANYTHING TO PLAY IT ! so how come others charge to play SORRY why do people PAY these companies to play a game they already paid for.

  7. Bobbie
    May 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    I bought and am currently playing ESO. I personally find it more than worth the price, I love it and am hooked. My husband who was COMPLETELY addicted to WoW is now planning on buying it too. I have briefly played WoW myself and can say the ESO world is more interactive than WoW was when I played it, which to be honest was about two years ago. I also feel it has more options when it comes to Class builds. My husband agrees with me on this. I don't have anything against WoW it's just not for me. I find it hilarious when I see players in my game, Playing it, all the while complaining about it. The favorite excuse of said players when asked "why are you playing this game if you have so many issue's with it?" is "I'm going to get my money's worth." To that I say "BULL&%$#". I would never play a game I did not enjoy and neither would any of my MANY gaming friends and family, so my advice to anyone who does not like ESO, don't play it, and if you do for gods sake, QUITE COMPLAINING! From what I understand all MMO's have bugs when they first start, soooo expecting them to be perfect is unreasonable and a little harsh. WoW has been out for ten years and had just as many problems when they first started as ESO does. Most of these complainers did not play WoW from launch so don't realize this fact. I liken the comparison to a baby's intellect and a ten year old's........ridiculous. So until ESO has been around for ten years calm down. I would recommend ESO for anyone who wants a new and different gaming experience. I understand however not everyone will enjoy it the way I do so, I think there needs to be a trial period. That way people have a chance to check it out before they purchase, since it is not going to be for everyone. That is something WoW does that is better than ESO. Hopefully that will come, until then it's a hit or miss situation, because everyone is different. When and If ESO does create a trial opportunity I would definitely recommend everyone to check it out for themselves. Until then please understand your dealing with an MMO that launched one month ago, not ten years ago.

  8. Matthew
    April 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    im not an avid elder scrolls fan. but i am a big mmo fan and have been for a while. the only mmorpg i am willing to pay for and pay a subscription for is world of warcraft. i know i know hold the snarky remarks. the only reason wow is the only game worth paying a sub for is because of the AMOUNT and QUALITY of content. if eso had 500+ days of contenuously growing complex evolutionary content i would consider. but for now it should at least be free to try. or maybe 60$ with 2-3 free months of play

    • Matt S
      April 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      No snarky remarks here. World of Warcraft is excellent, and the content updates frequent. There's a reason why it's still the most popular subscription MMO by a huge margin.

  9. Unico
    April 16, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    I agree with most of this article. But I'm still addicted and just reading this is making me want to go play it..Even though I have to work in 10 minutes...

  10. Heather G
    April 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I COMPLETELY disagree with the "not good for diehard Elder Scrolls fans" statement. I'm not, but my boyfriend is, and he has been absolutely hooked on the game since the first time he saw me playing it during beta.

    I think everyone is being entirely too harsh about the bugs, as a well. It's a brand new, absolutely beautiful MMO that is using a single server for all NA/Euro players. It's going to have bugs in a game THIS huge and involved. Also, the phasing thing is a simple fix to get you and your party member together; there's a handy little button in the party panel that you can click to travel to them! Simple, see?

    I'm not getting paid, and I'm not some kind of hardcore fangirl; I just think that an MMO of this graphic caliber and complexity is getting WAY too much criticism for what it is - a brand new game that still has bugs. The world won't end if you can't complete that quest right now. Relog, and if that doesn't work, do something else. Simple.

  11. Wu Hsin
    April 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    DO NOT BUY THIS GAME! It is a generic linear themepark with a very thin coat of Elder Scrolls colored paint. You can't dive underwater, pick up MOST items, open MOST doors, or even shoot an arrow further than a few feet. The arrow will just disappear before it reaches the target. As for aiming, you can target a nearby enemy, turn to face the opposite direction, shoot, and your arrow turns 180 degrees in mid-air to hit the target. There's no collision detection for melee. No physics, characters do the same death animation no matter how they are hit. The quests are boring, typical, "Go kill 10 ghosts." The phasing is useless. You're always standing there waiting for a resource node or enemy to respawn so you can complete a quest. If you try to play with friends, the phasing will stick you in different instances so you can't. People keep losing everything in their bank. There's a cash shop in game, so you know they're planning on going f2p soon. I'm pretty sure they paid a lot of people to go online and flame anyone who badmouths the game. They've got some forums paid off to ban users who criticize the game. Sites that have posted bad reviews were victims of DDoS attacks. They've poured more money into protecting their NDA and the reputation of their game than they did in the development. Sadly, most of the budget was definitely squandered, with employees on glassdoor.com complaining about the low pay, long hours, and crappy management blowing money on huge Christmas parties and such. Avoid this game like the plague!

  12. Avish K
    April 16, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I will be sticking to rift thank you

  13. Duong
    April 16, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Elder Scrolls Online is a good, fun game overall, but it's a better MMO than it is an Elder Scrolls game.

  14. Ron Wharton
    April 15, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Game seems to keep patching, when you can get that to work. I see they actually give you the first 30 days free so you do not ask for a refund while they try and get the game working properly.

    Not worth the $15 a month cost. Would rather get Cable movie channels for that cost, or Netflix AND Amazon prime. A better deal than what Bethesda is offering.

    Great game though, but, where is the world class support? Takes to long to get a reply, either by e-mail or phone?

  15. Gamer of the Beer
    April 15, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I subscribed and have 60 hours into it so far, think my wife is divorcing me, JK.... I think. Its fun and pay the subscription fee, I don't think moving it to F2P is a good answer because they don't have anything that can converted to a microtransaction system in place so most likely the game would die.

    They have patched the game 3 times since launch, which is impressive and I want them to keep hammering out the bugs and adding new content - which is why I have no problem subscribing.

    • Matt S
      April 16, 2014 at 4:41 am

      Early support looks good, but there are still a lot of bugs to squash. Just last night me and some friends ran into a weird issue where one of our party would randomly go invisible for a few minutes at a time. Very annoying.

  16. boo
    April 15, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    subscription fee is too high for me

  17. Tom W
    April 15, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I've never played either Elder Scrolls games, or subscription MMOs, but I think that paying for the game and paying for a subscription is the wrong way to go. Surely someone paying $180 / yr shouldn't have to pay another $60 for that privilege.

    • Matt S
      April 16, 2014 at 4:40 am

      To be fair, it's not exactly the same as buying a single-player game. MMOs are constantly updated, or at least the good ones are. ESO's developers are already talking about an upcoming new zone for high-level players.

    • Tom W
      April 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Yes, that's what the subscription fee is for. But they also charge full price for the game itself, which is rather extortionate in my opinion. I know Elder Scrolls fans and MMO fans who are both put off by this alone.

    • bob
      May 5, 2014 at 10:44 pm

      then why are you commenting?

    • Tom W
      May 7, 2014 at 10:38 am

      I commented because this article is titled "Should you buy The Elder Scrolls Online". The price is an important factor in whether a product sells. Just because I haven't played the game, it doesn't mean that I don't have a valid opinion from an economic point of view, or even from a gamer's point of view. Also, I may well play some of the Elder Scrolls games in the future, but I can't ever see myself playing TESO as long as I have to pay $60, or the equivalent to an additional 4 months subscription, before I even install the game.

    • Ves Bushi
      June 26, 2014 at 1:59 am

      I got to say after playing it for a few weeks, I really like it, it does have some bugs but they are fixing them and you can notice that, if you are into playing mmo's then go for it, it is the best game I've played since WoW back 8 years ago

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