On Friday I received a beta code for the Elder Scrolls Online. I’m not the biggest MMO fan but since I got the code for free and the beta was only three days I figured I would jump in and give it a go. What I got was a somewhat confused experience that left me feeling somewhat lukewarm about TESO. What I describe below doesn’t include the bugs I ran into, which I assume will be fixed over the course of the next two months.
Let’s start from the beginning though. The character creation screen is everything you could want it to be. All the options from Skyrim are there, down to the size of their nose and cheekbones. It’s insane and way more than I needed. I don’t get too in depth because after awhile I don’t see a difference in the overall look of the character. But it’s nice that it’s there for those who want that level of customization. When creating your character you get to choose from three different factions, and these factions each give you three different races to choose from. My assumption is that these all have different starting areas as well, though I cannot confirm this. I created a Brenton female named Gwyndolier. Her class – which you also get to choose – was Dragon Knight. And then off I went into the beginning of the game.
The very opening area is the same for everyone, as I saw several different races from the other factions running around. You awaken in a prison cell, one which you escape from quickly. From there your goal is to free the prophet, a ghostly figure (voiced by Michael Gambon) who talked to you when you awoke. It’s all very nonsensical and I couldn’t help but skip past nearly all the writing. Those interested in the lore might enjoy it, but throughout the game I could not care less about what anyone had to say.
The combat of Elder Scrolls Online is an odd mix between Skyrim’s combat and traditional MMO combat. You have your “action combat” where you simply click the mouse and your character attacks or blocks depending on what weapon you’re using. Then you have six numbered skill slots. You also have two quick use slots that are for items such as potions. It’s a weird combination, one that unfortunately it never evolves past generic hack and slash action. If you’re into more “action MMO” combat similar to DC Universe then perhaps this is for you. You can also zoom the camera in and out between first and third person view. I chose to go for third person, something I’m more used to in MMOs.
The quest structure is standard fare as well. You go here, grab this, possibly kill a creature, bring the item back to the quest giver, etc. Occasionally you’ll get a quest that doesn’t have any waypoints and you have to actually use the hints given to you on pages or journals to complete the quest. On all the quests though you’ll have a few hints under the quest log. Strangely enough, all of these hints are completely useless. Most of the time they’re things you would do anyways such as “take the item after killing the monster” and so on. Every once in awhile you’ll get a useful one, but you can usually ignore them.
By the end of my time playing the game I grew up to level six. The leveling process is – like the combat – a mix of Skyrim and MMO systems. As you use your weapons you’ll gain levels in those specific skills. Those will open up new powers to put in your skill bar. Aside from that you’ll also gain XP from killing monsters, but overall that seems to be a very small amount of XP. You appear to gain more experience from discovering locations than you would defeating monsters. Naturally, you gain the most experience points from completing quests. Over the course of about seven hours or so I reached level six. This included completing all the quests in the first open area you reach and some in the second area.
Overall the game felt very normal compared to the rest of the MMOs out there. Aside from the locale, there isn’t much you wouldn’t find in other MMO games. This game certainly isn’t for me, but if you love the Elder Scrolls mythology and the gameplay of standard MMOs then this is for you. I can’t help but wonder how long it will take before TESO goes free to play though.