The Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online

Placed Properly

Placed Properly

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Review game The Elder Scrolls Online, Placed Properly

Returning to the PC version of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited made me realize how much I had been missing the small details I enjoyed on the Xbox One, and it became my favorite memory of playing the console versions of the game. Although the PC version’s textures and overall graphics quality are undoubtedly superior, this massively multiplayer online roleplaying game has a slightly more pleasant feel to it than its cousin, Skyrim. The closer, over-the-shoulder viewpoint in this game provides a hint of it, and I appreciate the resemblance of the menus to those in Skyrim. The best compliment I can give it is that, even though I had spent months perfecting my PC version of TESO, at that very moment I decided I wanted to make the Xbox One my primary platform.


Granted, server lag and instability plagued the launch week (though these appear to be disappearing after a few patches), and I’m still not a huge fan of the console versions’ voice-only socializing strategy. However, The Elder Scrolls Online on the Xbox One and PS4 feels natural, as if it were designed specifically for them. Its developer, ZeniMax Online, has done an excellent job making it into one of the greatest console MMORPGs out there right now. It doesn’t drain your bank account, either. TESO eliminated its free subscription plan earlier this year, so you can play all of its content for free after paying the original purchase price.

The “Crown Store” is a cash shop that primarily focuses on cosmetics, including costumes and guar mounts. You can obtain the few buffs it offers by purchasing or preparing food that other players have prepared. Nobody should ever feel less advantageous for not using the Crown Store. Honestly, I think the Crown Store pales in comparison to other pay-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing games like Guild Wars 2, since the costumes are typically uninteresting and there isn’t a way to get essential features like changing your appearance or faction.

I must admit that, considering how big of a game this is, this review is rather brief. When I first reviewed TESO on PC last year, it took me almost 100 hours to reach the level cap, but I haven’t really stopped playing since. I’ve spent most of my time seeing how the same experience translates on the Xbox One and PS4, and that experience has been positive, as the console versions don’t really bring any new content that isn’t present in the most recent patch for the PC version. The bug and bot infestations that plagued the PC version’s early months haven’t shown up in my observations, and ZeniMax Online added some much-needed features earlier this year that really help to make Elder Scrolls Online feel more like the Elder Scrolls.

For example, players can now kill and pickpocket non-essential NPCs, which will result in them becoming wanted individuals until they pay off their bounty, have the debuff removed, or are killed by guards. It’s a fun system, and the rumor mill suggests that a future patch might allow you to hunt down players who have a penchant for stealing and murder. However, the current PvP component is lacking. However, I’ve found that, compared to most MMOs, the system makes fooling around much riskier. I’m one of those gamers with mild attention deficit disorder (ADD) who jumps and slashes swords nonstop without any real purpose. I usually keep this feature disabled because it increases the likelihood that I’ll unintentionally chop off a peasant.

These mistakes are not common. TESO is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that is surprisingly well-suited for gamepads because, unlike Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it doesn’t overload you with abilities. It features a large PvP zone, four-man dungeons, and 12-man raid-style trials. Here, you have a five-button action bar that you can expand to ten by almost instantly switching weapons, starting at level 15. Combat becomes lively and fluid, and the ability to manually block and slash with the left and right triggers, respectively, adds a level of interaction that is typically absent from massively multiplayer online games.

Lockpicking on TESO’s PC counterpart always kind of irritated me, but here the rumbler helps me realize when the springs are in just the right position, resulting in fewer broken lockpicks. This is one instance where playing with a gamepad really pays off. Sadly, not everything functions flawlessly. The Crouch/Sneak and Swap Weapon buttons should be switched in the mapping arrangement. Currently, the “west” button on the D-Pad is used to map the Swap Weapon function, which is inconvenient if you want to swap while running with the left thumbstick. Pressing the right thumbstick to sneak is a more useful mapping for in-combat maneuvers like switching weapons.

The remaining buttons correspond to the action abilities, which is where TESO most clearly displays its freedom, akin to that of the Elder Scrolls. You can use any weapon and any weight of gear with any of the four character classes, which allows for a wide range of custom playstyles. This sets you apart from nearly every major MMO currently available. The only restrictions are those related to the class-specific abilities of the Templar, Nightblade, Dragonknight, and Sorcerer, which give each one a useful combat personality with abilities like using dragon wings to leap toward enemies or calling forth Daedra as a Sorcerer. All of this basically means that if you want to, you can be a heavy-armored sorcerer with a double-bladed axe. All you have to do is level up your weapons and gear by using them in battle and during quest completion.

Initially, this freedom was limited to the leveling process when I reviewed TESO. All of that has changed now that you’ve advanced past the level cap of 50 and into the 14 “Veteran Ranks,” where you can use the Champion Point system to add points to constellations that alter things like the power of crits or the stamina cost of abilities. However, I am concerned that newer players will be left utterly behind months after launch due to the lack of a cap on these Champion Points. For the time being at least, TESO has greatly rectified its most obvious stumble for longevity.

The overall experience of exploring the world is similar to playing a game like Skyrim, despite departing from the Elder Scrolls’ open-world convention by guiding you through zones in a linear manner. Still, these are huge spaces full of impromptu group activities like world bosses or the relatively boring dark anchors that periodically descended from the sky in set areas. Your opinion of TESO’s storylines could be significantly influenced by the faction story you choose to play first, especially after experiencing all three of them twice. Even now, I still adore the Ebonheart Pact’s blend of easy puzzles and killing and how its foundation in the distinctive worlds of Morrowind and Skyrim helps to push its adventures beyond the boundaries of typical fantasy. However, even with a somewhat disappointing excursion into the Alik’r desert, The Daggerfall Covenant and its focus on the cliched kings and castles of traditional fantasy bore me to tears every time. With all due respect, I believe the elfish Aldmeri Dominion puts on a respectable performance; however, it is a bit excessively beautiful.

That’s all well and good for a solitary, single-player experience, but its communication strategy is what really worries me about TESO’s multiplayer future. It’s all based on voice chat, group, and area, the latter of which lets you hear little kids fighting over a Coke can in Mournhold or idiots acting like Carly Rae Jepsen in the middle of Riften. I can’t really get into the fantasy setting with that background noise, and it doesn’t seem like you can mute individual players. Indeed, this system excels in the following areas: For example, making random dungeon groups use voice chat rather than typing automatically has made first-time dungeon runs much smoother than I’ve ever seen in the PC version. There is significantly less room for error when you can diagnose an issue in combat and do so without pausing to type or read. This also applies to Cyrodiil’s vast PvP zone, where I found that talking to random allies instead of typing helped me lead brief missions into enemy bases.

The issue is that using text chat is not an option. Not at all. Because you can’t ask for additional players in zone chat, it’s currently nearly impossible to organize groups in Craglorn’s group-focused endgame zone. This implies that it is difficult to recruit new members or invite existing members to join any of the five guilds, which is particularly unfortunate since guilds and the global guild vendors they support are the main drivers of TESO’s economy. Playing PvP in Cyrodiil makes it even more annoying because, aside from oblique clues on the map, it’s nearly impossible to figure out where most of the fighting is when you first arrive. For this kind of game, text entry of some kind is required. Both Neverwinter and Final Fantasy XIV: ARR shrewdly permitted us to use external keyboards if we so desired; the latter even permitted a large variety of pre-programmed text macros for console players to specify their needs. I can’t help but think that TESO’s multiplayer experience will suffer as a result of having none.

Maybe it’s not necessary. I’ve come to realize that the reason I like TESO on consoles is because of their relatively slow pacing, which has allowed me to experience a bit of that Skyrim vibe that I occasionally found difficult to find on PC. Strangely enough, I’ve come to enjoy TESO’s prohibition on add-ons since it promotes active exploration like the Elder Scrolls on consoles. This time, there’s no annoying voice in the back of my mind telling me that using a plugin would make it much simpler to locate all those lorebooks and skyshards for ability points. Additionally, since I don’t have an add-on that tells me all the proper combinations, experimenting with alchemy is more enjoyable. (But my, how I miss being able to switch between gears and abilities instantly.) If not for the communication issues and ZeniMax’s choice to replace lore-appropriate character names with distracting gamertags visible in the real world, I’d easily argue that this was the better version of TESO. This is a laid-back take on a feature-rich, massively multiplayer online role-playing game that initially appeared to be aimed at competitors like World of Warcraft. Perhaps this is where it was always meant to be—on consoles and on our couches.


The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited has a ton of amazing content, including crafting, PvP, four-man dungeons, and raid-like trials at the endgame, waiting for both solo and group-focused players. The action-packed combat works well from the couch, thanks to the decent gamepad controls. With a few exceptions related to the voice-only communication system, it captures the essence of most of the things I adore about PC MMORPGs.

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