OPINION: The Elder Scrolls Online — Revisited

The Elder Scrolls Online

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about The Elder Scrolls Online. Just a few weeks back, I penned my thoughts on its latest Elsweyr expansion chapter (you can read our review here). In short, I loved it. But now, I’ve had much more time in the game itself. I thought it would be a good exercise to provide some additional thoughts.

I was part of the initial beta of ESO and played it when it launched. However, despite having some initial fun, it always felt like an MMO first and Elder Scrolls game second. To me, this flew in the face of how developer Zenimax Online Studios initially pitched the game, that is was an Elder Scrolls game you could play with your friends.

Because of this, I just stopped playing and left the game for years, quite ignorant of the content releases and, more crucially, the tectonic shifts to the core foundation of the game’s mechanics.

First came the Tamriel Unlimited update which saw ESO go free-to-play. Alongside this came the Justice System, perhaps the first true system to take its steps towards becoming more of an Elder Scrolls game in my eyes. Allowing players to steal, fence, pickpocket, and rack up bounties was a great start.

But, despite this, it still followed the traditional MMO tropes of level-gating zones which kept players like me from truly striking off in any direction they wished — just like we could in the single-player Elder Scrolls games.

Next came the far more impactful One Tamriel update in 2016. And it changed everything. No longer were zones level-gated. Content scaled to your level. You could legitimately traverse anywhere in the entire world and quest and explore at your leisure — at your pace. You could group up with your friend who was 40 levels higher than you and still engage in content with great rewards.

In short, The Elder Scrolls Online shed its MMO PvE tropes and embraced the single-player Elder Scrolls mechanics. At long last, ESO became an Elder Scrolls game first and MMO second.

However, it would still take me three years to come back to the game. And when I did, I was given the gift of a wealth of amazing content. In the past month, I’ve quested in Elsweyr, started my questing and exploration of the unbelievably pretty Summerset, and started the Thieves Guild.

I’ve visited amazing locations such as the Altmer city Alinor (which has instantly become my favorite city in the game), the Redguard city of Abah’s Landing, delved to the depths of the mammoth Dwemer city Nchuleftingth, and had an emotional reunion upon my visit to Anvil from my beloved Oblivion.

I’ve created a guild (called Tawdry Ballz, of course, and everyone is welcome to join!), created the guild heraldry, ambitiously attempted raids with my friends, and taken part in the Alik’r Dolmen run. We even created a weekly Saturday night live stream in The Elder Scrolls Online comprising of my friends and me romping around the world just having fun.

I’ve had so much fun exploring to my heart’s content knowing that the world will wait for me, and not the other way around. I don’t have to worry about “clearing a zone” like other MMOs may have you do in order to “progress.” I can truly go wherever I want and I’m having so much fun diving into the deep end.

The Elder Scrolls Online now today finally — finally — feels like the Elder Scrolls games I’ve loved. Oblivion legitimately changed my life when I played it in 2006. These 13 years later, it remains the best game I’ve ever played. 2011’s Skyrim was a brilliant follow-up with more incredible experiences.

Today, in 2019, The Elder Scrolls Online feels like the single-player games it promised to emulate way back when it launched in 2014. After it failed to click with me due to its “MMO-first, Elder Scrolls-second” execution, my experience today reflects a complete inverse of this initial implementation. This is now a true single-player Elder Scrolls experience paired with great multiplayer fun.

The brilliant Thieves Guild quests, the jaw-dropping cities like Abah’s Landing and Alinor, the uncompromisingly massive dungeons like Nchuleftingth, and the priceless nostalgia of Anvil all combine to truly elevate The Elder Scrolls Online beyond anything I could have imagined in 2014.

The Elder Scrolls Online is a true gem. I am so desperately happy to have picked up this game again. Zenimax Online Studios have created something so unique here. It is a phenomenal game, one which I love with every fiber of my being.

Written by
A highly opinionated avid PC gamer, Poorna blindly panics with his friends in various multiplayer games, much to the detriment of his team. Constantly questioning industry practices and a passion for technological progress drive his love for the video game industry. He pulls no punches and tells it like he sees it. He runs a podcast, Gaming The Industry, with fellow writer, Joseph Bradford, discussing industry practices and their effects on consumers.

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