The Elder Scrolls Online “One Tamriel” Impressions

The latest RPG Scrollbars column written by Richard Cobbett for Rock, Paper, Shotgun is an impressions column on the One Tamriel update for The Elder Scrolls Online. Unfortunately, while the update is an improvement according to Cobbett, it doesn’t improve the game enough for someone who wasn’t interested in it before:

Surely this change makes TEScO feel more like a world rather than a linear path though? Yes and no. Yes, in that you can now play it much more like The Elder Scrolls, but no in that it’s still obvious how it was all originally designed for progression. Each zone is reasonably spacious, but you can still see the path painted across the map in waypoints, and great swathes of the world around them aren’t actually in the game. You can go to Morrowind, the province, for instance, but not the island of Vvardenfell, where Morrowind the game took place. The entire south east of the map around Shadowfen is completely untouched. In terms of complexity, they’re all very flat, very spartan, very simple. Again, it’s not reasonable to assume that Skyrim as a small piece of The Elder Scrolls Online will be even as third as interesting as a province that Bethesda proper pored over for years and years. Unfortunately, it’s not even a twentieth of it.

All that said, there are definite advantages, not least being able to completely skip some of the awful, awful quests early on that are more sleeping aids than heroic opportunities and plunge straight into interesting stuff like hunting down Worm Cult necromancers and going down into dungeons. Played solo, it’s now a very casual friendly MMO. With friends, it’s that rare MMORPG that you can actually play on everyone’s schedule instead of seeing someone inevitably fall behind and no longer being able to take part. Rewriting the whole world is a more dramatic way of handling the problem than looking at something like City of Heroes’ Sidekick/Exemplar system, but definitely one that fits better here than it might have done elsewhere. It’s interesting that World of Warcraft has also experimented with level scaling in its new Legion content. Could a similar overhaul of its earlier zones be on the horizon? Or World of Warcraft: Legion’s fantastic new world quests head the other way, making Tamriel an evolving playground with stuff going on all over the place rather than focusing on what other landmasses can be added? That’d be my pick for keeping it interesting, instead of places like Skyrim being just zones to visit, hoover up, and never go back to again.

One Tamriel doesn’t make The Elder Scrolls Online a game I want to keep playing. I find its take on the world too bland, the quests not interesting enough, and what it does well is done so much better elsewhere that I’d rather wait for the next Skyrim (and all its modding potential) than settle for this overly-diluted Ribena Light of an Elder Scrolls experience. Sorry. I don’t like it. I don’t think I’m ever going to like it. However, if you’ve been attracted to the game in the past, then both it cutting out its greatest weakness in the faction system and the other additions and tweaks that have been made since launch do make it a game I can recommend having a second look at – especially if it goes on sale. I’d be less inclined to mention sales if you didn’t have to buy a couple of pieces of DLC to get the ‘full’ Elder Scrolls experience – both the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild content are more than £10 each if you don’t take out a subscription.

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