The Elder Scrolls Online Preview

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The Elder Scrolls Online is one of the biggest open-ended multiplayer games slated for 2014, and a first for the Elder Scrolls franchise.  Since being announced in 2012, it has been the most anticipated MMORPG and ZeniMax Online Studios has been hyping up the game for some time now.  However, can it really live up to all the hype?

ESO is set in Tamriel and indirectly connects the stories found in the series.  The game contains your classic MMORPG elements – skill trees, skill points, dungeons, guilds, PvP, and of course, loot.  Notice one major element is missing – servers.  I’ll get to this later at how the absence of this one major element may make or break the game.

I spent the weekend during the beta exploring the vast lands of Tamriel to get a feel for the game – to truly test the game as much as possible as we are less than two months from launch.  The game definitely has a Skyrim feel to it and that’s a good thing.  Skyrim was a critically-acclaimed game at launch and an absolute favorite of mine.  I had hundreds of hours of gameplay in the game because of the many options available to players on a single player level.




For better or worse, ESO is quite similar.  It feels like a new Skyrim with a few minor differences.  The quests take you to different areas and you now have players around you as you explore.  However, teaming up is a nightmare.  The quests are tough to complete together due to the game being single player oriented and is impossible to share quests easily.  This could mean disaster for the longevity of the game if there isn’t more teamwork oriented quests involved.  What’s even stranger is that not once did I come across a quest that demanded a need for a group.  Every quest was able to be completed solo and ZeniMax’s intentions are definitely evident – to create a new story in Tamriel but have a minor MMORPG style presence.

ZeniMax has changed the way online MMORPGs are played by eliminating the presence of servers on the front end and opting for a mega server on the back end.  By using the new technology of a back end mega server, ESO will combine players and their worlds together as necessary to experience an always populated Tamriel.  This new choice of multiple servers acting as one may or may not work.  However, ZeniMax has opted to use this and my experience playing on the mega server was terrible.  Picture your major city in any other popular MMO and double, or even triple, the population due to the lack of separate servers.  The USA will have their own mega server and Europe will have their own mega server.

This could become a nightmare if the game is popular like the hype says it will be.  I experienced lag, frame rate drops, and other gameplay issues due to server related issues.  The server related issues may be resolved at launch and the game may not have over populated issues with it being a multiplatform game.  However, I still anticipate trouble with this server gameplay and it will either make or break the game.




ESO is a subscription based game but it’s so single player oriented. Disaster may be brewing as people reap the content in the first few months of release.   The game is fun, don’t get me wrong, but will it be enticing enough to continue to pay?  Maybe.  Only time will tell and truly depends on how dedicated ZeniMax is to delivering content quickly to ESO.

The question everyone may be asking themselves is ESO a good game?  Yes it is.  The game features an all-star narration cast, a story set in Tamriel, and features a first of it’s kind for the Elder Scrolls series.  I’m excited to review the full game in detail as we approach launch and look forward to exploring more of Tamriel.  I’ve always been a sucker for a good MMORPG and ESO has definitely hooked and reeled me in, regardless of the issues that may be present in the full game.  Will I continue to subscribe?  Probably not unless they really create content that focuses on teamwork and the necessity to group with others.  Fingers crossed!

UPDATE: The article incorrectly explained the mega server.  This has now been updated to accurately explain how the mega server works.


Tags: ESO PC Preview PS4 The Elder Scrolls Online Video Games Xbox One ZeniMax

  • Shawn Brunelle

    Not quite fair to talk about “gameplay issues due to server related issues” during a beta weekend specifically designed and advertised as a Server Stress Test weekend. You talked about the mega-server being “cloud based” so I assume you know that a “mega-server” is not really a single piece of hardware but many servers acting as one and during this stress test they were running on minimal physical servers intentionally to gather much needed data.

    • Nathan Ball

      The stress test occurred at different moments during the weekend. I was in the beta prior to the official launch/stress test time and still experienced the same issues. Also, thank you for pointing out to me my mistake on the mega server description. I updated the article to accurately explain it!

      • Mehrunes

        Been in the beta since Nov and have known people who were in since before then–they’ve been stress testing for a while now. Feb was all about breaking their record for players logging/logged in during a beta. They even mention these things in the emails that were sent out.

  • Adam Anon

    Sorry but ESO is not much fun. It’s trying to be a TES game and an MMO game and it fails in both respects. If you come to it expecting Skyrim quality experience you will be disappointed with how boring, empty, linear, on-rails and shallow it feels. if you expect an MMO you get a mediocre experience. It won’t satisfy neigher a TES fan nor a MMO fan. They have to be insane expecting anyone to pay monthly subscription for this mess. The sad part is that the game has tons of potential: the art and the world are gorgeous, voice acting is superb. You want to go explore and… you can’t.

    And I wonder how the author got the idea that this game is single player oriented. It is not. It’s a miserable single player experience. It is bad when it makes you want to go play Skyrim instead :(

    • Nathan Ball

      It’s all matter of opinion. I liked ESO but you didn’t. I think it’s single player oriented and you don’t. What we can agree on is that Skyrim is amazing!!!

      • Adam Anon

        It’s a matter of expectations. I really expected it to be more like Skyrim. I’ve put over 1,200 hours into Skyrim and still can’t get enough of it. So ESO was deeply disappointing. I really wanted to like it but it wasn’t letting me :(

        Although I have to admit that when Skyrim came out it had lots of problems. It was slow and buggy and the GUI was bad. Default graphics looked bad without tweaking. If it wasn’t for SkyUI Skyrim would be a much lesser experience. So while they may still fix ESO, many of my issues lie with the basic design of the game. I would take a co-op – like 5 players maybe – over MMO any time.

        • Nathan Ball

          I liked ESO the more I played it but I think I was really trying to compare it to Skyrim too much. It’s like Skyrim then it isn’t. Yes Skyrim is much better currently (plus it’s free)! Will I play ESO and beat it, absolutely. Like I said in my article, will it keep me around, probably not. Unfortunate because of all the hype that has surrounded the game.

          Lets hope a next-gen Skyrim is released.

          • Adam Anon

            Yes, too much hype definitely. I got my hopes up. I should know better. I’m willing to give the game a try if there is another beta or a demo but as of now I’m not planning to buy the game without trying it more. I got only to level 7 in the latest beta which took me about 10-12 hours before getting too bored and frustrated. Although some people said this wasn’t the latest build that was used for stress testing. But I haven’t really encountered too many technical bugs, some minor lag. The game just wasn’t interesting. And if a game fails to catch my interest in 10-12 hours then there is something wrong. The world was big but I was enclosed in small parts of the world that didn’t let me go beyond the invisible walls or locked doors unless I completed certain quests. Not cool.

        • Baconbeast

          I’m a very hardcore Elder Scrolls fan, I’d say Morrowind is the game that got me into gaming like a gaymer. And I very much enjoyed my time in Eso. I agree, I felt the beginning was very linear and I did become bored and disappointed. But with my second beta I reached lvl 10 and everything seemed to open up for me. Combat became very interesting, I got good with the crafting systems, and I explored everywhere I could. The beta only has a small portion of their world available to adventure, but it kept me engaged for 2 days before I had to move onto Cyrodiil. I’m looking forward to the release when I’ll be able to visit Mournhold or run around my homeland of Valenwood. Very excited to explore the land of the wood elves.

    • Aaron Sebastian Trickett

      You know its funny, you say a TES fans and MMO fans wont like this game, well thats your opinion and its completely wrong as I am both a TES fan and I like MMO’s and I absolutely love ESO. I am quite happy to pay for the game and a subscription as well because its worth it. If you don’t like it thats wonderful won’t have to deal with you complaining in chat about it during the game. Its also funny how your opinions are based on BETA stuff, which is all subject to change prior to release.

  • Baconbeast

    I have to say I dedicated the entire four days of beta to playing this game. Your experience with the mega-server sounds much different than mine. The first game and only other mmo I’ve really ever played was Runescape, and ESO felt like a dream come true. I experienced no latency with the megaserver in PvE areas. I didn’t feel the cities were bogged down or crowded; they actually felt like cities to me. They only times I lagged were when I went into large scale PvP battles, but this is a beta, and in such a massive, in-depth PvP zone I would have been shocked if there was no latency.

    I rarely found myself wanting to group with others, which I guess is where our game-play styles differed. But as a solo player I came up against bosses that I just could not beat by myself. Even at lvl 16 I went back to try and finish a quest that was driving me crazy, a lvl 8 quest, and I still could not kill the boss by myself. I think that is ridiculous, I should be able to continue with a major quest line without help from strangers. I was quite competent during PvP, so I’m fairly certain my issues with this boss were not just because of my combat skills. So I disagree with you that this game was fully designed with just single players in mind.

    But you should know I’m looking at this game and playing it from the perspective of someone who just wants to explore the entirety of beautiful, wonderful Tamriel. That is why I will probably play this game indefinitely, I’m more than happy to pay a monthly charge if I’m receiving regular content like Runescape did when I was a kid. I could never get into WoW because of the graphics and dull questing, but I know this game will be what WoW never was for me.

    • Shawn Brunelle

      Gutstripper? He gave a lot of people fits. I got him down first try in my two characters though, but it was the toughest test.

      • Baconbeast

        No, I was supposed to be saving Merric. It was the snake lady in that dungeon. I killed Gutstripper, but that took me many tries as well.

        • Shawn Brunelle

          I remember that one too. The snake lady kept spawning three orbs around her that would heal her completely. As soon as you saw those, you had to kill those off and ignore her for a bit.

  • shadoweo

    I wanted to clarify since the article has an error, this was not an open beta. It was a semi-closed beta. Bethesda/Zenimax stated that they were not going to have a truly open beta. Also for the person who dealt with Gutsripper, yes, he was horrible. I died nearly 10 times attempting the quest (albeit as a level 6), however the main problem was that his area is a solo instance. I assume you haven’t fought the fighters guild boss which is even harder to beat than Gutsripper.

    • Nathan Ball

      Well it was open for me since I had code! Good catch by the way – fixed!

      • shadoweo

        No problem, enjoyed the article. Been in 3 test sessions now and had fun each time, it’s probably even the MMO that gets me off WoW until Warlords of Draenor drops.

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  • Mehrunes

    Can’t wait for ESO–MMO and ES fan here. The graphics and presentation of the landscape, once you escape the tutorial areas, easily conveys that “larger than life” feeling that other game journos have been raving about. Previously I’ve had a bit of trouble getting a solid picture of Tamriel in my mind, so the ability to travel from Morrowind, to Skyrim, Cyrodiil and beyond all within the same game definitely puts it on par with Skyrim’s/Oblivion’s/Morrowind’s scope. It’s sick too–during the last three betas I’ve been a diehard Ebonheart, but I really do look forward to exploring the other faction’s areas.

    TESO is the kind of game that hides it’s secrets just as well as any ES title–you’ll have to ignore quests and explore to find some of the more interesting things. If it feels on-rails, well yeah, that’s because you felt like someone (your sense of competition in an mmo) forced you into a quest-line. I remember poking around the edges of town, looking for a few more barrels that might house goat-meat or some other nice cooking ingredient when I came across a cave (ooo, how ES-like). Wandering inside, I found a chest with all sorts of swirly particle effects. Gee, wonder what’s up with that. Went to open it and was transported to a pocket of Oblivion. Gtfo. Explore more. Was climbing around Ash Mountain because, well why not? Found crafting tables with unique equipment, set pieces might I add, that could only be crafted there. Mark that, suppose I’ll go gather the goods and come back later–my own personal quest.

    Since I pay a monthly subscription for Netflix and probably watch it about 2-3 times a week if I’m bored, I can justify a monthly sub for ES. There are people claiming that the content only delivers 70-80 hours, but then admit that they skipped through all of the game’s dialogue. Not sure what they were playing for, but it sounds like they missed out on part of what makes the ES games so fun–the lore.

    • Nathan Ball

      The vast amount of exploration is very appealing and your comparison of Netflix to the subscription is spot on.