The Elder Scrolls Online Preview


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.