The First Few Hours Don't Tell The Tale - The Elder Scrolls Online - PC -
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The Elder Scrolls Online

The First Few Hours Don't Tell The Tale

The preview opportunities I’ve had to check out The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) over the past year-and-a-half have been largely confined to a single beginner area – Stros M’kai. While visually appealing, the areas and aspects of the game that I explored felt stale and linear to a fault. The combat encounters were bland, as were the abilities I had access to. Today I’m going to talk about a more recent preview opportunity that let me out of the sub-par new player experience and into the actual open world of  The Elder Scrolls Online, into the teen levels and the actual game.


Let’s get this out of the way. I think the new player area of Stros M’kai does the game a great disservice by presenting a rather drab introductory experience. I was absolutely delighted to find that this experience rapidly changes as characters move into the world and explore areas such as Daggerfall and beyond. The contrast is a stark one; it’s almost like two different games, and changed my outlook and expectations for this title significantly. This rapid shift occurs for a number of reasons.


First, you actually get the sense of a genuine open world. There are tons of places to explore, actual monsters to fight that require more than button mashing, opportunities for group play, and a feeling of finally being untethered from the handholding of the entry-level zone. Daggerfall is a genuine hub of activity that feels like a real city, not the sterile vendor and repair paradise that many MMORPG town hubs have become. The zone is huge, and players are free to explore as they wish and unlock surprises,quests, and even skills.


Yes, this is another part ZeniMax Online Studios hasn’t really touched upon in the early areas. Players can unlock actual new ability trees through exploration and participation in quest chains and zones, leading to even more customization options far beyond the classic race/class options. Want to become part of your guild (Yes, it’s a lot like Skyrim!) and learn new associated abilities? Go ahead! Want to join a group of tough-as-nails adventurers that plan adventures in the bar? Go ahead! There’s dozens of things to do and experience before you even set foot outside of Daggerfall’s borders.


The experience was overwhelmingly positive in the new areas from levels 10-15 that it honestly feels like two different games. Combat becomes interesting and involved, with many abilities to choose from. Monsters become more exciting than the same humanoid in a cowl shooting fire for three hours. The characters that were annoying to meet in the beginning area begin to ooze flavor. Things get fun and interesting fast.


It’s important to note that this is all still beta and things could change a lot from now to release. I’m hoping that the new player experience doesn’t turn players off to ESO. While certainly we still need to take into account what will surely be some of the biggest factors – endgame and grouping – the areas after around 3-5 hours of gameplay are vastly superior to the trite beginnings and offer a glut of challenges, fun, and exploration.


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  • First impressions are everything so why would they make such a standard, stale MMO entry area? I was turned off from the game after playing the first hour. Pair that with a $60 price tag and subscription fees and I will likely never purchase the game and see this great "open MMO" world that more closely resembles Elder Scrolls that you describe. You end with the caveat of this being a beta... Most of us have been gaming long enough to know that what you find in an MMO beta is likely going to be nearly the exact same on release.
  • I played in two Beta's of the Game and based on that experience have decided that I'm not willing to spend $60 and a monthly fee to play this game. It's too bad too. I love everything Elder Scroll's typically. I'm still playing Skyrim and have racked up almost 800 hours at it. So this was a big let down for me. I'm not generally inclined to pay a monthly sub fee these days, but this had the potential to seriously, and maybe successfully, tempt me. Not after the Beta's though. No matter how much the author of the article liked it. I'll wait for the inevitable shift to FTP.
  • Stop making me want to play this.

  • A pity I won't get to see it. I'm just not going to spend $60 + subscription to try it. $60 or monthly subscription I might have given it a try. But lets face it. Its in MMO. Odds are it goes free to play in less than a year.
  • Who is this guy? He didn't provide any real specifics on what he did not like about the game, and based a lot of his opinions on the beta, which is pretty much a rookie move.
  • If the game is going to be 15 a month for all systems then they should make the price of the game 15. A lot of people won't buy it just to play it for a month, that's what I think. It might be a good game and I love elder scrolls games but they have to consider xbox and playstation players who have to pay extra for their service.

  • well I hate to burst your bubbles but I'm willing to bet at least a million of these are sold plus subscription so your chances of it getting a price drop or FTP anytime soon are nil. just suck it up. your lucky the next gen game prices didnt go up to 70.00 bucks like their usual 10.00 price hike every gen.
  • The problem with this game is that I see it becoming the next SW:TOR A bunch of people will buy it and probably pay the sub fee for a bit but when there's nothing left to do and Zenimax Online hasn't released any new content... Subs will drop and the game will be forced into F2P.
  • Will have to give the Beta a try today and see how I feel about all this. With the amazing quality of F2P MMO's nowadays, it's hard to imagine one expecting constant payment would flake on the 1-10 levels

  • I'm glad to hear the experience gets better after the intro area. But I do hope that area is fixed, at least little, to keep subscribers wanting to play. I know not many people are like me who's willing to trudge through the intro stuff to get to the open world.

  • It's a shame the first 3 hours aren't at all representative of later levels, because that was enough to turn me off of ESO totally. It wasn't fun and it didn't feel like Elder Scrolls in the slightest. Maybe I'll experience the vastly improved teen levels when the game goes F2P in a year or two.

  • I have to admit, my initial impressions of the game were based on those early areas and I was not impressed. But this article gives me hope.

  • Why don't more MMOs just ditch the whole intro sequence, and instead have you go through tutorial island like in Runescape before saying "Alright, we think you're good to go. You'll start here, have fun!" and then let the player progress through the story on their own? Cause really, when I jump in an MMO i don't want to start out having to keep up with the story, I want to see what's available and get back to the storyline later.
  • There is a huge part of me that want's to play this game simply because its TES, but I just can't bring myself to pay that subscription fee.

  • I can tolerate boring starter areas in MMOs. I can even tolerate the pricing if I thought the game was going to be great. What I can't tolerate is a TES branded game that looks absolutely nothing like TES.

  • And another thing, all this hate of subscription based games makes me chuckle, as well as all this, "when it switches to the inevitable free to play model". Inevitability can take a long time. There is an assumption that there wont be a lot of new content to justify the fee, and yet plenty of games make it work, FFXIV: ARR is proving to keep fresh content coming and coming with new stuff from patches on what appears to be a 3 month time table. Heck FF:XI is still subscription based and doing just fine. Not to mention of course WoW, 7.6 million subscriptions after 10 years, not to shabby. EQ2 did go F2P its true, but it had problems because it released the same year as WoW. EQ maintained a subscription fee well beyond even EQ2. Just because Star Wars went F2P so quickly after its release, does not mean that every mmo that comes out is going to follow that direction. If the companies maintain new content and justify the fee with support, plenty will subscribe and maintain it. Now I will admit, I too found the first few hours of the game to be dull and boring, so this game does have a bit of an up hill battle, but to assume that F2P is where it will end up is a bit a stretch, possible yes, but not inevitable.
  • Cool timing I just checked my email and got invited for this weekend. Only got lvl 6 last time. Maybe i can get to 10+ and finally try cyrodil and some pvp.

  • I agree completely!! It is an amazing open world once you get out of the starting areas.

  • I have my Imperial Edition paid in full and can't wait to play.
  • SWTOR 2:Electric Bugaloo
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