Editor's Note: The Elder Scrolls Online is an extremely vast experience. It'll be a few more days before we can write a review that will truly justify this lengthy endeavor. The full review will be up on Wednesday, April 9. Until then, you can read our initial thoughts below.
If you're an Elder Scrolls fan, then you've probably anticipated The Elder Scrolls Online for a long time, maybe even before the game's official reveal. For many, the MMO element felt like the only absent component from some of the franchises previous entries, the most recent being The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim was a fantastic experience and the thought of the inclusion of online personas made players tremble with excitement. However, though ESO quenches that long awaited Elder Scrolls MMO thirst, it hasn't exactly reached our expectations, at least not yet.
It's funny, the time we spent playing this game for our preview would normally be enough to complete a full review -- about 16-20 hours or so. But in ESO, or any Elder Scrolls game for that matter, 16-20 hours is just the beginning. We've barely scratched the surface on what this game has to offer and yet we have enough material to write a few pages of thoughts, though for your sake, we'll keep it short and to the point.
First off, ESO looks great, well, sometimes. We were impressed with how the dungeons look, especially at the initial start of the game, however we soon became disappointed after entering the first city, Davon's Watch, which looked a bit outdated, to say the least.
For this reason, the visuals might take some getting used to. It's also unfortunate that some of the cities' designs are sort of a hit or miss; they're not very impressive and lack the sense of realism Skyrim exhibited. Keep in mind though that we've only visited a short number of cities and are not talking about the entire ESO world as a whole. There's still much exploration to be done.
Speaking of exploration, ESO will encourage you to do a ton of it. Each city, road, forest, cave, et cetera is filled with NPCs and online players to interact with, enemies and wildlife to battle, and chests and other containers to loot. There's so much diversity and variety in ESO it makes it tough to decide your next move… and we mean that in the best possible way.
If you're wondering where you should start, then you've obviously never played an Elder Scrolls game before; another way to distinguish noobs is to see who heads for the main story missions first. Elder Scrolls is a franchise that creates some of its best experiences from random encounters with strangers just around the corner. There's almost no initial plan, just find an NPC in need of some assistance and help them out, in an instant you may find yourself in the middle of a war against clans. Who knew?
Our biggest complaint so far is we're not entirely convinced that ESO needs to be an MMO at all. While 16-20 hours is not much, we still haven't felt the need to interact with other players, in fact, they sometimes just get in the way.
One mission actually proved to be a tedious experience with the addition of other players. We were tasked with freeing three trapped souls, which at first glance seemed simple enough, until every time we spotted a soul and attempted to free it, another player would swoop in for the rescue leaving us in search of another.
Still, we're sure the need for player interaction will arise and whether it does or doesn't you'll be able to read all about it in our full review.
Like we said, we still have much to experience in The Elder Scrolls Online. Saying the game hasn't yet met our expectations within 16-20 hours means very little. We'll need about 100 more hours to really explore the game and decide on a final rating. For now, all we can say is that it's fun, it learns a lot from its predecessors in terms of exploration and mission variety (goodbye, fetch quests) and stays true to the Elder Scrolls roots while feeling very much like an MMO. By the way, we purposely omitted any mention of the game's combat, but no worries, we'll have a detailed analysis on the battle system included in our review, so stay tuned.