Bethesda may have their sights currently set on the future with the announcement of Fallout 4, but it's been hard to avoid the buildup of their most recent release, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. Whilst many fans were calling for the option to experience The Elder Scrolls with their friends, some were wary of it heading over to the MMO genre. Has the game made the genre jump well enough to be a hit, or should it have just stayed as an RPG?
You might need your friends' help for the bigger foes
The size of ESO:TU is evident right from the word go, and all it takes is a look at character customisation. You can change everything from the voice of your character, to the height/weight of their body, the size of their nose, the colour of their eyes, literally everything you could think of. The customisation means you can make a character unique to you, even if at first glance a lot of the players may look the same, but to stick with the uniqueness, you must give your character a name that no-one else has picked. On the day the game was released this may have been a little easier, but the more time goes on, the harder it will be to find a name that hasn't been used (unless you fancy having a lot of numbers or symbols after your character's name).
Once you have your character's look decided, you then must pick which of the three alliances that they pledge their allegiance to. Your three choices are the Ebonheart Pact, the Daggerfall Covenant and Aldmeri Dominion, with each of these having their own unique quests that you will be able to find and complete. Your alliance will also carry over to whichever of the PvP campaigns you choose to partake in, with any other players in your group being an ally, and everyone else being enemies. This will also determine your race, as certain races have sided with certain alliances. For example, Argonians are available to a player siding with the Ebonheart Pact, where as the Khajiit are limited to those in the Alder Dominion. Finally, you will get to pick your character's class, whether it be a sorcerer, Templar, nightblade or dragonknight. Other characters and NPCs in the game will react to your character accordingly, with comments made on your gender, class, alliance and other aspects you have picked.
After you have perfected your character's look, skills and everything in between, you are thrown straight into a tutorial level, with only the initial explanation that you are in Wailing Prison, somewhere far from where you are supposed to be. You are freed from your jail cell by a stranger, who later introduces herself as Lyris, and this level then goes on to serve as the tutorial. You are introduced to the basics of the game including the control and combat system, which are both done simply enough for you to get to grips with it fairly quickly. At the end of the tutorial level, and after a lot of aimless running about, you are introduced to the Prophet and escape the prison. This is the start of your grand adventure involving emperors, the Amulet of Kings, Molag Bal, betrayal, new characters and some old friends and foes you may recognise from previous Elder Scrolls games. The nice thing about the main quest line is that the quests are only given to you every five levels you increase, so the game actively encourages you to do other things rather than just simply racing straight through the story.
There's a whole array of weapons and skills for you to choose from
The environments are hugely impressive. From huge castles with giant courtyards, to stony coasts leading out to the never ending sea, and even the dark and dingy caves you explore; each is more fascinating than the last. It feels like a lot of care has been put into each and every area of the game, whether it's as simple as a test tube on a mage's desk, or a sword laying in a warrior's house. The little things have definitely been paid attention to, and the game definitely benefits from it. ESO:TU has the same feel to it as if you were walking around the world of Oblivion or Skyrim, with not only the world itself, but even the game's font and music are reminiscent of the previous installments. Being set in a similar time, the game has that same distinct look that has captivated so many audiences over the years. The darkened, sullen colours of the dungeons, set against the bright and beautiful skies and forests make for the perfect contrast, and you can go from grassy landscapes to snowy mountains in only a few minutes travel.
As you are traveling you may come across the odd quest, or two, or ten. The matter of the fact is that quests are scattered all about the world of Tamriel, and chances are if you accept one, you will come across at least two or three others in process of completing it. These quests show up on the compass on the top of your screen, with a white arrow signifying your current, and a black arrow showing an unstarted, new or other quest in your log. The compass tracking system works well, and will show you when you are near a quest so you can head over and pick it up, and once you start it, it will stay tracked in your journal for whether you want to complete it now or later. This is definitely handy to do, as black arrows will disappear once you get too far away from them. The quests in your journal are coloured according to their level in comparison to yours, and each has a recommended level you should be before attempting them, which is nice to know whether you need to go and prepare a little bit more before starting an upcoming quest.
There is a fair bit of variety in the quests, and they often lead you to discover a town's own mini story. Each area will have its own few quests you can follow to uncover secrets about the time, or chase out soldiers that have been bothering them. One problem with the quests in an MMO game is that everyone is in the same area trying to do them at the same time, so you may get NPCs surrounded by other players, or get to a boss and finding that your fellow players have already done the deed. These enemies will respawn after maybe a minute of waiting, which is handy should you want to do the fight again or fight from the start if you came in near the end, but is a negative if you happen to dawdle around the area checking out bookshelves or chests, as you may be reluctantly redrawn into the fight.
Stick around to fight the bigger enemies again... and again... and again
As you take on and complete these quests, you will be able to level up your character as well as the skills themselves. Continuing use of a fire staff will up your destruction magic, and taking hits in heavy armour will increase that skill too. From here, you can go into a fairly uncomplicated skill tree and choose which passive and active skills you want to pick, with the skill points you have learned either by leveling or finding the skyshards scattered around the world. There are lots of skills to pick from, and you can focus on whichever you wish, whether you are a stealth killer or you throw caution to the wind, you can upgrade your skills accordingly. Some active skills can also be morphed to give them extra or different powers, which adds to the encouragement to keep at a skill until you have it as high as possible.
No doubt you want to show off these skills to your fellow MMO players, and the game is set up nicely both for those who would rather adventure alone, and those who want to explore with their friends. You can join a group in game, or set one up yourself, and go questing round Tamriel whenever you so please. There are group dungeons for you to complete together, as well as group bosses scattered about each of the locations. If you don't fancy being in a group but still want to beat enemies with some allies, listen out for the horn-like drop of a dark anchor in the world. You will hear the noise of these if you are near enough, and you must destroy these by beating waves of enemies and releasing the anchor. You won't be able to beat it alone though, but other players in the area should also flock to the anchor to help you succeed. This is a great addition to the game, and would have been made better if you could summon surrounding players to an anchor or location where you were overwhelmed or needed help.
If you bought ESO:TU for some good old fashion PvP, then you'll be wanting to hit level 10 in the game fairly quickly. This then allows you to access the in-game campaigns, which serve as the world for all the PvP action. You are split up by your alliances, with a whole bunch of buildings and Elder Scrolls to guard, whilst you simultaneously try and take over the keeps and buildings of the enemy alliances. The whole PvP world can be completely ignored if you don't like the idea, but it is definitely worth a try and will grow on you the more time you spend in it. There are few things more amusing than running into a keep in a group of 20 or 30 players and attacking everyone in sight. You earn alliance points from kills and overtaking buildings, which in turn rank you overall in your guild, and this resets every 7, 14 or 30 days depending on which campaign you choose at the start. There are even missions hidden around the PvP world itself as well, but you have to be careful wandering about on your own, as an enemy can unfortunately pick you off a little too easily.
Plan your attack, or run in all guns blazing
Unfortunately, as seems to be the case with many games nowadays, the release of ESO:TU did not go smoothly. Within the first few days of playing, I was unable to get past the very first loading screen, then got stuck on a loading screen after the tutorial. On top of this, I was kicked out of the game on numerous occasions, as well as not even being able to log in in the first place, and being placed in a never-ending queue to sign in. Whilst these problems seem to have gone now for the most part, you have to wonder whether they should have ever been this prominent in the first place. Natural gameplay also has a few bugs and glitches here and there, with the most annoying being when NPC quest characters disappear so you are unable to talk to them. This seems to be fixed with a reset of your Xbox One console, but again this shouldn't be happening. Couple this with delayed speech, no speech, blackened out players, and characters glitching in walls, you would hope that patches continue to be churned out for the game.
If you were hoping for an easy, or at least for the most part completable, achievement list, think again. There are 45 achievements for you to sink your teeth into to earn the full 1000G for this game, and you'll need to give it more than an hour or two of your time. There is some small mercy in that you are given story achievements every time you complete a quest. You'll be wanting to complete a lot of quests for each separate alliance as well as exploring all of their dungeons. The game, like most MMOs, has its own set of in-game achievements, and you'll need to finish all the ones related to fishing, but at least this means there is a nice system of tracking in place. One of the more difficult comes in the PvP mode, where your alliance will have to capture all the main keeps, and you must earn the most alliance points at that time to be crowned Emporer of Tamriel. Are you ready for the challenge?
SummaryWhilst an MMO might not have been the expected direction for The Elder Scrolls series, for the most part it is done well. All the standard MMO elements are there, with mounts, pets, questing, looting and PvP all making an appearance. The amount of quests to partake in and the size of the world to explore is vast, with the different alliances giving you even more to explore. Unfortunately, the servers could not handle the game during the first week of release, with lengthened loading times and sometimes not even being able to get on the game. For the most part now these problems seem to have gone, but a few bugs and glitches do remain. They don't stop The Elder Scrolls: Tamriel Unlimited being a huge, fun game with endless corners to explore, and MMO fans will be right at home here, as will players of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim before it. If you haven't had the chance to experience an MMO or previous Elder Scrolls game before, then this is a perfect one with which to take the plunge.
- Huge world to explore, with each alliance having different locations
- PVP is interesting and exciting, but can be completely ignored if you wish
- Quite a few bugs and glitches throughout the game
- Sometimes hard to differentiate between enemies, NPCs and players in large group
EthicsThe reviewer spent approximately 50 hours exploring, looting, fighting, killing and completing every quest she could find, unlocking 11 of the game's 45 achievements. A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
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