As much as I enjoy my time with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, until about a week before the release of the Morrowind expansion (they call it a “chapter”) I had never set foot inside The Elder Scrolls Online. Why? Well, while I am a fan of the universe, MMORPG’s have never been my thing.
I’ve played a couple of them through the years, but for various reasons they’ve never stuck. The notion though that I could be a part of one within the Elder Scrolls was, finally, too tantalizing to pass up (again). So, I joined
Now, the truth is this – it would be ludicrous for me, as a relative newbie to the ESO world, to write an elongated review about what works and what doesn’t in ESO in general or Morrowind in particular. If you’re someone who has already put 150 or 200 hours into the game, why take my opinion about whether you should go out and get this expansion.
I mean, if you’ve played that long, obviously you should be going and getting it. Why would you not? Morrowind promises 30 hours of new main quest time. That’s a pretty sizable chunk of game… that would be a decent-sized full game, but as an expansion of something you already love (and if you’ve played 150 or 200 hours you love it), it’s a no-brainer.
So, a better question then is what have I gotten out of ESO so far… and the answer to that is a lot. The world of swords and sorcerers and orcs and elves and goodness knows how many other things is wonderfully realized. The franchise is a fantasy land I enjoy visiting and the depth of play in ESO is admirable to say the least.
I still maintain that I’ll never finish my time with Skyrim, but it is great to jump into ESO and have a feeling of things both familiar and different. The basics are all there to give one the sense that this is the same place we’ve seen before (even if ESO takes place before TESIII), or a version of that place. This goes so far as to include, to some degree, the races one can choose to play as, crafting mechanics, home ownership, weapons, armor, leveling up, and—perhaps most wonderfully—the depth of story.
While some games include story that feels like irrelevant byproduct crammed in to give the appearance of depth, in ESO the stories, or bits of them that can be read, feel as though exist to tell a worthwhile larger narrative. Some may find quests can be a little repetitive (go get this, go kill that guy), but these, too, have a tendency to be wrapped up in a bigger, more compelling, story.
The press guide that came with the release of Morrowind states that the expansion is built for people to be able to come in at level one and play, that there aren’t previous quests that need to be accomplished before one can succeed in the area. This is something that I have a more difficult time judging That is, I certainly went to the area early in my playing ESO, but I felt somewhat at a loss for the first hour or two playing there. Of course, I could have felt equally perplexed no matter where I was starting my game.
This is the curse of being a massive, deep, title – the initial learning curve is steep. Even having played Skyrim for more time than I care to admit, even with having some aspects of this game very familiar, getting up to speed takes time. Who knew—without googling—that one couldn’t quickly switch weapons with a flick of a single button until getting to level 15. Why should that be something you’re finally given access to at 15? Those of us who like ranged weapons still need to fight close-up and bows just aren’t optimal for that, but flipping weapons in a menu without being able to pause a game is problematic.
Along the same lines, I happened to foolishly whip out a dagger and join a fight taking place in a city as soon as I first arrived there (about 10 minutes in). I thought I was being helpful, that I was dealing with some riff-raff who desperately needed to be taught a lesson. Alas, the city guards saw it differently and I ended up with a bounty on my head, a bounty I couldn’t pay off because I had just started the game.
There is a learning curve, that’s the point – it’s a curve. I didn’t make any catastrophic errors during my early hours (I’m not sure that such a thing is possible), but there were frustrations.
Now that I’m further in and have a little bit of knowledge under my belt, only one major frustration remains – navigating the massive map and trying to figure out exactly where to go for a specific, open, quest (I may have started dozens of quests when I was starting out, hopping from one part of the world to another). Zooming in and out on the map is possible, but a time consuming and somewhat disjointed process that can involve too much scrolling from one spot to another.
On balance I have experienced far more good than bad in ESO and if any MMORPG is going to stick with me, it’s this one. The game feels like a true part of the same world, the same history, that fans have seen before. Anyone who has chosen to be a part of that in earlier iterations will like what they get with this one, and the regular updates and changes and expansions that have come out for it only enhance the sense that this world is a living, breathing, changing one.
The Elder Scrolls Online is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, and Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox One, Windows PC, and Mac.