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Elder Scrolls Online: 5 Years Later, Finally Worth a Play?

When ESO released, the MMORPG world was a different beast. World of Warcraft just reached its peak in subscriber numbers two years earlier, Guild Wars 2 came out, as did The Secret World, and generally speaking, the market was flooded with so many MMORPGs that only a game with the oomph of a big franchise behind it could make any sort of impact. The Elder Scrolls was such a franchise. Unfortunately, at launch, the game was in a sorry state. Barebones and uninspired, it didn’t do anything better than its competitors, and lacked many quality of life features that were considered the norm even back then.

Fast forward to 2019. If the MMORPG genre was a human head, it would look like Homer Simpson. Apart from this being likely the most awkward comparison ever made, it nevertheless holds true. Most MMORPGs have vanished from the public eye, World of Warcraft is just humming along doing its thing, Guild Wars 2 is in financial troubles, Black Desert Online is creepy, and the only other big boy in town is Final Fantasy XIV. With the ranks thinned out like they are, it’s worth revisiting Elder Scrolls Online to see whether it has become a viable competitor.

SPOILER ALERT: yes, it has.

The world of Elder Scrolls Online is a lush and handcrafted one.

Despite Bethesda’s bad reputation, thanks to Fallout 76, the company has continually and constantly improved ESO. Estimates are that about three million active players currently roam the world of Nirn. Why is that? Let me explain.

The sheer amount of content the game has now is staggering. Dozens of dungeons and raids, a map that, thanks to various DLCs (which you can buy separately and/or get access to if you subscribe) is several times bigger than the map of Skyrim, character customisation, and thousands of housing items guarantee that you will likely burn out on MMO fatigue much quicker than you can complete all content.

The game offers both open-world PvP and instanced battlegrounds for those wanting to bash their fellow gamers’ heads in. You can mix and match your armour, skill lines, and weapons. A heavy plate wearing thief dabbling in magic is (for the most part) as viable as a light armoured warrior… who is also a werewolf. Whatever it is you can imagine doing in an MMORPG, it is very likely that you will be able to do it in this game. It is that open.

Crafting, alchemy, pick-pocketing, assassinating, roleplaying, it’s all there, and it’s all well connected; and thanks to years of improving its shortcomings, this massive package is wrapped in a ton of quality of life improvements. Just recently, the Scalebreaker patch/DLC continued making crafting a far smoother experience than it was before, proving that development is indeed still going strong.

‘We used to be adventurers, but then we took a collective arrow to the knee’

Of course, the game is not without fault. Its biggest problem right now is actually its popularity. Many people report moderate to severe latency problems, and especially big PvP fights can quickly become a lagfest. Server connectivity is also sub-optimal in PvE; abilities will occasionally not fire, and rubberbanding is not unheard of either. Bethesda seems committed to improving these widely acknowledged shortcomings though, and they sound earnest to me, which is surprising, considering how little I trust AAA companies.

All things considered, if you are a fan of MMORPGs and are starving to try out something new, please do give ESO a try. It’s a game that launched in a pitiful state, but has truly redeemed itself. The No Man’s Sky of MMOs, so to say. I swear I’m never going to make comparisons again.

-Falko (Follow me on twitter)


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  1. This kind of thing is good stuff; makes me happy to see a company dig-in and commit to their product even if it wasn’t quite right the first time (this, No Man’s Sky, etc.) rather than cut-and-running (Anthem, Fallout 76). Glad to see the market rewarding it.

    • Just have to say neither a heavy armored thief nor a light armored warrior werewolf are actually viable at all in any kind of group… in fact people are so sensitive about that kind of thing you would be kicked within 5 min of entering a dungeon. Anyway pretty clear you played for about 2 days max.

      • While this is true for end-game, it’s not true for solo, questing, or normal difficulty dungeons.

        Normal difficulty dungeons are such a breeze that you can queue up as a tank, without tanking skills, or a healer without a single heal. (although I wouldn’t recommend it)

        I’ve played for a month now, taking my time, doing quests, leveling different characters.
        My Thief character is definitely not the optimal damage dealer, but the perfect character for playing the Thieves guild questline, as well as exploring and questing in general.

        There’s much more to ESO than just endgame.
        I have yet to feel compelled to even get a character to max level.
        I just start new ones to try different classes, different questlines, areas, races.

        And because there is so much content that can be accessed at any level, I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
        In fact I’ve got several new types of characters I want to try. Including, a werewolf, and a vampire.

  2. I find it hard to play this MMO as I really don’t have friends to play games with, I’m trying to, just for solo content at least. Same problem in FFXIV, but there most content is with random parties which works best for me.

    • Type text here…I play all the time. If you need company maybe we could join up? Its better with others for sure though I get along fine solo too.

  3. I am an ESO player. There is a ton of content, great storylines, and overall a really good MMO. The ability to group with people of different levels to explore content is awesome (One Tamriel ). You can belong to 5 guilds, allowing ample opportunity to play with others that share your playstyle. I belong to a casual guild, a crafting guild, a PVP guild, and a merchant guild.

    My biggest complaint about ESO is the lack of cross-platform play. While it is available on PC, PS4, and XB One.. each has its own server. If all platforms could play together, it would take the game up a notch. If they are not able to do this, the game will die a slow death.

    • Absolutely! I’ve been playing ESO since 2015 (on PC), I’ve been saying for a while that ESO has improved much more since they shook up their formula in 2015 and then again when they launched One Tamriel. Like you, my only major “complaint” is a lack of cross platform saves. But most of that is Sony being bratty and ruining it for everyone else—especially in the MMO space.

  4. Barbara Williams on September 8, 2019 at 4:09 pm said

    One nice thing about ESO is that is a good community. You can solo content to your heart’s content, and players help each other without having to group up–although you can group up if you prefer. At the same time there is plenty of raid-type content for those that want that kind of thing. It is really play as you prefer. I have never been trolled in this game, even when I was just learning and playing like a newb.

    Some armor-ability combinations work better than others, of course, but you can really do it however you want.

    For those who care, the female armor is equivalent to the male armor in coverage. You can go skimpy if you want, but most people prefer not to.

  5. This is a great game! I’ve played many MMORPG’s starting back in the UO era … I loved Asherons Call myself … and this one is fantastic. While there is s Meta build for high end dungeons unless you’rte doing cutting edge content you can indeed be a light armored warrior or a heavily armored thief who dabbles in magic. This is the only game where I enjoy crafting and there are so many quests to do I still haven’t come close to doing them all. Oh BTW, everything is voice acted and reminds me of SWTOR in terms of telling a story. The combat isn’t standard tab targeting … it’s action based … but once you get used to it it becomes second nature and rewards your ability to block and dodge. If you’re an MMORPG addict like I am you owe yourself a treat. Play this game.

  6. ive been looking at ESO for a long time but never bought it. I always knew i would at some point, maybe now is the time 🙂

  7. the reason teso failed so miserably was not because of other mmorpgs at all like you have stated it was infact because they held a certain class/race behind a paywall not to mention the megaserver failure at launch wows peak was years before teso launched you need to research better imo this article needs correcting

  8. I’ve been playing ESO on and off for the last four years. I got sucked away from it due to a private server in ARK before that fell apart and then other life issues came up that kept me away until the most recent expansion of Elsweyr. I’ve always loved the story telling that ESO provides as a game I’ve play mostly fully single player, except to be apart of a few merchant guilds, and the way the world looks, bringing a rich life to Tamriel. I’d easily argue that they had fixed their biggest narrative and combat jankiness back when I first signed up and invested in the game.

    I’ve dragged most of my friends into getting it. Thanks to One Tamriel it’s spared me making new characters since I have characters I’ve leveled in the other two factions that aren’t my main. I’d argue that the classes are all flexible enough to specialize in all of the DLC bonuses as well as your general weapons and then your actual class. Especially because most of the abilities have a branch/evolution that can turn them into a magic based ability if it was a stamina based one or a stamina based ability if it was a magic based one. There is so much flexibility in the classes and systems and it just keeps getting better.

    I do think it’s a /tad/ unfair to say it’s like the No Man’s Sky of MMOs, Zenimax/Bethesda didn’t promise the moon on a stick with ESO. However, it is getting better with age and dedication, like No Man’s Sky.

  9. Dragons have 4 legs. Drakes and wyverns have 2 legs. Wont play a fantasy game that doesn’t have 4-legged dragons.

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