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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)