Elder Scrolls Online Launch Review Continued.
Elder Scrolls Online has the signature action-combat found in other Elder Scrolls games. Dodging and blocking play a huge role in combat, blocking especially. If you don't become efficient in your blocking, chances are you won’t make it far.
Which brings me up to the AI. The combat AI is definitely not a cake-walk. One-on-one you can usually win most fights with no real issue. The problems begin when you take on more than one enemy, which can be often as an enemy’s friends won’t just stand there as you hit him with a fireball hopping to pull him from the group. I will mention that the AI seems to be “blind”, as I've literally stood a few meters in front of an enemy and have him not aggro to me.
As always, I made my main character a caster, so that's where I have most of my combat experience. I did make alternate characters to try out both bow and melee fighting, however. One major complaint I've had is the lack of range. That is, you still have to get relatively close to an enemy to make use of a lot of your abilities, even as a caster. Combine that with your squishy-ness, and you can get into very sticky situations quite easily – especially in PVP. The ranged combat also seems to have an “assist” built-in. As long as your cursor is over the target at the time of casting, you're basically guaranteed a hit. This can be a bit immersion-breaking when you see an arrow take a 90-degree turn mid-air to hit its target.
Melee is just as you would think it would be. It's basically the same as other Elder Scrolls games, with a slightly different feel to it. Due to the extensive use of abilities/the class system, you will be making use of your ability bar frequently as a melee. To me, this doesn't feel like something an Elder Scrolls game should have. However, that's just a personal opinion. For some, this type of combat will be a deal breaker – they want the same experience as the Elder Scrolls single-player games. For others, they'll accept it and move on and continue to enjoy the game. It's just down to preference.
Most of you may know this, but Cyrodiil is the massive Faction versus Faction versus Faction zone that pits all three factions in the game against each other to try and take control of the Elder Scrolls and take over keeps, along with other key resource points such as farms and mines. A lot of the PVP that goes on in Cyrodiil is large-scale siege. Land is contested constantly and keeps changing hands frequently. However, smaller scale conflicts are facilitated and it's very possible to get together with a group of friends and roam around looking for an even fight. Heck, you can even hide and wait for solos to gank.
Honestly, the RvRvR PVP feels a lot like Guild Wars 2 world PVP. Your stats are bumped up to level 50 when you enter, and you will spend a lot of time just joining up with the largest force and participating in whatever siege happens to be going at the time. One great thing is the abundance of siege weapons and the ease of using them. It's very easy to get your hands on a ballista or other siege weapon, which makes for a lot of fun. And seeing a bunch of trebuchets flinging rocks at the enemy walls (which can be destroy and rebuilt) is amazing.
Gathering and Crafting
As with other Elder Scrolls games, ESO has a nice crafting system along with an extensive gathering system. As you travel, you will come across countless herbs, plants, ore nodes, and ruins to gather. You can even find useful crafting material in crates and barrels. It's possible to pick-up skills that will allow you to get hireling to gather for you while you're offline, or improve your chance of noticing resource nodes. Personally, I like this gathering system a lot.
Crafting is a rather unique beast, compared to a lot of MMO crafting systems. Even compared to the usual Elder Scrolls crafting for that matter. There are several crafting paths, such as tailoring, blacksmithing, cooking, woodworking, etc... Each has its own skill tree that can be used to improve various aspects of your crafting as you advance. You can learn how to create armors and weapons in different styles, customize the weapons/armor additional stats, and choose which level the item is designed for. There's a whole lot to choose from. There's also improvement, where you can change the quality of the item using special resources you can get through adventuring. Then there's the deconstruction and researching. There's just a lot there for you to delve into. Honestly one of the better crafting systems I've seen.
There's even an element of experimentation in a couple of crafting schools. That is, alchemy and enchantment. Alchemy is almost all completely experimentation, just like in other Elder Scrolls games. You will take the herbs and plants you gathered and combine them into potions to help you discover formulas. Of course, you could cheat and look up the effects of each plant online, or look up formulas, but there is a lot of fun to be had to discover the effects each plant has and how to create the best potions.
A lot of trial and error is involved with both alchemy and enchanting.
This section is one of the major problems I have with the game, unfortunately. To me, the thieving element in the Elder Scrolls games is huge. Even though it’s not present in the game, everywhere you look are obvious opportunities for it to be implemented to make the game so much more interesting. That being said, I am severely disappointed that the only thieving element that can be found in the Elder Scrolls Online (outside some quests), is the lock-picking of random chests that can be found out in the wilderness or in dungeons. There's no picking your way into someone’s house in the middle of the night to sneak around while they sleep and steal their valuables. There's no pick-pocketing the merchant. These are features that helped make Elder Scrolls what it is, and I very much hope that they add them into the game at some point.
Heck, there is no crime at all. When you enter a house, a majority of it is just props or useless items that you can pick up. The stuff you can take has no consequence for doing it. Even if you grab a guy’s food right in front of him, he won’t care. Of course, you can't attack NPCs or guards either. This lack of crime in the game makes the experience a lot bleaker. It's a missing element that sorely hurts the overall experience.
Achievements, Collecting, and More
The game is full of things to collect, achievements to gain, and other such things to keep you occupied. You can find treasure maps that will lead you to buried treasures, or find skyshards which will grant you the all-important skill points. Lorebooks are hidden all around, which as the name suggests, gives you a deeper peak into the lore. As you complete quests, kill monsters, and defeat bosses, you will gain achievements to help show off your prowess as an adventurer.
If you're a fan of Elder Scrolls, you know how huge modding is to the series. Unfortunately, being an MMO, Elder Scrolls Online can't really support the level of customization and mod-ability that previous Elder Scrolls titles have had. It does, however, offer great add-on support that will allow you to customize and change your experience to your needs and wants. To me, this add-on support is better than nothing.
I've got mixed feelings about Elder Scrolls Online. On the one-hand, it's a great MMORPG with some amazing questing. On the other-hand, it has a lot of features missing that make-or-break an Elder Scrolls for me. So, while I love it as an MMO, I don't like it so much as an Elder Scrolls game. It has a lot of great stuff, don't get me wrong – fantastic quests, the Elder Scrolls lore, vampires and werewolves, in-depth crafting, fun PVP. Personally, however, I am unsure if I will sub next month when my subscription comes up. At the least, though, I would say that it's worth the initial buy and at least the month of included play time. Perhaps future content expansions will change that.
Features: 4/5 – It would be 5/5 if more signature Elder Scrolls features were included.
Customization: 5/5 – Can't say I'm disappointed with all the options.
Graphics: 5/5 – The game looks fantastic.
Controls: 4/5 – For the most part, they were great.
Community: 5/5 – A great community of players who love Elder Scrolls.
Overall: 4/5 – This was so close to being “the perfect game” but a few key features were missing for me.