The Elder Scrolls Online Review: Epic Adventure Or Epic Fail?

Dungeons

Dungeons are probably the worst element of The Elder Scrolls Online, and likely the most egregious violation of player expectation in a top-tier MMO release in a long while. Picture the lowercase letter “b”. Got it? Well done! You now qualify as a level designer for this game! In that letter, let’s call it the Lazy Loop, you have the map of every single dungeon in The Elder Scrolls Online. Every last one. You come in at the top and discover pretty quickly whether or not your dungeon is totally and completely full of dozens of other players who have already killed everything in a straight line between you and the boss. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and stumble upon a respawn as you sprint through, but that depends on how crowded your particular instance is.

Probably the biggest thing that hits you about these dungeons is that there is nothing interesting to see. Those little nooks, corners and crevices and all the spots on the map that don’t look like part of the train ride on the Lazy Loop contain a blistering, searing nothing. Players enter on a track, trudge along for three minutes to the end of the dungeon which is exactly the same shape, textures, configuration and style as the last ten dungeons and reach the area where the boss spawns. That spot is readily recognized because it is being camped by anywhere between 5-12 people, half of which may be gold farming spammer bots. A half-dozen bodies of the boss, recently fresh and constantly mined, lie piled up. Players wait with other legitimate players and gold farmer bots for the boss to respawn.

Generally, another player will be passing the time by using the play music emote (banging a drum) in anticipation of the spawn, while the scripted bots idle in silent automation, ready to pounce. Everyone waits patiently until the boss spawns, and he is dead within seconds. Players lucky enough to get off a few hits receive credit for the kill and count the dungeon as complete. They loot the two gold pieces off him and travel onwards to the final part of the Lazy Loop in the letter “b” as it curves upwards. Players exit from the door they saw on the way in, which is in the same spot on every dungeon map.

Infrequently, players may be fortunate to be one of only three or four players swooping through the dungeon, and may have an opportunity to fight the boss who dies in 5-10 seconds instead of 1-2. If a player kills the boss during a primary quest and they don’t move along fast enough in looting a single gold piece from the boss’s corpse, they’ll see the boss respawn again and issue the same hokey dialogue before attacking again. The feeling is reminiscent of a ride at Disneyland where once you have passed through a part of the ride, but not quite through to the next part because of a slow track, so the animatronic critters keep singing in a loop and gesticulating wildly as if someone new has entered that area. It doesn’t just break immersion so much as it blasts immersion into subatomic particulates with an orbital kinetic-based mass driver weapon.

“Well howdy folks, hope you enjoy your stay in Cavern 824. Hyuk hyuk garsh!”. [pause 3 seconds] “Well howdy folks, hope you enjoy your stay in Cavern 824. Hyuk hyuk garsh!” And repeat.

In my experience up to level 20, I never once cared about killing a boss in a dungeon because I never once felt threatened or challenged. These encounters felt like playing the most obvious of level treadmills with content spread so rapaciously thin that the purchase price for the game feels downright criminal. Dungeons and PvE are experiencing, in essence, a content famine.

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  • gaborbarla
    I am hoping that Bethesda goes back to what it does best and make single player games. It is disappointing that they have used so much of their resources to jump on the MMO bandwagon, surely this must have delayed something great that would have come out by now.
    34
  • tomfreak
    I say Epic Fail.
    18
  • heero yuy
    I like how there are two people in this comments section who have commented the same thing twice each who's accounts were made on may the 1st and have only made those two comments
    said comments are saying the game is great I am enjoying it why is no one else because this game is the best game ever
    this wouldn't happen to be zenimax paying some company to make comments about how good the game is where they see a lot of negativity would it?

    more on topic I played the beta found my self struggling to get to level 10 because I kept falling asleep from boredom
    16
  • Other Comments
  • blackmagnum
    Fus Ro Dah?
    -9
  • tomfreak
    I say Epic Fail.
    18
  • gaborbarla
    I am hoping that Bethesda goes back to what it does best and make single player games. It is disappointing that they have used so much of their resources to jump on the MMO bandwagon, surely this must have delayed something great that would have come out by now.
    34
  • sumuser
    I admit, Joe Pishgar has a humorous perspective on some of ESO shortcomings.

    Joe brings up good points and I would say the review is honest from the standpoint of someone who just doesn't "get the game". I'm certainly not here to be Zenimax's fanboy, if one doesn't like the game then by all means unsub / uninstall.

    However, I'm having a great time with ESO so far and it seems like there are a lot of patches, fixes, improvements, tweaking, and even more substantial content on the way. If swords and magic is your idea of a cool MMO game than its worth checking out for yourself in my opinion.

    PS
    If you're a "temperamental" gamer who wants minimal bugs and glitches with polished content and mechanics in a modern MMO, maybe wait 6 - 12 months after release to try it out ;)
    -14
  • jossrik
    I played the beta, and it sounds like it hasn't gotten a lot better, personally, I couldn't see paying the sub. There are so many f2p/buy the game no sub that are good, not great even, but good that the sub methodology just doesn't work for me anymore.
    15
  • stevenmi89
    wow joe bent zenimax over a small table and made their butthole raw.

    i played beta and was not impressed whatsoever.
    12
  • LongLostUser
    I personally find this game very enjoyable. Theres been alott of negativity around eso before release and I seems like this colors the press. Every game has got problems in the start. Ive played more than a few mmos and eso got fewer starting problems than many of them.
    Public dungeons are pretty boring, but I find the quests and the variety to be quite good. The maps and areas are different from each other and quite visually good. Regarding open world bosses and dungeon bosses, well. the writer should really put some extra time in trying to fight them. If he gives up after 10 seconds and die, he really doesnt have a clue what he's doing. Some bosses requires more than one player and a good combination abilities.
    I think its sad that eso get so poorly reflected reviews like this. Its a faaar better mmo than Guild wars 2 and I recomend people to give it a try.
    What a sad review. Toms should really be able to do better.
    -21
  • maxiim
    Was downvoted to oblivion a year or so back when I said on some article here that ESO will be a over hyped polished turd. Guess many were just mad, wonder how they feel now if they ended up spending the money buying the game....
    14
  • Zombie615
    I couldn't have said it better myself. This game is the biggest waste of $60 I've ever spent on a game. As much as I hate to say that it's entirely true. I've never been so disappointed in a game and I would have never expected this magnitude of disappoint to come from the one series that I've known an loved since my younger years.

    Personally they should just chalk it up as a failure an move on. I literally cancelled my membership 2 days after purchasing the game because it only took me a few hours to decide it was the worst pile of horse dung I had ever encountered. After realizing I had practically been fooled into purchasing this game my thought in mind is how many steam games I could have bought for that $60. Honestly things have slowly degraded in all aspects of gaming. So many companies are going to the quick money grab route an luring people in with enticing trailers where half the advertised content isn't even included.

    If you haven't purchased this game I highly recommend you spend your dollars elsewhere. I'd consider purchasing Skyrim 3 times over before I bought this game an I wasn't even that into Skyrim. That's just how bad this game is. Do yourself a favor use that $60 to go out an have a nice dinner. You won't have a sour taste in your mouth afterwards like you would had you purchased this trash.
    12
  • zzzaac
    Ah, it isn't an Elder Scrolls game without bugs
    -7
  • Zombie615
    Anonymous said:
    Ah, it isn't an Elder Scrolls game without bugs


    The bugs aren't even the big issue here. In general the game just sucks....period.
    8
  • Pgamer77
    Are you guys just pissed because its not F2P? Get over it and smell the coffee, there is no such thing as F2P games.

    This game is awesome...what the hell can you compare it to?

    Play WoW? yawn

    Play D&D online? And jump and run threw walls to get to boss fights because of glitches.

    GW2...Beautiful game, endless grinding unless you want to pay to get stuff.

    Yes I agree there is some bugs and glitches in the game, some things that do need to be addressed and some game play polished...TESO is working on the issues... read the updates and upcoming patches!

    Lets not forget game launched on 4-4-14,,,,not even a dam month old.

    What a terrible review.... my question is.. How much are the other games paying you to flame such a Epic game?
    -22
  • Haravikk
    This article is absolutely terrible, with a total lack of objectivity in it whatsoever. It's less of a review and more of a pointless, childish rant.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly the games biggest fan either; I was glad to be a part of the beta, and while I enjoyed it well enough, it just didn't feel enough like an Elder Scrolls game to keep me hooked. For fans of MMOs it's really just an iterative, rather than innovative, addition that offers more of the same; as an MMO it's not so bad, but it doesn't solve any of the real problems that other MMOs have faced either.

    As an Elder Scrolls game though it's disappointing; it's a huge shame too as I was really interested in the main story, and loved how the war and guilds all tied into it (rather than being strangely unrelated elements like in other TES games). However, the gameplay just gets too dull over time, levelling doesn't feel very significant, and the online elements really ruin the experience; having other players roaming everywhere destroys immersion, especially when they're competing for loot and enemies, and making a mockery of boss-battles. This is especially annoying when the capabilities clearly exist to do things better; the handful of instanced (private) dungeons are far more enjoyable, and on the occasions where you do get private (not visible to other players) enemies out in the wilderness, it works well. I just wish players could get a more private experience, with only hub areas (cities etc.) showing other players to give a feel of habitation. By making players share enemies in the wilderness you get the multiple problems of broken immersion, struggling to find enemies to fight, and enemies that respawn too quickly, making you feel like you didn't achieve anything by fighting them.

    So yeah, there's lots of potential, and it could still evolve to be a good game, but it needs to heavily reign in the intrusive online elements and focus on what makes TES games great by making levelling feel more worthwhile, and giving us a more fluid combat system.
    -22
  • heero yuy
    I like how there are two people in this comments section who have commented the same thing twice each who's accounts were made on may the 1st and have only made those two comments
    said comments are saying the game is great I am enjoying it why is no one else because this game is the best game ever
    this wouldn't happen to be zenimax paying some company to make comments about how good the game is where they see a lot of negativity would it?

    more on topic I played the beta found my self struggling to get to level 10 because I kept falling asleep from boredom
    16
  • clownbaby
    I've never felt so bad about dropping $70 on a game. I've gotten ZERO enjoyment so far from this title, and if I want to fire it up in the future for a second go, I have to lay out another $15 for every calendar month I want to maybe play it.

    I'm chalking this one up as a loss. Was hoping to rekindle the long lost feeling of firing up WOW for the first time a decade ago. Not this time.
    10
  • vertexx
    @sumuser & longlostuser - yes, it's obvious you're the same person (who also isn't familiar with the Tom's forum bug of double-posting your comments when you refresh after a post). Clearly someone from Zenimax trying to do damage control. Probably the same guy who created dummy users on bit-tech.net after their absolutely scathing review (scathing with British humor = priceless).

    I can't tell you how glad I am that I did not purchase this game, especially since I would have had to buy multiple licenses. Myself and my 3 sons are HUGE Skyrim fans - I purchased 4 licenses because we play it so much. The modding community for Skyrim has just kept us coming back for more with that game.

    Because of the expense of ESO, I was considering purchasing 2 licenses and then sharing game time, dreading the inevitable fighting over game-time. The boys were begging me to buy. I was able to hold them off by re-building a new Skyrim mod-pack using all the latest mods out there. I'm so glad I did that now.

    Someone on the Bit-tech forums put it perfectly... ESO could have been "Skyrim with Friends". I couldn't put it better myself. I run multiple Minecraft servers (one for each son with their friends). They have a blast with mods and downloadable maps. Skyrim with Friends would have been totally awesome in that same regard.

    In my mind, ESO had the opportunity to remake the MMO genre. In fact, they could have probably made something better for less $$ invested. Why not just do a server version of an expanded Skyrim with the option to either download and host your own server or to subscribe? That would have been easier; it would have been better; and it would have been more successful.

    Everything I have read says ESO is a flop. Some articles are more restrained than others, but in the end the consensus has formed on ESO, and it's not pretty. Thanks Tom's for laying it straight out.
    14
  • Onus
    Well, I was going to pass anyway due to the subscription, but this review can be excellently summarized by "SLAMMM!!"
    -6
  • ubercake
    Great review Joe! I feel just about the same way about this game.

    Newly-release MMOs have to be something different than what we've already seen to succeed. With ESO we have the same old stuff in a different location and on a different day. And think about the first year cost: $240. This is to play a repetitive rehash of the last free-to-play MMORPG you've played.

    If you've never played an MMORPG, this might seem different, but once you reach max level after a couple of months, you'll wonder what's left. You can't level up any more and they'll introduce new, but repetitive content every few months, but you still can't level up and you'll spend 10s of hours looking for some awesome rare artifact that you might, hopefully, be able to use in PvP.

    Someone has to figure out how to make people want to keep playing after hitting the max level and how to make an MMORPG that's not just like the last one with different scenery.
    5
  • Haravikk
    Anonymous said:
    I am hoping that Bethesda goes back to what it does best and make single player games. It is disappointing that they have used so much of their resources to jump on the MMO bandwagon, surely this must have delayed something great that would have come out by now.

    Just wanted to note that while Bethesda probably did have some involvement, they aren't really responsible for ESO as a whole, some team within Zenimax (the parent company) were given ESO to do. Bethesda themselves are most likely working on the next Fallout title (if there's going to be one), otherwise they'll maybe be looking towards the next proper Elder Scrolls game.

    It's sad though, I think ESO has all the right story elements to make a great TES game, but adding online onto that currently ruins it. I really do hope the ESO team can refine the game into something more like a real TES title, as I'd love to go back and try it again, but for the current price it just isn't worth it.
    4
  • neiroatopelcc
    The game's not perfect, but by far not as aweful as protrayed here - at least in my opinion.
    There are a host of bugs that are annoying, but most have been addressed relatively fast.
    Crafting animates to cooperate in the guilds you're in (because of set craft requirements) and the slowness of crafting improvements is subjective. If you deconstruct what you find along the way, you can craft stuff that's a tier or two better than you can wear at any point. I was able to craft veteran 1 potions at level 35 and cloth at level 43 for the same level. It's designed this way to make sure you don't 'max out' too fast I think. Either way, it's not a hindrance.
    And the boring aspect that the review author experiences and keeps experiencing is a personal thing. I find the story very intriguing and therefore find the game enjoyable from the first quest to the last. The only time I am annoyed by them is when I run into a problem like a boss not spawning or a quest which requires you to think to solve it (yes despite being an mmo, it has quests that require active thought).

    It's two times more likely that you remember negative than positive things, so I'll list the shortcommings I've noticed in the game:
    1) reporting spammers results in you getting an email from customer support every time, so you're less likely to bother.
    2) response times of customer support are on par with billing support for world of warcraft - which means by the time they reply, you've given up or solved the problem on your own.
    3) for some features that you'd expect to just be there, you'll have to get an addon (readily available). This includes the minimap and timers that tell you when research or horse feeding is available.
    4) it's very easy to end up with a skills build that doesn't actually work well in the game, and resetting it is expensive. However it must be noted that this means you're more likely to consciously think about your build instead of just copying something from the internet like most other mmo's
    5) some guild features that you can't solve with addons are missing. This includes a schedule/calendar for planning events and an option to see when a member's been online last.

    Overall though, I think the game's brilliant. I'm not sure how long it'll stay great, but I'm not tired of it yet.
    4