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Anchors And Pointlessness

The Elder Scrolls Online Review: Epic Adventure Or Epic Fail?
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“Bwonnnng!” the thundering horn echoes out through the region, alerting adventurers that the forces of darkness have succeeded in summoning forth a Dark Anchor from the daedric nether realm of Coldharbour, dimension of the foul Molag Bal and his legions of flesh-hungry fiends. A huge spinning portal of iron opens in the sky, sending enormous metal hooks down into the stone cairn below and opening the way for the evil horde to descend in bolts of energy. Adventurers, yourself included, gather round and do battle as blue lightning arcs down from the sky, heralding the emergence of wave after wave of seething daedric legions. The fight grows more intense as larger, more malevolent creatures emerge and engage. Finally, the anchor pinion shows itself and a brave soul pulls it, sending the anchor spinning in the sky, exploding back into nothingness as the forces of good win the day!

What do you, undaunted and glorious adventurer, earn for your critical participation in this? No chest of loot. No mark of merit. No title. No congratulations. The icon on your map goes from black with white outline to white with black outline. Don’t you feel encouraged?

After the first Dark Anchor, you’ll think “Wow, this is cool. Oh. It’s over? That’s anti-climactic.” Then you’ll see the same Dark Anchor pop up again in the same spot, and you might even be compelled to do it again. After your second and third, you may start to ask yourself why you are doing this. This answer, of course, is to make the little black icon on your map go from black to white. That is the only effect and the only result.

Conclusion

It’s pretty in parts, but there’s not a whole lot there. The Elder Scrolls Online is the empty, dull train ride that everyone feared it would be, and the millions spent on a fancy new MMO-capable engine and scant A-list voice acting peppered through the too-rare prime fiction, leave the player wanting. Trying desperately to find the fun, and failing. This really isn’t a true blue sequel to the Elder Scrolls series in any sense of the thing. These many sins could be easier to swallow if it weren’t for the gargantuan price tag associated with the game, not just vanilla, but the all-but-required Imperial Edition. There are free-to-play games out right now with orders of magnitude better gameplay and more content: Dungeons & Dragons Online, Star Trek Online, and of course World of Warcraft. WildStar is another up-and-comer that looks immensely promising, with player housing and a refreshing sense of humor. 

Shallow, generic, bland, meh, flavorless, vapid, uninspiring, monotonous, ho hum, pedestrian, plodding, mundane, trite, empty, devoid. I’m terribly reminded of the seminal 80s flick “The Neverending Story”, where hero Bastian fights to save Fantasia from “The Nothing”, an elemental force of the absence of content that ate through pages of interesting story and engaging plot. The Elder Scrolls Online is the game you’d get if The Nothing had won and decided to release an MMO based on a best-selling gaming franchise.

Can The Elder Scrolls Online recover from this? This reviewer can’t say. Final Fantasy XIV had a disastrous launch along similar content-absence problems, went back to the drawing board and returned a year later to re-launch with a more fleshed-out experience, and a mea culpa by Square Enix. The Elder Scrolls Online could foreseeably do something similar and populate its vast world with content worthy of the license, but first impressions tend to be everything in the crowded arena of online gaming, especially where subscriptions are involved.

We’ll see.

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Top Comments
  • 34 Hide
    gaborbarla , May 1, 2014 11:25 PM
    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.
  • 18 Hide
    tomfreak , May 1, 2014 11:24 PM
    I say Epic Fail.
  • 16 Hide
    heero yuy , May 2, 2014 4:20 AM
    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
Other Comments
  • -9 Hide
    blackmagnum , May 1, 2014 11:10 PM
    Fus Ro Dah?
  • 18 Hide
    tomfreak , May 1, 2014 11:24 PM
    I say Epic Fail.
  • 34 Hide
    gaborbarla , May 1, 2014 11:25 PM
    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.
  • 15 Hide
    jossrik , May 1, 2014 11:55 PM
    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.
  • 12 Hide
    stevenmi89 , May 1, 2014 11:59 PM
    wow joe bent zenimax over a small table and made their butthole raw.

    i played beta and was not impressed whatsoever.
  • 14 Hide
    maxiim , May 2, 2014 12:14 AM
    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....
  • 12 Hide
    Zombie615 , May 2, 2014 12:20 AM
    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.
  • -7 Hide
    zzzaac , May 2, 2014 12:43 AM
    Ah, it isn't an Elder Scrolls game without bugs
  • 8 Hide
    Zombie615 , May 2, 2014 1:53 AM
    Quote:
    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.

  • 16 Hide
    heero yuy , May 2, 2014 4:20 AM
    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
  • 10 Hide
    clownbaby , May 2, 2014 4:54 AM
    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.
  • 14 Hide
    vertexx , May 2, 2014 5:16 AM
    @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.
  • -6 Hide
    Onus , May 2, 2014 5:16 AM
    Well, I was going to pass anyway due to the subscription, but this review can be excellently summarized by "SLAMMM!!"
  • 5 Hide
    ubercake , May 2, 2014 5:19 AM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    Haravikk , May 2, 2014 5:26 AM
    Quote:
    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 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 2, 2014 5:33 AM
    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.
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