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


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.

Joe Pishgar
Joe Pishgar is the Community Director of Tom's Hardware US. He oversees the number one tech enthusiast forum in the world.
  • blackmagnum
    Fus Ro Dah?
  • tomfreak
    I say Epic Fail.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 ;)

  • 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.
  • stevenmi89
    wow joe bent zenimax over a small table and made their butthole raw.

    i played beta and was not impressed whatsoever.
  • 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.
  • 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....
  • 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.
  • zzzaac
    Ah, it isn't an Elder Scrolls game without bugs