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

Quests And Environment

Quests

[Forgettable NPC] “Hi!  I need you to kill the Garbanzo King invading Castle Bland in Non-Descript Land 2. I’ll see you at the mission exit.”

(two minutes later)

[Garbanzo King] “You won’t stop us from… Agh, you’ve killed me!  You’ll pay for this!”

(five seconds later, boss respawns)

[Garbanzo King] “You won’t stop us from… Agh, you’ve killed me!  You’ll pay for this!”

(a short run later)

[Forgettable NPC] “Good job! Here’s a sack of potatoes and 18 gold. Now head north and meet with the Flavorless NPC Generated #193_a for a quest where you run around and slap quest markers before returning to the quest giver… I mean me.”

Quest dialogue in The Elder Scrolls Online is atrocious, and if there were a stronger synonym for the word “bland”, I’d use it here. Empty displays of the environment changing as you complete quest objectives shatter any sense of immersion you might have with someone you are grouping with who disappears if you are on a different objective than they are. You trudge along to the next tedious line of slap-the-quest-marker, walk five minutes, slap the next quest marker, enter a copy-pasted dungeon, follow the conga line of players to the over-camped boss, slap the boss with enough damage to flag you for completion, and finally slap the quest-giver for your meaningless, usually incompatible award of gear you don’t wear.

A few quest dialogue choices seem to give you the ability to let an NPC live or die, to make a choice that has an impact or effects some unseen karma. Please don’t be fooled. These choices currently have zero impact on the game, your future dialogue options, or pretty much anything. They are cosmetic-only. The player is frequently offered a choice of the red pill or the blue pill, except that both are placebos filled with tasteless water that doesn’t do anything. The choice is meaningless.

Quests are almost traumatically anti-climactic. There is no engagement, no immersion, no polish on the function of gameplay. As a game, it plays like a proof-of-concept for an engine, displaying the abilities of the mega-server technology. Across a multitude of play styles, a player can struggle daily, if not hourly, to find the fun.

Environment

Those of you who played Skyrim may recall the frustration of encountering reused monsters and enemies, with the worst of the lot being the repetitively renamed and repurposed Draugr. This was, however, forgivable, as the story was engaging. The scenery and scope of The Elder Scrolls Online will have you begging for that level of broad variety as found in the frozen wastes of Skyrim. In Skyrim and Oblivion, you could scale great mountains and discover lost areas and grand vistas as an explorer. In The Elder Scrolls Online, don’t even think about jumping. Its buggy, you clip constantly, and a false jump is not the exception but the expectation after the first few tries.

I know I’m going to get thrashed on this, but the scenery itself leaves much to be desired. Many reviews have gone on at length about the stunning beauty of the game, and I’ll acknowledge that the game is absolutely beautiful. That’s one thing they’ve done very well. However, as you level, you’ll soon discover the same reused, rehashed environment over and over again. Long stretches of land with nothing of interest, spanning vistas that capture your attention for a short moment while you move along and look for the part of the experience that would be generous to call “the game”. If you are someone who can spend hours toying with a screensaver and happen to enjoy the schmutzy artwork of the “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkaid, the scenery of The Elder Scrolls Online will delight and entertain you for $59.99 up front and $14.99 per month.

Joe Pishgar is the Community Director of Tom's Hardware US. He oversees the number one tech enthusiast forum in the world.