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

Quests And Environment


[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.


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
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