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

Anchors And Pointlessness

“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.


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.

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