Guest Post: The Unavoidable Flaws of The Elder Scrolls Online

[Promoted from our Managing Editor’s inbox, here’s another fantastic Guest Writer! This piece comes from community member, Lindsey Weedston. Lindsey has been living and gaming around Seattle, WA for as long as she can remember. Along the way, she picked up writing, criticizing people on the Internet, and worshiping at the feet of the Great and Powerful BioWare. She is not affiliated with BioWare in any way. You can email her [email protected], follow her on Twitter, and find her on LinkedIn.]

I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls Online for a while now, and I’ve enjoyed it. Despite early bugginess, it’s what I expected it to be – The Elder Scrolls scaled down to accommodate a massive server full of other players that I can play with. It’s a fair compromise between the World of Warcraft model of MMORPG and classic TES. What’s not to like?

It seems to me that many of the complaints about ESO are based off of differing expectations. Being the Bethesda worshiper I am (yes, I am admitting this up front), I’m very forgiving about ESO’s flaws. But even if your favored video game deity is different, you can follow along with my logic.


The Defense

The Elder Scrolls games have always been buggy, so I’m not surprised that ESO is buggier, what with the extra mass and stress. How can we expect everything to run smoothly and the combat to be perfect when the engine has to handle thousands of people on the same server running around fighting things, sometimes in groups? We can’t expect the game to be just like Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind. The Elder Scrolls Online has to follow an MMO format if it wants to be able to function as an MMO. Bethesda doesn’t have the technology to create a game that is straight up Skyrim where buttloads of people can play at the same time. Or if they do, they’re hiding it well.

Other issues can be explained by the game’s youth. I know we’re all used to MMOs with more play options such as: auction houses, more use for archers, and quests that work. Those of us who are fans of the other Elder Scrolls games are used to dealing with Thieves Guilds (I’m a little bitter about this). And appropriate compensation for difficult yet thrilling scouting missions in Cyrodiil would be nice. But all of these things can be added later; some of them have already been promised. MMOs are always works in progress.

And so, with all of those excuses made for ESO, I hope you’ll fully appreciate what I’m about to say next.

The Elder Scrolls Online has some serious problems.


The Concessions

There are plenty of criticisms to be made about the game that can’t be excused by the limits of technology. The first is that the plot is not engaging. The quest lines are generally uninteresting so far, and I haven’t heard many praises from people who are a higher level than me. I was much more invested in the plot of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. Now, this could just be an unavoidable symptom of the MMO, which contains tons of other people running around doing the same exact thing you are. It’s hard to feel like the extra special only-hope-for-the-world you’re supposed to be when you’re quite clearly not. But there’s no denying that the individual quest lines are lackluster compared to previous TES games, and I accept no excuses for lazy writing.

Similarly, the atmosphere is also unimpressive. I know I’m not the only one who has yearned for the diverse landscapes of Morrowind, and ESO is even duller in this aspect than Skyrim. And I know this can’t be excused because other MMOs have awesome and diverse landscapes that make each area an exciting new adventure. I don’t know if this can be improved much with updates.

These are both serious bummers. Without good writing and atmosphere, immersion becomes nearly impossible. And quests that don’t work well or make sense when many people are doing them at the same time don’t help ease that disconnect at all.


The Point

The game has large flaws that are balanced by awesome benefits, like being able to play the Warrior Nord and Argonian Nightblade dream team with my roommate every weekend. It’s not surprising that opinions are polarized and passionate. But even from someone who has admitted to being a drooling super fan who can barely stand to criticize Bethesda without listing all the reasons why the flaws are excusable, I will admit the obvious.

ESO is overpriced.

Honestly, Bethesda, where do you get off being just as expensive as World of Warcraft? More expensive, considering that WoW is now free up to level 20. It is very possible that they’re waiting to see how many people will put up with the price tag now and then lower it later, but that’s just a big middle finger to devoted fans LIKE ME who will pay full price now. The discounts for paying up front for multiple months are pathetic. A $2 discount per month if you pay for six months at a time. Booooooooo. Give me a $10 per month discount for six months and then we’ll talk.

(Ed. note - This looks like my kind of party)

(Ed. note – This looks like my kind of party)

I really like ESO. There are parts of it that I love; namely the scouting missions. I will probably play it every weekend for many months to come, even if the price never drops. But, in spite of it all, I am perfectly willing to admit that I am a sucker for paying, and anyone who refuses to buy it at its current subscription rate is totally justified.

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