Questing for freedom in The Elder Scrolls Online

The words ‘theme park MMO’ get thrown around a lot these days, but rarely have they felt more apt than during my four hours with The Elder Scrolls Online. If Skyrim, Cyrodiil and so on are worlds, TESO smacks of the World Showcase from Disney’s Epcot – familiar sights remade in fibreglass to be admired but never seriously mistaken for the original. Not as many gift shops. Far more spiders. This time, the park owners will actively block your path until you agree to sit through the local equivalent of “O Canada”. Still, the comparison fits.

I’d love to be wrong about this, and a few hours clearly isn’t anything like enough time to get the measure of a whole MMORPG. It, however, is plenty of time to be disappointed by its direction. It’s not that TESO isn’t polished, professional or well crafted – in most of the details, it’s as strong and accomplished and well-crafted as anything else out there. From the sections I got to play and the higher-end content demoed though, it feels like an MMO given an Elder Scrolls makeover, not The Elder Scrolls reinvented as an MMO.

Expecting Skyrim-style world simulation, freedom, depth and player agency is unrealistic in a game that has to handle thousands of players messing around, and unless things change radically as the story progresses, TESO doesn’t try for that. Its world has an empty vibe to it, with very little interaction density and quest-givers just sitting around holding out for a hero. For the Daggerfall Covenant faction’s starting area, the island of Stros M’Kai, that means helping a group of pirates rescue kidnapped colleagues and stealing goodies that inevitably don’t mean much booty despite you doing all the hard work.

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  • This Post originally appeared on:
  • Bad puns and video games since 1999.
  • Originally dated as:
  • 19 Mar 2013 14:36:00 +0000