After being part of a couple of beta weekends, I can now say with some certainty that I will not be playing Elder Scrolls Online. True, I didn’t experience much content–I never got close to leaving the first zone, partly due to lack of time, and partly because I got bored really fast–but I’ve seen enough to keep me away for the foreseeable future, and here’s why.
I’ve never been a fan of the Elder Scrolls games’ combat. Left click to attack, right click to block, left click longer to attack harder. Rinse and repeat until enemy is dead. I thought maybe with the addition of some skills it would make things better. Except that ESO only has six skills slots. Count ’em: Six. From what I’ve seen, you’re stuck doing shooter-mode click-to-attack combat and your slots skills are mostly cooldowns that you can blow occasionally when you need a little help. No thanks. I suppose they have to keep it simple for the console version (see below), but I can’t see myself getting in to it. Maybe it’s better than I think, feel free to prove me wrong. The only combat improvement I saw over Skyrim it is that bows mercifully have unlimited ammo, so you can [insert mandatory “arrow to the knee” joke here] without having to run around and collect your arrows afterwords.
If I thought Guild Wars 2 had unlikable races, ESO’s are just plain boring. There are three factions, each with three race choices. You’ve got the Daggerfall Covenant, which consists of humans, another kind of humans, and orcs (aka dumb-looking green humans with fangs). In the Aldmeri Dominion, you’ve got elves, different elves, and humanoid cats known as
furries Khajiit. Finally, there’s the Ebonheart Pact, which consists of creepier elves, yet more humans, and the Gorn (some people call them Argonians, whatever). Oh, and if you buy the collector’s edition for $80, you can play as, you guessed it, yet another type of humans! Seriously though, I’ve never understood why Elder Scrolls games don’t just have one type of human and give me a dropdown to select their race/racial bonuses (a la LOTRO).
It’s a console game ported to PC
Bio Break has a nice article on why ESO has a great chance to be what he calls “the ambassador MMO“. Basically, Elder Scrolls is huge in the console gaming world, and if any franchise can get an anti-MMO console gamer to try something multiplayer that doesn’t involve 10 minute deathmatches, it’s Elder Scrolls. So I get why they need to make it as console-friendly as possible, but I feel like I’m playing one of those half-hearted console to PC shovelware that did nothing but change a few lines of input handling code and replaced the controller icons with keyboard icons. ESO felt really unintuitive to me, even though I’ve played Skyrim on the PC (not a ton, but enough to get the feel of the controls). I get that they don’t want to give an advantage to gamers playing on the PC or PS4, but it feels like they’ve settled for the least common denominator.
You knew this was coming. What can I say that you probably haven’t already read a thousand times? Like it or not, no MMO since the monolithic World of Warcraft seems to be able to survive with a subscription-only model. The competition in the MMO space is too fierce, and there are too many free-to-play options to pull people away. If I’m not wildly excited for it before launch (as I was for SWTOR), I’m not even going to give a subscription-based game a second thought. Excuse me while I jump on the naysayer bandwagon and place my bets on how long it’ll take this one to offer a free-to-play option.
My goal here is certainly not to dissuade anyone from playing the game, it is simply to give my reasons for not playing. On the contrary, I’ve always said that games are meant to be enjoyed, and if you enjoy one game more than another, play what you enjoy. When that’s no longer true, play something else. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t make your preference invalid, any more than the majority of gamers who would probably scoff at me playing Marvel Heroes makes my enjoyment of it any less. Play what you enjoy, but I don’t enjoy Elder Scrolls Online, so I won’t be playing it.