In 2014, three years on from Skyrim’s monumental release, The Elder Scrolls went MMO. Not developed by Bethesda Game Studios, Zenimax Online Studios took the helm. As a subscription- based title, the game was received fairly well, but an inability to play with friends reliably, a wealth of bugs (to be expected with Elder Scrolls games one might argue) and the unusual novelty of a monthly fee being payable on console meant the game’s fanbase dwindled heavily.
If my previous “Patch Notes” have told you anything, however, it’s that the story was far from over. In March 2017, the monthly subscription was removed from the game – at least in terms of allowing you to play the game. The game introduced an optional “ESO Plus” subscription model which allowed for constant in-game currency to be delivered on a monthly basis while also acting as a season pass. The re-launch was well received, coinciding with multiple “free trial” weekends. But what of content? ESO shipped with a huge world to explore and plenty to do, but as MMO players will know all too well, if content isn’t built upon, games struggle to stay afloat.
Thankfully, the game has received a mass of post-launch support, both in terms of major and minor releases. On the less content-heavy side, the “One Tamriel” update in June 2016 added a more reliable party system to ensure that players could adventure with friends without jumping through hoops, and also ensuring that these activities benefited everyone regardless of their level relative to those you adventure with. Since 2015, ZOS have added new areas, quests, characters and gear at an incredible pace. Each of these expansions has focused on a faction or region of the franchise’s considerable lore base – from the Thieves Guild, to new Dragon-themed dungeons all the way to the fan favourite Dark Brotherhood expansion which added a new progression system. In fact, the most recent content added was in February of this year – how’s that for keeping things current?
In fact, those additions don’t factor in the largest expansions the game has to offer. In fact, Summerset (based on an area from the first game in the franchise, Arena, from 1994) is due to be released in 2018 and contains an entire new landmass along with associated quests. Morrowind fans got their own big expansion in 2017 which increased PVP options and added a new class – something difficult to balance three years from launch, but ZOS managed it. Perhaps most impressively, almost every line is voice-acted, something not entirely common in the genre, perhaps understandably. You may even recognise a few famous voices!
The only question now is whether ESO is for you: if you’re looking for a new Skyrim-esque fix, you’ve likely found it. In fact, the game is a lot prettier than Skyrim for the most part, and combat is lifted almost entirely from it’s single player stablemates, albeit with some smart tweaks to ability cooldowns. That said, if Skyrim’s “swing and hope” swordplay didn’t float your boat, it’s highly unlikely ESO will change your mind. As in single-player Elder Scrolls games, you can play the entirety of the game in third or first-person perspectives – and in hectic PVP fights you’ll appreciate the extra situational-awareness.
Jumping into ESO today, particularly with these updates will result in hundreds, potentially thousands of hours of gameplay. With huge cities, forests, sewers, mountains and dungeons to explore, millions of players and monsters to fight, spells to learn and gear to earn, you could do a lot worse on PC or console. So create a character, grab yourself a weapon and pick a side – Tamriel is waiting to be explored.
**A DLC code was kindly provided by the developer for review purposes**