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Elder Scrolls Online Beta

March 31, 2014

Alright, considering it’s less than a week until full release, I guess I should get this review started!

I’ll be giving a very quick run though on the story, because I don’t want to ruin it if you decide to experience it for yourself! (Plus I forgot a lot of the story details shush.)

Getting into the Beta for me was an extremely exciting experience. I’ve seen screenshots and gameplay footage before then, of which were exclusively released by the company, and I was still wary about buying a game without any customer feedback. I think though the biggest mistake I made was going in expecting Skyrim…because that’s definitely NOT what you get.

It actually didn't happen as much as I thought it would.

The welcome screen. (Don’t worry, it actually wasn’t that buggy. Zenimax Online actually did a pretty decent job)

Without an opening movie (a place holder was set), you don’t get much backstory as why you’re a prisoner in the realm of Oblivion, but from what I can remember your soul ends up a slave to Molag Bal. You have to help this prophet to stop Molag Bal from his evil plans. Of course there’s the faction/civil war gameplay but I didn’t get to touch on that.

The first few minutes of gameplay are alone; you do not get to interact or see other players until you beat the basic tutorial. It then opens up into a large open area with plenty of lost souls and flame atronachs to fight, and other players to see and interact with. It was here I got stuck, because after you talk to this crazy man, the directions and map markers were quite unclear. Most players had the same problem as I did, we stood in front of the wrong door, wondering why the map marker was on it and why it wouldn’t open.

Once you realize your destination is actually underneath, you are again separated from other players where you play out more of the early story, and from there you are transferred to your starter island (it depends where you go by what race and faction you pick, I picked Nord so I ended up on a small island in Skyrim, my other character was a Khajiit and ended up somewhere in Elsweyr) and back into the MMO world. From there you can do more “beginner” style quests, and can leave at any time (usually by completing the main quest in that area).

And that’s basically the first 1-3 hours of playing (depending on how fast you get the controls down and figuring out what to do).

 

Breakdown

 

Story

Molag Bal

Molag Bal

The main plot of the game (thanks, Google!) is to stop Molag Bal and his Dark Anchors from talking root in Nirn. The Dark Anchors are used to weaken Nirn, and basically merge Nirn and Oblivion into one landscape that Molag Bal can rule himself. Your part in this? To stop it, obviously. I honestly don’t know if there’s an end to this main quest (I’m guessing no). Did it seem interesting from the get go? Mildly, it’s a basic stop-the-bad-guy scenario, but basically every game is. Of course, the second biggest quest line is the Faction War, with Tamriel’s land in turmoil. Again, I haven’t gotten into the Civil War quests, so I can’t comment much on that.

As for the side quests, and side plots? Eh, they’re there. None of which I found that interesting, but maybe I was looking in the wrong places, or I just didn’t get far enough to reach the interesting ones. Or maybe it was the fact most of them had very unclear and confusing instructions on what to do?

There are also smaller things, like lore books, completing side quests and casual NPC dialogue to help fill in the gaps along your way.

 

Gameplay

Oh boy. I’m not sure where to do start here. At points I found this game to be extremely fun, but a lot of times it just become fucking frustrating. The battle system is simple enough–the mouse for your basic attacks, and keys for special moves you unlock with experience. I didn’t have a problem with that. What I did have a problem was no way to change class, enemies respawned way too quickly, you’d just barely open your inventory and fucking a bear reappears and slaughters you. Also soloing as an archer is fucking impossible. The good news is you get unlimited arrows, the bad news is that the range of the bow is extremely small, I’d pick out an enemy in the distance and the arrow just disappears, and he doesn’t get hit. I have to get extremely close, and by then you’re backing up as quickly as possible to get away from their attack. I’m almost convinced stealth is impossible.

One of the early bosses in the game.

One of the early bosses in the game.

 

Lockpicking was a bit complex, the tutorial was okay, but not exactly clear. By the time you get a hang of it you have no more lockpicks, and you find locked chests way more than you get picks.

The worst overall was the mining/crafting system. I never got a tutorial for it, and it just seemed hella confusing just to find out what you need to make something, let alone actually crafting it. Plus the game tended to crash my character in the crafting screen, but that’s a totally different issue entirely.

The lack of option to hide global chat also annoyed me. But maybe that’s a normal MMO thing, I don’t know.

The dungeon in which you get to cross dimensions.

The dungeon in which you get to cross dimensions.

I honestly think the best part is just exploring, and finding new things. The worlds are large, and there’s plenty to do besides fighting, such as fishing, riding horses, and more stuff I didn’t get to try.  It definitely wasn’t nearly on par to Oblivion or Skyrim, in terms of combat, but the fishing I liked. But then again you can do that in Skyrim, too, but I could have missed a lot of stuff so it’s hard to say how good it is.

The quests definitely had some issues, such as a quest where you have to disguise yourself as a bandit to get into a cave. You have to talk to this bandit on the other side of the door and convince him to open it for you, but he simply refuses. A lot of players stood in front of the door for like 20 minutes, simply repeating the same action, knocking on the door like it’s going to change. No one could figure out how to get in, that is until I realized that for some goddamn reason the game unequips your bandit clothing, so you have to put it on again and then talk to him. JFC.

There’s a few more glitches I’ll expand on at the end.

 

Graphics & Interface

No doubt, nostalgia for many.

No doubt, nostalgia for many.

Dear god was this ever a mess at times. Sometimes, I was extremely impressed, others…not so much. The interface definitely took a page out of Skyrim, a decent and clean layout that is pretty easy to navigate. The environments are richly detailed and interesting, even the dungeons are decently done and don’t look like recycled stuff over and over. The assortment of animals such as scorpions, birds, rabbits, beetles, etc were a nice touch, definitely added to the immersion. The creatures were interesting. Especially the Bull Netchs! I loved watching them float by.

However…it isn’t all positive. The NPCs were fucking atrocious. It was like taking a step back into Oblivion…maybe even back to Morrowind. Some looked better than others, but they all had awkward faces and just looked like weird plastic beings (It probably didn’t help their mouths barely moved when they talked…it was like they all had lockjaw). Yuck. They did look somewhat cartoonish, but at least they weren’t as bad as the early concept ones, but they’re still pretty horrid. Very out of place considering how well done they made the environment. Maybe that just made them look worse. Plus the dialogue returns to the camera focusing in on the NPC, and the text options to the side much like Oblivion and Fallout previously did.

smoke weed evryday

smoke weed erryday

Well, at least most of the other players made nice looking characters. Or really purposely ugly ones. Either way, they’re the prettiest in all of Nirn. They definitely didn’t skimp out in character customization.

A good example of the first and last point.

A good example of the first and last point.

 

Audio

The music is fantastic as always, creating the authentic Elder Scrolls atmosphere in every area. I definitely didn’t have a problem with that at all. The voice acting over all was pretty good, but you can tell some are much more experienced than others. Of course, with their A-List of celebrity main cast, you better fucking hope main NPCs are good. The smaller, unimportant ones were decent, I’ve recognized Vilkas out there! Again, the NPCs didn’t stand out to much, feeling rather stiff and boring. But that might be the graphics/mouth syncing issues.

 

Glitches

A new nightmare emerges from the gates of Oblivion!

A new nightmare emerges from the gates of Oblivion!

Oh my. True to Elder Scrolls there were plenty of glitches. Some were entertaining…some were fucking annoying.

Besides the crashes, there’s been times I’ve been stuck behind something, fallen off of things when I shouldn’t have, glitched into walls, been stuck in third person but unable to move, missing body parts, freezing gameplay (which gets me killed a lot), having certain NPCs not triggering the next part in the quest, getting stuck in dialogue, etc. There’s probably more but I honestly can’t remember.

The worst, however, was what I mentioned earlier. The UI crashing in crafting and talking to vendors. It didn’t always happen, but when it did it was extremely annoying, you’d have to manually retype “/resetui” and have the whole area load all over again. Sometimes it took several minutes. Sometimes it happened so much I just fucking gave up on buying/making things because I was so damn frustrated. I guess it’s a big reason why I missed out on crafting. Good thing there’s a report system, cuz dat shit needs to be fixed ASAP.

FUCK YOU. I JUST WANTED A GODDAMN  BOW THAT DOESN'T SUCK COMPLETE ASS.

FUCK YOU. I JUST WANTED A GODDAMN BOW THAT DOESN’T SUCK COMPLETE ASS.

 

Overall

It’s hard to give a proper review on it, because honestly I didn’t get to play as much as I’d have liked to. I had 4 invites to the beta, and I only ever participated in two of them, maybe like 10 hours worth of gameplay put together over three different characters. Even though it was fun, and I liked seeing areas of Tamriel previously left to the imagination, I did feel a bit dirty after playing this…almost like it’s some weird bastardization of the Elder Scrolls. Which, I guess it is. Will I be buying it and playing $15 a month for it? Probably not. Do I expect this game do well? Not really. It doesn’t have a lot that makes it stand out, at least from what I’ve played. It’s decent though, and it’s worth checking out if you have the time and money to play it. Just try to bring a friend along, you could solo the game but I think it would be a lot more fun with a buddy to help slay some monsters with you.

aureliah2

Image Credits: All screenshots were taken by me. Please do not repost to other sites without my permission, thank you!

 

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