Video Game Review: The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited
Start swinging. Like, five seconds ago, man.
Creating an MMO experience on a console is quite a challenge to tackle, making it consistently fun and unique. Zenimax and Bethesda have known for quite some time that fans wanted to explore the various locales of Tamriel with friends rather than by their lonesome. With The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, we are finally given the chance to explore deeper into the distinctive landscapes of Tamriel with a world absolutely full of players and endless activity.
Bringing the standard concept that most MMOs use to a console system, you’d have to think that sacrifices were made in the handling of the controls. What we’re actually presented with, however, is a feel almost identical to any of the more recent Elder Scrolls games, like Oblivion or Skyrim.
As you level up, you may assign any of your skills or spells to whichever face button or bumper you prefer, with a secondary skill set (interchangeable at-will) available upon reaching Level 15. With the tap of the left button on the directional pad, you can switch between your two weapon/skill sets, giving you about 14 skills to use at any given time, not counting passive abilities.
The huge amount of menus that you’ll navigate can be a bit frustrating and confusing at first — we’d often accidentally buy back stuff from a vendor rather than selling from our overstuffed inventory, putting us out hundreds of gold accidentally. After only about an hour or so it’ll become more familiar, but still beware the buy-back placement. Overall, the game is incredibly easy to pick up on and even easier to tailor to your liking.
All of the familiar features of the landscapes we’ve been treated to before and many, many new locations are gorgeous and expansive — towering mushrooms await those yearning to return to Morrowind (you know who you are). ESO doesn’t exactly push the technical boundaries of these new consoles, but it does succeed in rendering some fantastic spell effects and bringing new detail and life to creatures old and new.
Each of the nine races (the 10th, The Imperials, being a separate purchase or preorder bonus) have their own unique armour and clothing styles that vary greatly from each other, making it easier to determine someone’s origin or race simply by what armour they’re wearing. When it comes to animation, everything from basic attacks, emotes and spell castings are tuned up from previous Elder Scrolls titles and are fun to observe from either first- or third-person.
Each NPC you interact with also has lip-syncing along with their dialogue, making them feel like real inhabitants of the world. The framerate is impressively stable, dipping only when major events are happening with numerous (and we do mean numerous) players on-screen.
As mentioned above, the NPCs are all lip-synched damn near perfectly, so that means that there are hours upon hours of actual spoken dialogue. You’ll definitely hear a lot of familiar voices, as Bethesda seem to hire the same 40 people to handle all its voice work, but the voices are tailored for their races so it doesn’t truly detract from the world, it adds to it.
The main theme going on in the world of Tamriel is that it is in great, constant peril. Molag Bal has set his sights on our world. Control of the Imperial City is torn between three pacts, formed by the various races all in a panic because Molag Bal is literally trying to pull his world toward Tamriel via portals that appear from the sky.
Sounded by a horn straight out of Inception, these portals open and drop anchors to begin the invasion. Daedra encircle the anchors in their defense, and players within earshot all begin to swarm the location to fend off the encroaching forces.
Meanwhile, players may also be completing quests for one of several established guilds, like the Fighter’s or Mage’s Guild. Maybe they’re out scouting for a rare type of wood to craft that perfect Restoration Staff. Players will be found everywhere doing things all of the time, making grouping up very easy to do as many players tend to congregate around the tougher delves and dungeons.
Many of the quests feel similar to one another, as can be said about literally every other MMO, but the beauty of it is that the quests are always optional (aside from the main story), so you’re free to grind as little or as much as you’d like. It really depends on how much of a completionist you are. And even though the quests do suffer from a bit of “same-y-ness,” aimless exploration proves just as fruitful because there are plenty of secrets and surprises hidden all over.
Player-versus-player is absolutely awesome and unique, each of the three factions you may choose from are locked in a battle over Cyrodil and the Imperial City itself. The war is almost identifiable to that of Battlefield’s Conquest mode, or even Planetside’s perpetual war.
Your faction is to move its front lines as close as possible to the city while suppressing the other pacts by taking over towers and control of actual Elder Scrolls. Hundreds of players can line the battlefield, each able to employ skills unique to the war, such as deploying trebuchets and ballistae.
Whatever you decide to focus on, you’ll dig deep into hours upon hours of content. Almost everything that you do in the game levels up some skill or another, so becoming proficient in your interests is easy, fun and consistently provides a challenge.
Whether you decide to venture off alone or group up to tackle the toughest of Molag Bal’s forces, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is absolutely engrossing and highly addictive. This is the game that many of us have been waiting for, and it’s hard to find a better MMO experience on a console.