Review: The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (PS4)

elder-scrolls-online-review-banner

Title: The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (36.7 GB)
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99 / $14.99 (ESO Plus Optional Monthly Subscription)
ESRB Rating: M
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is also available on Xbox One, PC, and Mac.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is online only and free to play after the purchase of the game itself.

There is an optional subscription called “ESO Plus” available for $14.99 per month which grants players 1500 Crowns (in game currency) monthly, 10% character progression bonuses, and free access to all current and future DLC.

Gameplay:
It’s always with great excitement that I return to the world of Tamriel. I’ve been visiting since Arena on PC and I’m always floored by the amount of content provided by this amazing series of games. Since the first time, I have wished for the opportunity to explore the vastness of the Elder series with friends.

A lot has changed in the gaming industry since my naïve desires began. First of all, a few years after the release of the second game in the series, Daggerfall, graphical MMORPGs began to take off. They didn’t take place in Tamriel, but the ability to explore huge worlds with friends became a reality.

Months were spent grinding through Everquest, Final Fantasy, World of Warcaft, and the like. So by the time Morrowind hit the PC and Xbox, I was ready to relax with a game that was about “me”: my adventure, with a story that surrounded my actions alone. That’s not to say that MMORPGs didn’t give you a sense of purpose in the grand scheme of the unfolding of the universe, but you were definitely sharing the glory with other players.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited_20150618211859

So now that The Elder Scrolls Online is upon us (console gamers anyway), I was not nearly as thrilled to embark onto its shores as much as I would have been twenty years ago. I didn’t like the idea of grinding for hours to achieve something that a single-player game was better-paced to give me. I didn’t want to spend hours fighting a boss, wondering if I had enough time to go to the restroom before I “agroed” the dragon. And more than anything, I didn’t want to depend on anyone else to accomplish a goal in the game.

Thus, I was pleased to discover that most of my concerns were addressed with The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO).

… very familiar to veterans of the series …
Like many online games of this nature, gameplay holds a different value across various play styles and approaches. For example, some players might hold great value in the crafting system of an online game, while others might focus on the leveling and quest system. For The Elder Scrolls Online, I am choosing to judge its gameplay based on previous Elder Scrolls games, since a lot of folks jumping on this title are probably fans of the previous titles in the series.

With that in mind, it’s great to know that anyone walking into a room and watching you play TESO would not know the difference between this game and a previous single-player Elder Scrolls game. Sure, the difference is pretty obvious when you see random people walking around in the background who are obviously not NPCs. But the battle mechanics and overall pacing of the game will feel very familiar to veterans of the series.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited_20150618212410

For the most past, you are able to tackle quests on your own. The game even compensates by giving you “instances” of dungeons that factor in your party’s player count and adjusts difficulty accordingly. But of course, the fun in a game like this is hanging out with your friends, and Elder Scrolls Online does a great job of making these experiences memorable ones.

I for one love that combat in the game is a bit more action-based. I “grew up” with Everquest and Final Fantasy XI – games where pressing an attack button and sitting back was the extent of your combat interaction with the enemy. TESO allows you to circle behind enemies and execute back-stabbing attacks. That’s not to say that the game has been dumbed down to an action game, but The Elder Scrolls series has never been an “automatic fighting” affair.

… NPCs spoke full sentences …
I was very worried that the in-app purchases of this game would translate into unfair leveling and purposeful difficulty limitations in order to entice you to pay for more content. That is not the case though. You level up as you would any other game, by battling enemies and completing quests. You cannot pay to level up. Instead, the online store provides you with “bling”.

Different costume styles and rides are available for your character. They do not affect the enjoyment of the game, and as far my playtime is concerned, I never felt the need to spend a dime outside of the game purchase itself.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited_20150618210323

Visuals:
I’ve become a little accustomed to this generation of environmental effects, high-end shaders, and incredible lighting to call The Elder Scrolls Online a visual achievement, but as with most games that compensate for hundreds of characters on the screen at once, some sacrifices have to be made in order to allow for such a large population.

That said, what is here to see is attractive and flows with what we’ve come to expect from the Elder Scrolls universe. Character models actually look great for a change, even the usually-terrifying dark elves. Day and night cycles yield some fantastic lighting effects and there is enough diversity in the environments to make you feel like you are exploring an enormous world.

Audio:
I was very impressed with the voice work in the game. I expected, what with the online component, for this game to ditch the extensive voice work done in previous games in the series in favor of text only dialogue. So my surprise was complete when NPCs spoke full sentences for main story missions. Of course, music accompanies certain areas of the game, complete with the familiar Elder Scrolls theme sneaking in from time to time.

… you cannot solo the entire game …
Online/Multiplayer:
The entire game is played online with no offline components.

The multiplayer aspect of The Elder Scrolls Online is what you make of it. Can you solo missions? Absolutely. Will you enjoy missions alongside companions? Definitely. For the most part, you can handle a lot of missions on your own. The game’s action-oriented combat allows you to plan carefully. But, you cannot solo the entire game.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited_20150617191502

Certain missions do favor parties over solo. The game does understand when you enter an environment alone, and thus, compensates accordingly. As a result, you never truly have to waste time looking for party members if you simply want to adventure out on your own. This is a great thing, as I recall spending hours on Final Fantasy XI waiting for a sixth member, only for the party to disband before we ever got started.

Elder Scrolls Online is not nearly as demanding when it comes to forcing you into groups, which is excellent. The chat system works well in that I was able to isolate chat to the environment I was traveling, or simply ignore everyone but the folks in my group.

Conclusion:
The Elder Scrolls Online has something for everyone. And now that there is no online fee, the game can play as a single player experience to a certain extent. But for those who enjoy playing with friends, you will find some great enjoyment in the huge world, quest system, and character building.

If you can’t stand seeing other players running around while you embark on your own quest, then this certainly is not for you, but as an Elder Scrolls game, this works very well.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook