ZeniMax's The Elder Scrolls: Online is something slightly unusual. It’s almost everything we know and love about the series backing the ambitious MMO instalment, yet the game feels so distant that one cannot help but look at the production without raising an eyebrow here and there.
The Elder Scrolls series establishes varying themes based on the theme song produced for each title. Since Morrowind, the theme has shared a similar orchestration and each title afterwards has varied only slightly to produce its own sense of mystery, adventure and war. It’s fair to say that the music and original sound tracks has become something of a big factor for the RPG series as it boasts supreme character immersion through NPC interactions and quest lines, character creation and class customisation. Without the auditory aids the Elder Scrolls series would certainly lack a lot of the value needed to sell such a powerhouse of a game. Likened towards that of a movie, a great soundtrack conjures emotion and a sense of grandeur. The installation of the choir for TESV: Skyrim gives off the impressions of coming war and the rise of a warrior.
However, although several of the titles of the series hold the themes of war, TESV: Skyrim uses driving percussion in triplet rhythms to accompany lush strings and really bring those themes to life. Walking into a tavern reveals swords for hire and bards seeking requests.
ESO is somewhat a bit detached in that sense. The music feels generic, and forces multiple elements of previous titles into its theme song. The choir no longer feels unique, and is almost lost beneath the over eccentric drum patterns and extremely shy brass instruments. Nothing seems to stand out. ESO is trying too hard to be something it already is. With the incorporation of so many elements, and maintaining a central theme, it forgets to breathe and add new artistic flare and innovation.
These flaws eventually find their way into other elements of the game, and whilst still in beta, these flaws are major components that would require large amounts of resources to fix.
- ESO retains the exact same tutorial layout as its predecessors give or take a few alterations.
- Plot and character progression remains the same, and the added MMO element only bores the player even further with seemingly pointless quest lines.
- BGM, like most MMORPGs on the market sounds manufactured and the sense of adventure isn’t as strong as TESV: Skyrim.
ESO is still an Elder Scrolls game. It’s still a great game. The mechanics are smooth and as the game nears retail release, much of the interface will be tweaked and numerous bugs fixed. Social systems are up to date with existing MMORPG’s and support classes excel in their roles whilst also being able to retain some fun when playing solo.
Crafting has had a dramatic change. Classes and races are given their own unique armour sets and really drives the unique aspect of character creation and adds a sense of identity to the online game - a concept that is only gained through buying cash shop items and wearing unique clothing sets in most MMORPG’s. Socketing gems and other items into armour provides another level of customisation, however finding these materials to keep up with other players can become tedious and time consuming for new players who might not have the knowledge or money to purchase the said items. In saying that, the need to learn and master crafting additional races armour and clothing sets allows for a more defined approach to the crafting skill and allows for true blacksmiths and clothiers to really specialise in their craft.
As a package, ESO has potential. As an instalment to the series, ESO certainly has a lot to offer in terms of lore and history but it definitely has a long way to go to feel like an Elder Scrolls game. Creating an MMO adaptation of an already well-established series is difficult, and very risky. Whilst a lot of resources has been funnelled into preserving what makes an Elder Scrolls game, an Elder Scrolls game, and whilst it’s a good job done, it’s not quite good enough.
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