My gaming experience has mostly
been with single player PC games.
I’ve come to appreciate other types of
games like first person shooters and more
action oriented games but I still have a very
strong preference for role playing type games.
In particular I’ve always been a big fan of the
Elder Scrolls series. I’ve gone back and played
the old classics like Morrowind and Daggerfall
and loved them. Yes, I even slogged though Arena.
So I was delighted to get access to the latest Elder Scrolls Online expansion.
Special thanks go to Bethesda Softworks
and Zenimax for the review key.
Any opinions in this video are entirely
the author’s and the footage is from the
newly released “High Isle” expansion.
If you like what you see feel free to
click on the link in the description
to get more information on the game.
The first thing you do is choose which region
to play on. You can play on the North American
or European servers. I’m in Australia so it
was worrying that both were a bit far away,
but so far I haven’t noticed any meaningful lag
even when fighting together with other players
so that’s a big plus point for the game.
The next step is to
It seems that you can have up to 9 characters and
characters can’t be transferred across regions.
The High Isle expansion is set in a Bretton
island and I’ve always played Breton characters
in previous Elder Scrolls because they’re good at
mixing combat and magic. The other race I tend to
play is dark elf for their distinctiveness, but
there’s no reason not to go Breton this time.
So behold, Geraldo el Skip. He’s Geralt
the Riv’s long lost and much dumber cousin.
You’ll be shocked to know that
you start the game in a prison.
Yes, it’s only happened in every
single other Elder Scrolls game.
The tutorial introduces you to fighting and other
concepts like stealth and traps. Those of you
who’ve played Skyrim previously will be quite
at home because it works pretty much the same.
There’s a few new additions to combat as both you
and enemies have area-of-effect and line attacks
that resemble what you might see in games like
League of Legends, just in a first person format.
Most enemies you’ll meet
resemble what you see in Skyrim
but at the end of the tutorial
you’ll face a boss battle.
Bosses have a lot more hit points
and tend to have powerful attacks.
After that you get access to gates that will take
you to the various zones in the game. There’s a
number of open slots so I’m guessing that there
wll be more expansions coming in the future.
And of course we’re off to High Isle.
You’ll be greeted by an NPC
as soon as you arrive. That
will kick off the main quest in the expansion.
The island is set in Breton cultured lands, so
the look and feel tends towards a mix of medieval
and classical architecture. Very civilized and all
that, unlike those dark elves living in mushrooms.
The largest city is nearby. It’s
quite big and very imposing.
There’s a massive colossus and many ships
moored at the harbour. The innder city has a
mix of large and small buildings. It also seems
that you can purchase your own home eventually.
There’s your typical weapons, armour, and
consumable vendors. Plus crafting benches.
Since I didn’t know anything about the game I
started doing the first main quest immediately.
You’re told to look for some ships that haven’t
come in as they should, but as you go about that
you’ll meet a mysterious group of fighters raiding
the countryside and causing all sorts of trouble.
The first of the main quests will
see you to explore a bandit hideout,
restore the lighthouse, and finally
rescue the captains of the missing ships.
Along the way you overhear the head of the bandits
and take care of a traitor.
What’s clear is that this is more than just a
ragtag group of bandits. This is bigger than
just some missing ships and the plot develops as
you proceed down the main quest line. So far I’ve
only done 2 of the 7 main quests and I’ve already
gone up about 6 levels just from that experience.
As a bit of background, the game is set in the
Second Era. This is an era of strife betweeen the
various regions and the game reflects that with
three alliances. You have the Bretons, Redguards,
and Orcs in the Daggerfall Covenant. The high
and wood elves plus the khajit form the Aldmeri
Dominion. And the Nords, Dark Elves, and
Argonians belong to the Ebonhart Pact.
The factions are based on geography but if
you know the history of race relations in
Elder Scrolls it’s a little odd that the Nords,
Dark Elves, and Argonians are in one faction
given that they supposedly have hated each
other since forever, but I’m guessing that
that’s probably a bit of a handwave for the sake
of having three factions per alliance for PvP.
The single player Elder Scrolls games are set at
the end of the Third Era after Tiber Septim has
reunited the continent, and the Oblivion
crsis marks the start of the Fourth Era.
So the online game takes place
well before any single player game.
But getting back to the main quest, these
anonymous fighters raiding the countryside
claim to want to end the wars and bring peace
to the land. They refuse to show their faces
and don’t wear any emblems, which NPCs
in the game say is highly suspicious.
But Geraldo, he can be trusted!
First things first, generally speaking performance
has been flawless for me, I haven’t noticed
significant frame drops below 60 fps, even
when playing at fairly high graphical settings,
or any noticeable lag. It looks like it
will play very nicely on average systems.
I started a new character for the expansion
and by the time I left the tutorial I was at
around level 3 or 4. So far I’ve done a couple
of main missions and a couple of side quests
and haven’t had much trouble with combat so
it looks like enemies are level scaled to you.
If you know how to strafe and dodge
you won’t find combat too difficult.
You shouldn’t take bosses too lightly but the only
fight where I’ve died was one involving a boss
well above my own power level that’s
meant to be tackled with a group.
Enemies in the wilderness tend to stay
where they are and don’t follow you too far
so generally you’re the one
who chooses when you fight.
Yes, you can also die from
falling. Make sure to thank
Geraldo for his sacrifice in discovering that.
Even if you do die there’s no permanent
consequences, you can either spend a
filled soul gem to revive on the spot or
revive at the nearest fast travel point.
If you don’t want to do the main quest
in typical Elder Scrolls fashion you can
simply wander around looking for NPCs
with side-quests. All the quests are
voiced and there’s often other NPCs that also
have dialogue related to the quest. So you can
speak to them for additional dialogue if you
want though it seems to be flavour-text only.
If you look at the world and the expansions
released so far, the world seems pretty big.
Over about 30 hours I’ve only really explored a
small part of the expansion island I’m in, and
looking at the list of zones it seems that there’s
so much more content out there that I haven’t even
touched even within the expansion I’m in. The list
of achievements and collectibles suggests that
we’re looking at hundreds, most likely thousands
of hours, if you want to explore everything.
If you’re mostly a single player gamer it might
take some getting used to seeing all
sorts of shiny high level characters
surrounding the quest giver or zipping
about with bears and other pets in tow.
NPC enemies also respawn very quickly, so you
should never assume you’ve cleared a dungeon.
You’ll have to fight the same enemies
again if you go back after a few minutes.
But they’re also very unperceptive, so you can
easily fight them in small groups at a time.
Inventory also plays differently.
Instead of a weight limit,
you have an item limit. By default outside of
what you’re wearing you can carry 60 different
item types. Not the total number of items you
have, but the number of different items you
have. That means that dozens of the same item
count as one item towards the inventory limit.
You also get a bank where you can
deposit your items for storage.
You get 60 item types by default again and
you can access most of them when crafting.
It might well be the case that buying
a house will give extra storage
but I can’t confirm that yet. Early on the only
storage you have is your backpack and the bank.
You can purchase more slots on your backpack and
the bank but every slot upgrade costs more and
more gold. Basically this means that you’ll
need to be strategic about what you take.
You should avoid carrying lots of different
types of food and alchemy reagents.
Use them before setting off to explore or
destroy them if you can’t use them right now.
There are some differences from the single
player Elder Scrolls experience. But you’ll
get used to them quickly enough and by and large
Elder Scrolls Online plays very close to Skyrim.
There’s abilities that give bonuses when
used in combination, presumably by teammates,
but I’ve also found combinations in my
own class that I can pull off by myself.
My class has abilities that primarily damage
enemies but some can be modified to heal me
so I haven’t found the need to
use a single healing potion yet.
There’s dungeons and bosses that assume you’re
part of a group. But there’s also “delves”,
which are single player dungeons. So you don’t
miss out on exploring dungeons if you play solo.
I also haven’t touched the PvP alliance
war but it seems entirely optional.
ESO has a currency system called Crowns
that you can purchase with real life money.
Whenever an online game has payment systems the
obvious question is whether it’s pay to win.
And there are some that are, if you look
at the recently released Diablo Immortal.
My answer for Elder Scrolls Online is no.
All players must purchase the base game,
that’s a once off purchase
just like a single player game.
Expansions are also available
just like single player DLC.
Beyond that you can either purchase
Crowns whenever you want for real money
or pay a monthly fee for
the ESO Plus subscription.
The subscription gives you a monthly Crown
allowance plus special deals in the Crown store.
You also get access to expansions, a 10%
bump to experience, and extra storage.
Nothing game changing though. The only thing
that I’ve found noticeably annoying in the
base game is storage. ESO Plus players
get access to a “craft bag” that allows
them to carry unlimited amounts of crafting
materials and double the storage at the bank.
Since crafting materials are the majority of item
types you quickly run into the inventory limit
if you try to play the game as if it
was Skyrim and loot everything in sight.
But as I mentoned already you can get
around that by being wise with your
inventory management at the beginning.
I imagine the limits will become less
of a problem as you play the game and gather
enough in-game gold to expand your capacity.
The items in the Crown store are mostly about
purchasing access to DLC areas, mounts, cosmetics,
houses, and generally skipping the work needed
to unlock things. For instance you can simply
purchase the same backpack limit upgrades that
you can purchase with in-game gold. But using real
life money will not allow you go over the maximum
inventory size you can purchase with in-game gold,
spending Crowns simply skips the work of
collecting the in-game gold. The ESO Plus
subscription is the only way to use real money
to expand your carrying capacity beyond that.
There’s also a lootbox system where you spend
Crowns to get lootboxes. I received one at the
end of the tutorial but I haven’t used the system
since and I don’t feel I’ve missed anything.
Basically you do get some bonuses
by spending extra real life money,
but they don’t break the game and I haven’t
felt the need to even look at the crown store
so far other than to write this review.
So can you play Elder Scrolls Online
as if it was a single player game?
Most definitely. You don’t have to get
into the multi-player aspect at all.
My only multi-player experience has
been when I run into random people
and we happen to fight the
same boss at the same time.
I haven’t felt as if I’m playing a
half-baked game at all and it’s pretty
clear that the game was designed
to be functional for sole players.
You can devote your time to just gathering
resources and crafting for profit.
Exploring single player dungeons, doing
side quests, decorating your house,
and so on. As I mentioned earlier the world seems
enormous and you shouldn’t lack for things to do
even if you just focus on exploration
and completely ignore multiplayer.
It speaks volumes that there’s an
explicit rule in the code of conduct
against forcing roleplayers, quote, “into
situations that they don’t want to be in”.