I finally feel comfortable with talking about my time in The Elder Scrolls Online beta. The fact that the NDA recently got dropped is one reason. The second and most important reason is I was able to get my own thought’s in order. As ESO really provoked a different kind of response from me than an MMO normally would.
Let us do this backwards, by starting with my conclusion first. I have no intention of buying this game before or after launch. That does not mean I will never play ESO. It just means I may wait until it hits the free to play ranks. If it never hits the FTP market then so be it. I do have a small issue with a subscription fee being standard. It’s hard for me to justify the costs when I don’t have a strong affection for the game at this point. I might have been more willing to gamble if it was purchase price only. On top of that, I have a metric ton of games I am already playing that cost me far less. It’s a personal issue and I begrudge no one who finds value in what ESO is charging. Still I might have been able to justify the cost if the game was more appealing to me.
ESO itself looks and plays great. There is not much more I could ask out of it in that regard. The game feels like an Elder Scrolls game in massive format. It does has elements of other games of the genre. While at the same time retaining the look and vibe of Elder Scrolls. In my first beta run when I was solo I spent a lot of time paying attention to the art and really making the most of the mechanics. From questing to crafting to fighting it all worked well and was easy to understand. Really there was nothing that bugged me or disappointed me about the art, quests, game play mechanics etc. Bethesda did an admirable job of splitting this game down the middle between Elder Scrolls and a more standard MMO.
The problem I have with the game became clear on my second beta session. In that one I played with a couple of friends and we grouped the entire time. After a while I started getting really tired of being in a group. It was nothing they did, it just stopped feeling like an Elder Scrolls game for me. I wanted to be able to go sit on top a mountain and watch the world go by like I tend to do in Skyrim. I wanted to take my assassin gear and got stalk wolves like I love to do in both Skyrim and Oblivion. I was craving the solitude and pace that I enjoy in single player RPG’s Everything we were doing felt rushed as we scurried from one task to the next. Not to mention seeing names like igotballz47 or paying attention to the world chat really shattered the fantasy vibe. Normally none of that stuff affects me, but in ESO it did. The people I was playing with are veteran MMO players and our play styles match up brilliantly. It just didn’t feel right when we were playing ESO.
It was at the end of that second beta weekend I realized that ESO was not going to be for me. It also made me realize how important the single player Elder Scrolls games are. Those are my escape from the hustle and bustle of multi-player fun. I use games like that as a chance to recharge and get some relaxation before diving head first back into the online world. It is not ESO or Bethesda’s fault. I need to stress that. I can not blame them for trying out the MMO genre. I just can not wrap my head around the game in massive format. It’s not the game it’s me and I can accept that, cliched as it sounds. Granted it is an MMO, which means never say never. You’ll burn yourself every time doing that.