Elder Scrolls Online MMO Log: The World Is My Cat Box

Elder Scrolls Online MMO Log: The World Is My Cat Box

It’s been one week since I donned my tail and cat ears and began my journey into The Elder Scrolls Online, and I’m having a much better time on day seven than I did on day one.

My first level Khajiit Nightblade is now a tenth level Khajiit Nightblade who has seen and done many wondrous things. He’s grown from a clumsy fighter struggling against “evenly-matched” enemies, to a weaponised whirlwind, confidently leaping into a fray against creatures several levels his senior.

It’s a joyous progression that only happens once in every massively multiplayer online role-playing game — the evolution from a frightened and timid neophyte to dauntless adventurer. Once that fearlessness comes to life the virtual world is yours to explore, until everything to be seen has been. I’m a little giddy thinking about it.

What I’ve Played

For the first ten levels with my character, Rande, I’ve been focusing mainly on the single-player adventuring experience. I’ve joined no groups, crafted no items, and have not indulged in player-versus-player battles. I’ve been accepting quests, completing quests and then heading to the next, following questlines across the better part of two different islands. There’s still so much world to see.

What I Liked

Building my character. I don’t mean character creation (though it’s not too shabby), but rather taking my base character and slowly unlocking skills based on how I want to play. Every level I get a skill point. Major quests will reward them as well. These points unlock new active and passive skills.

If it were just a matter of placing a point in one of my class’ three core skill sets, that would be simple — also boring. But I’ve got those skill sets, skills based on the armour I wear, the weapons I carry, the race of my character, the guilds I join and more. Skills can be evolved into different forms, transforming them in subtle but significant ways.

I may have selected a class template during character creation, but the Rande I’m playing at level ten is very much my own creation.

The quests. Or not performing quests, because most of the major ones in The Elder Scrolls Online feel like they’re much more than that. I am curing villages of plague, thwarting invasions, freeing non-player characters from the dripping maw of madness. I am an important player in this world.

It’s not that there aren’t simple fetch quests in the game. It’s that those simple quests inevitably lead to something bigger and more rewarding.

Seeing what there is to see. The freedom to just wander around is very important to me in an MMORPG. I’m an explorer by nature, so give me room to roam and I will roam that room. I get that from The Elder Scrolls Online. Even better, there is motivation for me to explore, with chests to unlock, hidden quests to activate and lore to archive. In other words, if I keep moving I’m bound to find something cool.

It helps that the game is so pretty. It’s certainly no modded Skyrim, but with graphics settings maxed out it’s quite fetching. You should see the lens flare.

What I Didn’t Like

A little hand-holding never hurt anyone. This is not a game that’s big on walking players through the ropes. The introductory sequence handles the basics pretty well – click to attack, hold to block, that sort of thing. Once you’re out in the world there are skill points to juggle, enchantments to juggle, recipes to file, creatures to asses — it’s a complicated world. And that’s coming from a 15-year MMO veteran. I can only imagine how lost players compelled to try their first MMO by the franchise name can get.

That first-person combat: First-person exploration is fine. Third-person combat, while the camera is angled off to the side and it looks silly, is fine. First-person combat, as with several games in The Elder Scrolls‘ universe, is too imprecise and floaty. There is no impact, no sense of connection. There’s just windy flailing. Maybe I just need to get used to it, a I have with the past three games in the single-player series.

Despite some early issues with a corrupt install and an an erroneous assumption that I would be completely bored with this day from the moment I first started playing, I’m finding I’m actually enjoying my time in Tamriel. The writing, music and scenery are superb, and character skill system presents me with almost too many options for me to handle. So far, so good.

What’s Next?

Tune in next Sunday, as I attempt to group with real people, try out player-versus-player combat, and try to make something from all the scraps I’ve been looting from NPCs’ homes for the past four days.

MMORPG reviews are not built in one day. For major MMORPG releases like The Elder Scrolls Online, Kotaku spends several weeks playing the game, delivering progress reports each week leading up to the full review.


  • I’m coming from never played the beta, so I can’t possibly know anything beyond what I’ve read – but I really can’t see TES working in an MMO environment. beyond it just not ‘feeling right’ I feel like there are a few factors that are going to be detrimental to its success crossing into a different platform, but my biggest worry is combat. Combat has always been average in TES games. weapon swings that look like they are hitting but don’t connect, bizarre animations that last for just a little too long, strange stealth mechanics – all of these are going to be even more strange with the addition of lag and irregular player movement in PVP (I assumes there’s a PVP?). It was already weird enough in SP, MMO gameplay will be hectic and challenging at best, clumsy and confusing at worst. Again this is coming from someone who hasn’t played it yet so take this with a grain of salt.

    • The combat feels better than Skyrim. Way less floaty (personally) and the animations are not near as janky. The lag is honestly not a problem, PvP is more about massive groups than pinpoint accuracy (think DaOC). I honestly had many similar reservations to you, even through beta, but it’s definitely come out great.

      • No you are so full of crap… TESO has the worst combat in any Tes game, even morrowind feels better.

        This perfectly summarizes everything wrong with TESO “There is no impact, no sense of connection”

        Then factor in you will spend $180 in sub fees, fu*% that I’m happy playing Skyrim until Bethesda brings us a new real TES title.

        • i played the beta and while it was alright i preferred skyrim too
          i will be playing skyrim till wildstar comes out

        • No, you are full of crap. I’ve played all the TES since arena, and this combat does not feel significantly floaty than Skyrim’s. Are you kidding, no sense of connection? Have you tried blocking, interrupting, getting hit by a heavy attack or the like? It feels _exactly_ like Skyrim. Granted, regular swings don’t have quite as much as force as it would in another TES, however it’s still just as fluid. 180 in sub fees, what?

      • Man, I found the exact opposite. TESO felt way more floaty than Skyrim.
        However, this could be a lag factor. Are you in the US or EU or otherwise close to the servers? In Australia, with 300ms+ ping, their prediction isn’t good enough to match Skyrim for responsiveness to actions.

  • I fricken love TES games, since Morrowind. But I keep reading reviews on this, even from the start, and constantly getting the feeling TESO is more MMO than TES. I didn’t get into the beta, so wasn’t able to trial it first-hand.

    These are my biggest reasons for not getting into TESO yet…

    – First-person is a big part of TES for me. I keep reading first-person combat feels floaty and (for lack of a better work) lame…?
    – TESO not really sharing the visual style of the last two HD titles in the series.
    – The music isn’t Jeremy Soule!!

    I hope with time they can at least fix the first-person combat, then maybe I will get on board. I hate not playing a TES game at launch. But I’d much prefer to avoid an MMO dressed up to look like one.

    • Music is great, the visual style is very similar to the aesthetic of Skyrim etc, and the first person isn’t floaty, but it definitely needs the FOV pumped up.

    • on your reasons
      First person combat – its good but it can sometimes feel like its a bit “Floaty” as you put it , but the animations are cool and you get used to it, still lots of fun and I’m yet to even look at the third person camera after playing till level 11 over the weekend.

      Visual Style – it may be somewhat different but from my opinion it still looks and feels like its in the elder scrolls.

      Music – It may not be but its still incredible, I love the music, I swear I could just sit in a tavern for 10 minutes just listening to the bards however I do think the Skyrim soundtrack was more amazing. I have both sound tracks so I will have to give them a listen and compare though.

      I would suggest giving it a try, its a very fun game.

  • Something to keep in mind: It’s an MMO, it will evolve. Look at WoW. It’s very much a different game to what it was originally. Already the Devs have made changes from community feedback, over the next few months I think they will continue to do so. The one advantage that subscription games do have.

    • Only because WoW was so hugely popular, every MMO after it has had a very limited lifespan.

  • Played the beta in the hopes of a multiplayer skyrim, this it fails to achieve on many levels, the graphics are poxy at best, interfaces were crappy, all in all felt like a WOW clone with a slight taste of skyrim. None of the wonder and awe that I felt in the first half hour of playing / exploring Skyrim and Oblivion prior to that. Waste of money IMO, I certainly wont be rushing out to pay $90 for a game thats only good for a month before they want to take MORE money from you on an ongoing basis. So what to play it for 6 months you have then probably forked out $180 total for this game. Thats fkn madness that I wont encourage by giving them any money.

  • Really sick of hearing people talk about how this ‘feels’ like Skyrim. Horseshit. As an avid Skyrim player, above all, this feels overwhelmingly like an MMO that just happens to have a TES theme. I kinda get the impression the reviewers who say this have hardly played Skyrim or are confusing it with WoW, which shares more with TESO right now.

    • Well, considering you’re an ‘avid Skyrim player’, no wonder you’re feeling like that. But TES didn’t start at Skyrim, and this does a good job at melding the styles of the last 3 games together. How about you play the game? This plays _nothing_ like WoW, and save for a few necessary concessions to MMO fare, is about as far from traditional MMO as you could get. It’s pretty condescending to imply that reviewers ‘hardly played Skyrim or are confusing it with WoW’.

      I hate seeing people who started on Skyrim (and I’m not necessarily saying this is you) implying that Skyrim’s artstyle is the one consistent thing in TES. This engine does a pretty good job at emulating the gamebryo engine, but doesn’t have half as many bug problems.

      • I think, for someone like me who loved III, IV and V, the hardest part to acclimatise to is going to be the MMO structure in a TES game, in the first place. But, like with all MMOs, it’ll need time to mature, just as all MMOs do– and what the game will evolve into will be nothing like it is now. STO, WOW, etc are great examples of this. There are a few hard changes that have annoyed the piss out of me: archery being number one at the top of my grievance list, with it’s homing arrows and unlimited supply, but that’s it really. That’s something I hope will eventually resemble the previous games, but even if it doesn’t, it’s not going to be enough to stop me getting involved. But as I said earlier, it is bugging me that reviewers feel they need to convince us of it’s similarity to Skyrim. It’s probably closer Oblivion than V in theme and aesthetics, but the truth is, the MMO structure is going to make this a radical departure from previous games, so making the comparison in the first place is a bad path to take.

        • I agree that there are some parts of TES that just don’t work with an MMO, which is depressing. But you’ve gotta hand it to ZOS, they’ve done a pretty good job a translating the core concepts that make the games great. Yeah, the soft lock thing is weird, but they don’t ‘home’, its just rather than going to cursor, they go to softlock.

          The arrow thing is probably more logistical than anything, but I agree they could’ve done ammo (WoW did that). I agree that comparing it to Skyrim is a poor choice, I think this is more taking the overall feel of the series, but I can see why reviewers make comparisons – it is the latest and most popular TES, and the interface etc is very similar, even if the gameplay isn’t.

          • Fryieel you are seriously pissing me off
            You have an opinion about everything stop trying to justify this mud crap excuse of a game, it’s a massive smear on The Elder Scrolls Franchise, I think you are honestly suffering with how terrible TESO is and you are trying to make excuses so you feel better paying $180 of subscription fees to play a half assed wow clone set in some of the elder scrolls locations.

            To anyone who is curious watch a YouTube video of gameplay clips, see how mediocre this game is… If you want an Mmo fix try it, it’s no better than WoW and if you want TES gameplay stick with Skyrim…

          • In a word, f#!k you buddy. I’m not the one hiding behind a guest account, projecting on someone and shit flinging a game you clearly haven’t played while making out Skyrim, the weakest game in the TES series so far, to be some sort of messianic being. I havent paid a dime in sub fees, and I got my key for 40 bucks.

            You sound like someone from /v/, badmouthing a game with no experience and no frame of reference. I know you haven’t played it because you call if a WoW clone, anyone who played it for even an hour would realise it’s far more removed from WoW than any other MMO recently, a lot more unique than Wildstar (which I still enjoy). Guest account astroturfing is the worst. The game has it’s problems but it’s not a disaster, and I’m having more fun in 20 hours than I had in Skyrim in 50.

  • I must say a lot of the reviews I have seen where people complain about the graphics and combat are unnecessarily harsh.
    I’ve played every TES game since Morrowind, and countless hours of playtime in various MMO’s.
    I played ESO through the beta and early access periods, and thoroughly enjoyed it. (I’ve even put 3 other mmo subscriptions on hold to just concentrate on this game for a while). The graphics are far and away the best I have seen in any mmo. It’s not as high definition as modded skyrim, but this isn’t a single player game, and it still performs well when you have 100 other players in their custom armor, doing their thing on screen, which I find impressive.
    Combat is fast and fun, and highly customisable depending on how you skill your character.
    The world feels like ESO, it’s scale is huge and imersive. Crafting is involving and takes dedication to level. PvP is great fun, buying and setting up seige equipment and storming keeps with dozens of other players feels epic and doesn’t get old.
    If I have a complaint, it is the scrolling menu system (like skyrims). Made to be similar between keyboard and controller, I wish I could just open a bag and organise all the contents myself, but all in all that’s a fairly minor annoyance.

  • I’ve been playing TES since Daggerfall and I’m still loving TES:O.

    I don’t understand the hate for this game when people say “it’s nothing like Skyrim”.
    I liked Skyrim (admittedly my least favorite in the series) and didn’t continuously bash it because it’s absolutely nothing like Morrowind.

    Every Elder Scrolls game has been vastly different and TES;O is no exception to this.
    Yes it’s an MMORPG, however it’s also a very good one that captures the feel and setting of a beloved franchise.

  • Spent most of my weekend playing ESO. I’m enjoying it, and loving the aesthetic – the Coral Heart is a thing of beauty. I love the self-aware dialogue in some of the more mundane quests – “Collect 8 rats”/”Why specifically eight?”/”Because that is the exact number of rats that will fit in the pouch I gave you. Do not question the Ghost Snake!”
    There have been a few bugs (some of which I resolved by noticing that Dropbox was silently stealing all my bandwidth when it was supposedly ‘paused’); every time I’ve tried Fungal Grotto I’ve been stopped by bugs, either my spells lagging, misfiring or plain old not casting at all (as a healer, soooo not a good thing) or invisible mobs (the first boss was invisible for me at one point, so I could see neither where he was, nor the damage he was inflicting on my group – resulting in me becoming the most retarded healer in history trying to spam AoE healing spells without running out of magicka – fun).
    I know that my fondness for it is likely more for the world and the lore than the gameplay, but I also know that I normally get bored of MMOs around level 25-30, so I should get a better idea over the next week or so.

  • A lot of people here enjoying ESO who also enjoy MMO’s. I want to hear from someone who loves the TES series but is not a fan of MMO’s, because that’s someone like me.

  • In my experience, and unfortunately I haven’t had as much time to play as I would have liked at this point (damn real life getting in the way), this game is much more an Elder Scrolls game than it is an ‘MMO’. Of course it is an MMO, but it doesn’t have anything close to the same feel as any other MMO that I’ve played (and I’ve played a good range of them). The game is visually very nice, and I’ve been enjoying the time I’ve had to play so far.

    The combat is a little clunky compared to other games in the elder scrolls series, but to be honest, it is to be expected in an MMO where latency is always going to be a factor. I think ZOS have done a great job in keeping the feel and flavour of the Elder Scrolls franchise while porting it to a medium that is really different from anything they have tried before.

    I do sincerely hope that ESO does not replace future installments of the Elder Scrolls series, but I do like the potential that ESO has to explore the Elder Scrolls world in a scale that the single player games have not yet done, and will take quite some time yet to do.

  • Boring combat?

    Enough said. The combat was based off Morrowind and Skyrim. Therefore I see no reason to even continue the conversation further.

    Free to play within 3-6 months. I guarantee it.

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