It has retained many of the best elements from the Elder Scrolls series.
-A world that feels alive.
-Great exploration gameplay.
The leveling and combat system is far better than any Elder Scrolls game, by miles. For PvE combat is great, tho I haven't played for long enough to get into PvP yet. You can choose to grind up to cap in a single session if that strikes your fancy. Or you could care less about leveling and still participate fully in all non-endgame PvE.
ESO does not waste my time with long travel times, I can get to anywhere I've already been in between 30 sec to a minute. For me, this is a very important point. I detest games that fake longevity my wasting my time.
ESO is not in any way pay-to-win, and it doesn't unnaturally inconvenience the player to make me pay extra. The only inconvenience in the game comes with spontaneously harvesting crafting ingredients while questing at the same time. This was an inconvenience in the Bethesdas Elder Scrolls games as well because of inventory. You can pay to unnaturally compensate for this inconvenience through an ingredient-bag.
ESO has pay for vanity.
The world is immensely open. I can go anywhere I want and be successful straight from the start. There are many questlines with their own story tying into the main story. I can choose freely what storyline to follow, or I can ignore the story entirely if I just want to grind my way to the endgame content or just want to explore. This also means the game is extremely accessible for anyone.
Crafting is pleasant and feels meaningful so far. There are crafting-quests in addition to crafting for trade if I want to pursue it as a career. There are a few games where I enjoy crafting, but in this one, it seems ok.
Stealth gameplay is fun, although not innovative by any means.
Playing together ad hoc is fun even without grouping up. Just running together with random people for an area or a difficult fight is quite fun. Probably because combat is fast-paced, players are considered allies for the purpose of abilities, and game mechanics generally supports doing so. It works very well for an open area I've been to and is faster than grouping up.
Some of the dialogue is good.
Some of the quests are ok.
With the game being extremely accessible, people looking for a challenge will have to do a bit of searching or research where to go and who to hook up with.
Because the enemies and treasure scale with level, ESO doesn't have the mother-haul aspect of treasure-hunting that some older Elder Scrolls titles had. For instance, in the original Morrowind, I could sneak into an ancient abandoned fortress, find a coven of vampires there so powerful they could one-hit kill me, sneak past them, discover an endgame weapon, steal it and leave. It was a very unique feeling when just stumbling into it while exploring.
The community tools for ESO are the purest of any MMO I've played. I haven't found an accessible way of reaching ppl even for PUGs. There is no tutorial on how to effectively get a group going, and frankly zero incentive to do so anyway in any area I've been so far. Further, getting a guild seems to be a matter of blindly accepting guild-invites from ppl spamming general chat. For instance, I've found no credible channel on how to get info on guilds that may be suitable for me, seek them out and ask for an invite. As a noob, I find getting involved in the community in ESO a frustrating chore.
There is a tool for queuing to participate in dungeons (instances) with PUGs. The tool is never explained however, you just have to find it yourself. Also, the queuing I've done takes 30-90 minutes. Sometimes of the day I'm unable to find PUGs for dungeons at all through this tool.
The community also doesn't seem very inviting towards new players in my experience. I've not seen anyone being very helpful towards each other yet. It's not that it's hostile, just not very friendly either. It may, of course, be because the Morrowind expansion was just released and all the established players are over there, for all I know.
I cannot fly, levitate or do Khajiit-level jumps in ESO.
Some of the stories aren't good. They all pivot around the main story in a very overt way. Like in the old arcade games, where there is a scheming bad guy and everything except the end-fight is about thwarting his minions. "His" minions are everywhere in ESO: Tamriel, and it's just too much of the same. This is very different from the other Elder Scrolls titles, where the monsters of the land seemed to make up a whole ecosystem on their own, with their own lives and events. It makes the stories that follow the quests boring after 25 hours and deteriorating rapidly at 50 hours.
Most of the quests are very boring. Fetch me those items or kill me those enemies. For me this may well become a reason for abandoning ESO, they were the reason I never played WoW for more than 20 minutes. In ESO they aren't as bad as the ones I experienced in the other title. It's normally 3-5 targets instead of 20-30. At first, it seemed that this type of quests would be few, but it proved to be very frequent. A real pity.
Many of the quests are really stupid. And I mean really really bone 'head stupid. Like the world-class schemer who's locked himself inside a tomb and left the 3 keys outside the door at different but easy-to-find locations. Makes sense. It's back to the old arcades, only back then the format required some abstractions. In ESO it's not an abstraction anymore, but a literally really dumb story-element. While there are some straight-forward story elements of the type "some soldiers have been captured, go rescue them", nonsense solutions are more common. Fully expect an NPC to suggest solving a problem by shooting her magic rainbow-ray at the moon while farting some magic sunshine. But first, you must go find her some rare shrooms at one location, kill 4 zombies at another location, get 3 seashells, then kill an evil monster turtle-boss. Then she can find the spy who's been taken prisoner by the enemy and learn what he knows. And on to the next one.
After a quest is done I get a pat on the back, where the NPC tells me this was all my doing. I'm a hero. It's not that it's wrong, it's just that after a while all quest-givers start to seem like a benevolent school-teacher praising a 7-year old.
Customer Support is flat-out ignoring support-tickets.
There are 3-year old bugs that prevent installing or starting up the game for enough players that the forums have several threads each day regarding them. New players enter the forum frustrated, not being able to play. Some are able to get it working through forum advice, and others can't and refund the game as a result. The ugly part is that the developers don't communicate with the players and doesn't even acknowledge the problem. It's been 3 years now, so it seems they just don't find the bugs worth the cost of resolving vs the number of resulting refunds and bad reviews.
I don't know how long ESO will keep me engaged. I'm currently doing the story and exploration, but unless the story starts diversifying in the next area I fear I'll seek other content. Maybe that content can keep my attention, maybe not. Regardless, this is the best MMO I've played despite its shortcomings. The combat is quite good, and the absence of time-sinks count for a lot. That said, I've yet to find an MMO that could hold my attention for more than a couple of months.
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