The Elder Scrolls Online: Evolution of a Remarkable RPG

The Elder Scrolls Online: Evolution of a Remarkable RPG

Tromping through an updated Tamriel

S.G. Brown

Written by for Features on

Since The Elder Scrolls Online's launch during April of 2014 and its reinvention for consoles on June 2015, it has been improved immensely from its initial woes. Thankfully; phasing, lag, chat spamming, disconnects, balancing issues and messed up quests (including grouping problems in delves and dungeons) are now part of Tamriel's past.

The Elder Scrolls Online screenshot 1
This is either an award or a firing squad

During The Elder Scrolls Online's (TESO's) console launch, a day-one patch weighed approximately 15 gigabytes. Today, TESO on console has a variable install client of nearly 70 gigabytes and this is much greater for PC. But, have those many improvements, DLCs and major changes been an advantage or a hindrance to player fun?

Nowadays, The Elder Scrolls Online is a buy-to-play MMO where many thousands of players can experience the lore and world of Tamriel together in co-op, guilds, groups or by playing solo with a huge variety of locations, quests, and crafting options open to every player. Subscriptions are also available in monthly, quarterly and semi-annual durations each with a variety of perks, benefits, and Crown allotments (the coin-of-the-realm for their in-game store). The Crown Store now offers players the typical MMO fare only available for purchase with The Elder Scrolls Online store Crown currency: cosmetic items, mounts, costumes, embellishments, DLC expansion packs and more. Of course, these Crowns are available at varying prices due to sale and season and depending upon platform. So far, TESO's expansion packs have included new quest lines, loot and gear, bosses, skill trees and areas to explore and take on quests with friends, PUGs (pick-up-groups) or solo.

The Elder Scrolls Online screenshot 2
Cool, floating islands! Great, no stairs...

Four expansions have been released (not including two available Argonian delves and dungeons) called: Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Imperial City and Orsinium with Homestead (featuring instanced player housing) scheduled for launch hopefully sometime in February. All expansion packs may be purchased with Crowns in The Elder Scrolls Online Store through each platform's interface, separately through various methods or at no extra cost by subscribing to a TESO Plus Premium Membership.

With the recent release of Skyrim Remastered on both consoles and PC (each being able to be modded to a greater or lesser degree), revisiting The Elder Scrolls Online seemed like a solid idea if for no other reason than comparison. Much like TESO's earlier update called "Tamriel Unlimited"; another recent update entitled "One Tamriel" has further revamped the entire game which ultimately converted it into a new and modern style of gameplay. After researching about these game-changing updates, it was soon discovered that One Tamriel had bumped up immersion, game mechanics, and balancing for a superlative and overall fun Elder Scrolls experience.

The One Tamriel update eliminated PvE (player versus environment) restrictions and now players can easily travel to any zone in-game regardless of Alliance. Craiglorn, once a highly-contested PvP (player versus player) area, has been completely overhauled to also allow solo players to have fun in this large zone. Also, there are no PvE leveling restrictions (not including Coldharbour main story missions) so players can simply travel wherever they choose. Notably, there are no more PvE grouping restrictions seeing as all players may group with other players (noobs or capped) without restrictions or penalties.

The Elder Scrolls Online screenshot 3
The long draw-distance can be rather impressive

Drops now occur based on player level and not zone level restrictions for more flexible gameplay options. This means that high-level characters may travel to unexplored, initial or starting zones without penalties and receive mob drops based upon their now current level. In other words, items will now scale to character level everywhere in the world! Characters have been battle-leveled to all zones; that is, mobs have also been rebalanced with the new systems to give players a challenge wherever they choose to explore (no more face-rolling lowbie content). Players may also now duel other players and every dungeon has been newly updated with variable skill and challenge levels that include normal and veteran modes for scalable rewards.

The entire world of Tamriel has been opened up to be played by any character, any level, any class or allegiance without restrictions. These changes have resulted in an immediate world that is much larger and accessible than it was before the change due to character alliance restrictions. In fact, The Elder Scrolls Online's current world size is many times larger than Skyrim. Add in four available expansions, two Argonian dungeons, and include the many planned expansions and TESO will soon become one of the MMO world's largest and most-polished games out there. The Elder Scrolls Online has been completely re-envisioned and tweaked for player access and available choice. Players may go anywhere, anytime, play with any level guild-mate or PUG for a complete variety of interactions.

The Elder Scrolls Online screenshot 4
Magic often prevails

The controls have been tightened up for console players, too: lag has been reduced, phasing issues are simply gone, quests work reliably, many interactive NPCs (non-player characters) are fully-voiced, and The Elder Scrolls Online now makes excellent use of a few Mega-Servers (one for each platform) to fully integrate each player base which further contributes to immersion, community and greater availability of other players for groups. While more players might equal more opportunities and enhanced fun, nearly all of the content may be fully enjoyed by the solo player who prefers a more intimate, Skyrim-style of play. However, the full MMO experience is still available: text and voice chat, emotes, PvE, PvP, groups, dungeons, dueling, and soon, instanced housing.

With The Elder Scrolls Online's very recent PlayStation 4 Pro update patch, gamers now have a choice with an upscaled 4K mode or an enhanced 1080p mode that features better water reflections, improved shadows and ambient occlusion. For the unfamiliar, ambient light is a quality of light within game graphics that has been used to simulate global illumination while ambient occlusion is a simulation of shadowing caused by objects blocking ambient light, more closely resembling natural shadowing. In other words, ambient occlusion facilitates better shadowing of in-game objects and items including characters, NPCs, etc. Essentially, ambient occlusion permits self-shadowing, blocking shadows and creeping shadows affected by time of day and other factors. In short, these new graphical features make TESO state-of-the-art for the PlayStation 4 Pro. It looks fantastic while playing and it runs rather smoothly, too!

The Elder Scrolls Online screenshot 5
Why do the NPCs just watch me while I do all the work?

Yes, it's been a hard slog from buggy and broken in spots to what's available now within The Elder Scrolls Online. Is this too little, too late? Hardly. With the massive sales of Skyrim Remastered on both consoles and PC, gamers have gladly welcomed Tamriel lore, stories, quest lines and greater world exploration. The Elder Scrolls Online, today, certainly represents the very best of both single player and multiplayer gaming: a huge world with challenges that can be explored solo or in groups, a solid storyline with player interaction and choice, and rewards and fun for, simply, being there.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Homestead first look video 2:06
Which amiibo Are You?

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