OE Game of Year – ESO (The Elder Scrolls Online)

screenshot-1Intro: If you want quality people working in your IT company, then you probably hired nerds. And if you did that, most definitely you have trouble getting them to socialize. Online-Expansion is here with the solution! – Gaming Night FTW!!!

This time we take a look at a game that will probably me the most sought-out game of the 2014, and will probably win more awards than Titanic ever did, TESO (The Elder Scrolls Online). Perfect for a ‘Gaming Night’ event at any company :)

Following will be a review based on this weekend’s beta testing. Since we (as beta testers) are finally allowed to share the game with you guys, sit back and take in all the arguments as to why this game should be in your collection, both as a company and a gamer.

1. World and graphics

Not inventing a new land and allowing for all Tamriel to be explored provides all ESO players with a unique experience, in which every single frame is worthy of a screenshot. The effort put into the making of the graphics is actually visible for all those who play it. Not needing to create anything new but expand on and enhance what is already there allowed for this master piece to take place. You can actually look at a sunrise and instantly feel happy as you would in the real world. Or have the rain impact you emotionally as if the water were to hit your face. This and more awaits you in the universe of Tamriel, starting this April :)

The world is extremely well-detailed and immersive, you see shadows of every leaf on each grass. All the shadowing and lighting is extremely realistic and helps with the overall feeling that you are actually there and filling the warmth of the sun or flames in the areas where they reach you. The following video was recorded Saturday March 1st. Please forgive the mouse cursor, my recorder treats it separately and if I were to remove it, I would have not had a mouse in the UI as well – so I chose to leave it there, for now. I may remove it in future videos.

*Following screenshots will present a blurred Skype Called ID. I had more people joining in the experience and I simply forgot to remove it before taking my screenshots.

2. Characters, NPC’s and Quests

Starting the game you get to select your character. I selected the Kajiit race. Why? It’s been the default for me in both Skyrim and Oblivion, because I find caves and darkness quite hard to deal with (meaning they’re also very real and scare me, especially when I’m focused) and therefore needed the lesser power of Kajiit “Night Eye”, which allowed me to see in the darkest corners for no magicka. It only lasts 30 seconds, but it’s enough for the beginning to allow me to dive into the cave quests.

screenshot-2Well… there is no night eye in ESO’s Kajiit. Or at least I never found it. There was however very little need of it. The lights and chromatics have been so well worked upon, that there is really no need for a night eye unless you just want to appear cool. However, the skill tree is very generous and very well made. At first, it’s a little overwhelming. Only after you play a little (say… 20 hours :p) you get to realise that it’s much much bigger.

When you do start the game however, do spend time to customize your character! The progress in ESO is very enjoyable, but very slow, and you’ll be able to see your customized character a lot (you won’t wear armor and a helmet right away like in the previous games ;)

Simply put, your character can increase his skill for almost everything he does. Using a weapon, running, fighting, being stealthy and so on. And after you level it a little, it gets to transform, and become more powerful based on the decisions you make on a different skill sub-tree for each improvement. And that’s barely scratching the surface, since I haven’t got to dwell deep enough into it.

However, starting as a Kajiit, has provided me with the possibility to meet the most memorable character I have ever met: Razum-dar!! There is a figure guiding you throughout the game and mainly following the main quest line, called The Prophet, but no one has remained in my mind such as my old pal Raz. I don’t know who the actor behind his voice is, and imdb won’t help with that.

screenshot-3I still remember meeting him for the first time. He seemed so suspicious I nearly did not go along with his quest. But something just told me that maybe I should. And I did. As time passed by and more and more quests you do with and for him he becomes more friendly, you find out more things about him and he guides on some of the greatest adventures lying all around Elswyr. I could say that I feel we became friends and I can’t wait to see him again. It’s the first time I’ve felt so attached to a game NPC, and that’s saying a lot about the effort put into this.

Not to mention he introduces you to the Queen, I mean, to the HOT Queen, who also happens to be a very cool lady. It’s good they took the time to make the women more feminine, and the queen is such a fine example. I felt really good doing quests for her :D

Quests and journal are very nicely done this time. It’s easy to navigate your quests, your map, see the information you need, additional quests, secondary objectives and so on. The entire UI is very well done, down to the last detail. I was very impressed by that, especially by comparison with Skyrim. Amazing!

There are plenty of quests based on exploration and finding, which removes the ‘follow the arrow’ type of game that’s been criticized in the past. Really well done on that.

3. Gameplay, Community and System Advice

screenshot-4I’ve finally had the opportunity to experience the gameplay in both ‘noobland’ – as players call the non-pvp areas, and in Cyrodiil, the PVP arena of ESO and I’ve got to tell you. There is very little that compares to the amazing experiences I’ve had there.  First off, I got to hear Malukah singing to me every now and then, from time to time when I met a bard entertaining a group. That to me is already priceless…

The PvP was amazing. We managed to crown an emperor after taking all the six keeps surrounding the Imperial City. The feeling that this event brought cannot be exagered. It was amazing fighting together and achieving that goal. Although at first it felt like you need a group and I could not coordinate with people at all, as time progressed, things came naturally and without any chat and planning the wars waged and victories came.

Speaking of chat, reading through what people say in your zone or immediate vicinity is totally lolz :D. Here’s a snippet from someone: “I just killed a monkey – I don’t know who I am anymore…”. The fact is that the game does let you kill monkeys, rabbits and all creatures that don’t actually pose any danger which does make you feel sad indeed, but still, funny. Poor monkey.

Gameplay is fluent, it’s easy to create a group and people are friendly and help when asked (most of them anyways). There is a unique feeling solving a quest together and, something I’ve never encountered before, you run though the land and there’s a poor guy getting killed. You can’t ignore that. You see him struggling and you see he’s almost out of HP, and your hands move on their on and you jump to help. Same way as others jump to help you. And at the end of it, you genuinely feel good about yourself for helping someone. Amazing!

Movement is more natural than ever. Females are females and move in the great loving form that models do, poses are more natural and feel totally real. Heck I’ve even followed a dog that was chasing after a cat in the middle of the street.

As far as your system requirements go, I would recommend GeForce Video Board, Series 6 or 7 + some powerful processor (i5-i7). But most importantly, you’ll need RAM and (if possible) a fast hard drive. In order to maintain the game fluent there are no loading screens in gameplay (except for changing areas via doors, fast-travel) so that means that the textures are constantly being loaded into the RAM and Video Board from your hard drive. If the hard drive is slow, especially in PvP you will find it very hard to enjoy yourself, since when a new bunch of players appear with armor and items that require new textures, your game will freeze for quite a few seconds, and you’ll be dead before you get to draw your sword… therefore, fast hard drive and at least 8 GB of RAM.

The experience is worth a good computer to carry it on! Enjoy and go buy! :)

screenshot-54. Letdowns

If you’re still reading and I haven’t lost to their website and payment methods, here are a few things that I did not like in the game.

  • Marksmanship – Oh boy this has been carried on from Skyrim. Although more realistic this way, I loved the game for the marksmanship. In Oblivion I used to track creatures and shoot arrows above objects and hitting them on the other side and all kinds of marksmanship tricks. This is gone. The arrow has a very short (realistic?) range and I cannot enjoy my favorite weapon as I used to.
  • No swimming under water. I don’t know what happened. It’s maybe because of the killer fishes – which was something I said on a feedback and I’m very happy the obliged. I insisted that The Elder Scrolls Series must give up the invisible walls and “You cannot pass this point”-type messages and evolve into invincible monsters or volcanos or steep mountains when the player needs to be kept out. So now, deep waters have fished (probably piranha :) ) that will kill you in seconds. No more invisible walls. If you swim far enough, you’re dead. However, I was not able to find a way to swim underwater. If you do fall from a high platform, your character will dive, but immediately swim up. This removed all the awesome quests from underwater, treasures and water-breathing stuff… :(
  • You cannot out-think powerful monsters. I think this was introduced to encourage if not force grouping between players, but it annoyed me a whole lot. You cannot play strategy against monsters. If you try to hit and run, come again, attack from different angles and so on, eventually the monster gets full health and goes back to idle mode (while you’re near death and out of potions, and one more hit would have finished it/him off). That is really, really frustrating! Trust me! :D
  • Not finding the things I was hoping – this may be just for me, but I was waiting to find the ‘old’ Cyrodiil, even if the game time is 1000 years before Oblivion. I wanted to find Bruma, and Kwatch, and Bravil and enter the Imperial City maaaan!!! This is not (yet) available. And the cities/towns have different names. Still very amazing, but not what I expected.

 

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