Explore Tamriel on your console.
With a little more than a year since The Elder Scrolls Online launched on PC, there have been some substantial changes to Zenimax and Bethesda’s MMORPG. The game had some issues at launch, proving to be a bit of a grind for those first 10 levels or so as the player worked through what was essentially an extended tutorial before unlocking the more interesting parts of the game. Also, the monthly subscription proved a stumbling point for many players, unwilling to pony up the cash to continue playing after the initial month that came with the game when bought. But, as I said, there have been changes…
The biggest and most important change came with a simple addition to the name of the game. Despite the usual extra content being added to an MMO, changing the name to The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited and dropping the monthly subscription fee has surely ensured that the game is more populated than ever. A free-to-play model, which still requires the player to purchase the core game, but then demands no further outlay, brings in more casual players and those who cannot commit to playing for enough hours each month to justify their subscription. Indeed, it managed to convince me to return to the game after a lengthy break. For those still wanting to spend some cash, there is a store with items to buy, but playing without spending money in no way seems to hamper the progress of characters, which is exactly how it should be.
But the next change is what we are here to talk about today – the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on the new-gen consoles. Launching the MMORPG on console brings its own set of problems, especially as the MMORPG on console is a relatively new experience for console players. The good news is that, beyond the initial outlay for the game, TESO is still free-to-play. We spent our time with the Xbox One version of the game and Xbox Live Gold subscription is still required to play, but that was to be expected, so no surprises.
But what was a surprise is how well the controls have translated to the console. Traditionally, games ported from PC to console suffer from a hodge podge of compromised controls. However, it seems that the developers have really put the time in to make TESO on console as friendly as possible when it comes to controlling, and I am sure it didn’t hurt that Bethesda had previous experience with their epic RPGs.
Similarities to Skyrim when it comes to the controls are an obvious bonus to console fans of the game. Melee attacks and blocks are assigned to the trigger buttons, and they feel natural, possibly working even better than on the PC. Spells are assigned to the face buttons, and work equally well. Quick slot items turn up on the d-pad and, although not as easy as on a keyboard, are perfectly functional.
But there are also some not so welcome similarities to Skyrim, specifically when it comes to the visuals. With RPGs such as The Witcher 3 showing just how good a game can look on the consoles, stepping into Tamriel Unlimited does feel somewhat like stepping back in time. There is some improvement over the aging Skyrim, but not much. Of course, the biggest comparison has to come from how the Tamriel Unlimited looks on the PC. This does obviously depend on how powerful the running PC is, but for most the downgrade playing the game on the console will be noticeable.
No matter how the game looks, TESO is undoubtedly an Elder Scrolls experience, plunging fans of the RPGs into a world they will instantly feel at home with. There is an absolute ton of lore to be found in the game that will trigger nostalgia and familiarity in those who have played any of the single player RPGs. In fact, the first ten levels of playing TESO is much more of a single player experience. From the beginning escape from Coldharbour, where the player is first introduced to the core mechanics of the game, through the various quests that will guide the player through to level 10, other players will be everywhere, but the experience is still very much a solo one.
Once the player has reached level 10, things really open up with group play becoming available, alongside the hugely enjoyable trip to Cyrodiil, the games PvP world which pitches factions against each other. Outside of these multiplayer based activities, the presence of other players can be a little irritating at times, when someone solves a puzzle in front of you, or kills an enemy that you were gearing up to kill, leaving you to wait for the enemy to respawn. But such is the nature of social gaming, playing solo often suffers.
Incidentally, players are able to transfer their characters from the PC version should they wish to swap platforms. Personally, I started a new character for the console version, and found that initial ten level grind to be even more “grindy” this time around. I think that if you have played the game extensively on the PC, starting again on the console will be an uphill battle for many, but this is a choice that players don’t have to make if they don’t want to.
With a brilliant crafting system, open classes that players can customise to their play style, a huge variety of quests that range from the standard fetch quest through to deeper investigations, and a massive open world that begs to be explored, Tamriel Unlimited has a lot to offer. There is not a lot of competition in this genre on the consoles, which may well result in many players stepping into an MMORPG for the very first time. For those players, TESO will be brilliant. For the veteran MMORPG players, the confines of the console version may prove a little limiting.
Fans of The Elder Scrolls series of games will find that The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will nicely fill the gap until Bethesda offers something new. The game is still not perfect, but the sheer amount of content that players will have access to for the price of admission far outweighs any problems the game may have. Once the first ten levels of progression have been completed, the game really opens up and proves to be an essential purchase, even on the new-gen consoles.