When my friends and I jumped in to Elder Scrolls Online at launch, there was a unanimous sense of disappointment in the air. As we created our characters and ended up questing on opposite sides of the world, we realized something: for being an MMO, they certainly made it difficult to play with other people.
The MMO is broken down in to three factions, each offering three races to pick from. Over the years, we’d all spent a considerable amount of time within the likes of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, and had gotten attached to our favorite races. I spent nearly 200 hours inside of Morrowind with my Dunmer, breaking the game with spell creation and using corpses as bottomless magical bags.
If I wanted to continue adventuring as a Dark Elf in Elder Scrolls Online, I’d have to join the Ebonheart Pact, which, in turn, meant that I could only play with friends who created a Nord, an Argonian, or a fellow Dunmer. Bummer.
Back on October 18th, Elder Scrolls Online received a much needed update in the form of One Tamriel. Among other things like 1v1 dueling and Veteran dungeons, One Tamriel removed the faction restriction that’s kept its player base apart since launch. Not only can my Dunmer now quest in Aldmeri Dominion hubs as a member of the Ebonheart Pact, but I can pal around with the likes of Breton, Orcs, and Khajiit.
Perhaps the most important update is the new worldwide level-scaling system that caters to everyone in Elder Scrolls Online’s 8.5 million strong player-base. Gone are the days of being limited in your adventure, now that all of the monsters and other baddies found within Tamriel scale to your current level. For instance, if you’re only level 12 and you’re playing around with your level 50 friend, whatever monsters you fight together will be level 12 for you and 50 for them (dropping level appropriate loot in the process). You can actually play it like an Elder Scrolls game now!
This alone has made the experience drastically more enjoyable this time around. No matter which quest I stumble upon, the rewards are always scaled to my current level. No matter which swarm of monsters I find myself brawling, I always stand a chance because we’re in the same level range. It’s been wonderful.
I wish this was the game we received at launch, because my friends and I would still be playing. Instead, I’ve started a new adventure as a returning player long after my friends have moved on to bigger and better games. I’m still enjoying myself alone, though! Having the freedom to explore Tamriel in a way that wasn’t possible at launch has been exciting, and I’ve had good luck so far with the in-game matchmaking tool when I have a dungeon quest that needs attention.
The PlayStation megaserver has been good to me thus far as well. There’s always people around when anchors and world quests spawn, neither of which require pre-made groups. And since everyone that participates gets to loot each of the monster kills, there’s no competition or kill-stealing to worry about.
I’d estimate that I’ve spent nearly 30 hours in Tamriel this time around, with my Dunmer MagPlar (magicka-focused Templar) currently sitting at level 19. I really enjoy the leveling build I have going on, dumping all my character points in to magicka, wearing 5 light, 1 medium, and 1 heavy armor piece to level up each of their respective skill lines, and slotting at least 1 ability from each of the three Templar skill trees to level them up as well.
The build itself basically revolves around applying damage-over-time spells and spamming the Puncturing Sweeps morph of Puncturing Strikes until I run out of magicka. For those unfamiliar, this attack deals a decent amount of damage to any target in front of the Templar, but also heals the player for a percentage of the damage done. It’s beautiful, and stacking magicka-focused gear makes the build feel stronger with each upgrade. I’m also running around with the Aedric Spear tree’s Radial Sweeps Ultimate with the damage reduction morph, since it has a low Ultimate resource requirement and frequent use means taking ~20% less damage more often.
I’ve invested a few points in to passive magicka regeneration skills and some Destruction Staff stuff to flesh out my downtime a bit more as well. Having that little extra knockback, snare, or damage absorption shield is paying off tremendously.
While I’m clearly having a more enjoyable time in Elder Scrolls Online now, there are still a few things that feel questionably absent.
As someone who has primarily played DPS classes in other MMOs over the last decade (plus), I’m confused at the game’s lack of a DoT and debuff timer on enemy targets. I understand this can be resolved on PC using addons, but I don’t have that luxury on console unfortunately. So instead of knowing when my Sun Fire DoT is about to fall off, I have to remember to refresh it after every 4th Puncturing Sweeps. Adding two other DoTs in the mix doesn’t make things any easier, especially while attentively avoiding “the bad” on the ground.
Another thing that’s slightly bothersome is the absence of a mini-map. Elder Scrolls Online uses a traditional Elder Scrolls map bar at the top of the screen, which is fine at times, but the lack of an actual mini-map that displays vendors or crafting material sources out in the wild feels a bit off. Again, there’s an addon for this on PC, but as a sewer-dwelling console heathen I’m basically opening the map and cursor’ing around it in order to search for persons of interest.
The last thing that baffles me is the lack of a server-wide auction house to sell unwanted goods. Rather than using this traditional MMO staple, Elder Scrolls Online instead requires players to join or create a guild and sell things through your guild store. You can also use chat channels to vocally hawk your wares, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the ability to dump my unwanted items on to a marketplace that’s readily available to the entire server.
Aside from these three issues, I’m not really engrossed in the story at all just yet. Again, I’m only 30 hours in to the game and I’ve been freely wandering around quite a bit, but I guess I expected better from an Elder Scrolls game. The side-quest structure has also been extremely repetitive, typically boiled down to generic fetch and kill affairs. This is something that plagues most MMOs, but aside from the occasional skill point reward, I’ve yet to be eager to pick up a new round of side-quests.
The important takeaway here is that I’m still finding the MMO mostly enjoyable (finally), which wasn’t the case back at launch. Even as a solo player I’m finding plenty of ways to spend my time, random groups to run dungeons with, and swarms of players to complete world quests and anchor spawns.
One Tamriel has definitely changed Elder Scrolls Online for the better. There’s obviously a few things I wish it’d improve upon even further, but it’s become an MMO that’s embraced a successful buy-to-play model, promotes character customization unlike any other, and offers a solid experience on consoles alongside the likes of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Neverwinter (though I’d recommend FFXIV over anything else if you don’t mind paying a monthly subscription fee).
I came back to Elder Scrolls Online after taking note of the positive feedback surrounding its One Tamriel update, combined with my own personal interest in revisiting Morrowind when the titular expansion launches later this June. So far I’m impressed with the update, enough so to stick around for a while. I’m glad I gave it another chance.