Bethesda brings its once PC exclusive The Elder Scrolls Online to the Xbox One and PS4 masses with the aptly named The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited which features the core game alongside the additional extras rolled into one. Heralded as the ultimate Elder Scrolls game to play with friends rather than the solitary affair that is Skyrim, is this worth a punt considering it comes with quite a hefty price tag and isn’t a perfect experience as of now.
We reviewed the original PC game last year but to recap the game thrusts players into a massive open world to explore after choosing a race, faction and then developing skills of your choosing by completing quests and a main story arc. Essentially players will be spending their time going it alone in the vast world fighting AI characters, or teaming up with friends to essentially perform the same tasks.
The opening section does feature some pretty comprehensive customization tools to make your character unique looking, but it’s the fact that once done you’re able to develop skills as you choose is what makes the game’s character progression open ended rather than locking players into specific roles. This is a wise decision as it means players can tailor the character to suit their individual play-style and if change is wanted mid-way, rather than create something new, can just swap weapons, or armour and develop those skills immediately.
Once the character options are well established there’s the overarching story to follow which unfortunately is quite a grind. Rather than flow seamlessly through the game, players are forced to reach specific levels before they appear. In this instance it’s every five levels. However, as you’d expect, levelling can take quite some time so rather than have a flowing story you’re side tracked at every turn before you can experience what happens next. It’s understandable why this approach is used but doesn’t help in making the story cohesive or engaging which is a shame.
Of the side quests there are simply loads to undertake, to the point where it’s easy to become inundated with them. At every turn there’s someone in need of your assistance, and in some cases completion of one quest automatically leads into another. It’s a decent system overall for keeping players on track for gaining experience outside of simply wandering the lands killing mobs, but at the same time the execution is a bit lacking. Sadly, the quests degenerate into simple go here, kill this, fetch that and collect these items with little variation to the point once you’ve completed several become so familiar it gets tiring. Luckily, you can embark on additional activities which gain experience such as crafting weapons and items but these don’t detract from the fact you’re essentially performing the same actions over and over. When you then look at the amount of hours required to level up performing these quests it does begin to grate once you enter double figures. There are some co-op moments tossed in at random where players can all band together to fight off invading forces from the skies, but these can be so hectic with the masses of players gathering here that it becomes rather difficult to spot friend from foe and degenerate into a mass brawl.
There’s an extra player versus player domination option to engage in for a spot of variety should you choose which is welcome and adds an additional layer over the core game, but this is not for everyone and can be quite unforgiving if you’re not suitably levelled even if access is granted early on. Players vie for control of the large map and can undertake side quests here also with the ultimate aim of progressing one’s faction standing and presence on the map.
The Elder Scrolls Online isn’t as smooth an experience as it could be and here’s where events can take a turn for the worse. On numerous occasions you might get disconnected from the servers during a loading screen and booted back to the main menu which is annoying at best. You also might find some NPCs lacking speech or disappearing entirely which is frustrating if you need to talk to a specific person and their name appears but they can’t be seen or interacted with. It’s perhaps to be expected from such an open world massive game, but is still incredibly painful when these things occur. Thankfully the auto save system is quite well implemented so you’re not likely to lose much progress if any.
In terms of visuals, there’s some pleasant locations to explore with a seamless day and night cycle, the odd bit of rain and a wide range of fantasy characters/monsters that look unique. The game’s frame rate generally holds up well enough, although isn’t consistently locked at 30 frames per second which is noticeable when there’s more action on screen. It doesn’t detract though, as the open world and variety in looks certainly make up for the odd judder here and there.
The game’s audio is of a high standard with some excellent music dropping in at opportune moments and what’s also neat is the fact that most of the NPCs you interact with are voiced rather than text based. This is something that could have been scrimped on, even though there are plenty of voices reused over several characters.
Players can sink many hours into The Elder Scrolls Online and then some. As mentioned, the story alone requires players to reach level 50 which is not something you’re going to achieve in a weekend of solid play. In this regard you’ll get your monies worth and if the PVP mode is your calling you can dive into this for as long as you’re willing to fight the good fight for your chosen faction. Players can team up, trade with each other and what’s neat is if you become a dab hand at crafting items then you can live out your fantasies as a top merchant.
If there’s any caveat with the way the game is set up then it has to be surrounding the use of real money to buy extra items. Admittedly these aren’t essential purchases and are merely optional extras, but the asking price is extremely high. Take a lion mount which you can ride instead of the standard horses on offer. This alone costs around £12 and just feels like fleecing those with too much money on their hands. Sure, it makes said items more desirable or limited but the cost is unfathomable for what you’re actually getting.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is a welcome game on consoles and does fulfil its premise of allowing gamers to explore the fantastic world and lore in unison. Whilst the experience is far from perfect and does have its niggles, ultimately it’s fun to play if you’re into gaining levels, looking for new loot and want to show off how powerful your character is amongst peers. If you’re a solo player then there’s still lots to do here, although it does become quite repetitive once the hours start mounting up. Either way, this is a decent game which hopefully will improve over time in light of its disconnects and bugs hampering the experience on occasion.