Elder Scrolls Online Beta Raises Questions & Concerns

Elder Scrolls Online Beta Raises Questions & Concerns

Another weekend rolled around, another Elder Scrolls Online Beta weekend that is, and I have still yet to be convinced. My second weekend within the beta left me with more unanswered questions, mostly surrounding to whom I could, if I wanted to, recommend the game. The Beta weekends have left me with hugely differing opinions on the content of the game, but my concerns about the subscription model and its target audience have remained the same.

The actual game (at least what I have played in the Beta) is fine. It’s exactly what you would expect from a modern Elder Scrolls game: large open areas, a natural living world, quest lines full of lore. It’s all there, just with a slightly MMO-like twist–and that’s where the concerns begin.

I often found myself enjoying my time with Elder Scrolls Online up until I was reminded it would be running a subscription model. There’s nothing to truly dislike about the game’s content, because after all, it feels like a direct follow up to Skyrim (putting storyline and time setting aside, of course), but that’s just the issue. Why would people pay monthly for a game that feels exactly like Skyrim?


Also, at times I had to check zone chat to remind myself I was playing an MMO, because there wasn’t much content that required me to team up with players, which consequently led to the feeling I was simply playing a singleplayer Elder Scrolls game. There’s the standard quests that are used as MMO filler, which involve going to one place to kill X amount of a certain monster and return, but they just feel out of place. In the modern MMO market, the likes of Guild Wars 2 have managed to merge the traditional grind quests with the player’s natural actions. It’s a mystery how ESO doesn’t even attempt anything like this and instead sticks to traditions of the MMO genre.

Elder Scrolls Online feels like it’s trying to be its own thing, but is ultimately restrained by trying to conform to the MMO staples. For every quest line that has an enjoyable story attached to it, there are three grind quests. This identity crisis starts to cause questions over the subscription model; are people willing to pay each month to play a game that feels like a co-op mode of Skyrim rather than an MMO set in the Elder Scrolls universe?

On a personal level, I found my time in the Betas to be decent, but I was rarely impressed. To put this into context, I recall being impressed numerous times in the Beta–and full release–of Guild Wars 2 after only an hour of playing. Elder Scrolls Online, in comparison, feels very stuck in the dated MMO ways. The game is packed with lore and familiar mechanics and themes seen in Skyrim and Oblivion, thus making it appealing to fans of the franchise, but are these same fans willing to drop money every month to play?

i7aZSThere has always been a divide when it comes to subscription-based MMOs, because it’s hard to appeal to those who have no past experiences in pay-to-play MMOs. The Beta weekends have been fun, but my question remains: who is this game created for and aimed at? MMO fans? Elder Scrolls fans? The lack of fresh ideas in the MMO side of the game could easily leave fans of the genre feeling rather jaded early on. Elder Scrolls fans may find it hard to justify the monthly investment as well as the initial purchase.

In my mind, Elder Scrolls Online may run into similar issues that Bioware’s Old Republic ran into: a successful launch with rapid player growth in the first few months, only to see a steep decline later on, resulting in the adoption of a free-to-play model. However, the console versions of Elder Scrolls Online could be the key to the game’s success; after all, it’s the first major MMO to hit consoles. There’s still a sense of risk with attacking the console market, as most of its players wont have much experience (perhaps even knowledge) with MMOs, though regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Elder Scrolls Online fairs both on PC and consoles. Supporting the game will be key to its lasting appeal. Establishing a player base will also be vital, butt with a subscription model, I fear the latter may be an issue.




Sean Halliday


  1. PenGun
    February 14, 2014, 9:44 am

    You did not go to Cyrodiil and participate in the madness there? Pity, best part of the game. Immense fun, I’ll remember the pitiful zone chat “wessa gonna die” as the AD zerg showed up and overran our asses, for a long time.

  2. Marius
    February 28, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Nothing against you, but do you play a lot of other mmo’s? It’s not that mmo’s ways are dated, it’s just a set formula. You talk as if Guild Wars 2 was so different, but it really wasn’t. Instead of talking to a npc and get a quest, you just go to different areas and dynamic events happen. It just cut one piece out of the mmo diet, yet became even more stale because all the dynamic events are just repeats over and over. I found GW2 nice at first, but the same old same old just like every other mmo, just in a slightly different format.

    You are paying monthly fees for better content. I’m sure they could of made a multiplayer patch for Skyrim which would of been nice. Co-op Bleak Falls Barrow for instance, but how many times can you do that before that gets boring? You generally pay monthly fees for new content to come out. If you choose to eat up all the content within a few days and complain about nothing to do, it isn’t necessarily the game. We have yet to see how much content Elder Scrolls Online will have at launch to be worried about this.

    You can’t really compare this to The Old Republic, yet. That suffered from bad game design and poor decisions. I don’t think ESO will have blown the amount of money that The Old Republic did so it shouldn’t fall hard to go to a free to play model. Elder Scrolls Online isn’t the first major mmo on consoles, Final Fantasy and even World of Tanks could be considered. They are both doing very decently.

    I honestly don’t see myself playing Elder Scrolls Online unless it’s super rich with lore. It’s the only new thing it will bring to the table and you kind of expect that from an elder scrolls game. If the lore is there, I will gladly pay a monthly fee as long as the core game and multiplayer elements are there as well. It’s not about follow the generic mmo formula and reinventing it. It depends on how well they do it and how well they mold it in Elder Scrolls fashion. They will defiantly have a strong following regardless. Just have to see how they handle it within the next few months after launch and how well their multiplayer and content is.

    • Sean Halliday
      March 3, 2014, 7:42 pm

      I’ve played every major MMO release since 2004. I can’t sit there and reference literally every MMO released in the last 5 year bud. I used Guild Wars 2 as it’s the most recent reference point.

  3. Avid MMOer
    March 4, 2014, 3:47 pm

    I too have played almost every MMO that has been released since around 2000. I found the Elder Scrolls Online to somewhat fun, but definitely had an outdated feel to it. I am less concerned with the lack of detail as I figure this is only beta and it will change. However, the combat system feels over simplified to say the least.

    On a final note, there are other “major MMO’s” that are releasing on the next-gen consoles before ESO. So I would disagree with the comment about the consoles possibly being their savior. For example, FFXIV will release in April and already has a robust PS3 and PC subscription base. I have also played that game and would say that it is far and away better than my experience with ESO. I would find it extremely hard to pay for subscription to a dated feeling MMO that lacks depth.

    • Sean Halliday
      March 5, 2014, 2:43 am

      I honestly think the PC version will struggle after a initial good few months. The reason i stated the ps4/Xbox one version being a potential savior was due to the players on both system not having experiences with MMO’s, thus EOS would/could seem like the next best thing since sliced bread. I see the game going Free-to-play within 12 months, but that’s a judgement I’ll post once I’ve tried at least a months worth of the full release. Thanks for reading the post though bud and commenting, really appreciate it.

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