I’m glad that you’ve joined me today to talk about “The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited”. Developed by Zenimax (online) Studios, and published by Bethesda Softworks, is an open world MMORPG, which strove to bridge the gap between cutting-edge role-playing experience and multiplayer community. Their attempt to do so, in my opinion, was not all for naught. It was rich in lore, which honestly is the most redeeming factor in the online Elder Scrolls equation. Granted I do consider it a “redeeming factor” the effort put in by Zenimax and Bethesda is not lost on me. The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (TESO) is a great game. Had I not had such a rich life exploring Tamriel, I probably wouldn’t be critiquing this game.
A proper video-game is not just a time-sucking vortex of labor-intensive satisfaction. It is the epitome of a modern adaptation of media. Nigh five hundred years ago, Shakespeare was considered the summit of media. Around his climb to fame, in fact, is roundabout the time the word media came to be. It evolved into standard literature, from there to film; and with the endless possibilities of modern technology, media has met a new peak yet incomprehensible, called video gaming.
Bethesda has done two very important things for themselves since the late ‘90’s:
1: They helped shape the future of video games in the sense that they took and refined the concept of a particular genre—the RPG, which allows a player to loosely enter a fantasy role to join the character in a wondrous adventure—something to capture the creativity of the masses with an outlet yet unprecedented before in the world. There is many a person who has a deep-seated creativity which can’t express itself of its own devices. The RPG concept taps into the mind of certain creative persons by allowing a context in which the innovative mind can build upon itself without restraint—a world in which someone can do and create what they want without the restrictions of “what if?” or “why?”.
2: They built a prolific foundation upon which they have built the future of their company. The fact that they’ve gone from simple 2.5D (industry term for precursor to legitimate 3D: 2D images in sequence to emulate a 3D perspective) to three dimensional games that convey more than just that. Make no mistake, I don’t mean to say that half a dimension of difference is the cutting-edge market in the world today. It goes without saying that their earlier games were precursors and hold similar characteristics, but future, more ambitious projects, such as “Morrowind”, really start to complete the whole ‘TES feel’. This is something which may or may not be already defined, but I coin it for the sake of this article as the very personal sense of atmosphere and situational ingratiation that the Elder Scrolls games so perfectly encapsulate their fans in.
You may think that I digress, but I assure you, the legacy that Bethesda has left behind is every bit as important as any analysis I can give you on this online installment in and of itself. In many ways this game was a let-down, but there’s too many ways in which the game shined through the impending curtain of disappointment that an online TES installment had to fill the shoes of. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one that put TESO on a pedestal. It had to pass a trial by fire to be accepted by me, a through-and-through TES fan. I mentioned earlier that this game has a ridiculous amount of lore. This game is chronologically placed in the second era of time in the TES universe (The world of Nirn, in which previous installments delved as early as third era). For reference, before eras existed was the period in which matter began to gain a grounding. I mean that literally. It wasn’t until around the beginning of the first era that matter ended up taking a more relatable state (allegedly). After that point is when recorded history begins, hence, the dawn of man, so to speak. After this point, the humanoid organisms which took supremecy over the world, thus making a semblance of society, could only reflect upon the past in the most ambiguous of senses. They said, in simple terms, that there was only light and dark. Once these forces interacted there could not be any equal and opposite reaction as would be the laws of physics, and thusly, reality was born.
This second era period of time was extremely important because it is the first in which people began to realize the idea. Once they consider it a second era, it only goes up from there. Human(oid)kind now holds the paradigm that this species is in a series of progression. This, of course, is all speculation and not officially confirmed by the developers, but I believe this aspect to be important in the density of your atmospheric awareness. This atmospheric awareness is my main key point in the TES feel I mentioned earlier.
All of these points are vital in you understanding my point, yet I must admit, at this point I have digressed a little. However, I need you, the reader, to have the most accurate understanding possible. Nonetheless, I progress to my more specific review of TESO.
The qualities and simplifications of mechanics necessary to producing an MMO definitely take away from the TES feel. I loved the way that they made the game faux-free roam. I love the free roam aspect of the previous installments, but the way that they managed to make the MMO and still hold that staple of the TES feel is an achievement on its own, but the way they crafted your leveling to only work effectively at a certain pace that they set, is impressive to say the least. They had me going marker to marker, province to province, slowly crawling across the map just to become high enough level to hit the next block of towns/dungeons.
They sort of made it impossible to pick my own pace, yet still put me in a free-roam world, which in all honesty, probably was the only way they could go about the situation, having giant footsteps to fall into. On top of that, everywhere, there were small tidbits of backstory scattered across the land. I remember once exploring the mainland of Morrowind, I stumbled upon a dead body in a conflict-ridden pocket of the region. He clearly put up quite the fight, upon later reflection. Inside the guard tower, I found a handwritten note from his superior in the Ebonhart Pact authorizing his advancement in the ranks, effective on his leave from his post. This soldier never made it to advancement due to his early forced retirement-by-blade. Its certain little stories like this which make this game worth all the while and more.
Respawning monsters, boring dungeons and generic gear aside, this game is just so rich in keeping to the TES formula that I can’t earnestly give it a bad review. Especially when they spice up the gear with full armor customization; every single piece of armor can even be colored with three separate color layers. I feel like Bethesda really realized what turning their game into an online game would mean, and took measures to combat the disappointment. I believe they did job in keeping their shortcomings in check. The hit detection was great—there were even wide-range or arc-based attacks that worked fluidly and without fail.
All-in-all “The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited” is a great game. It caters to two groups of people: Those casual gamers in search of a fulfilling adventure, and die-hard Elder Scrolls fans who wish to better see the world they’ve committed so much adoration and enthusiasm to. So in simpler terms, I guess you could say this game has something for everyone, so I highly recommend you play it, at least to try. I can’t in good faith give this game a perfect score, because it’s no TES 6, it’s simply an installment into a franchise to further enrich the universe they’ve been diligently kindling for nearly the past three decades. It’s an homage to the Journeyman scholar of Tamriel. It relies on the concept of art, in the basest definition of media.
It is a mix of design, literature, and collective content. This game has worked its way to the backburner of my extensive list of priorities, yet it still holds a burner, which is something I can’t say for other games I’ve burned through and set down. If there’s anything this game does with flying colors, it’s holding your attention in one way or the other, even if gameplay fails you. I give this game a solid nine out of ten.