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The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited - Console Preview

Before I begin, I'd like to explain that I previewed/played the Xbox One version of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited beta. So any and all problems I found within the beta may be resolved before the game's official release date of June 9, 2015.

The Elder Scrolls Online is developed by ZeniMax Online and published by Bethesda Softworks. Because ESO is being developed by a new developer rather than Bethesda Game Studios, the original developers. For this reason the fans are, and have been worried about the quality of the game. The Elder Scrolls is a series that is held near and dear to many people's hearts, including my own. So how are ZeniMax Online doing so far? 

Sadly, you cannot configure the Xbox One's controls to your liking. You are stuck using the default control scheme. The only thing you can change is which spell is configured to which face button. This is pretty strange considering ESO's control default control scheme is closer to Call of Duty's rather than the last two Elder Scrolls games. 

That being said, I found the controls to be fine. I never found myself tripping over the controller trying to remember which button does what. You still use the left stick to move, the right stick to move the camera, Left Trigger blocks, and Right attacks. Those are the controls that need to stay the same to keep the game playable, and they are the same. 

I couldn't shake the feeling of how strange the first person camera feels. It feels....wrong. Like it isn't meant to be in the game. It's clear the developers put more time and polish into the third person camera, which works well.

The graphics for ESO on Xbox One can be very pretty at times, especially far off vistas. Standing on a mountain over looking Tamriel is a good example of that. ESO definitely has the look of a Bethesda Game Studios Elders Scrolls entry. The textures are a bit of a different story though. 

If you run up to an NPC or any texture in the world too fast then you have to wait a second or two for that texture to fully load. This is especially apparent when you run up to an NPC to open up dialogue and turn in a quest. And even with the texture fully loaded it isn't as pretty as the Elder Scrolls has been before. 

Though, I suppose this is excusable considering it is an MMO with a huge world and dozens of players with you at times. If ZeniMax Online tried to implement Skyrim level graphics into a game of this magnitude then it would more than likely run very poorly. Fortunately, ESO runs rather smoothly. One thing I have to commend ESO for is that there are no load times going into major cities. Similar to Morrowind. This was minor annoyance in Oblivion and Skyrim so it is nice to see it ironed out in ESO. The load times going into buildings is near instantaneous, which on console is a rarity so it's a nice touch. 

Combat also takes a noticeable step back from Skyrim. No longer do sword strikes have weight to them and attacks no longer feel like they connect even when they actually do. The combat feels "floaty" again; like in Morrowind and Oblivion. I also can't shake the feeling of the combat being kind of sluggish and not as responsive as it used to be.

Magic also isn't as streamlined as it was in Skyrim. Your melee attacks are interrupted to use any magic attacks which are mapped to the face buttons. I found myself not using magic attacks at all really. Strangely enough, magic doesn't seem to be as important in ESO as it was in previous entries even though the game still encourages you to play with a magic style. Though, this didn't bother me very much because I rarely use magic in Elder Scrolls games; a lot of players still enjoy playing in the Mage class, but here it feels watered down.

With all that being said, it's clear what the developers were going for. So here's my message to ZeniMax Online, "Stop trying to be World of Warcraft. Not every MMO has to be WoW."   The signs begin to show as soon as you start creating your character. You have to choose an alliance and you can only play as certain races within that alliance. 

In there attempts of being WoW, ZeniMax Online, have watered down the Elder Scrolls experience to the point where it, sadly, feels like a generic MMO with an Elder Scrolls coat of paint. 

Some things are strangely taking out of ESO that were in previous Elder Scrolls game. Like being able to loot all bodies, not in ESO. Only certain bodies can be looted. I suppose it's to help preserve the economy of the game so players can't farm the same types of enemies for hours. Not being able to read every book is gone too. Now, you can only read "lore books" which, yes, are still nice to read if you are into the lore, but there aren't many of those. Also, how is "The Lusty Argonian Maid" in ESO when it was written by an Imperial in the Third Era? I know this sounds like I'm really nitpicking, but it just furthers my concern with how canon this game is when the developers can't even get Bethesda's original lore right. 

You can't loot every object in the world either anymore. So no more stealing goblets and plates to sell for a few gold each. Strangest yet, no more sitting down on chairs and benches. Why this was taking out? I have no idea. Why couldn't the developers go for a more original experience rather than a WoW clone? It's the Elder Scrolls. It was one of the most original games back in the day.

If you aren't an Elder Scrolls fan, this isn't going to be the game that converts you. I am, however, a huge Elder Scrolls fanboy so I can still see myself getting lost in this game for hours upon hours when it officially releases despite these flaws. But again, like I said, this was a beta so everything I just said could be completely different when the final game launches. Maybe, and hopefully, all these issues and concerns are ironed out in the final product. 

I also recorded some gameplay if you are interested in watching the beta in action:

A big thanks to ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda Softworks for allowing me to participate in the limited access beta of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited for Xbox One.


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