The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (2014)

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (2014). developed by Zenimax Online Studios, published by Bethesda Softworks

I don't really know how Zenimax managed to fuck this one up. I mean there already was a solid base for a game that would have worked nicely as a base for a MMORPG and that game is Skyrim. When I played Skyrim, I couldn't help but think how well it would have worked as an MMO, as it wasn't much of a single player game. It was fun for a while, but in the end, it was just a sandbox with a terrible story. But no. They had to put in all the trademark annoyances that every unimaginative MMORPG has: a world where you don't really feel that you have any effect over, a combat that is based on pressing a power button and waiting it for to cooldown (though there's also your standard hacking, but using those powers is what it's all about) and obviously the quest structure where you most of the time do mundane shit, because hey, that's how you roll in MMORPG. Why bother with interesting stuff, as collecting items is always fun, right? Right?

I assume there's a story in the Elder Scrolls Online, as it does have a pretty nice CGI movies in the start showing how the Daedric are at it again, this time plunging down huge portal which they use to send out demons. So that's what's going on apparently, but I don't think it really means anything in the grander scheme of things, as just like in any other the Elder Scroll game you spend most of the time doing everything else but concentrating on what passes the main story. I managed to put in around 80 hours before I got bored with the game and I can't honestly say I remember a thing about what the game is actually about.

It is a shame, really, that TESO is so void of any actual ambition of trying to make something else than standard bulk MMORPG, as while the world it's set in isn't winning any points from originality, it is reasonably well designed. It's not necessarily well enough designed to actually fill out the whole huge area of Tamriel, that consists of the many different areas seen in the singleplayer games, but it is well enough designed to at least fool you for a while before you start noticing how the design cuts corners by recycling a couple of interior styles for an example for the buildings.

The combat is what you'd expect from any MMORPG. While you do have a basic attack and block, you also have a load of different skills and powers, which you gain through levelling up. So depending on your character class, you have a different set of skills you can use to dispose of the enemies. And just like in any MMORPG, the combat matters very little in terms of the environmental effect, as the monsters just keep re-spawning, making walking the countryside a tedious task of beating critters if you don't use the stupidly expensive portals to fast travel.

The travelling is one aspect that deserves a mention, as TESO is a relatively large game with huge maps, which take a bit to get from one end to an another. To ease up the travel, you can either buy a mount with real money or use in-game currency to travel between portals you find scattered near important places. But using a portal costs money and after each teleport, the cost to fast travel increases for a while until it's reset to its lower starting position.  The choice to limit the fast travel in this fashion is simply idiotic, making already tedious gameplay even more tedious, as tramping the same locations and beating the same monsters gets old real fast.

I was trying to think other things to say about TESO, but then I thought what's the point. While it is a perfectly adequate game, it also feels like it's also too happy aping up things other people had done before it. So if you want to play a MMORPG that could technically be any other of its kind, but set in the world of the Elder Scrolls, there's really no other choice.

As a final note, TESO does have a monthly sub option, but that's fully optional and provides you with a steady influx of currency you can buy in-game stuff.