Having already put some serious time into the PC version this is a return to familiar ground for myself and many others out there who took the opportunity to transfer their characters across, now joining the fight against Molag Bal with hundreds and thousands of new players, all keen to learn what delights the world has on offer.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited starts off like any other Elder Scrolls game, which is testament to the details of this game, with your character, nameless and a powerless prisoner of Molag Bal, the main evil protagonist of the game. For what is touted as a huge MMO the focus initially is in your single player experience, setting you up with the basics in fighting and evasion techniques with those who have played an Elder Scrolls game before finding it all very familiar with its real time first and third person fighting mechanics.
When you finally get to wander freely around the world of Tamriel you quickly notice the new elements, mainly the huge flow of online avatars in all sorts of shapes and sizes, instantly creating a hustling and bustling world, each player running around carrying out whatever quest or errand in their to-do list. With so many people on screen at once it can be a little confusing, with certain hub NPCs like banks or crafting tables often over crowded but with some decent way pointing you soon find your way round this huge world, quest markers appearing all over the place, with conversing to the locals unlocking plenty of missions that tend to be the standard fare of defeating certain baddies or collecting items but credit to the designers, the stories and characters that you interact with make them constantly feel fresh and exciting, feeling like you are really making a difference, especially when you overhear crowds of people chatting about your great deeds.
Initially even though the world you participate in is crammed with other online players, the quests you carry out are yours alone, with you earning experience and loot with every kill you make. That’s not to say you are on your own though as for the majority of the game at any time other players can work side by side with you. It is in this open online world that the most of the fun can be had early on, helping out one another and questing and adventuring to slowly unlock all of the goodies available. The communications have been streamlined for the console versions and personally they are all the better for it, with a selection of quick emoticons to use plus a rather cool game chat function that works on the proximity of players, making it easy for adventurers to rally troops for a group raid by just walking up and chatting to someone.
The initial experience is quite a patient one, having only a few skills, a limited inventory space and a handful of weapons, but as ever, levelling up is a vital part of Elder Scrolls with level points being spent on magic, stamina or health and then skill points which can then be spent on creating a very unique character. Aside from you basic weapon attacks you also have a few special power slots that you can unlock with your skill points, with myself playing as a mage I was able to unlock summoning powers, cast lighting and also project a shard of crystal to knock over enemies. It is not all offensive and defensive as these skill points are vital in your character progression in crafting, with alchemy and blacksmithing amongst others requiring skills to unlock perks. As you slowly progress through the missions you will be collecting a rather large haul of loot and this is where the largest omission from previous Elder Scrolls games appears, the hoarding; something I probably overdid in previous games, constantly being over encumbered and slowly making my way across fields to a safe house to store away items and its missing here, with a limited bank and personal storage (can be upgraded), I found myself often getting rid of items out of necessity to grab something a little better. Gone are the days of picking up a downed enemies clothing and weapons and using them yourself, as now you are required to mine, collect and grab materials from shrubs and crates which you can then return to the crafting stations to experiment and build and though I find hoarding a large part of my personal Elder Scrolls experience, the improved crafting does make up for it, allowing you to create with ease a huge library of weapons, armour, potions and enchantments to enhance your weaponry. Overall the main world of Tamriel is all very nice and polite with most people helping one another, so for those looking to fight against as many of their friends as possible there is only one place for you, The Alliance War.
As you level up more and more will become available to you, with a couple of milestones opening up the game even more, the first of which is at level 10 where The Alliance War first appears, a huge real time battlefield set in the capital of Tamriel, Cyrodiil. With three army’s battling for land, each has their own corner of the map, with their own Elder Scroll which is the source of their powers and scattered in-between are castles and farms. The goal of each army is to siege the enemy strongholds and eventually take their Elder Scroll, though this is no easy feat as you can have up to 200 online players battling over land, which is a real spectacle to behold, especially when you also have trebuchets and other siege weaponry to lay waste on the castles, though all is not lost as defenders can also call in boiling hot oil to pour on raiders using battering rams below. Though you can enter at level 10 you are massively at a disadvantage, with most players ranking well over you but there are a few helpful side quests to carry out like scouting and bounty hunts, earning you extra cash to spend at your barracks so you can bring siege equipment in and purchase specific PvP (player versus player) armour and items. Just the sheer scale of the battles that you participate in here are fantastic and are a real draw once you have levelled up enough.
Back in the more friendly side of Tamriel and after a bit more levelling up there are even specific team dungeons you can raid, earning specific weaponry and armour. These dungeon raids allow four players to take on specific missions as a team and this is where the classic Trinity of MMO’s appears, with players fitting into three specific roles, damage dealers, healers and tanks who can take loads of damage and steer clear of the other players and even though these overused MMO terms are used here I have found that they are not totally necessary and are more of a guide as any player can be either at any time, utilising their own equipment, with my personal experiences completing early raids without any tanks and just relying on good team work.
Evan at over a year old this games looks and plays great, with The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited being exactly what console gamers have been waiting for, an Elder Scrolls game full of familiar lore to even more familiar voices, this is the online version that we have been waiting for so long.
+ Perfect transition to console
+ It is an Elder Scrolls game, online
+ Looks fantastic
+ Crafting is enjoyable and rewarding
+ Plenty on offer for solo or group players