The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 06.07.2015 1

Review for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on PlayStation 4

The Elder Scrolls series has always had a fiercely loyal fan-base, the size of which exploded with Skyrim in 2011. The Elder Scrolls Online is not actually developed by the regular studio, Bethesda, with it instead only publishing the title, leaving development to ZeniMax Studios. It was to be ZeniMax's first game and when originally released in 2014 it was not well received. Along with a terrible in-game currency balance, massive bugs including a dupe glitch and a system of micro-transactions that felt like a requirement to play, the game was a severe disappointment. Less than a year after launch, it was announced there would no longer be a subscription fee to play, lots of issues were patched and the game reborn as "Tamriel Unlimited." Now, 14 months later, Tamriel Unlimited has reached Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as a 'Buy to Play' game, but does it address all the issues players had?

The Elder Scrolls series has a lore that is ridiculously deep and complex, and those without experience of playing other titles in the series will find themselves assaulted with terminology and history but, thankfully, the rich and compelling story is one that will entice people into learning more. The Elder Scrolls Online, or ESO, is set 1000 years before Skyrim and sees the world of Tamriel in a state of upheaval. Like many games in the Elder Scrolls series, the lead awakens and starts the journey in a prison, their soul having been stolen by the Daedric prince, Molag Bol. They first have to escape his plane of reality, "Coldharbour," and get back to Tamriel before embarking on a gigantic quest to seat a ruler on a throne, recover their soul, and push back the forces of Molag Bol.

During this time, the iconic Empire of the series is completely outnumbered by the powerful factions that surround it. Their only recourse to not being destroyed is to ask a necromancer for help, a necromancer Oblivion players may find familiar: Mannimarco. Mannimarco has plans of his own, however, secretly working with Molag Bol towards enslaving all of Tamriel. Along with stealing the souls of all the players and many other victims, Molag's forces are using magical anchors with which they plan to pull the world of Tamriel into his Molag's plane of reality. Although a quick summary seems succinct, the full explanation of the story is massive, with many important characters, dense terminology, warring factions and numerous side plots.

The land of Tamriel is split into four factions: the capital of "Cyrodiil" that is ruled by the Empire surrounded by three separate factions, each consisting of three races. First is the Aldmeri Dominion, consisting of the Altmer (High Elves), the Bosmer (Wood Elves), and the cat people the Khajiit. Next are the Ebonheart Pact, who consist of the Dunmer (Dark Elves), the Nords of Skyrim fame, and lizard men Argonians. Then, finally, there is the Daggerfall Covenant, the human factions of the Bretons, and the Redguard, along with the Orcs. Each of these nine races is playable but bound to their faction, unless gamers are willing to pay a little more, as there are a number of micro-transactions to give more choices.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on PlayStation 4

Paying for a special higher priced Imperial edition or purchasing the individual upgrades, it is possible to unlock Imperial as a tenth race to select, which can be bound to any of the three factions. Similarly, the ability for all races to choose any faction they please can be unlocked, which is a useful ability as normally it is possible to only team with others in their own faction, making playing with friends quite restrictive. Regardless of the faction and race chosen, there are four classes to select from - DragonKnight, Nightblade, Templar, or Sorcerer. Much like in the other Elder Scrolls titles, these selections put little restriction on how the things are carried out. Although the four classes have equivalents to the archetypes of Tank, Rogue, Healer, and Mage that doesn't mean that Nightblades will be stuck using Daggers or Bows and Leather armour and a Stave with light armour isn't enforced for Sorcerers. Gamers can choose to be a Templar with a bow and arrow in light armour or a Sorcerer in heavy armour that has put all their skill points into stealth. While each class has unique skills and abilities, there are no gear restrictions, allowing for any combinations of weapon and armour that are available.

Along with the freedom of equipment, the initial character creator is deep with plenty of sliders to customise as much as desired and later in the game there are plenty of unique armour models along with armour dyes available. There are further opportunities later to choose professions and guilds and even the chance to become a Vampire or Werewolf. With eight character slots available there's incentive and options a-plenty to really experiment to see what there is to offer.

For the first time since the first Elder Scrolls release, The Elder Scrolls Arena, all nine provinces of Tamriel are available to be explored. With a land that is richly diverse, from desolate Ashlands of Morrowind to the snowy peaks of Skyrim, there are tropical pirate islands, verdant forests, bleak mountains, and all are filled with unique and fantastical architectures. The world is gargantuan, bigger than Morrowind, bigger than Oblivion, bigger than Skyrim. Bigger than all three combined, actually! Each of the zones available is overflowing with content and with unique characters, so completionists will definitely be investing hundreds and hundreds of hours.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on PlayStation 4

Being an MMO, the emphasis is on a number of key areas: the single-player story, dungeons, and PvP. For the single-player story, the game goes above and beyond with a mass amount of content dedicated to it. ZeniMax has tried to translate the epic level of story from the single-player games here, but sadly it doesn't feel like it quite fits. Part of this is due to the nature of the side-quests as they are, of course, the generic MMO fare - fetch or kill quests. It just clashes with the overall vibe. It's a problem with all MMOs, though, where they began with players who wanted to know the story of every quest and dungeon, and then they quickly become overrun with skipping dialogue and NPC chatter, with everyone wanting a brief summary of what they needed to do and fast so that they could head off to the next and power level to max as quick as possible. That mindset here greatly hampers the experience. The developer has put a lot of time into the lore and the story and it's all really worth experiencing. It's easy to get to the maximum level on the single-player content alone. The main story is massive and spans much of the world, and then there are significant quest chains for the Mage and Warrior guild, along with still more being added. Currently in-game there are hints towards The Dark Brotherhood joining the fray, for instance.

For Dungeons and Raids, there are four different types: Delves, single player instanced dungeons, of which there are over one hundred, and are great story-based encounters that richly reward the player upon completion. Then there are Public Dungeons, instanced dungeon zones that can be entered in groups or solo with numerous players taking part all at once. Private Dungeons are classic MMO-style dungeons where people can take a party into a uniquely generated instance, often with a story around the dungeon. Then, finally, there are Trials, which are the equivalent of raids from other MMOs but with some unique twists.

There are 12 four-player private dungeons, three 12-player trials, and then numerous public dungeons and Delves, adding up to almost 150 instanced dungeon-esque zones. All private dungeons have a minimum level but they then scale to their party's level after that point. Each of the private dungeons also has a veteran mode for higher level players to return to. These are truly challenging versions of the dungeon that require complete attention, quick reflexes, and real teamwork. Finally, for the 12-player trials, thankfully, there is no lock out on them so gamers can keep attempting them, and there are additional bonuses for teams who accomplish them in record times.

The PvP is a real highlight. Players can join once they have reached level 10 and take part in the game's "Alliance War." Guild Wars 2 players will feel right at home with the Alliance War, a mammoth all out war between the three factions across a massive map - take part in massive skirmishes, capture keeps and resources like farms. The Alliance Wars take place for a set amount of time, either 7, 14 or 30 days, and are some of the most fun parts of the experience.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on PlayStation 4

All of the aspects make for a great combined product. After the horrible launch of the first version of the game, many of the complaints about the original have been addressed - most importantly, of course, the numerous bugs, but also players' requested features have been implemented now, for example, the much wanted notoriety system has been added, allowing the player to steal and murder and then have to deal with the consequences. Even with all the fixes, plenty of issues remain, however. The inventory system is simply horrible, for example - it's very limited and can be a nightmare to try and keep on top of, especially with the low starting size. The zones are gigantic but can feel sparse at points, with expanses of nothingness between quest hubs.

Being the console version, there are a number of significant differences and issues that come along with it. Most MMOs have a real issue translating to a controller, for instance. The amount of abilities and spells, along with numerous screens that need to be pulled up on the fly require more than a standard controller can manage. Thankfully, this isn't the case here, and it feels very much like the game was made for a controller. A final note of caution, due to the massive size, it's not all on the Blu-ray, thus there is a significant Day One patch of 15GB required, so players with slower Internet connections can plan to not be playing any time soon after their initial purchase.

For fans who joined the series with Skyrim, there are a lot of similarities in the core gameplay, from exploration to combat. It's something that makes this very easy to slip into right away. Thanks to the lack of a subscription model, those fans who are waiting on the next numbered title in The Elder Scrolls series would find this worth investing in if only to experience the single-player story.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited has taken significant strides to correct the wrongs that plagued its initial release and although there are still a number of issues, they don't massively impact the end product. Admittedly, it has a huge lineage to live up to and when compared to the legendary Skyrim it comes up slightly lacking, but it is still a game that deserves experiencing. Highly ambitious and successful in many places, hopefully it will continue to develop and improve. Thanks to the lack of a subscription, this title is now very much worth purchasing, if only to see what it has to offer.

Developer

ZeniMax Online Studios

Publisher

Bethesda Softworks

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Had I not gotten FF14, I would have picked this up for sure but I barely have the time for one MMO so no way could I have 2.

I think ditching the subscription was for the best with this game to help it sell and build up player numbers.

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