The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 23.11.2015

Review for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on Xbox One

When The Elder Scrolls Online first launched in the summer of 2014 it was a subscription-based online experience based on the hit franchise of the same name. The response to a subscription-based model did not sit well with consumers who already had to pay for the game; therefore, after about six months, Bethesda restructured its product without the need for a subscription as The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. Can this behemoth of a RPG finally deliver the hopes of a multiplayer Elder Scrolls?

As people played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in the summer of 2013, one thing always came across conversations: "What if it was multiplayer?" It's not a bad idea, since the vast openness and freedom combined with character building would lead to all kinds of possibilities in an Elder Scrolls. The truth, however, is much more grim than anyone could have expected, since The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is the kind of title everyone thought they wanted until they actually got it. Unbeknownst to everyone, the nightmare of their life had yet to begin until they started playing it. When this MMORPG was subscription-based, it was almost like a warning to let gamers know the horrors that awaited them.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on Xbox One

As per usual in any Elder Scrolls iteration, it all begins with a character creation screen, where jobs/classes are picked, and hours are spent trying to make the least ugly character possible. Bethesda has yet to make a visually appealing game, with characters that don't look like they fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. It is pretty remarkable how grotesque and unappealing the graphics are, which manage to somehow be worse than the past games, which were already known for not being exactly the best in terms of visuals. Every character, along with their animations, are unbelievably jilted and hilariously bad, and there is never a moment when The Elder Scrolls Online ever looks natural or even plays smooth, since the frame rate is all over the place and never stable.

After a character is finally made, a lot of exposition gets unravelled, letting the story play out in the typical dungeon escape sequence this series is known for. This is where the devotion to Skyrim becomes apparent in how the developers just wanted to make a similar title, but with online multiplayer. From the interface and the way characters are built, it should feel at home to anyone who is familiar with the fifth Elder Scrolls game, since they are very similar, but with certain aspects that evoke more popular MMORPGs, like cool-downs, racial abilities, etc. The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited does, indeed, have multiplayer, as everyone was hoping, yet it couldn't have been done more poorly. Many of its aspects feel broken and easily exploitable; from the bizarre, and utterly shattered way the game prioritises attack animations and wildly inconsistent hit-boxes, the whole package comes across as incomplete. All of this, coupled with the game being in a constant state of stuttering, will only induce migraines and frustration.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on Xbox One

Nothing ever feels like it gels properly and this is further illustrated with how the story ties in with the game as a whole. Like with any Elder Scrolls, the player character is always some kind of messianic hero who is destined to save the world, but in an MMORPG like this and with the way it's executed, this comes off as extremely laughable, since every player in Tamriel actually becomes the destined hero that will save the world. The experience is quite surreal, making the world feel like some kind of weird Renaissance fair, where every patron is called king by some programmed flunkie who is just trying to make ends meet. It's almost like visiting a "Medieval Times" restaurant where all the guests like to pretend that they are grander than they actually are.

In this kind of game, the story just becomes a huge farce, and the fact the name given to the player character is always the Xbox Live gamertag doesn't help for role-playing. Even while playing with other users, the community has become so focused on meta-gaming and reaching the end game content, to the point where getting in parties results in constantly being shunted forward as quickly as possible. With so many "saviours of the world" running around, it really does betray the feeling of actual role-playing, and since the designers felt they had to placate fans of both the franchise and MMORPGs in general, this product is unable to find a focus, and, therefore, questing with people is an unmitigated mess.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on Xbox One

Much of it can be played solo, but the current state of the community has almost no communication at all. Other users will blindly send party requests constantly with no regard, and even in a party there really isn't much of a difference in the gameplay dynamic. This is probably tying back to the fact that Bethesda was trying to balance everything for solo play, but even during solo, enemies still take too long to kill, and the down time between fights for healing just destroys any sense of flow. In a team nobody ever helps anyone - it's just others cluttering the screen with their statistics. It is also worth mentioning that the Skyrim-like interface does not do this MMORPG any favours, since it's too clunky to navigate while adventuring, and even then, all the "quests" are the stock fetch-quests or "go here and kill this" kind of generic ingenuity that comes with most MMOs. It's pretty difficult to get invested in any of the flavour text or repetitive NPC dialogue, as it has such a strong disconnect with all the action in this adventure.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is probably one of the biggest and most expensive disasters that Bethesda has ever made. The game does do some things that are worth mentioning that won't make people want to stab their face repeatedly, like how it does not waste any time after the initial introductory sequence, or how vast and open-ended it can play out. The staggering and massive open worlds (divided up into islands), can sometimes feel exciting to see, even if it all looks hideous, since they are legitimately filled with content and real points of interest; the dungeons do have some compelling layouts and passages in them, and lead to some sense of mystery and allure; and the character building does lead to some interesting abilities that would normally be quite useful in an Elder Scrolls title. None of this is worth the nightmare of actually having to slog through this ordeal that never ends, though.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

2/10
Rated 2 out of 10

Very Bad

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited tries to do many things, yet it is good at none of them. In most respects, it is just downright horrible at everything, with the exception of having a large and vast world to explore. It's ugly and terrible to play, making it very hard to recommend to anyone who hopes for a thoughtful or polished game. Perhaps people who crave grinding and open-world gameplay with friends might enjoy this, but there are much better options out there. Some might just like the fantasy/medieval setting and that might be enough, but this is by no means a quality product. It is understandable that Bethesda couldn't please everyone with such an ambitious concept, but it should have tried to at least please someone, as opposed to every possible player ever. When The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited tries to be both a solo game and a MMORPG the result is a night terror that causes sweating that can't be stopped.

Developer

ZeniMax Online Studios

Publisher

Bethesda Softworks

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  2/10

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   

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