Why not just like that, Bethesda?


Six years ago, The Elder Scrolls ventured into the genre of online role-playing games and has now taken a permanent and well-deserved place there. Until then, however, it was a bumpy road. Alexander Gehlsdorf looks back.

ESO - The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

Cheers in Lankwitz. When I was still living as a penniless student on the outskirts of Berlin, Bethesda made me particularly happy in January 2014. I got the chance to participate in the beta test of The Elder Scrolls Online. What I was especially looking forward to back then was returning to Morrowind, my favorite part of the Elder Scrolls saga to this day.

As soon as the beta gates opened, I consequently joined the Ebonheart Pact as Dunmer, fought my way through the tutorial and was finally back … in Morrowind. Mind you, I was on the Morrowind mainland, but just Not on the iconic island of Vvardenfell, which I took so dearly ten years ago.

So for the rest of the beta phase I searched the coast, walking towards each boat full of anticipation, only to find that they would never leave. Further research into the official announcements confirmed my concern: Vvardenfell was not part of The Elder Scrolls Online. That alone took a lot of wind out of my sails.

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The problems did not end there, however. The fact that The Elder Scrolls Online relied on a subscription model was already out of date in 2014 and the technical problems, which not only I had to struggle with, did the rest. The official launch of The Elder Scrolls Online in April 2014 finally took place without me.

A second chance

That not only I was disappointed with the original state of the online role-playing game hope was made clear by the numerous improvements, revisions and additions that have been made to the game since then. Because to anticipate: In the last six years The Elder Scrolls Online has developed into one of the best representatives of the genre.

That’s not to say that everything about The Elder Scrolls Online was problematic from the start, on the contrary. In some aspects, the game already had a clear lead over the competition in 2014, above all in terms of Quest design and full soundtrack. But the shortcomings were particularly noticeable in comparison.

Probably the biggest Achilles verse in the game was removed just under a year later: the subscription model. From then on, everyone was allowed to play without monthly fees. However, those who owned larger bags were still allowed to take out a subscription, which is rewarded not only with premium currency and experience points, but with larger digital bags, i.e. a more extensive inventory. A great compromise, from which World of Warcraft can finally learn a slice.

In October 2016, the game finally received what is probably the most important revision to date, if not a general overhaul. One Tamriel removed the boundaries between factions, areas and, thanks to level scaling, also the character levels. From then on everyone could throw themselves into exactly the adventure they wanted most. The basic structure of The Elder Scrolls Online was finally at the level that most of the people had wished for at launch. The only thing missing now was additional content. And that came too.

Meanwhile, vampires and werewolves can also be played in The Elder Scrolls Online.

Return to Vvardenfell

Online role-playing games usually have a problem with new content. As in World of Warcraft, these usually expand the endgame, so offer more food for established players. For casual gamers or newcomers, however, the additional content is a long way off.

The Elder Scrolls Online takes a different, more accessible route with the so-called chapters. On the one hand, the new content can be approached by high-level veterans, but alternatively it also represents a starting point for new players. The test for the example was the 2017 chapter Morrowind, which contained exactly what I wanted from The Elder Scrolls Online!

So I was finally able to visit Balmora, cross the island of Vvardenfell by mud strider and chat with my old buddy Vivec. But also off the island a lot had happened. To date, several new classes such as the Guardian and the Necromancer have expanded the game, well-known guilds such as the Assassins and the Thieves have been submitted and the successful chapter principle has been repeated several times in the form of Summerset, Elsweyr and Greymoor.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, The Elder Scrolls Online has therefore blossomed into a flagship MMORPG over the past six years. This gives hope that the disappointing Fallout 76 will undergo a similar transformation in the long term. The latest Wastelanders update was already a step in the right direction. Only one question has to be allowed: Why not like this right away?

Have you explored all corners of Tamriel, already taken a look at one of the thousand books? Test your knowledge of The Elder Scrolls in our quiz “How well do you know …?”

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