Is the Elder Scrolls Online worth buying or not?

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By Teo Borconi – 21st February 2014
Is the Elder Scrolls Online worth buying or not?

The seems to be among the most controversial topics as of late. With the game’s launch closing in in the 4th of April for the PC (and later in June for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One), a lot of people are debating whether or not the game is worth the hefty price or not. The game is priced at $59.99 for the regular pre-order, and $99.99 for the Imperial Edition. Additionally, a monthly of $14.99 is required to play the game. While PC users don’t have to worry about additional costs, and Sony has confirmed that players won’t need a Playstation Plus to play the game, Xbox One users will have to shed out extra on the Xbox Live service, which will be required for access. Of course, most Xbox One users already have the Xbox Live sub, so that’s not really a drawback, but for those that don’t, the costs add up considerably.

A lot of people are already expecting the Elder Scrolls Online to go free-to-play within the first 6 to 12 months from release. Bethesda and haven’t shown any signs of such a plan however. It all comes down to whether or not users will be willing to shed so much money on a game. So, arriving at the core of the issue, is ESO good enough to justify the costs? I’ll try to answer that as best I can.

eso 2014-02-08 20-02-04-01

ESO’s world looks gorgeous, with varied landscapes and beautiful sights to see and explore!

I’ve been part of the Elder Scrolls Beta for some time now, including the last beta weekend which opened up doors for many people. The thing is, the game has consistently evolved. Compared to the previous betas, the last one was a different experience altogether, and as such, I’ll base my opinions on that one alone. I’ll also state that I’m a long-time MMORPG player, but I’ve also been a fan of the Elder Scrolls universe, and have played the living hell out of Morrowind and (Oblivion not so much). Based on that, I went into the beta as a member of both sides, the singleplayer Elder Scrolls fan, and the MMORPG player that needed something new.

Character Creation

Creating your character is pretty straightforward. You get to choose one of the three factions (Aldmeri Dominion, Ebonheart Pact or Daggerfall Covenant), each having 3 distinct races. Those that pre-order will overcome this limitation and will have access to any race under any faction. The character customization aspect is solid, from the obvious variety in hairstyles, to more advanced settings, like eyebrow, chin or complexity settings. It’s a solid character creation system, similar to the one in Skyrim, and you can certainly mingle with it for quite some time. Overall, that aspect of the game felt spot-on, so the starting impression was good. On to the game, you’re set in a dungeon from which you’ll obviously escape. The story isn’t revolutionary here, and the first area serves as a tutorial, as you’d expect. The first major choice you’re faced with is picking a weapon. Regardless of your race or class, you’re allowed to pick any weapon. And this brings me to a main point…

Skills and build flexibility

As I’ve previously mentioned, you’re not constrained in what weapons you use. The same applies for armor. MMORPGs have gotten us accustomed to some limitations, like mages wearing cloth armor or tanks using swords and shields. Well, you can throw that concept out the window from the first minute. If you want to play a mage in heavy armor and a huge battleaxe, you can. In the same way, you can choose to play a Dragonknight (one of the 4 available classes, and primarily a tank class) with a staff and cloth armor. The options are there, the rest is up to you. Is playing such a class viable? Perhaps, but it was hard to tell given the limitations of leveling the beta featured. There are certainly some combinations that are more viable than others, but flexibility is definitely there.

eso 2014-02-08 20-02-27-07

My Templar was anything but conventional, wearing medium armor and focusing on dual-wielding!

In order to make sure your choices around what weapon to use and what class or race to play don’t leave you with an utterly useless character, you’ll have to do some reading and thinking. Reading what skills do and understanding the benefits and drawbacks of certain weapons or armors is pretty important to build a solid class. That being said, the game will allow you to respec once you hit level 20, so in case you’ve screwed up, you’ll have the option to re-build your character. Speaking of skills, there’s a great variety. Each weapon has a distinctive skill-line that can be upgraded, and each class has 3 unique skill trees. Then there are racial skills, world skills, crafting skills and a lot more. In this regard, the Elder Scrolls Online does well, by any and all standards. So how do those skills act in…

Combat

This is where things start getting controversial. The combat system is…rather odd. Some people seem to love it, others outright hate it. The gist of it is this: You get a total of 6 skill slots in your hot-bar, 5 regular skill slots and 1 ultimate skill slot. Additionally, you’re getting another slot for consumables, such as magika or health potions. And that’s pretty much it. Compared to MMORPGs like or Star War: , where you have 3 or more 12-slot quick-bars filled with skills and items, it definitely seems too little. In fact, it seems a lot like Diablo 3′s hot-bar setup. Of course, at level 15, you get to wear a secondary weapon, which activates a secondary hot-bar, granting you a total of 12 skill slots. Still not a lot, but it’s an improvement.

This means that you’ll carefully have to select what skills you’re leveling. Simply investing in everything you can is not an option, as you’ll end up with more skills than you can actually use. Does this make combat dull and repetitive? Not quite. For my first few levels, I admit, I was bored in combat. Enemies die rather easily, there’s not a lot of variety involved, and you’re rarely met with a challenge. This is probably why many players testing the Elder Scrolls Online have complained about a dull starting period. However, things get considerably more difficult once you pass the level 10 mark. Enemies start posing a real threat, and I’ve even encountered a quest that I could simply not complete by myself.

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Different areas of the game have different styles, reflecting the cultures living within.

The first party-based dungeon isn’t a walk in the park either. You’ll have to learn the boss mechanics, learn to dodge, and learn to block properly. Managing your resources (magika or stamina) becomes crucial, and you’re suddenly playing a different game. Combat doesn’t feel boring anymore, and your mistakes will be severely punished. I can’t stress how often I died at a boss-fight, simply because I didn’t manage my stamina well enough, and found myself unable to roll away to safety when the inevitable AOE of the boss finally came. After awhile, I started paying more attention and by the end of the beta, I was dying a lot less. My perception of the combat has changed though, and I can’t wait to see what challenges lie at higher levels.

That being said, combat doesn’t have the same feeling as in Skyrim. Your hits don’t seem to have too much of an impact on enemies, and hit-boxes can be frustrating at times. There are numerous occasions when you’re whacking away at your opponent, but you’re hitting thin air. There’s definitely work needed in the combat area, and I honestly hope Zenimax can improve it a lot until launch.

  • Dennis Crosby

    I don’t think its worth it you’ll pay more the you will play the game was free with a subscription fee I’ll say go for it but at $60 at a buy in price plus subscription its not worth it

    • Martin Eriksen

      Well your opinion means shit to anyone liking the game, including me. Some spend their money on going out, I spend my money on games, and TES is definitely worth the purchase price + monthly fee. :)

      • Jason Andrew Hahn

        I like the game but can’t justify the subscription, so although his opinion and yours mean nothing to me as mine means nothing to you, I agree with him :-P

        • Xakryn

          Five years in development and Zenimax hemorrhaging money paying off the hundreds of people working countless hours on this game, and you can’t justify a subscription?

          • Jason Andrew Hahn

            Thanks guy who uses anime pictures as a profile pic, however if Destiny is already expected to be one of the best selling games of all time (no subsciption, insert hundreds of games that have made millions with no subscriptions here), I think your weak ass China comment holds no bearing…. hey they could have sold virtual cosmetic goods so that people like you, would have paid out the yin yang for a cosmetic tail or lame pair of panda ears.

          • Xakryn

            Just because I’m a woman who chooses to have her favourite manga character as a profile picture doesn’t mean anything. I like Noragami, that is all.

            My comment about Mao was a reference to Nanjie, nothing to do with their massive MMO players.

          • Alec Higgins

            Many FTP’s give you the freedom to pay the subscription fee if you want, or you could buy optional items, or play for free. It’s up to you to choose. This is a much more free-market system than ESO. Wanna talk Maoist?
            ESO charges everyone the same tax, $15, and everyone gets the same subscription. Seems pretty commie to me.

          • Liquid_Wolf

            Destiny is built on the same principle and concept as Borderlands. THeir innovative idea is to bring multiple people together for big boss fights from multiple systems… then let them seperate back out again.

            Destiny is cool, but it doesn’t have the same development costs, or constant world connections as ESO.

            Not to mention they will very likely be selling a lot of DLC in the same way Borderlands did.

            Nothing is free, and at this point ESO is worth the money.

    • Ash

      Why do people always complain about subscription fees? If you can afford a computer powerful enough to run ESO, you surely can afford to pay 15 USD a month to play this. Besides, 15 USD is worth, like what, the cost of 5 meals? If you skip 5 meals in 1 month, you can save enough money to afford 30 days worth of fun. There is nothing to complain about here, unless you are a glutton who thinks having their 5 meals is worth more than a month of playing ESO.

      • Jason Andrew Hahn

        Holy shit, 15$ for 5 meals? so you buy like a pound of ham, bread, cheese, drink water, bananas for your fruit and grow your own vegetables? However if they don’t skip the essentials (eating) they must be fat, clever. Or do you believe a meal is a dollar sandwich at mcdonalds, that would make you the glutton. By the way this game is on console as well.

        • Ash

          I’m from Singapore and our food here costs the equivalent of what I mentioned (I just converted from local currency to USD) which is $3 USD for a standard meal at a hawker centre. Our food is much cheaper than in Western countries because our portions are smaller and we eat less meat but more of rice and egg and vegetable-based foods. Our fast food is around 2-3 times the cost of non-fast food.

      • Xakryn

        $15 is the cost of one meal at a fast food restaurant if you live in Canada.

        Yes, $15 isn’t that much, but you really need to learn the value of money.

        $15 is the equivalent of one night at the movie theater, sans snacks.

      • Zeta Reticuli

        its not about the sub fee its about them wanting their cake and eating it too with the $60 price tag.

    • Wes East

      It really should be free to own with a $15 month fee. The developers are so darn confident. Hook me for 4 months then, and earn $60. Hook me for 6 months and earn $90. You get the point. I realize that there are a lot of man hours put into this project. When you build a hotel, you don’t ask people to pay for the hotel room, and then ask them to pay for the water they use – you just charge more for the room if you’re going to be greedy! Think about it my fellow gamers, and you will see what I’m saying here is so true.

  • Fools Chaos

    I cannot wait for the game, I have really enjoyed the betas. I don’t mind paying for a sub as long as they keep improving the game.

    • Teo Borconi

      Yup, pretty much spot on, that’s how I also feel.

      • Wes East

        What they should do is make the Game itself free and require the $15 a month subscription if they really think they have what it takes to keep gamers interested. I say make them PROVE IT! If they can hook me for 4 months, they make $60, and if they can take me further than that, then bank that baby! Otherwise…whatever dudes and dudettes!

  • Jason Andrew Hahn

    I could pay half the price of an xbox one excluding live service cost, for owning skyrim online for a year!?!? Where do I sign up, let them milk the suckers for all their worth, I’ll sign up when it’s free to play.. and yes it will be I give it a year or less

    • Xakryn

      What kind of moron pays for Xbox Live?
      It’s not Skyrim online, this game was in development before skyrim was released.

      If XIV can have a re-release and still make money and have a sub, I’m fairly sure that ESO will do fine.

      • Jason Andrew Hahn

        The same morons that pay for PSO? 10 years of a live membership with an Xbox One is still cheaper then most gaming Pcs…… Once again f2p year or less

        • Roger Joseph

          The Sad part is because soo many people say they are going to go F2P in a year they will make it last 2 years before going F2P just to spite the haters. One thing tech guys hate is someone saying “I told you so”.

  • Xakryn

    All the morons bitching about wanting it F2P. You do realize they sunk over FIVE YEARS worth of Time/Pay into this game? You expect them to NOT have a sub? Would WoW do as well without a sub? Would XI? You’re answer is No. It would be shit just like Swtor turned out to be. As soon as ESO Drops it’s sub, I will probably drop the game. $15 a month to insure new content, and bug fixes, and to insure the developers actually CARE about the game they’re working on? It’s over $15 for to see a movie, here and surely you get more entertainment out of ESO then one Hour and a half to two hours film in cramped theater seats.

    $15 is less than ONE fast food meal here in canada. If you can skip McDonalds with your SO once, you can afford it.

    • Roger Joseph

      I see where you coming from, but this goes back to my Original reservation about this game. I Sunk hundreds and Hundreds of hours in to Obilivion and then in Skyrim and maybe 15-20 into Marrowind. So this game had me on the fense. The 15$ just pushes me away from a game i was luke warm on. There are games like “Skyrim” comming out, IE: Witcher and Dragons age Inquisition that are more like Skyrim than TSO. Money is not an issue Since Warframe a PS4 F2P i have payed almost 200$ in it and also maybe 60-70$ in DC Universe on PS4 (don’t ask me why that game is like crack). It’s the idea behind subscription that alot of people don’t like, The feeling of “to get your money’s worth you have to play”. With DC i can stop any time and come back 1x a month or week and still see my value. With TSO you feel compelled to have to come back to justify the 15$. If no other Great RPG was coming out then …. but there are games that are more like Skyrim than TSO and those fans will go there. Skyrim fans were not all MMO Fans.

      • Xakryn

        I get where you’re coming from, the thing is, this isn’t Skyrim. Skyrim was great mind you, I too have over 240 hours in Skyrim alone. It’s The Elder Scrolls online. It’s a different game, in a different genre of games so to judge it as “it’s Not ES IV or ES V” is a bit like saying “Star Wars Galaxies (or SWTOR) is good, but it’s no Knights of the Old republic.” ESO wasn’t meant to be a great RPG, it was supposed to be a PVP MMO, and yes the starter islands are a little Bleh if you skip all the story that leads you to Cyrodill. I pay for FFXIV every month (Will probably swap for ESO just cause I love Elderscrolls more then Final Fantasy) but the way I figure it is If $15 can get me just the ticket into the movie theater, no snacks, just the seat and $15 is worth my two hours of entertainment; so I don’t see how 150+ hours of entertainment isn’t worth the price tag, and the 5 years that Zenimax has been pouring money into it to develop it.(honestly that’s how long it would take to finish teh story content in ESO) Every 2 and a half, three months, there is new content, new dungeons, new weapons, so even if I don’t play for two weeks out of the month, I still feel I get my entertainment value from it when I do play. As soon as SWTOR went free to play, there was no new content and only two ‘end game dungeons’; At least with a subscription you’re guaranteed more content further down the line.

        Maybe It’s cause I’m nearly thirty, but $15 means fuck all to me now so I don’t see why people are complaining.

        • Roger Joseph

          Yeah the people complaining is a bit tiring. They should just vote with their dollar. You’re right in every thing you said. My only addition is If TSO came out “now”, i would say hmmm hear the reviews and maybe try it get hooked but it’s not now; It’s coming out at a time competition will be at the highest. Witcher 3, Destiny, Dragon Age are not small games and their Next Gen versions are set to truly shake things up. I can see my self sinking soooo much time into dragon age and not have to think about money or MMO. If Dragon age came out at 100$ it would still be cheaper than TSO and i would put in the same amount of time and effort with way less grinding. I don’t know will wait to E3 to see if there are changes. The game needs to be like crack, “first hit is free”. Make the game a Free download first month free, level cap 25 with a 15$ subscription. That way those who stay are addicted. Those that want to try stay but have limits. The 60$ + 15$ just seems too much for a title not having proven it’s self.

          • Xakryn

            It’s the same amount that FFXIV:ARR cost and many people said that game would fail again due to the price tag and the horrible Beta, and the major issues at re-launch, and it’s still doing fine.

            Honestly, I dislike that idea entirely about having the first 25 levels free and I’m sure that the company and the shareholders at Zenimax would definitely not be up for it. I can see for a game kind of like Aura Kingdom, a FTP game with a “Buy to Win” system, and honestly, as much as I like Aura Kingdom, if ESO did that, it would be shit.

    • Alec Higgins

      They should have sunk five years and all that time and pay into making another Elder Scrolls game! Instead they made this crap. So sick of mmos.

  • Zeta Reticuli

    i don’t mind sub fees as i am a eve online player. that being said at $60 + $15 a month they can keep it.

  • Zeta Reticuli

    I really don’t mind sub fees as i am a eve online player. i get it people need to get paid etc… but at $60 + $15 a month i will draw the line there.

  • Michael

    wow reading all the comments all i can say is. I would rather spend my money on a date then a game. I know I know this means going outside. fresh air and sunlight Noooo!!!!

    • Jude_the_Obscure

      Then why are you reading and commenting on an article about a game? I could think of many things I’d rather do than that.

  • medicgarou

    I can’t wait. The time I spent in the beta was awesome and I enjoyed almost all of the game. My few gripes .. I wish it didn’t automatically go to 3rd person when I jumped in water, second, I’d like more quest rewards instead of “here take this xxx” . That’s really it.. after 30 or so hours on the beta with 3 characters to level 6 that’s all I have to complain about..People whining about the subscription fee will stay away and play F2P games and leave it for the people who want a deep, immersive experience. The cries of “$60 plus subscription is to much !!”. You buy a game for $60 (in my case $100 because once I played I jumped right on and pre-ordrerd the Imperial Edition) and have a free month. After that you pay $15 per month and they are stating they will be rolling out new content at a rate of every 4-6 weeks. That’s what a subscription does, it allows them the money to spend on the game and improve it and better it and give you more of what you want. Haters seem to think that ZMO is going to be massing Scrooge McDuck piles of money that would make Smaug envious but it’s just not the case. Haters will hate, real fans will play and tell their friends who are on the fence and they will play and end up enjoying the game as much as we do.

  • Joseph VanBuren

    Isn’t this article a breach of the NDA?

  • Shane Kearney

    If the sub is dropped in the future, I probably will get the game. But at the moment the price is just too steep…….

    • Bob The Builder

      15$ a month is too steep :|? for something you might play daily?

      • Alec Higgins

        I don’t have the time to play daily. I play on the weekends maybe a couple times of month. So even tho the price isn’t that bad, there are just so many free-to-play games out there that paying a fee is a turn off for me.

        • Simon H

          Fair enough – even in WoW’s prime there were people playing F2P titles, and enjoying themselves. For me and many millions of others back then, WoW was THE MMO.

          Now I think it’s slipping into second place.

  • blitzdot

    thing about open skill sets is that people get bullied for not having the right skills. so you cant just join any party any time. you need the right build for your role or else you are a lone wolf.

    • Alec Higgins

      Yea that’s the truth right there. Fuck other people tho, I’m going lone wolf and playing the game the way I want lol

  • Liquid_Wolf

    The game is reported to be above the $200 Million mark in development costs as of the end of 2013.

    The only other MMORPG to do that was Star Wars the Old Republic.

    I’m happy to say that ESO is much further along in development than SWTOR was. As far as MMORPGs go, it is built really well and plays very well. For those that can make it to Level 10… The game appears to have a fairly even leveling curve for the first 20 levels and feels like it takes longer than other MMOs (so you don’t tear through zones)… but there is a lot to do.

    I really like their modifications to crafting, and the PvP was running very well when I started on it at level 10.

    People complain about the cost, but if the game was Free to Play, the company would need players to spend more than $20 a month to makeup for their development costs.

    Hell… Guild Wars 2 was getting $20 a month from me anyways, because playing for “free” was going to take far too much time in materials and crafting grinding.

    $15 is cheaper than what I usually end up spending in most “Free2Play” MMOs. Whether it be in time, or money.

  • Wes East

    If 1 million gamers paid a non-refundable $15 and didn’t like the game, they would most likely chalk it up to a loss. Realistically, they would all love it, but that doesn’t mean they would be able to continue to pay for it. The developers should consider the massive profits they could make it the only cost was the subscription fee. Opening the door and getting people to walk in it are totally different concepts. I believe that when they walk in, they will continue to pay for it, but if they cannot, they would at least have had the opportunity to play without the $60 door fee – which is what most people are afraid of. Once this game becomes a massive hit, they will be able to justify their genre and power in the market and charge for their next online title immediately without all this hesitation.

  • Alec Higgins

    This game is nothing at all like the Elder Scrolls games.
    I played the beta, it was alright but I wasn’t that impressed. Then again, I’m not a fan of MMO’s because they are too repetitive. If you’re a fan of WOW and SWTOR then you’d probably enjoy it, but me I like TES I thought the game lost a lot of it’s personality and originality..

  • Simon H

    YES. Worth buying.
    But you don’t need me to tell you that. Odds are you already have it. Or someone you know has it – ask them for a go / look and decide for yourself.
    There are stats already out indicating this is topping international WEEKLY sales charts, 3 days after release, and that’s just for boxed copies…

  • Simon H

    Anger management issues?

    Personally I’m glad they are doing well and sales are apparently growing at a massive rate. The best thing about sub games is that Zenimax have already justified their subscription costs for me. There is a massive amount of planned new content coming up – the huge number of people buying and subscribing help to fund this to happen all the sooner. More to play for me, and a success for a company that in my mind have made a brilliant game.

  • Simon H

    More chance of snow in hell lol.

    It’s topping the international sales charts already, 3 days after release.

  • BULLZI

    when black desert online comes, all mmo will suffer!
    just look at the archer in black desert, its like becoming legolas