Tamriel Infinium: Why I changed my mind about Elder Scrolls Online

When I took the trip to ZeniMax Online Studios to check out Morrowind a couple of months back, I was sitting at a table with other games press and a handful of ZOS developers, including Creative Director Rich Lambert and Lead PvP Designer Brian Wheeler. The conversation wasn’t exactly off the record, but it wasn’t really an interview setting either. We were just talking, mostly about our lives: how Brian had to leave soon because he might get in trouble with his girlfriend and how Rich spent many overnights at the same hotel that the press had been staying in because he was at the office late and had to be there again early the next day.

During the course of the conversation, we ended up talking about how the press had originally received the Elder Scrolls Online and how it received it since the console launch. It’s not a big secret that I said some pretty critical things about ESO shortly after its PC launch. Rich pointed out during the conversation, possibly not knowing the outlet I was from, that he was surprised at how the opinions had turned around, especially Massively’s. And when he said “Massively,” I don’t think he realized that it was specifically my opinion that had that changed, drastically, since I’ve been the site’s ESO columnist since before the game’s launch.

Look at that. Opinions can change, people can grow, time moves forward. Take that, internet, and quit putting me in a little bubble. So why did it change? And why should you maybe give ESO another chance?

A transition from linear storytelling

Just as in all Elder Scrolls games, there is a main storyline that leads you from one area to the next where you are some savior of the world, Nerevarine, Dragonborn, or whatever they are calling it this year. However, the difference between ESO at launch and every other TES game that I have ever played was I could not abandon that main quest and go do whatever else it was that I wanted to do.

As ESO was incubating, there were plenty of MMOs launching and other game titles being released where you were the sole hero of the story. Star Wars: The Old Republic and World of Warcraft had you leading the quest to save everything. Of course, SWTOR took it to the extreme, while WoW only had you become best buds with world-changers, but the point was the same: The world would have crumbled around you if you didn’t exist. These were highly successful MMOs, so it’s understandable if ZOS felt that emphasis should be placed on that primary storyline.

Your primary questlines, the faction story, and even many of the zone-wide storylines in ESO made your character out to be this great and wondrous hero of the ages. I don’t mind those stories, as a general rule, but unlike previous TES games, ESO gave the impression that there were few options.

Then the Justice System launched.

The Justice System gave players the option to pickpocket and outright murder nearly any NPC in the game. There were problems with this system, and it certainly didn’t give us everything that we were wanting, but it was clearly a huge change in focus. We stopped being forced into this one-dimensional ideal of what the one-true-hero was supposed to be. We could be a mass murderer! And the ensuing DLC releases (Orsinium, Thieves Guild, and Dark Brotherhood) all built on this idea that you could be something other than the good guy — you could be whatever you wanted.

Making all paths important

Many people believe that One Tamriel dumbed down quests and made everything far too easy. In many respects, that’s true, and there are some convincing arguments about how One Tamriel was actually bad for the game. I’m not going to disagree with any of those specific points right now. But given the new focus of the game and the emphasis placed on player choice, I think One Tamriel had to happen.

The epic storylines in ESO are great. The voice acting actually surprised me in many places, not to mention Michael Gambon (Dumbledore himself!) giving voice to your guide through the main questline, the Prophet. So when I say that those quests needed to be taken down a notch, I don’t mean that the quality should’ve been stifled in any way. But in order for the game to feel like an Elder Scrolls game, players had to feel like there were other just as important things to do that could progress their characters.

My current character is probably the best example of the kind of progression that Elder Scrolls Online needed when the game launched. I practically have all of Tamriel now to tell my character’s story, so I wanted her to start as a thief — not a good one, perhaps — who then travels to Morrowind to discover her Dunmer roots. To perpetuate that tale, I started my brand-new character in Hew’s Bane (the Thieves Guild DLC), then hoofed my way toward Mournhold, doing the Deshaan questline along the way. When it came time for the quest to steer toward Shadowfen, I decided that there was no way my character would go there, so I marched toward Skyrim.

The best part was that it worked! It was a perfectly viable way to level up my skills. I didn’t feel as if I was compromising the character, and I felt that I was steering the narrative, not some committee of developers.

How about you?

I don’t think all the problems with ESO are fixed, and many of the remaining issues that I have with the game are unique to me. I still have major issues with the Champion Point system, for instance. But when Rich Lambert said that he was surprised by the shift in Massively’s and then Massively OP’s opinion regarding the game, I suspect it was really me. My opinion of the game shifted from one of great disdain to one of great praise and admiration, and I think that helped lead our team and readers to praise it during the past awards season.

I’m interested in your opinion. Has your opinion of ESO changed since its launch? What sort of changes could the developers make that would entice you to play it more? Also are there any other MMORPGs that have changed for the better as they aged or has there been one that shifted your opinion of it drastically since its launch? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.


52 Comments on "Tamriel Infinium: Why I changed my mind about Elder Scrolls Online"

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Are you kidding?! ESO did a complete 180 from the time I started in Beta to the time I returned three months ago. And Morrowind coming in June? Yeah… I’m good for now.

For me personally One Tamriel was a crucial turning point. I come from EQ where exploration was a huge piece and before One Tamriel this wasn’t possible in ESO and severely limited and restricted my gameplay. so I left.

But now? This game speaks to me. Can’t wait for Morrowind.

Blood Ravens Gaming

My opinion of ESO has changed drastically in the last 2 months! I recently came back to the game due to some friends (previous guildies) wanting to get back into it again because of Morrowind. My one stipulation was… if the performance was still bad I wasn’t staying. Well, we now have a 130+ guild with Trial and PvP groups forming LOL. Needless to say the performance (even in Cyrodiil) has been improved. The rest of the fixes I will wait and see if they get remedied.

One Tamriel is nice. My only real complaint about it is the main faction cities should have been off limits to other factions. I really do not like the fact that we are waging serious war for control of Imperial City and the throne, yet we are welcome in ALL the cities and towns of the other factions!!! I understand it was easier to release all the content, but from a lore/immersion perspective it makes no sense.

All in all I am very pleased with my re-entry into the world of Nirn and look forward to Morrowind, Wardens and especially battlegrounds!


As a lover and vocal defender of the game (formerly Chuki792, & Chukii) since I played the Beta, I saw the potential of the game and was sure Zeni could pull it off!
I found it atmospheric and very slick. I wasn’t concerned about the fact it wasn’t as open world as Skyrim, since well, I had Skyrim for that!
That said I did understand people’s consternation, even if I didn’t agree with it.

Now, I’m not blowing my own trumpet here… I also feverishly defended SWTOR!


I feel the real ESO community is on Elder Scrolls Online Reddit. More mature conversation than I find on the official forums.

I think some people take the game too seriously and think any change is some type of major nerf to one part of the game or the other. I simply play until its not fun anymore … and right now I have no fear of that happening anytime soon.

Alex Malone

Can’t really comment about ESO specifically – I always found the combat too simplistic and it killed my enjoyment very quickly, and as far as I’m aware that’s never changed.

But, regarding MMOs that get better over time, I’ve yet to play one. I tend to find that within each major release, things get better as they fix bugs and add more content, but inevitably they release an expansion which makes the game worse overall.

Main reason for that is that as numbers dwindle, for some reason devs feel the need to dumb things down to attract…..who? I don’t know why they do it, but every single expansion for an MMO that I’ve played has ended up dumbing down combat mechanics, dumbing down the content and reducing group content. I’ve never understood that as it reduces the lifespan of your game instantly. Are there really gamers out there who are too dumb to play MMOs at release and get attracted back when things get easier?


I think that has more to do with the fact that the mmo market is so full now.

15 years ago, there was half a dozen popular mmos, and they were still finding their footing with brutal leveling and gearing and combat.

Then Wow broke the mold and made it more accessible for the masses and took a huge share of the market, since then a lot of studios tried to emulate the wow formula and with modern technology it’s easier than ever for any Tom, Dick or Harry to build an mmo, further crowding the market.

Aside from the hard core players who stuck to one mmo, either from nostalgia or brand loyalty, most modern gamers have short attention spans.

People who grew up with wow and everquest and the oroginals are in their 30+, have jobs and families and group finders and easier more solo content appeals to them when they only have a limited time to play.

I don’t raid anymore cause I can’t stay up as late as I used to because I have work the next day, and my weekends are more full with my SO. That’s anecdotal, sure. But I believe it’s true.

Gamers also seem more inclined now to instant gratification, who spend hours a day for weeks to get that shiney when I can pay 5 bucks, and while people gripe about lockboxes and cash shops, they are obviously pulling in enough money to justify them.

Each new expansion probably IS dumbing down the content. Take wow for instance. The max level is now 110, players habe to slog through vanilla and 5 expansions to get to the current stuff most people are playing, if they can’t get through that content fast to get to the “real” game, they are more likely to quit early and try another game or go back to others.

Unfortunately, the golden age of mmos is over.

Eddie Yasi

I’ve always admired ESO, but still greatly appreciated the changes they’ve made. It’s been my favorite MMO since its launch, and it has done much to cement that position with all the improvements.

The one thing I wanted to comment on that Larry mentioned, and is very true for how I react to an MMO, is how well it allows you to bring your own imagination and story into the game, and how well it is accommodated. As Larry said, these changes, especially including One Tamriel, really make ESO shine in that respect.

Yes, it has drawbacks, but for a player like me it’s definitely for the best. If they could provide some information/guidance that let you maintain linearity *within* regional stories, so you won’t meet someone who greets you like a long lost comrade even though you haven’t actually met them yet, then it’ll add a final layer of polish to the provided flexibility.

I’ve been pulled in to a bunch of single player games recently, e.g. Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, and especially Mass Effect: Andromeda (which I’m liking way more than the often negative reception it’s received from others), but as those wind down in the next couple months I’ll very much be looking forward to ESO Morrowind picking up the slack.


If you can pull out its strengths which are of interest to you, ESO becomes an amazing game to play as long as you don’t overplay it.

Long story short: Pre-ordered, It Sucked. Tried to get it to work for me for over 3 years more times than i can count, update 12 saved it for me as my interest as an explorer was triggered.

I love to gather, i love to explore, like to craft, and when i find a zone i really like atmosphere wise I’ll do the story arc and side quests within.

If you don’t overplay this one it stays great, if you play it too much it can get pretty stale fast. Currently most of my time is in MEA, with some BDO and ESO and yea, ESO seems to always keep me engaged.

Daniel Miller

Honestly it is a great game for storytelling.. The world itself does get repetitive, and to limited with skills you can equip and use at once.

My biggest issue with it though is crafting. While i can buy the crafting shops style in the shop, find in open world,, or buy from a ah, I can’t use those styles on most end game year. This really undervalues and is frustrating, why add modifs to a cash shop i cant use on my gear sets.

Hence i kept a sub for many months, got 15k crowns, then they add an expansion, lol crowns no good. Noremely I only buy dlc with crowns. If they fixed the issue i mentioned, I logged in more, crafted more and their be no need for their lock boxes.

Anthony Clark

Love ESO. It has grown so since launch.

Maggie May

I tried the game in beta and rather enjoyed it but didn’t come back till last August. I have my main at cp 240. At this point I’m doing multiple things, decorating my house slowly, trading, in stone falls for cadwels continuation, dark brotherhood and wrothgar …. As a tall high elf Mage my assassination skills suck and while I’m hiding out waiting to clear my name, I jump into my Breton Templar in dagger fall. I have also become something of a thief, for the furnishing plans … I am also trying to figure out a way to rescue Valaste from Sheogorath … I do regret that decision but one cannot have too many skill points, dang deadric prince knew my weak points! And there are tons of things I haven’t even got to doing yet, like a group dungeon or arenas or cyrodill or …

Eddie Yasi

Yeah I recently had to sacrifice Valaste for my crafting-heavy mage because he simply HAD to be able to craft tier 9 clothing IMMEDIATELY. So, off to eternal damnation for her… I hope my gold satin shirt is worth it.

Alex Js.

Has my opinion changed? Well… Not really. I’ve played this game at launch (and quickly quit due to many reasons), then tried it again few times at a much later dates (last time I’ve played it was few months ago), and yes, some things did get better, including the “One Tamriel” system which gave players more freedom in terms of questing paths and which I really liked. Oh, and the Thieves Guild/Dark Brotherhood DLCs were also somewhat fun to experience in terms of new storylines and new abilities.

Unfortunately the negative aspects still VASTLY outweigh all the positive changes I’ve noticed. Starting from the game engine – it still performs poorly at max settings even at 1080p (native resolution of my monitors) and even on a pretty powerful PC, which is easily noticeable in a populated areas (and especially in WvWvW area). Same goes for character animations, which were noticeably improved since the initial launch but are still pretty “meh” (especially when it comes to player emotes and mounts/pets). Also, the overall game’s color palette STILL uses those dull, desaturated colors – I understand the reason why devs made this choice but I still can’t really “immerse” myself into such depressing in-game world. And no, I don’t really want the in-game world look like a cartoon or something from an Asian MMORPG but something with more saturated colors (and more contrast between them) would’ve greatly enhanced my enjoyment.

Oh, and yea, the whole stealing/murdering mechanics – it still feels pretty “incomplete” because the only thing that can punish you for your crimes are “dumb” NPCs, which make the game feel like you’re just playing a single-player RPG. I know that ZeniMax planned to implement “Enforcer” system, allowing other players to become in-game “policemen” and punish the players with bounty on their head, but in the end they decided to simply abandon it, which is pretty disappointing. Sure, there was a possibility of “Enforcers” to “camp” certain areas which might be necessary for a player with bounty to visit (for example for story quest reasons), potentially making the quest progression for thieving/murdering players impossible, but I still believe such things could be successfully avoided if ZeniMax developers would’ve given the whole system some more thought. Plus the crime/punishment system could’ve been expanded much farther, involving public trials (using other players as judges/jurors), significant jail time, possibility to break out of jail (with the help of other inmates or friends outside of jail), etc.

Plus there were other things that also felt pretty disappointing – for example, I’ve tried many class/skill combinations but still couldn’t find the one which I would TRULY enjoy. Also, the public quest areas like the “Dolmens” felt like a re-used, extremely simplistic mechanics from other games released before ESO (the “RIFT” is the best and most direct example), not to mention I’ve seen some of these areas being CONSTANTLY (literally 24/7) camped by AFK leveling bots, spamming same attack at same area of “Dolmen” day after day, with 0 reaction from ZeniMax even after multiple reports (I’m sure ZeniMax is well aware of those, they just don’t care anymore). I could list a few other things related to crafting or WvWvW PvP but I think I’ll just stop here.

So yea, TL;DR: I’ve noticed a few minor positive changes with ESO but in my mind it’s still a hugely flawed game, not worthy of spending significant time in its world, and by now I just hope ZeniMax would finally put it into “life support” mode after this year’s DLC and give another try at creating a better MMORPG using better engine (they should just license some derivative of CryEngine like Amazon’s Lumberyard), with better (less depressing) color palettes, more unique in-game mechanics (better public quests, better “crime & punishment” system, better “large-scale PvP”, better crafting) and perhaps using a completely different universe/intellectual property.

Kathy Davis

I quit after the first year, got bored, came back and am LOVING all of it. I have ignored the prophet, don’t care about the “main” quest. Still able to find plenty to do, people to see, food to make, crap to sort, a house to doodle in and fun people to chat with.


Frankly I liked it better pre-One Tamriel.
I’m firmly in the camp of those saying it watered down the game.
Also I’m not a fan of Champion Points and I’m glad they’re adjusting those to allow for those with less of them to be more competitive.
There’s crazy amounts of juicy drama erupting on the ESO forums and reddit about the PTS patch notes and upcoming changes. You guys should check it out and do an article about it.


Great piece, honestly. ESO is an amazing game that is unfortunately plagued with an increasingly toxic community. I think the future of the game will depend if they handle that Toxicity like Turbine did with LOTRO or like EA did with SWTOR.


I played ESO first some time ago and thought it was decent but not enough to hold my attention. Came back to it late last year and now I’m completely addicted to the game. One Tamriel has completely changed the game for me and, for the first time in quite some time (and, believe me, I’ve tried countless MMOs over the years), I actually have an MMO I want to play regularly again.


I’ve tried to get into ESO multiple times, but it never quite works out…

beta: rolled in EP(?), had a little fun poking around on the snowy starter island until I hit either invisible walls or mountains placed to have the same effect. NOPE! Nothing loses me faster than a game arbitrary limiting my exploration (never got past the first zones of Tera or Neverwinter for the same reason, either)

B2P conversion: by that point I had a couple friends who were invested players (Mac users, poor guys don’t have a lot of options :P ) who convinced me to give it another shot, so I grabbed a cheap unopened copy on ebay (risky maneuver, but I got the preorder bonuses).

This time I rolled AD at their suggestion, and I proceeded to spend something like a month on Khenarthi’s Roost enjoying myself (clearly I am Not Normal). Got a little frustrated with the exhaustion zone nonsense (or shrieking eels or whatever it is in this game) when wanting to swim around and eventually went to the mainland. Never progressed the main storyline at all because it kept level matching me while the side quests didn’t->if I didn’t do them first they would become valueless, and there were always more of them. That may have colored my experience because I eventually got tired of the same repeated “Oh no X is a traitor working for the bad guys, stop them!” story. I actually got a little past that to the big tree house (um, Elden Root?) which was also annoying… I hate oversized MMO architecture, and wasn’t there some zoning just to move around inside? Actually isn’t there zoning just to move through a trap door in a tower? This game’s engine is even weaker than FFXIV… In case it’s not obvious I got bored and stopped playing.

One Tamriel: At this point I had been playing BDO for like half a year, but sad Mac friends were still on ESO, and figured with no more outleveling sidequests I might actually play the main story, so I patched up, logged in (was at Vulkhel Guard near wayshrine) took one look around and noted the utter sameness of the cookie-cutter houses and logged back out. That just kills me about this game, I guess it’s an ES thing that ES vets* appreciate, but while they’ve sunk all their asset development time into making all the various stuff different between races, each zone feels just super cookie cutter homogeneous to me… “oh look, there’s that same house asset again, oh and there’s that same bridge, and that same vaguely templey ruin piece, and…” While BDO reuses assets just like everyone else, they do it 1000% better. And going back to the old cookie-cutter cooking, where recipes are somehow magic and super-rare that can’t ever be duplicated or taught (but are always lying around in boxes and dressers)… and still running into places where the terrain arbitrarily blocks my progress because I’m some kind of robot that can’t climb… all NOPE. ESO may be making changes, but I don’t see it moving *forward*; it’s still stuck in decade-old conventions. I don’t mean to single it out; it’s hardly the only one still doing these things, but I can’t bring myself to play those games either anymore.

[Lest anyone think I’m just a super-biased BDO cultist, I’m actually taking a break from it right now too. Its own unique annoyances–mostly related to CP and inventory limitations making it too irritating to play the way I want–got to me to me too. I’m actually playing *nothing* right now after trying to get back into TSW and have yet another broken quest mechanic fail on me.]

* I’m also Not Normal in that I basically haven’t played any ES games. I actually have Skyrim and tried to play it once, but not far in, fought some tedious battle against a big thing in a dungeon and then died shortly thereafter, when I came back… I had to fight it again. NOPE. After MMOs I just can’t deal with offline game save mechanics anymore, I need the world to be in the exact state I left it in when I died.


I don’t play ESO or care to play it myself, but your post gives the impression of a person who plays a game looking for an excuse to stop. I think for any form of entertainment, be it a video game, a movie, a book, or music, if you go in with the mindset that you want to stop at any disagreement, you’re going to be doing a lot of stopping.


your post gives the impression of a person who plays a game looking for an excuse to stop

Maybe you’re right–we’re usually the last to comprehend our own foibles–but I don’t think so?

I think it’s more the fact that what I’m looking for–to have an adventure, in a consistent* world–just isn’t the core of what MMO devs seek to deliver anymore**. And every time that happens it rips me out of my immersion, out of my enjoyment, and ultimately out of playing the game entirely; and unless I can forget that feeling of being let down, I can’t get back into playing again.

*hikes up mom jeans* I got my start playing both tabletop D&D and CRPGs in the mid-80s. The latter were pretty primitive back then (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5Th76-0iy4 for a classic example); you had to make liberal use of your imagination (just like tabletop adventuring). The entire game was basically just the implementation of the only part of the game that you *could* implement in the limited machines of the time–the statistical mechanics that D&D had inherited from miniature wargaming, in an attempt to simulate a consistently-behaving world, especially with players playing the roles of characters with abilities and in situations often vastly different from their own in real life.

Maybe I’ve dreamt up a false consensus in my head, but I feel like gamers of that era understood that the stat-based bits weren’t the point of the game; they were a means to creating an adventure that felt fun and real. Sure it could be a bit of geeky fun to work out optimal gear and such sometimes, but the systems were never so complicated as for that to feel onerous… and it was almost de rigeur back then to use a hex editor to tweak stuff (even mentioned by commenters on that youtube video) without feeling the least bit bad about it because the goal was not to beat the system, but rather to enjoy the adventure. It was almost the modding of its time? In tabletopping, you knew that the DM was the ultimate arbiter; if they felt that ignoring the rules made for the best game outcome, that’s what happened. The stats-based rules were a means, not the end.

But now, it feels like the definition of an RPG has ossified to the point where people feel stat-based systems are what RPGs are about. That’s certainly convenient for MMO system designers looking to minimax their playerbase and income, but I feel like it’s to the detriment to the sense of adventure and being immersed in a world that are what I’m looking for in the first place.

*roots around in bag of holding looking for connection to topic* Oh yeah, so I can’t help but feel like ESO (and so many other games) are more like a collection of designed systems with some graphics glue to hold them together than a world with unobtrusive systems helping make it feel more real. A couple posts down D’Kho talks about the freedom to build a character… but that’s within a very carefully engineered and regulated set of combat-related skills designed to keep anyone from being “too powerful”. In this case the devs’ desire to manufacture competition and control the rate of “content” “consumption” has subverted the world. But there are so many other examples: What are the principles that underly magic–how can I make my own spells? (rhetorical question; clearly there never is any) Instead of fighting annoying big bad, why can’t I cause (via magic or just clever use of physics) that big pillar next to them to topple over and crush them? Or why can’t I just stun them, steal the legendary armor that would drop, and take off? Bilbo didn’t need to kill Smaug! His adventure was not about combat. Oh wait, I know why! Because there is no underlying real world and consequent freedom, you’re limited to playing the statistical combat simulator because that’s the core of what the devs have built their player-manipulation retention mechanisms on. Same for the crafting recipes that you can only get via the theft system or the crafting writ system, same for everything else.

Ok, that’s a little more negative-sounding than I intended, but it’s born of frustration; I feel like the genre as a whole is failing to live up to its potential.

* I was going to use the word “realistic” but I’m cool with magic and antigrav and whatever else–the main point was that I want to feel like there are some underlying laws to the way the world works that all in-game behaviors accord with, as opposed to arbitrarily designed systems.
** If it ever was; maybe I’ve just been fooling myself about that this whole time?

Oleg Chebeneev

Looks like you changed your mind becaused you met and shared beer with TESO devs.
I dont see how opinion on TESO can change when it has the same gameplay throughout all levels and game didnt change much with expansions.

Also kek @ “unlike previous TES games, ESO gave the impression that there were few options”. Options of what? Running from hub A to hub B doing errand quests? How one can even compare freedom and choices of, lets say, Morrowind with linear theme park TESO?


It sounds like you haven’t played since before One Tamriel, so let me give you an example of the current state of freedom of choice in ESO:

I’ve created two new characters since OT went live, both in Ebonheart Pact. One leveled by doing the Dwemer-related side quests/content in all zones (as well as group runs w/ guildies) without doing any of the linear story questing at all. The other was a stam Nightblade Archer test build that skipped questing altogether and leveled up to 50 in less than a week via dolmen (a path chosen both for speed and because the Fighters Guild skill line figured heavily into her build).

Roll up a new character, skip the intro, and just head straight out into the world and do pretty much whatever you want. This is closer to the freedom of single player Elder Scrolls games than any other MMO I know of.

Oleg Chebeneev

I logged in TESO few weeks ago. Didnt notice any noticable changes at all. What you listed as big changes is just doing sidequests that you could do before and mindless grind aka “skipped questing altogether” which ofc you could do before either.

I didnt see much freedom in this game. There are hardly any things to do other then quests, dungeons, some crafting and battlegrounds. Well yeah, now you can steal too, which afaik is rather pointless. What you do in first hours of fresh start you’ll also do 100 hours later. Lack of freedom is actually why I disliked TESO, because other TES games provide so much more of it. In Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim you feel like exploring the living breathing world. In TESO you feel like grinding quests hopping from one quest hub to another. Thats how it felt for me at least.


And what would you do to grant that precious ‘freedom’ you talk about? Housing? Eso has it. Killing off innocent NPCs? ESO has it. Pickpocketing? ‘Auction Housing’? What did you do in Skyrim that you can not do in ESO?

And quest hubs? If there is any MMO out there that relies so little on quest hubs ESO would be it. You pick up 2-3, maybe 4 quests at ‘the major hub’, whereas the other quests are found in the wilderness. No linear questing either. Feel free to skip the hub entirely and just head out into the wilds.

Name me one MMO that offers that precious ‘freedom’ you so crave. Name me one thing you’d introduce to provide more freedom, bearing in mind that it is an MMO after all.


Alright, in the spirit of keeping this positive and constructive, let me change tactics: What is it that you would consider to be “freedom” that ESO doesn’t let you do? What would be your ideal method of leveling?

Oleg Chebeneev

How it is in Skyrim: you explore the world, meet some NPC you decide to talk to and he happens to offer you a quest that leads afar. While you going there you stumble into all kinds of adventures: bandit camps, caves, travelling pilgrims or weird monuments. Before you reach your goal, you could tell a story.

How it is in TESO: you grab a dozen of quests in city from obviously marked NPCs. Then you just run around following markers and do those quests asap only slowing to pick up resources.

TESO isnt a TES game. Its WoW in ES setting. Thats my biggest problem with it.


you grab a dozen of quests in city from obviously marked NPCs. Then you just run around following markers and do those quests asap only slowing to pick up resources.

Well, you certainly can play it that way, but you don’t have to. It’s possible to turn off the quest markers above quest givers’ heads, then you’ll just have objective markers for active quests (much like Skyrim). Or, you could even just ignore the quest markers! Just a thought.

But, to be clear, are you saying that the markers above quest givers’ heads are what’s hampering your freedom? ‘Cause that was the question: what freedom is it that you want?

To address your other points:

TESO isnt a TES game.

It’s not one of the single player Elder Scrolls games, no, but it is an Elder Scrolls game – just a different format.

Its WoW in ES setting.

No, it’s not.

In WoW, you pick a class at character creation and for the most part that’s the end of meaningful choices when it comes to playing your own way. Your WoW rogue won’t be healing or tanking, for example – while in ESO, my Nightblade started out as a straight-up, leather-clad backstabber, but for months now he’s been healing group content. My plate-wearing, werewolf DPS Stamplar became a magicka-based, Ice Staff tank… in a robe! You’re never going to see that level of play style freedom in WoW (or ~95% of the other MMOs out there).

In WoW, Legion content notwithstanding, you are restricted to certain zones until you are high enough level to move on, and some zones aren’t even accessible and/or worth your time if you’re in the wrong faction. ESO started out this way, but then they did the unthinkable: they listened to the players. Now we have the freedom to go pretty much anywhere we want, literally right out of the gate.

In WoW, you can’t group or play with your friends at all if they’re in a different faction (except maybe for some of the new dungeon grouping and PvP stuff, if I’ve heard correctly). Again, freedom delivered by One Tamriel! Want to play a character with hardcore faction pride? Go to Cyrodiil and dominate! Want to play a character that doesn’t give a skeever tail about their “faction” – you can do that anywhere! Though you may want to lay low in Cyrodiil… ;)

In WoW, grouping up with lower level friends sucks because you’re not getting anything out of it – even the crafting mats in the lower zones will be of little-to-no use to you! This was the part of One Tamriel that really opened things up for our guild, especially combined with the previous point about faction. It was such a pain to roll an alt before One Tamriel, because if there wasn’t another guildie running a similar level character through the same faction… you were soloing all the way to the level cap. Not so anymore – we regularly run Craglorn dailies with single-digit-level characters in the group and we’re all benefiting and having fun.

Look, if you think that mindlessly following the quest markers around is the only way to play ESO, you’re trapped in a prison of your own misconception; freedom from that is something the developers can’t give you.


Or, you could pick a random direction and find quests that way. There are many quests to be found off the beaten path. For example, the brothers of Strife in Stonefalls. You simply would find this quest if you did not go exploring.


Indeed. It offers exactly what he wants, but somehow he seemed to have missed it. ESO let’s you do exactly that. You do not need to pick up a single quest in a single hub, you can simply go out into the wilderness and do the random quests you stumble upon, clear the ‘caves’ you find, kill any and all NPCs/Bandits/Daedra/…, scout for treasure chests, find points of interest, …

ESO is in many ways a better TES game than Oblivion was and is on par with Skyrim. What sets Skyrim above ESO is quite simply the ability to mod the game to the extremes, which you naturally cannot do with an MMO.


With the recent changes on the PTR for ESO it’s headed in an interesting new direction. Resource regen is getting nerfed across the board. What this amounts to is that we won’t be able to endlessly spam attacks without thought anymore, as is possible with current play. Right now people don’t even have to pay attention to their stam/magi bars.

This is going to lead the game back to it’s elder scrolls roots. One of the foundations of ES games, has always been resource usage. You had to monitor your resources closely, and chose the best skills & abilities to use in each situation. Now we are headed back to this.

A templar (healer) friend and I were talking about this last night, and he made the comment. “How am I suppose to heal people when they are standing in red with the changes? I’ll run out of magi within seconds” I took a second, and pointed out that this was the exact problem with the game currently. We shouldn’t be able to sustain through someone ignoring mechanics, if people don’t know, won’t learn, or don’t care about mechanics; then they shouldn’t live long in the game.

There’s a lot of crying on the forums atm, mostly stemming from these changes. But overall I applaud they direction they are taking. There’s still a few outstanding issues with the changes, but overall it’s a good direction.


I loved the game when it launched on PC and immediately knew it was going to be my main MMORPG home for years to come, as it has proved to be. It continually improves with every update and the only thing I’d like to see changed is the provision of a proper trading system open to all. I’ve never had a single performance issue with it although I don’t PvP, do competitive PvE or use add-ons. For my playstyle it’s a superb game, I just wish they had a lifetime option for the subscription which I’d take on both my accounts as I did with no regrets on LoTRO!


What sort of changes could the developers make that would entice you to play it more?

Releasing an offline version with modding support.

There are a few franchises that I doubt I will ever be able to enjoy in MMO format, or even in always online format, due to the way I play them; those include Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and KotOR, to mention a few. The basic thing about those is that, to enjoy them, I need the ability to save and load at will, so I can see and play through most options without creating new characters; the most fun I have in Elder Scrolls games is typically to save, do something incredibly dumb, watch and deal with the immediate consequences, and then load the game and keep playing as if I never did that dumb action. In the case of the Bethesda games I usually also need to be able to mod them (every Bethesda Elder Scrolls and Fallout game has design choices I consider outright insane, so I need a way to change or nullify those before I get to playing those games), though ESO’s systems seem to be far closer to something I could enjoy than vanilla Skyrim/Fallout 4.

Apart from that, the other thing driving me away is that the crafting bag requires a subscription, and I’m not exactly keen on paying a subscription for any game that charges for the base game and expansions (or chapters, or whatever they decide to call them).

Dug From The Earth

better to just wait for Elder Scrolls 6, or play through the enhanced version of skyrim again with a bunch of game changing addons.

The story in ESO, while good from a mmorpg perspective, pales in vast comparison to that of a normal ES game. As does much of the gameplay from a single player RPG perspective.

ESO was designed at its core to be a multiplayer game, having an offline mode would be like trying to play CS-GO or Everquest 1 by yourself. Its doable, but it just wouldnt be an enjoyable experience.

odin valhalla

Yes definitely changed overtime. What was a challenging MMO experience has become remarkably easy. The last time I leveled a character I had literally no threat of death from questing, I never had an issue with being under or over leveled. I never had an issue with gaining XP. A marked change from the VR6 days (before craglorn). Caldwell’s cross faction play was actually challenging and hitting level cap was a feat in of itself.

The dungeons required time, and craglorn? WOW what a great zone that was extremely challenging and fun to play. Cyrodiil has always been a zergfest these posters that wax poetic about “back in the day” either weren’t there or have bad memories. Unkillable EMP, VAMP Magi DK’s, need I say more.

The DLC’s have been solid, with the exception of IC. Wrothgar was one of the best PVE DLC’s I’ve played it was a good story, good quests with plenty of side things to do, really top notch. The actual stories and content of the quests from a NPC dialogue perspective, excellent still, it’s absolutely amazing the depth.

I have other reasons why I am unhappy with ESO which I have pontificated about elsewhere don’t need to rehash it here. Overall the game is easier, level scaling has made it a faceroll IMHO. I understand MMO’s have to progress and make leveling easier as they age to get new players through. It’s also suffering from a dearth of gear sets that are frankly very powerful, and the means to obtain them are simple.

I look at undaunted as an example. That was a grind, now? You’ve got multiple dailies to help you rank it up. Overall the game is still an AAA MMO, I don’t think anyone can dispute that but it’s been “casualized” (what a nifty term) and made easy, compared to what it was.

Robert Mann

I like the general gameplay. I like the added stuff. I like crafting being somewhat important.

What I don’t like: The customer service. The support of those with certain hardware lacking. The problems with high bandwidth bottlenecks at certain transition points in the U.S. (not Zenimax’s issue, but one that I do see where for some reason Dallas has more lag than connecting to Germany… from Colorado! Fix that U.S. internet slacker corps!) and not being able to turn down the data transfer rates by changing draw aspects effectively without making the game look worse than Gothic 1 (this IS on Zenimax, fix that!) The AH replacement system which still works to ruin the economy for those not playing it just like an AH, and the massive gold sinks brought in because, of course, those who are playing that sub-game have tons of gold. The crafting system where everyone can craft everything (of course, some love this as they want self-sufficiency) and the lack of nerfing to the insane grind for nirncrux despite issuing more 9-trait crafting sets. I don’t like the low difficulty outside specific spots, although apparently it was nerfed because people felt that everything was too difficult (true of the main story in beta, and some VR zone bosses, but the rest was fine!) nor the hard requirements for that specific stuff (especially in terms of build, which is pretty much exactly where they said they wouldn’t go) although I do feel that the elitism around some specific classes is nonsense (especially following some of the changes that have helped other classes compete.) The loading screens which they still haven’t fixed that randomly take half an hour, but then load in ten seconds the next time.

They have improved a lot in some areas. There’s a lot left to improve. Some of the things I dislike, of course, are more game preference points… and likely won’t change. That’s fine (I’ll just keep looking for things matching what I want) and I’ll likely still play and support them on occasion if they keep improving things.

Dug From The Earth

100% agree about the auction house “replacement”

The current system is now actually WORSE than having an auction house, because its intricately more complex and convoluted, requiring players to have to take ridiculous amounts of steps to sell and buy and make sense of much of it.

Dug From The Earth

ESO has made huge gains in many areas

At the same time, it still has numerous dated and clunky mechanics that need to be brought up to speed with the rest of the game. Things like:

1. The mount system – Having to train mount stats, for EVERY character you play, is just downright awful and not fun. It serves ZERO purpose at this point, and should be an account based thing. Train the mount stuff one character, and ALL your characters have the same benefits.

2. Crafting research being character specific, rather than account. Like mounts, this is just a horrible and tedious chore that makes the game VERY unfriendly to playing an ALT. Crafting research is a blatant time sink designed to take MONTHS (even if you play every day). Its also a roadblock that prevents you from being able to craft at end game until you go through that time gate to reach it. Requiring you to have to research for EVERY character you have just isnt fun, and its a very dated mechanic, something that you would have only expected to see in games made in 2002.

3. Keeping a specific craft (jewel crafting) out of the game because it would completely invalidate the need for end game raiding (vet trials). The only reason to do vet raids in ESO, is to get gold jewelry. Every other item in the game can be obtained in non-vet raids/dungeons, and crafted up to gold status.

4. No LFG tool for content other than Dungeons (and that tool is horribly buggy at that). When you have content that typically requires multiple players to complete, you need a system that allows people to easily find these people, outside of zone chat.

5. No weapon dye system (despite armor dye being in the game)
6. No 2handed weapon sets
7. Cyrodiil performance (both lag and framerate)
8. No token loot system for end game dungeons
9. A better respec system, that doesnt make respecing such a chore and such an inconvenience.

THe game is still my top mmorpg right now, but these are some of the top things on my list that I wish they would finally get around to improving, to make the game even better


You would have loved it when we had to train each mount…

Dug From The Earth

I remember that, and thats why I only used 1 mount :P

They changed it to encourage people to buy mounts on the crown store, something most wouldnt do if they STILL had to train each mount :P


These whippersnappers, man, I tell ya. XD *throws back out laughing*


I agree and will add another one…or more ;)

Crafting Motifs, great idea until they put in zone sets that you can’t change the look of. Honestly, if you have a motif you should be able to transmogrify your equipment to that style. Otherwise let us use a costume system like other games.

I also hate the guild store system…
I also think they should have done away with classes and let you choose three skill lines to become your base class. They could have easily added more skill lines over time.

Dug From The Earth

cant believe i forgot this one. You design a sensible system that makes the concept of “transmog” very believable and immersive, and then you dont use it? What? Come on devs…. do better.

Crafters should be able to acquire a style motif, and then reforge the armor (with the appropriate style mats) to look like that style. Its not freaking rocket surgery.

Robert Mann

Some more good points where they could improve.


My opinion has definitely changed over time. I purchased the game and played in late beta, feeling somewhat disappointed by what the game was trying to be. Between the frustrating inventory system that required me to have mules for just keeping crafting components, to the weird backtracking necessary to hit the original newbie zones, to the problems with phasing and quest completion, I just couldn’t get into the game. In months of playing, no character of mine ever got past level 14.

But now I’m hooked. Part of it is the delicious crafting bag which allows me to do what I do in every ES game–pilfer everything that’s not bolted to the ground. But a larger part of it is simply not needing to worry about my level and gear and zone so much. I can explore and craft and quest at my pace, never feeling as hemmed in as before. I really enjoy how this game has evolved.


ESO is a great game for many people but I have found over time that it’s not one for me and that simply comes down to one thing – endgame progression.

I am probably in the minority but if I am playing a themepark (which ESO still is, despite its more openness to stuff) I need classic item spiral to keep me going and ESO sadly isn’t giving me that. Yes, you have better gear ofc but once I reached max level with my NB my way to get my spriggan gear set looked like this:
Have ESO on a second screen, stand near a Dolmen to finish it while playing Path of Exile on my main screen. Once I had my purple accessoires I went to a guild store, bought green spriggan gear and upgraded it to yellow and that’s how I got my endgame set.

This is not for me, I simply didn’t have a reason to continue. I played the trials once just to see some encounters but that was it, there was no reason to do them. Yes, they had other gear sets but those are for sidegrades and different specs, which again, is not for me.

Another thing that annoys me is how they handle cosmetics. Since you have no wardrobe system you would have to craft your gear again once a new cool looking set comes out which is crazy. I wouldn’t mind crafting it and then replacing the looks but completely upgrading it just for looks? No thanks. I’ll give them one thing, though. At least you can actually earn some good looking sets and not everything is put into the shop like it is in Guild Wars 2, which compeltely baffles me since the endgame is basically “fashion wars 2”.

If this wasn’t the case I would actually be motivated to farm some “cosmetic” gear. I spent months farming the elemental sword in Guild Wars 1 pre Eye of the North and this was purley cosmetic (+ a prestige item ofc).

But yeah, ESO is a great game for many but for me personally the way they handle gear is simply not for me.

Roger Melly

It’s not really what I’d imagined an Elder Scrolls MMO would be like and certainly not what I wanted an Elder Scrolls MMO to be like but it is a solid game and enjoyable enough . I just found I ended up turning off many of the chat channels because there were so many anti-social players that I was starting not to enjoy the game .

I have joined a few guilds but I get the feeling it is hard to find one that people are invested in because they are in 5 at once so that has made it hard to find one to socialise in .

I think it is a good casual game fun for a while but it lacks depth and certainly lacks a nice community .


I’ve been on an MMO hiatus for a year or two now, but I opted to finally give Open Tamriel a try now that Morrowind has been announced. Frankly, I’ve been having a blast.

When I first started ESO during the beta, I found it rather uninspiring. It felt too little like Elder Scrolls and too much like WoW. But the accumulated changes over the past few years have really improved the game. It now feels much more like an Elder Scrolls MMO should feel, imho. It used to be that when I would log on in 2014/15, after playing for a few hours, I would decide that I would much rather be playing Skyrim. Now, it’s just the opposite. I went to play Skyrim SE and, after about thirty minutes, decided that I would much rather be playing ESO.

And I LOVE the Champion Point system. The fact that I can make improvements to all of my characters with any 50th level character I have makes alting a lot more fun for me. And, to be honest, I’ve always been a bit of an altaholic. Now I play an alt while waiting for my enlightened XP to build up, then get on my 50 and play for a few hours.

I realize not everyone will feel the same way I do about ESO. But if you are a fan of Skyrim and you haven’t played ESO in awhile, I encourage you to give it a shot.

EDIT: Sorry for all of the edits. It’s been awhile since I’ve commented on Massively, and it took me a few times to figure out how to get my nickname to show up right!


Simply don’t like the how the ES games handle. Can’t really put my finger on it. *shrugs*

And the universe is a bit meh.


ESO is a really fun game. I totally enjoyed my time with it. The world feels and looks like Tamriel. That’s no easy feat. The game didn’t have any staying power with me but I did play it for a few months off and on and subbed for a bit. I kinda feel like I should have done with ESO what I did with Skyrim and that’s wait a year to play it. In ESO’s case I wished I had waited till Morrowind comes out.

My time with Skyrim was made a million times better by waiting for the modding scene to do amazing things and iron out kinks. I told myself after playing Oblivion at launch that I was going to wait to play Skyrim until it was an immensely better experience from technical standpoint, but also a user created content standpoint and I wasnt let down.

I liked ESO at launch and in beta, but i definitely think if I had waited to play it now or when Morrowind comes out that it would have felt like that complete experience. They really burned the PC player base by making us sub to beta test the console launch for them.


Back during ESO’s beta I played it and my opinion was that while I wanted an Elder Scrolls MMO, this definitely wasn’t it. I’ve come back a couple of times since then and while it’s still not my ideal Elder Scrolls MMO, it’s much, much closer and it’s pretty much been my main MMO for almost a year now. ESO isn’t perfect and there are still some major things I would change, but it’s evolved into a solid game and good Elder Scrolls experience.

SWTOR, on the other hand, has changed from a game that was okay, if fundamentally misguided, into something I have utterly no desire to play, based entirely on the story choices they’ve made.