Tamriel Infinium: Our 2017 report card for Elder Scrolls Online
Let’s pull apart the accomplishments of ESO this year into my standard for grading MMORPGs: The Bartle Taxonomy. MMORPGs are wonderful because of the breadth of different activities that players can participate in. They draw together many different kinds of players, and Bartle’s Taxonomy breaks these players into four different categories: Socializers, Achievers, Killers, and Explorers.
Most people will be a blend of two or more of these categories. I’m going to measure the merits of the game based each category individually using a scale you’ll often find in American schools: A, B, C, D, and F.
I think there is one major thing that tips the scale of for socializers in Elder Scrolls Online, and of course, that is Homestead. I like WildStar player housing, I think Star Wars: The Old Republic housing is serviceable, RIFT‘s Dimensions is probably the best in the industry, and World of Warcraft‘s garrisons are trying to be forgotten. I would place ESO‘s housing on par with if not slightly better than WildStar’s housing. It’s less interactive than WildStar‘s housing, but it’s a side and social feature. Where WildStar mechanics make it almost a necessary part of the game, Elder Scrolls Online Homestead is completely optional and are made to fit the player’s style versus trying to shoehorn it into some kind of arbitrary objective.
There are some things that are missing on the social side of ESO, but not many. They have made group finder a bit better and the autoscaling zones make things interesting for casual groups. But instancing is still an issue in earlier levels. And guild communication tools could use some work. But none of these are terrible, they just could be better. The most irksome part for socializers will be the cashshop because many of the best fashions are tied to the shop, and there is no way to trade these fashions with other players.
I know I simplify the desires of achievers by suggesting it’s just filling up bars. But there is great satisfaction when filling up bars and getting the rewards for filling those bars up. Many of the times, achievers like to have things just so they can say they have those things. I get that.
Although there are a lot of bars to fill in ESO, it’s not the bars that are the most important part of the game for achievers. The dye system is likely the most important. It’s probably more important than the actual achievement tracker because the dye system allows you to show off your achievements outwardly. I believe that it is an interesting way to show off the new and old achievements. It allows you to have the armor look you want, but at the same time you can show off that you’ve achieved some difficult goal.
On top of the actual achievements, ESO is full of different challenges and odd, hidden achievements for achievers to hunt for. It’s possible that I just haven’t noticed or found them, but I believe that ESO has slowed down its achievements this year or perhaps the only ones that I noticed are gained via normal gameplay, which is not exactly what achievements are about. Because of this, I didn’t quite give it an A, but it’s solid, regardless.
I have never liked the word “Killers” to describe the people in this group because I have always believed that their motivation was beyond killing other characters. They are in it for the competition, and just as importantly, they like to know where their skill level is when compared to other players. And this is the important part when we look at the new things that ESO offers.
Let’s talk about Battlegrounds. I am very glad that these instanced PvP arenas exist, but unlike other games where there seems to be a concerted effort made to get the arena’s meticulously correct and unique, Battlegrounds are a checklist of required basics. I’ve said this before in my mid-term report, and nothing has actually changed since then.
The other thing that seems to be dragging PvP down for the Killer is balance. Of course, PvPers are going constantly complain about how everything is unbalanced how one class is better than another. And this is likely true with ESO, not because the developers aren’t trying to keep things balanced, but there are just too many possibilities in ESO. Classes aren’t built by just the class you choose at the beginning, but by the class, the weapon, race, and questlines during PvE. There is just too much to keep in check.
While every other category in this game has gained traction since the mid-term report card, exploration has gone down a tick. I will give ESO points for giving us an all-new zone to explore. It’s really a great looking island full of beautiful landscapes to screenshot, but it’s not expansive. And to top it off, the place you really want to get to, the giant volcano in the middle of the island (Red Mountain), is completely cut off.
While the above isn’t terrible, the additional DLC that focuses on instanced content like Clockwork City and Horns of the Reach stifles exploration that much more. Although some might be surprised at how expansive Clockwork City actually is given how contained it was in Elder Scrolls III, it still wasn’t that explorer friendly since it was really geared toward the questlines and not much more.
I don’t think that ESO and its DLC and expansions are terrible for explorers; I just think they are barely above average, and that’s mostly because the POIs and landscapes are beautiful.
Let me close this out by saying that I think ESO is amazing, and using this way of judging misses some important parts like storytelling, which I think ESO excels at when compared to the average MMORPG. You run into surprisingly deep characters throughout the game, and the lore is complicated and intriguing.
Your opinion is just as important as mine. How would you grade ESO? Let me see your report card in the comments below.