I find Elder Scrolls Online fascinating in a number of ways, it seems almost archaic in its build up and desire to be the next big mmo, The game has the production values of the show stopper, it has the build up and name recognition that should make it rise above the competition, but that just isn't happening. I see more people making justifications for this game, I think the love for Skyrim is making it difficult for some of the more die hard fans to admit that the design and NDA practices of this title are incredibly scary. If I were sitting on a preorder for this game right now, I would be asking myself "Why is the NDA for media only lifted now, and not for the common player? What the hell is going on?" This may not even matter, but Massively has taken the chance to write a very damning "review" of the ESO beta, if anything it should spark some amount of hesitation from gamers. I'll go ahead and link to that here and highlight a few key points in this thread and my own personal comments as well. Article written by Eliot Lefebvre for Massively.Joystiq.com
This was not helped at all when the game actually did offer me a choice of what to do next. One quest involved the murder of an elven diplomat at the hands of the most obvious suspect in the world, and at the very end you have a choice: let the diplomat's wife kill the murderer or bring him to justice. It's an old scene, but it's one replete with potential drama, considerations of both sides, the prospect of making an enemy of a woman whom you sympathize with...
Wait, what's that? I talk to her for half a minute, and she just agrees to do what I want? That's somewhat less dramatic than I had expected. At that point, the whole drama vanishes into a happy vacuum, never to be spoken of again. If it gets brought up again in a way that matters later in the game, I would be very impressed; I certainly didn't get the sense that my choice would matter, nor did I ever see any sort of fallout from the choice I did make.
Am I nitpicking? Sort of. But considering that one of the big selling points for endgame in ESO is going back and doing the other factional storylines, I would hope that those stories are interesting, with a few twists and turns here and there. Perhaps it's too early to tell, but if I'm bored with a book on page 20, odds are I'm not going to tough it out for another 300 pages afterward.
This speaks to one of the bigger problems, the game has this grand desire to weave the player into the story, if anything it is like Star Wars The Old Republic, only it completely misses the mark on making the player feel engaged. Obviously I am speaking in broad strokes, but this is what Zenimax has felt would best represent their game. Less than 2 months until release and outside of stress test beta weekends critics and gamers alike are left worried that if these initial quests are proving so dull and monotonous it is only that much more apparent when the game takes that bold step to ask you to care about these characters without having an engaging story or pacing for the player to relate too.
Maybe this changes in the higher levels. But then, maybe all of this is better as you get further on. But that's cold comfort if you aren't having enough fun to keep playing to find out, isn't it?
I did encounter plenty of oddities. Armor skills, for instance, seemed to be quite firmly tied to particular playstyles, so there's little point to wearing heavy armor on a damage-oriented character. I also noticed no skills that specifically centered around gaining and holding threat, just a lot of skills centered on survivability. I'm going to give the game the benefit of a doubt and assume that I simply didn't notice the threat skills, or maybe there's another tanking mechanic that I'm not familiar with; otherwise I can see a lot of group combat devolving into the same sort of uncontrolled chaos of Guild Wars.
That's not good, one of the biggest features any mmos need is creating that demand for class compatibility. By that I mean you need to clearly demonstrate the benefit of bringing that bulky armored up warrior to maintain and hold threat, if it just dissolves into a flurry of attacks albeit flashing in different colors what purpose will there be in grouping. I can say that in my research I was unable to find clear information on this games group dynamics, maybe it is one reason that features such as "threat" control and end game raiding haven't been clearly elaborated on, but maybe this is all coming later.
That minor thrill, however, was not nearly enough to get me invested in the game. Indeed, the only thing that did keep me invested was trying fruitlessly to find something that I could point to and say, "This is why you should care about this game." And I kept coming up short. When all was said and done, the only real mark I could find unambiguously in its favor was the name, and that seems like a particularly poor conclusion.
Now we are getting to the gritty core of this game, this sentiment has frequently been expressed, the biggest problem is that this game isn't some generic free to play mmo being brought over and translated to enter the blob of games that came before it. ESO is asking to enter the hyper competitive mmo market as a top contender for your upfront retail purchase AND monthly fee without any discernible features to separate it from the pack. That is the biggest problem, there isn't a single thing the game does bad, but at the same time there isn't a single selling feature that is executed to make this game worth your time.
If you skipped most of the thread I would say at least read this closing
The trouble, ultimately, is that ESO is not a terrible game. It's functional, as it should be with release just around the corner. But it means that instead of being an endearing so-bad-it's-awesome sort of game, it winds up coming across as bland, unimaginative, and boring. Everything it's doing has been done better in other games, and while I keep thinking, "Maybe there's a more fun game over the next rise," my experiences over the beta weekend didn't make me at all eager to keep digging for it.
But if all of that still comes across like so much bleating, I'd raise the question of why we're 56 days out from launch and only now able to talk about impressions of the game outside of specific media tours at conventions. One wonders whether management is completely aware of how weak the game feels overall. Certainly this doesn't imply confidence with the product.
The last game I played that kept its NDA up this long before launch was Final Fantasy XIV's first incarnation, and that had brilliant ideas but terrible execution. This game has solid execution; it's just rather dry on creativity. Combine that with a pre-order bonus that pushes you to order the game sight unseen and a CE that offers an entirely separate race, and I'm leery. I won't say that the whole thing is just a cash grab -- obviously the developers want to make as much money as possible -- but I suspect that the studio knows the game isn't ready for prime time but isn't terribly interested in fixing it without seeing whether it's profitable.
And right now, I don't feel this game is worth your time. If you want a fantasy MMO based on quests, there are buckets of options even if you don't like World of Warcraft, most of which manage to do a better job with various aspects of gameplay while feeling far less generic. Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars,Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV... heck, if you really aren't satisfied without a personal narrative and somewhat floaty vaguely active combat, Guild Wars 2 exists, and while that game has its own problems, it delivers on most of the points that ESO seems to want to. It lets you build the sort of character you enjoy playing, and it also offers lots of reasons to explore over the horizon; yes, most of them are marked with waypoints, but they're not just another set of quests.
Maybe there's something else. Perhaps I'm just missing some key piece of information, some concept that will tie the whole game together. Perhaps if I just press a little further I'll see what makes people excited for the game. Perhaps I'm just completely wrong and not the target audience at all, but I've been trying to see what's there to like about the game even if I don't intend to play it over the long term. But there comes a point when you have to stop giving the game chances to win you over, when you have to say that it's giving you little reason to praise it at all. There comes a point when you just have to say, "No, this is in fact not all that good."
Unless you're an enormous fan of the Elder Scrolls franchise, there's not much to recommend ESO right now. It's another generic fantasy MMO in a field already filled with them. And I just don't get it.
Honestly I view this as a revolt, Massively has taken a strong stance here not sugar coating the quality of this game. I admire them for that, I think we will see a domino effect moving forward, Zenimax and Bethesda have made a concerted effort to keep these negative impressions of the game from the headlines as much as possible, but they are backed into a corner now as days tick down to release. I am not wishing poor performance of this game, but I feel that any game released under these pretenses, covertly trying to dissuade and shield itself from criticism has something to hide, it is intellectually insulting and if this is the developing trend for triple AAA mmos I can say that I would be here calling out any developer that attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer. At least have the respect to be honest with your customers, or even better take the opportunity to address these concerns. Unfortunately they have seen fit to label the users as the problem, out to disrupt their pesky NDA. They can't hide behind that forever, this won't be the last article that begins to shed light on why this game is running with one of the most secretive and misleading NDAs in recent mmo history.