I'm going to start this off by saying that I am absolutely in love with this game in its current state.
I want to make that clear upfront, as I played on and off in the beta and was ready to be letdown. The controls even a month ago were sluggish, the combat felt floaty, the game as a whole felt very linear, and nothing seemed to be intuitive.
I am happy to announce that Bethesda/Zenimax have taken late-Beta user critiques to heart and made some rather substantial changes that have really brightened the game up for me. The have added NPC collision, something that hasn't been done right in nearly enough MMO's, have made the 'starter' island less streamlined and entirely optional, and really made the game feel like a tight first-person adventure game that you just happen to be playing with hundreds, nay thousands of other duders.
Starter island complaints
The first major issue that they resolved was the MMO convention that you are stuck in a starting area and need to go through a fairly linear questline before you get to the 'actual' game. I remember starting my first character in WoW as a human, and being utterly lost in the world. However once I saw through the illusion and scope of the world, I quickly realized that it was a very linear progression I was expected to take or die painfully at the hands of lvl 3 boars and Defias bandits. Rift went the other direction, by creating a 30 minute linear quest area that was strictly designed to teach you the basics before dumping you into the overworld.
ESO cuts the middle, starting you in an linear instanced zone to teach you the basics, but only for about 10 minutes or so. Once you are done with that you are dumped into your first quest area and let loose to cause havoc upon Nirn. But lo! About 20 feet away there is an NPC that will take you to a 'special' zone built solely for your faction, that sets you up with quite a bit of backstory and tasty tasty lore. The catch is, this area is generally built around lvl 4 characters, meaning most enemies don't go above that level, keeping it nice and safe for the learning player. While you might stumble across a pack of 2-4 enemies who outlevel you by quite a bit in the main world, this area won't present anything of the sort. I encountered no groups of enemies larger than 2 through the entire zone.
And don't think it isn't a large zone. It took me about 10 minutes to run from one side to the other on foot, using my sprint ability as often as I could. That's quite a substantial amount of real estate to get your feet wet in. The other cool fact that underlays this area is that, while there is a 'main' questline in the area, as in most MMO's there are plenty of side quests for you to sink your teeth into. However there are no breadcrumb quests that will send you to the vast majority of these quests, you need to go looking for them. Once you are close, an icon will display on your map and on your compass and will guide you to the local questgiver. Sometimes there isn't an associated quest with a landmark, but some other type of XP/loot/reward that still incentivises deep exploration.
The thing is this whole experience used to be forced on the player, that's where you were dumped after you left the tutorial instance. This meant that the first 4-5 hours of gameplay was one extended n00b zone, with no real danger for experienced MMO players who wanted to see Nirn in all of its glory. I am a total completionist and immediately jumped back into this mandatory area, but I can see some players really taking offense to being forced to deal with this type of content.
Controls and Combat
The next point that gives me great hope is the feel of this game now as opposed to a few months ago. Before the introduction of NPC collision the combat didn't have a very good feel. I have fond memories of Skyrim, running up to enemies and shield bashing them into oblivion before cutting them down with my sword. But in MMO's the status quo allows for NPC clipping to make for more 'fluid' game interaction. The problem is that the general appeal to this game was the promise of the first person adventure alongside the camaraderie of traditional MMO's, which does not feel right when you clip through the big bad at the end of a dungeon. The decision to implement NPC collision suddenly made the adventure come alive! NPC's run into combat range and come to a halt, and we pleasantly bash one anothers brains into nonexistence.
A final hurdle that gives me a good feeling about this product is the implementation of new icons/warnings/features that highlight MMO mechanics without taking away from my quest to be the greatest warrior-mage in all of Tamriel! Something as simple as highlighting text on my character screen when I've stacked too much of one stat (and am now suffering diminishing returns) reminds me that I am playing an MMO instead of taking away from my immersion. They have rather seamlessly incorporated traditional MMO mechanics in such a way that it does not create a burden on my enjoyment, which is a lesson hard won in WoW, Rift, and SWTOR.
Basically that's my write up of my first day in-game, about 14 hours yesterday. I cannot help myself when a good MMO comes along and sweeps me off my feet, and I'm very happy I gave this one the chance it deserved.
You can find me in-game @EggshellSkull