It sounds great on paper: Skyrim meets World of Warcraft.
That is, one of the greatest fantasy role-playing games of all time meets the most acclaimed – and most addictive – massive multiplayer online game of all time.
That’s what The Elder Scrolls Online promised but sadly the delivery falls a little short.
Like the five single-player Elder Scrolls games before it, ESO is set in the lore-rich, monster-plagued high fantasy world of Nirn, specifically on the vast continent of Tamriel.
And a great, massive world it is. The best thing about ESO is its incredible scale – it would take many hundreds of hours for players to see everything Tamriel has to offer.
It all looks very lovely too.
While ESO’s graphics don’t rival the grandeur of Skyrim or other modern single-player fantasy games, it is certainly one of the best-looking MMOs around.
But that’s just the thing: ESO is very much an MMO and players looking for a sequel to Skyrim will be sorely disappointed.
The focus here is on teaming up with other players to perform hundreds of quests that can range from exciting (like raiding dungeons) to painfully mundane (like finding a villager’s lost pig).
There’s a lot of talking – so much lore! – and a lot of walking. It’s a curiously slow-paced affair that makes players really work for their unlocks and experience points.
It can be addictive when you get on a roll, but it can also be tedious and repetitive at times.
And ultimately, there’s just none of that Skyrim wow factor.
The combat is better than in most MMOs but in other ways ESO is strangely unambitious. It lacks the innovation of recent MMOs like Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World, both of which took more risks.
But ESO’s biggest weakness is its price.
Gamers are being asked to shell out for a full-priced game, and then pay a monthly subscription fee.
Only the absolute best games could justify this premium, and ESO is just not at that level.
OVERALL: The Elder Scrolls Online is a good game but not as good as the games that inspired it – and not good enough to justify that awful monthly subscription fee.
Available now on PC. Coming soon to Xbox One and PlayStation 4.