After absolutely hammering The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited PlayStation 4 beta virtually all weekend, we're actually a bit sad to see it go. Our jaunt back into Tamriel has been an enjoyable one, despite the fact that it never truly wowed us. Perhaps this is another case of keeping expectations relatively low, and coming out of the experience pleasantly surprised – we can't really say, but what we do know is that console players looking for a meaty massively multiplayer online time sink will definitely want to keep an eye on this one.
What probably impressed us most was just how accessible the whole thing is. By and large, many would-be MMO players are intimidated by steep learning curves, the need for online etiquette, and monthly subscription fees. It's refreshing, then, that The Elder Scrolls Online won't require the latter, and its action-based gameplay means that it's easy to pick up and play. The majority of the content that's on offer can be done alone, too, so there's no need to worry about finding allies and grouping up to progress through the story. Sure, this may seem a little counterintuitive for an MMO, but it's a design choice that stands firmly in line with the title's focus on accessibility.
As such, fans of Bethesda's fantasy franchise should feel right at home, since you're still able to go off on your own crazy adventures even though the game's clearly moulded around an MMO template. In that sense, this project's a strange one: it's not quite Skyrim with multiplayer, but it's certainly not your typical MMO, either. Indeed, The Elder Scrolls Online rests somewhere in the middle, incorporating elements from both camps, and in turn, stumbles across a surprisingly addictive formula.
We've got somewhat high hopes for the finished product, then, but how does it handle on the PS4? Starting with the controls, you have to imagine that, like Skyrim, it's a release which feels at home on a gamepad. Controlling your character is simple and intuitive, with the triggers acting as your basic battle actions while the face buttons are reserved for hotkey spells and abilities. It's yet another area that's been crafted with accessibility in mind, where half of your screen isn't taken up with rows of different attacks, bars, and numbers.
As for how the title looks, it's not bad – at least in its beta form. Sporting a coherent art style, a lot of diverse colours, and some neat texture work, it's looking pretty, but it's not quite as detailed or as intricate as fans may expect. Obviously, there's only so much that you can cram into an already gigantic world – especially when there are dozens of other players running around it – and although we can't see it getting much of an overhaul before its launch in a couple of months, what we've seen is enough to inspire confidence. Tamriel feels well made and interesting, and that's key when you're playing a game that promises so much content.
How well the MMO runs on Sony's console is another matter, however. We did notice some minor frame rate issues, and we did encounter one or two infinite loading screens when fast travelling, but if crashes and glitches were the bane of your adventures in Skyrim, then you'll be happy to know that we came across nothing of the sort in the beta. Largely operating on a different engine to prior games in The Elder Scrolls series, recurring problems thankfully aren't to be expected, and who knows, maybe our next single player Elder Scrolls journey will run equally well. Fingers crossed.
It's a shame, though, that we didn't get to sample the player-versus-player aspects of the release. Whether it was because of technical issues or simply due to such activities not being available at the time, we couldn't connect to the Cyrodiil battlegrounds – huge multiplayer wars that occur in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's setting. As you can imagine, these colossal battles are easily the title's most technically demanding events, so it'll be interesting to see just how well the PS4 copes with the strain of rendering hordes of players simultaneously hurling fireballs at each other.
Overall, we're looking forward to The Elder Scrolls Online's 9th June launch date. While we have an inkling that keeping our expectations reasonable and approaching the beta with an open mind helped paint our experience in a more positive light, we can all but guarantee that there'll still be plenty to like when the finished product hits store shelves. With no subscription fee and hours upon hours of solo, co-op, and multiplayer gameplay on offer, Zenimax Online Studios' creation could be a fantastic starting point for console owners who are even the least bit interested in MMOs.
Quest and combat gameplay (part 1):
Quest and combat gameplay (part 2):
General exploration gameplay:
What did you think of the beta? Are you impressed? Disappointed? Let us know if you're considering venturing into Tamriel this summer in the comments section below.