That's right, we've played The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited for just a little over 50 hours now, so we thought that it was about time to get some impressions published. Being a massively multiplayer online game, it's safe to say that there's an absolute ton of things to see and do in ZeniMax Online Studios' huge adventure - and that's exactly what you want from an Elder Scrolls title.
You want to get lost in a fantasy world that's full of epic tales just waiting to be told, but the worry with Tamriel Unlimited is that the presence of other players works against Bethesda's trademark open world philosophy. To an extent, this particular worry is valid - after all, it can certainly ruin your immersion when you see several other players all clambering around the same quest giver, or groups of adventurers battering the same respawning enemies over and over again.
The hope, then, is that the title's MMO qualities outweigh the damage that they do to your traditional single player, role-playing game experience. Fortunately, we can say with some confidence that they do - at least to a degree. Indeed, Tamriel Unlimited's multiplayer features are some of the best parts of the release, and, of course, going on grand journeys with your friends can be a lot of fun.
Grouping up is hassle free, too, and raiding dungeons with your buddies by your side can make for an Elder Scrolls dream that many have wanted to make a reality for years now. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is how enjoyable the competitive multiplayer battles can be. When we think of Bethesda's long running fantasy franchise, we don't really picture interactions with other players being something that we necessarily want as part of the experience, but what's on offer here really bolsters the already gigantic amount of content that's available.
Teaming up with other players on open battlefields, you're tasked with leading your faction to victory in skirmishes, which eventually add up to more important clashes. The battlegrounds themselves are populated by both real players and artificial intelligence troops, and charging into the fray alongside your allies can provide a real rush. Perhaps most importantly, from what we gather, the whole thing's quite well balanced, too. Even if you keep getting slaughtered by well coordinated teams, you'll still likely feel as though you're seeing enough action and doing just enough to help out your brothers and sisters in arms. Plus, the battles, which take place in the central region of Cyrodiil, actually tie into the overarching narrative, which gives proceedings some weight.
The previously mentioned factions are a big part of the game as a whole. Picking from three available alliances when you first create your character, your chosen faction determines where you start out on the title's utterly huge map. It's a system that works relatively well in this regard, given the scale of Tamriel, but it does come with a few problems, the most prominent being that you won't be able to play with your friends unless they swear allegiance to the same alliance. This means that whatever you do, be sure to discuss what faction you're all going to join with your pals before you start playing - you really don't want to end up on opposite sides of the continent.
We can't quite speak of Tamriel Unlimited's endgame content just yet, but since it's such an integral part of any successful MMO, we're sincerely hoping that it's up to scratch. Again, from what we've played of the co-op dungeons and some of the higher level quests, we see no real reason why endgame activities can't add yet more enjoyment, especially if you've hooked up with a guild, group, or clan that knows what it's doing.
We've touched on multiplayer and the release's MMO elements, but it still needs to be noted that, yes, you can, by and large, enjoy The Elder Scrolls Online as a single player game. Of course, while you can't play it offline, you can follow the story and all of the many, many branching quests on your own. In fact, we played the title this way for a good 20 or so hours, and it was actually a lot of fun, as we travelled around the land, gaining experience and acquiring loot. The game world itself isn't quite as detailed as what we've seen from other Elder Scrolls games, but it does provide a good sense of freedom, and in turn, that openness makes exploring feel fun and natural.
However, once again, the MMO mechanics of the release will sometimes put a dampener on your escapades, purely because of the whole thing works. Utilising the much flaunted mega server technology, you're almost always going to be adventuring alongside strangers whether you like it or not, and that means exploring supposedly abandoned ruins with about ten other players sprinting around the place, mopping up enemies before you can even unsheathe your blade.
That said, the release does a great job of keeping you interested, even if you're a little put off by the shenanigans of your fellow players. The character development system, for example, is brilliant, as you level up various skills by gaining experience points through killing beasts or completing quests. Once each skill reaches a certain level, you'll then unlock more and more active and passive abilities that you can spend your skill points on, which leads to a real sense of progression. There are so many options open to you that you'll quickly create your own play style, and that's important when you're slogging through an adventure as big as this.
All in all, things are looking positive for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. We dare say that, at this point, the lack of a subscription fee boosts the game up from being a passable MMO, to being a real contender to be one of the best value for money titles available on the PlayStation 4.
Are you currently playing The Elder Scrolls Online? What do you make of it? While we continue to gather our thoughts for our upcoming review, feel free to tell us all about your adventures in the comments section below.