Bethesda Softworks’ ever-popular fantasy Role Playing Game (RPG) series, The Elder Scrolls hit its biggest success with the November 2011 release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim sold 20 million copies as of January 2014; earning itself a spot among the Top 20 Best Selling Video Games of All Time. Now, during the third month of its availability, The Elder Scrolls Online, a partnership between Bethesda Softworks and parent company, ZeniMax Media, is already being referred to as “a disappointment” by seasoned fans, making the game’s delayed, but inevitable move over to consoles from PC (Personal Computer) a questionable marketing decision.
Historically, Elder Scrolls games have always begun with the player character being held as a captive prisoner somewhere; the result of his or her own indiscretions. The introduction sequence leads into a subsequent and lengthy escape; wherein the player discovers that in one way or another, he or she is the savior upon whose shoulders the fate of the population rests. The Elder Scrolls Online differs here in that this is no longer a game about a singular savior; but rather, a vast number who must work together as a team to save Tamriel from the dark armies of the Cold Harbour plane of Oblivion. The Daedric Prince of Domination and Enslavement, Molag Bal has set his sights on Tamriel, and with it, all of Nirn. Players will experience a plethora of familiar features as they fight against the armies of undead. Amid the turmoil of supernatural siege, three large alliances battle for control of Cyrodiil’s captial, The Imperial City.
As with all Elder Scrolls games, players choose a race and class upon beginning the game. Bethesda has been met with backlash over making the Imperials, the indigenous race of Tamriel a “pay to access” feature. A new addition to the game is the option of Alliance choice. The war taking place throughout Tamriel forces the player to choose a side in the conflict, which will then dictate the types of interactions that the player will have with other NPCs (Non Playable Characters) throughout the course of the game. Factions with playable storylines like The Dark Brotherhood and The Thieves Guild are still present in The Elder Scrolls Online. The game is not without a nostalgic Elder Scrolls feel. The complaints from fans have been far more specific to the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) aspect of the game.
Fans of the elaborate fantasy series have been anticipating a new release with an Elder Scrolls title since the success of Skyrim hooked a whole new generation of Elder Scrolls fans three years ago. In an attempt to offer a more stiff competition to established and successful MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) like WOW (World of Warcraft) and EverQuest, Bethesda Softworks has decided to expand the series into a seamless PVP (Player Versus Player) environment. Gamers can travel through the whole of Tamriel; a continent that series fans have only been able to visit in segments throughout the previous releases, each of which had a varying quality of graphics appropriate to the time in which they were released. The graphics allowed by the technology encased within a Playstation 4 or Xbox One in addition to the comfortable hand-held controls had players excited before the ultimate impressions of the game were released across the internet, but the unending complaints surrounding the game have branded the game’s move over to consoles a questionable decision despite the six month delay that was announced in May.
Visually stunning Elder Scrolls Online allows players to traverse over a larger portion of the planet, Nirn, than ever before – and in stunning detail. The advertised multiplayer feature of the game is far less integrated than expected. Quest lines are playable once before the player is locked out, making the act of assisting a new player reach a higher level at a faster pace, nearly impossible. Another recently patched issue left players unable to locate one another when following the same quest line.
Gamer forums on both GameSpot.com and the dedicated website for The Elder Scrolls Online succinctly list the abundant grievances that former fans of the two decade old series consistently voice in high numbers. A pitifully low amount of loot to reward a difficult boss fight has gamers frustrated as well as the poorly executed cooperative gameplay. Elder Scrolls Online has received low ratings on most game review websites from seasoned MMO players with serious gripes about how the game has a “money farm” feel to it. Gamers who opt to pay for a more comprehensive service have access to more powerful upgrades and items, giving them the upper hand on those who choose to play for free. When money is more valuable than the time spent on an RPG, the game is immediately given a grossly uneven playing field despite whatever effort the free player may have expended.
Overall, The Elder Scrolls Online is being seen as a disappointment by the target customer group. A platform shift for a game that is largely viewed as a flop can be an expensive and risky endeavor. ZeniMax has announced that it plans on making the game available on gaming consoles sometime during the fall and winter months, but the decision to do so is questionable.
By Faye Barton