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While I purchased the game with a thought that they have just butchered one of my favorite IPs of all time, I must admit I genuinely had fun at some points of the game. TESO was one of the few MMORPGs that managed to deliver a PvE experience where you forgot you're actually just grinding levels to reach the maximum level, however this illusion couldn't last throughout the entire experience.
Lets start with:
PvE & Questing:
The games PvE had some extremely good parts. The main quest storylines of each zone, and the guild quests corporated with the actual main quest were easily the best PvE experience I've had in MMO. The sad part is, this was propably around 20% of the actual PvE experience. ESO attempted to thrive with exploration, voice acting and quest content that wasnt supposed to be your typical "Kill ten hens and collect their eggs", it didn't quite get there. Whenever my compass showed me a public dungeon, a mini-adventure in a cave or similiar where there was a little story behind it all, and a boss to slay. I didn't immerse myself into such parts, at all. I knew already the said cave would be empty, I could run through it within a minute, camp the boss spawn with few players and twenty bots, slay the boss and pick up the 1 quest that was always there for quick XP grab.
Talking about exploration, there was little to explore when the map showed that "that area will have some content in it" and you just knew that if you wanted to keep up with the level requirements of the content, you'd have to scour through everything in the zone. So it wasn't exploration, it was well veiled illusion of quest hubs. Which hurt the immersion, which was actually apart from the important quests, non-existent. I couldn't immerse with the world most of the time, and that made the leveling and PvE experience feel like a drag.
There were some glorious moments, the storytelling allowed you to make choices on important quests, which in turn reflected your story all the way to the final moments of the quest lines. You saw familiar faces that interacted with you according to what you had done in the past. Or possibly didn't see them altogether since you had decapitated the said person 40 levels ago. The annoying part was, the little voice inside your head kept telling you "Enjoy these moments while they last."
While the combats design on paper was excellent. Manual blocking, parrying, dodging, light and heavy attacks, non-cool down resource management based skill-relying gameplay. Holy mudcrab wasn't so holy after all. Light attacks were only spammed between ability animations for little extra damage, and they served no real purpose. Heavy attacks were even worse, since you could just spam that light attack for 95% of its damage without risking being put off the balance.
The whole you can do all this fell short the moment I realized all of them are irrelevant, the best option for my character was just to charge to the enemy, press skills 1,2,3 and the opponents were dead. Light attacks? Didn't need them. Heavy attacks? Never used them! Blocking? Only if I wanted to use deadly bash on my shield. Dodging? I actually still to this day didn't use it to do anything else than dispelling roots. The concept is great, but the design flaws of making manual attacks irrelevant, blocking unimportant for most part and the fact that dodge barrel rolling was too costly to be used for anything made the combat well masked spamming of abilities, much like every other MMO out there. Manual targetting? I just clicked tab to target and held my mouse in the general direction of the mobs / players.
While I play MMORPGs only for the sake of PvP content. I must say I spent less than ten hours on the PvP zone at release. Reasons for it were quite too simple: It felt absolutely meaningless. I died? Oh let's just run back to the fight. We lost / captured a keep, well what's the point? The PvP had no depth, everything that happened in Cyrodil felt irrelevant. While the sieging was fun at some parts, when you realize it matters absolutely nothing, other than on virtual scoreboards that reward 1 player at some part, I saw nothing for me there. That's the reason I couldn't keep being on the PvP zone, it felt like I was spending my time there playing a mini-game that held no rewards or anything to brag about. I didn't feel slightest sense of accomplishment whilst capturing a keep or managing to defend a bridge against a horde of opposing attackers. Simply stated: There is no carrot in any form. The random chests that handed out items weren't exactly anything to look forward to either. Overall extremely bland experience that was the final nail to the coffin for me in regards of not subbing to the game.
End-game and dungeons:
When I finally hit level 50 and got my first veteran rank, I dropped my jaw. The game instantly turned into a grind. After realizing I had millions and millions of experience (one mob handed around 400 exp and a quest ~5000) I couldn't even imagine reaching veteran rank 10. I decided to try the end-game PvE, and went to a group dungeon I last visited at level 15. While it was slightly more difficult, the group dungeon experience stayed the same; Other than few bosses and their special abilities, it was mainly chaotic spamming of abilities and attacks at the boss, whilst evading few red circles from time to time, it lacked it strategical depth. Perhaps the adventure zones and trials will change this, but currently it doesn't require too much teamwork, only well geared and well built characters and a healer who can keep up.
The only good part was that if I had the will and the time, I could play through the other factions quest content (and the awesome storylines), but I just couldn't do the 80% of the other stuff to enjoy the 20% content anymore, I just couldn't.
Actually, the one thing you need to raise your hat for. I loved the crafting in the game, and the fact that you could replace most of your gear with self-crafted items, and be self-reliant on your gear progression. The only negative part about this was the research time grind. It was awesome to research a trait for a chest armor, knowing you could soon craft that set piece one with your chosen stats and even turn it into a legendary items. The problem was that the research timer showed me I could do it after a month.
TL;DR The game has excellent concepts, but the design choices make most of them fall flat on their stomach. The game lacks immersion you'd expect from Zenimaxs marketing speech (and the IP) and apart from few quest choices, your feats felt meaningless. As one of the million Vestiges who prevented the apocalypse on Nirn, I couldn't feel being something more.
Final Score: 62/100