I had a look at ESO around when it launched. At the time, the web site basically said, here's how to buy the game, but we're not going to tell you anything about it. It had scarcely more than some of those game sites that make you wonder if it's a scam to try to get your personal information and there isn't an actual game. So I ignored it.
So I checked back recently and their web site was much more fleshed out. So are the fan sites. It looks like fextralife is the main wiki for the game, though it's not always easy to tell, as so many sites are inclined to create a wiki, make about ten pages for it, and quit, and search engines can't necessarily filter that garbage out. I spent several hours looking through it and thought it looked like the game could be pretty good. So I tried it.
The ESO Plus subscription advertises "Full access to all DLC game packs". That's a direct copy and paste from the site, and the bolded text is bold on their web site, not my own emphasis. There is fine print that explains, "Access to DLC game packs available in the Crown Store and character progression bonuses available for the duration of membership. Any progress made using the progression bonuses during the time of membership will remain." So I assumed that if I buy the game and subscribe, I get access to all of the content.
Wrong. Apparently ESO Plus gives you access to some content and not others. The game is constantly nagging me to pay another $30 to buy Summerset, because that isn't included with a subscription, nor with the base game. It started the first time I logged in, before I even got to character creation. If their goal was to make people who just bought the game feel scammed even before reaching character creation, then mission accomplished. This is the stuff that class action lawsuits are made of.
You know how a lot of games have some EULA with many pages worth of legalese that you're supposed to ignore and click "I agree"? ESO has about four or five separate ones, and you have to scroll down and then click to agree separately to each of them. I don't recall ever seeing any other software or service with more than two.
The game also takes a very long time to load. Now, a lot of games take a while to load. But ESO takes a long time to load the login screen. Then you log in and it takes a long time to get you to the character choice screen. Then you choose your character and it takes a long time to load the game world itself. I can understand taking a long time at one stage of loading, but not three. That's just sloppy design.
Eventually, I made it into the game. You know how some games have some weird key combination to make the UI vanish so that you can take a screenshot? ESO apparently decided that the entire game should be like that. You just have to know ahead of time which key combinations do what and then maybe eventually you can play.
Now, it is possible to dig through the settings and make a UI appear. You can have health bars and skill bars and numbers and so forth, so that you can tell what's going on in the underlying mechanics, and not just, I hit that mob and have no idea how much effect it had. It's just not there by default for some inexplicable reason.
Or at least, you can make a lot of stuff appear. I haven't yet figured out how to make the top bar not disappear most of the time. I haven't figured out how to get a mini-map. It took me a long time to figure out that you could open a map and it would tell you where to go, but it's a nuisance to have to cover up the normal game in order to see where to go, rather than having to wander around the zone aimlessly hoping to stumble across what a quest asked me to find. I also haven't figured out how to turn off the voice overs, as I have no idea why someone thought it was a good idea to have NPCs read the quest text to you very slowly and in small chunks.
And I still have no idea how I'm supposed to find quests. I've found a couple by stumbling across an NPC who offered a quest. But while a lot of games have quest markers, it sure looks like ESO doesn't. It has quest hubs, to be sure. Maybe there's some way to make some UI stuff appear so that you can find all of the quests in a minute, rather than spending ten minutes fishing through the wiki, or half an hour wandering around clicking on things until I've found most of the quests but missed a couple.
But perhaps the fundamental reason why I'm lost is that the game simply doesn't have a tutorial. It has a handful of tooltips that say to press this or that key to do something. Most of the tooltips are wrong because they don't realize that I'm using a gamepad so I've had to remap controls, but at least they say what functionality I'm supposed to find, and then I can go searching through the keybinds to figure out what I need. And there aren't very many of those tooltips, either. There are certainly fewer than a lot of other games would have even if you completely excluded the game's tutorial from the tooltip count.
So thus far, I've played for about three hours. Probably less than ten minutes of that was in combat. Most of the rest was running back and forth trying to figure out what to do. That would be a fine ratio for a game like Uncharted Waters Online that isn't primarily about combat. But from the wiki, it sure looks like ESO is supposed to be a mostly combat game, as the main non-combat activities are there to either make you better at combat or lead to combat.
It's still plausible that the game might be pretty good. I haven't found anything to contradict the things that looked potentially good on the game's site and wiki. My main concern before trying the game was that the controls could be awkward, and that seems to be fine. Most games are awkward at first because I use a gamepad, and it takes a while to figure out which controls matter for the game and which don't and map the gamepad appropriately. ESO seems to be better than average in this regard.
But there's a learning curve, as the game does some unorthodox things. I'd never seen anything like the game's stamina/magicka split, and their skill point system is certainly unusual. Having a learning curve isn't necessarily bad, as innovative game mechanics will usually cause one. The problem is that Zenimax doesn't seem to care to do anything to smooth that learning curve. That can't possibly be good for player retention. Most players won't spend several hours reading up on a game before trying it; if I hadn't done so, I'd probably have quit in frustration by now. Now that the game has been out for more than four years, maybe they should find time to make the new player experience a little friendlier.