Should You Play ESO in 2021?
23 February, 2021...
This question is asked by many a new and returning player every year.
You'll get different answers from different people and content creators.
Here's my take on the time honoured annual question of whether you should put down your hard earned money on ESO or the Elder Scrolls Online this year in 2021.
Let's start with what's going well with this game.
Massive Player Population
No one wants to hang out on dead servers or wait hours just to get enough players to group up for dungeon or raid content.
That's just no fun.
Elder Scrolls Online ranks 7th in terms of MMO player numbers as of February 23, 2021 anyway at 995,000.
It's regularly played and people regularly log in.
In the recent Blackwood reveal announcement over 18,000,000 have played ESO to date, with 3 million joining in the last year, from over 240 countries.
It's also cross platform on PC, Stadia, Steam, Xbox and PS4.
If that doesn't inspire confidence in the long term survivability and health of this game I don't know what does.
I won't say that Elder Scrolls Online has the best storytelling however it is pretty reasonable if not good.
For that title, Final Fantasy Online is probably the winner.
It does however have a great variety of quests that are not your usual fetch and retrieve quests or kill x monsters quests.
The quests are actual stories with various consequences.
Some of them carry over into other quests in minor ways though generally there is no right or wrong, good or bad ending - only the ending you're happy with.
The consequences are very little in this regard.
What I can say however is that there are side quests galore in every zone of the game that you take part in when you want to.
Every DLC and guild has a quest line of its own too.
It's truly an open world MMORPG similar to TESV Skyrim and the previous single player games.
After the previous One Tamriel update, you can start anywhere and go anywhere and everything scales with your current level.
One of the best story quests is the one for Wrothgar zone from the Orsinium DLC, considered the best by many ESO players.
Gear Grinding is Low
Unlike games like Final Fantasy Online or World of Warcraft, grinding new gear is not a big deal at all.
In those games every time an expansion comes out and the gear level goes up, all your current gear becomes weaker or obselete and you have to re-grind the high end gear all over again.
This sucks especially for casual players and players who don't have time for that.
In the Elder Scrolls Online, gear has a more flat, horizontal progression.
Once you hit CP 160, the gear max level is also capped there meaning that you don't have to keep grinding ever higher level gear.
You only have to worry about grinding different gear sets rather than higher level gear.
This is the one thing I love about Elder Scrolls Online and also Guild Wars 2, which also has horizontal gear progression.
Price Inflation is Not a Thing
I recently heard from a friend that the top tier augments in a game like Star Wars the Old Republic ran like 300,000,000 (300 million) credits.
In a game like ESO, the market prices are never higher than maybe 50 million to 150 million (for really rare yellow, legendary motifs).
Crafting augments probably don't run more than 50,000 or so a piece in some cases.
Considering how easy it is to earn in game gold this isn't a big deal.
Elder Scrolls Online generally has decent or above average support for the most common player issues.
As long as it doesn't involve terms of service bans or EULA bans or something rare or accidental bans.
Compared to the nightmare stories I've heard about other MMO games like Square Enix for Final Fantasy or Star Trek Online, ESO is pretty good in the support department.
The challenge level of PVE combat in Elder Scrolls Online is generally good as everything is level scaled to you.
For non-veteran, new or beginner players it has enough to be quite challenging without being boring.
After you hit high Champion Point (CP) levels like I have though, only the toughest of monsters really pose any threat.
That's usually from veteran mode or hard mode dungeons.
PVP in Battlegrounds and Cyrodiil can be massive, entertaining affairs.
I don't particularly like PVP however I'm done a fair share of it.
This is one of the few mmorpg games on the market where you can actually have over 50 players on each side engaging each other during zergs.
The other games like this might be Guild Wars 2 and some strategy games which aren't rpgs.
Regular Content Updates
Elder Scrolls Online is owned by Zenimax Online Studios, which in turn is now owned by Microsoft.
They now have more money to play with.
It also means that unlike other MMOs that lack the finances to push regular content updates (cough, Guild Wars 2), ESO has regular content on a quarterly basis.
They've started with yearly themes since Elsweyr expansion, the Year of Dragons.
And now it's the Gates of Oblivion in 2021.
You'll always have something to do, achievements/dyes/titles to gain, more dungeons, more trials, more style motifs, more pets, etc.
You get the idea.
Regular content means a lively MMO game that keeps your attention far into the future and that is a good thing, otherwise why invest time in it right?
This is often one of the major pain points brought up by many players.
I like action combat systems and prefer them or hybrid action combat systems over tab based ones found in Star Wars the Old Republic or World of Warcraft.
Granted, the tab based combat in WOW is considered the best for the category though.
I find the action combat in Elder Scrolls Online acceptable though it's definitely not the best by any stretch.
After playing games like Warframe and Phantasy Star Online 2 (North American version), ESO's combat is kind of bland and lacking in "punch" or fluid movement.
Games best known for action combat would be Tera, Soulworkers Online, Blade and Soul and Black Desert Online.
As of February 2021, the bow skill is still kind of meh.
And combat with magicka characters doesn't seem as powerful or as impactful compared to other games with mages.
Just as PVP in ESO can be kind of good it also has some major downsides.
As of February 2021, there are still server problems that can lock out some players during Cyrodiil fights.
Or downright boot them out of the game.
Not so much issues in Battlegrounds.
I've experience some of these server problems on occassion, usually around severe lag.
Haven't seen the state of Cyrodiil pvp during large fights recently though.
In addition the upcoming updates for Blackwood may change the entire meta, making it harder to actually kill other players quickly.
It may force a move to non-CP (champion point) PVP servers which some players might not like.
To me graphics has never been a deal breaker as long as it's not pixelated blocks like from the TES 3 Morrowind days.
To some players however the graphics of Elder Scrolls Online are kind of dated.
It's definitely not considered top notch textures or shaders.
Though it is running with DirectX 11 on my GTX 1660Ti as of today.
Of course I've had to tune down my settings to kill shadows and maintain a decent 50-60 fps usually.
If you're used to extremely flashy, bright or animated cosmetics you will mostly be disappointed - most of the skins and styles in Elder Scrolls Online are very tame by comparison.
The only motifs I personally have with any kind of animated flare are Opal motifs for armour and weapons.
Compared to other MMOs and even Guild Wars 2, I would have to say that yes you can make your character look a certain way however don't expect it to be dazzling.
So after hearing about the pros and cons of ESO, is it worth playing?
It depends on you.
Yes if you're a casual player who likes a reasonable amount of story and hates gear grinding.
Yes if you like playing steady in a game that has regular content updates, vibrant population and community and a long life span.
You can literally drop back out and in any time and your gear never goes out of date.
No if you hate a less fluid action combat system or if you like really high quality cosmetics to deck your character out in.
Sure it still beats tab targeting though.
No if you love pvp yet hate laggy or bad pvp server performance.
As of 2021, Elder Scrolls Online definitely earns its keep as one of the top paid MMOs on the market (there's only really Final Fantasy Online at the moment I think).