Launched in 2014, The Elder Scrolls Online opened with a rocky start. Botters flooded the game and hackers made their characters invincible. Quests were so broken, players had to come up with unique solutions to complete them. On top of these issues, many players felt the game was extremely punishing. Every element was a grind, and dungeons were overwhelmingly difficult. Needless to say, the game needed a lot of work. Over time, Zenimax Online fixed these issues one by one and released a new buy-to-play structure called Tamriel Unlimited.
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With the bugs fixed, botters at bay, and a newly implemented free-to-play option, players returned to Tamriel. Zenimax capitalized on their strong points, such as their storytelling, and vastly improved their dungeon content. Through transparent communication with their passionate playerbase and a commitment to deliver a Tamriel worthy of The Elder Scrolls banner, Zenimax created a game still worth playing years later.
Updated January 1, 2022 by Erik Petrovich: Although The Elder Scrolls Online is one of the smaller big-name MMOs, it holds the prestigious title of being the most-played MMO out there when taking console players into consideration. No other game can match its intuitive gamepad-oriented control scheme, but there's a lot more than meets the eye with Zenimax's MMO child. For instance, not many MMOs have a housing system as robust and customizable as Elder Scrolls Online, and no other MMO can claim to have anything close to the open-ended skill progression system that keeps players pushing for higher and higher levels.
13 The Player Housing System
Elder Scrolls Online is a pioneer in the world of MMOs for its many unique mechanics and gameplay systems that replicate the singleplayer experience in the MMO format. Player homes are a much-requested addition to some of the most popular MMOs out there, but it's a feature that needs a lot of thought and planning to implement effectively.
In ESO players can spend their in-game gold (or Crowns) to purchase one of the dozens and dozens of fully-customizable homes throughout Tamriel and beyond. There are thousands of furnishings that can be found in loot or crafted, too. The customization system is perfect, allowing players to place and decorate their homes with pinpoint accuracy.
12 Open-Ended Skill Progression
One of the best features of Elder Scrolls Online is its approach to open-ended progression. Players choose a race and class at the start, which locks them into a select few skill lines, but after that the path your character takes is completely up to you. This is because of the implementation of Weapon Skills, Armor Skills, Faction and Guild Skills, and more.
Elder Scrolls Online prides itself on letting any player in any class take on any traditional MMO role. That means a Dragonknight can be a healer, a Nightblade can be a tank, and a Templar can be a powerful DPS. While some classes are clearly better at some things than others, the ability to level up any Skill Tree on any character opens a lot of doors.
11 Near-Limitless Outfit Customization
Appearances are everything in MMOs, and Elder Scrolls Online has one of the most robust outfit and costume customization systems out there. The Collections tab houses information on quite literally everything in the game, allowing players to model items, try new looks, and hunt down specific parts to their outfits as they see fit without relying on third-party sources.
The Outfit system lets players change their appearance without changing the stats of their armor. This means that a player can have end-game gear stats while wearing whatever they like, which enhances the feeling of immersion one gets when roleplaying as their character in-game.
10 Frequently Updated Story
Similar to MMOs like Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls Online is a very story-driven game. All quests come with voice-overs, and characters met along the way grow and develop over time. Unlike many similar games, the story doesn't fade away shortly after DLC or expansion launches.
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Elder Scrolls Online releases waves of new quests and stories throughout the life of every DLC, like the Chapters from Guild Wars 2. For example, the newest DLC, Greymoor, promises to be a year-long adventure, starting with The Harrowstorm. As time passes and new stories release, it's easy for both new and returning players to progress through each story section and catch up on the exciting events unfolding in Tamriel.
9 Class Gameplay Flexibility
One of the biggest selling points of the game is its class customization which is very similar to the main installments in the franchise. For example, even though a player picks the class archetype of Sorcerer, they still have access to every weapon in the game. They can either go the predictable route, using staves and leveling their staves skill, or they can level both staves and one-handed swords, creating a hybrid class.
As players level up their individual weapon skills, they learn new abilities that are not tied to their class. This brings a whole new level of customization to the genre, giving players access to combinations like healing rogues, magical warriors, battlemages, and more.
8 Thriving Open World PvP
Fans of Dark Age of Camelot, Lineage 2, and Warhammer Online rejoice! This game comes with a massive, open-world PvP area within the boundaries of the province of Cyrodiil. It's the heart of the game's base story, The Three Banners War. All three factions battle it out, fighting for territory control.
Cyrodiil comes with exciting features like destructible buildings, trebuchets, and even the Elder Scrolls, themselves. Players must formulate and execute well-thought-out strategies as the locations of each keep determine the space of territory owned. Along with keeps, there are other points of interest such as farms, that players capture in order to gain resources. Conducting activities within Cyrodiil earns Alliance Points and players with a combination of the most points and alliance territory advantage earn their shot at becoming emperor.
7 Free To Play
In recent years, Zenimax Online announced its new buy-to-play model for Elder Scrolls Online which they call Tamriel Unlimited. Players simply make the initial purchase of the game, then play free forever with few restrictions. However, as with most free-to-play MMOs, it has several downsides.
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Playing for free only grants access to the base story. Free players must purchase DLC packs from the in-game Crown Store or become an ESO Plus member and earn access to all content to move forward. Other restrictions apply as well such as the inability to use certain chat channels as well as the inability to start a group.
6 Endless Customization
Once players reach level 50, they open up a whole new level of customization called Champion Points. Players earn these points by completing quests and other activities within the game. The more points earned, the more players expend within a new set of talent trees, similar to those seen in The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim.
Spending a large number of points within a single constellation tree earns special passive abilities. For example, those who put most of their points in The Lord get increases to healing and armor. As of the release of Greymoor, the current champion point maximum cap remains at 810, giving players over 800 points to spend in their constellation trees.
5 Play Alone Or With A Group
The Elder Scrolls Online has content for everyone. Players who prefer to play alone can adventure through a series of fantastic stories and epic scenes. Through these stories, they come face-to-face with Daedric Princes and save the realm of Tamriel without the help of a raid group.
For those looking for more social aspects, they can form guilds that specialize in PvE, PvP, RP, or Trading. Trade-centric guilds can bid on merchants that open guild stores in locations all across Tamriel. Some locations require higher bids for merchants, but the high bid is often worth it for the amount of gold it earns.
4 Fast-Paced, Action Combat
Instead of opting for a tab target system, Elder Scrolls Online utilizes a screen-locked crosshair, requiring proper aiming for spells and abilities to land. Few, if any, abilities lock characters into place, allowing for fluid and fast-paced movement throughout encounters.
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For casters and other ranged archetypes, there is a bit of aim assist to help. Unlike the original, modern action combat MMO, TERA, as long as a spell aims fairly close to the target, it locks on. However, stray too far from the target mob and the spell misses.
3 Explore Anywhere, Anytime
One of the greatest aspects of Elder Scrolls Online is that a character's level does not determine where they're allowed to adventure. Even at level one, players can safely journey all throughout Tamriel without being one-shot by a crab that just happens to be several levels higher. This allows for greater depth and immersion unseen in other MMOs.
New players who join due to the impressive elements of the newest DLC don't have to grind through all of the earlier DLCs first. Right at level one, they can venture all the way to Solitude to deal with the rising vampire threat. They may not have access to every helpful ability that might give them an advantage, but there is no chance for them to die to a local mob simply because it landed a massive, guaranteed critical strike.
2 New Player Friendly
All characters begin with a simple starting experience that slowly introduces them to different elements of gameplay. They learn the basics of movement, combat, looting, and questing. Early dungeons contain entry-appropriate content with few advanced mechanics.
The community within Elder Scrolls Online is also generally positive. There are many helpful guilds whose sole purpose is to guide new players through content. Even those who aren't ready for the commitment to a party or guild can still experience content such as delves and get a feel for what dungeons or trials may be like.
1 A World Without Borders
When the game first launched, players were bound to the regions owned by their respective alliances. Many found frustration in this as they were unable to explore all of Tamriel. Zenimax Online later resolved this issue by opening borders and encouraging players to fully explore this magical continent.
Upon completing the main questline, players earn a new quest, encouraging them to experience the stories of the other alliances. Through a bit of daedric magic, the other alliances do not recognize your character and treat them like any other citizen. This offers even the most patriotic players a new perspective on the war and adds a greater level of depth and immersion. Roleplayers also benefit as they become characters who are unaffiliated with the war. For example, they may be a High Elf who was born and raised in Skyrim and don't have to worry about guards attacking them.