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Review: The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

by onJune 28, 2015
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After a major economy model change later, The Elder Scrolls Online finally comes on consoles after its release on PC back in 2014. After six major updates and a short-lived subscription strategy, the Bethesda MMORPG drops on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. If PC gamers have already had the time to explore most corners of Tamriel, the universe itself will be enough to tickle the curiosity of consoles players, even if they are considered amateurs in that genre.

This test will focus primarily on the quality of the port to the consoles, its playability, and the specific features added for the occasion and not on the core principle of the game that would need a way longer review. So the first main thing that most will ask when we speak of MMO on consoles: how is the gameplay with the controller?

Long preserved to the PC, MMOs have rarely been seen on consoles with the few exemptions of Phantasy Star Online on Dreamcast, DC Universe Online, or the more recent Final Fantasy XIV Online or even Neverwinter: Elemental Evil. On that note, The Elder Scrolls Online: Unlimited Tamriel has some advantage for its arrival on consoles: a combined game system and a very thought out interface for this port (Which was addressed repeatedly on the PC version when it was released). With a limited number of shortcuts (5 skills, expandable to 10 with a second weapon skills), the gameplay does not suffer with its new joystick controls, all skills assigned to the pad in a rather intuitive way. TESO was therefore unlikely to miss adapting its game mechanics as it was already console ready on PC.

Inspired by Skyrim, the interface turned into a list, is pleasant to use on PC but much makes sense on consoles. Inventory, skills management options are placed on the left side of the screen. If you were familiar with the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim basic interface, nothing should disorient you here. Something does lack though in this version: the inability to customize the game through add-on as it does on a PC. The true immersion in the world of Tamriel might be favored, but the absence of yet important information on the screen crucial for MMOs (group play, dungeon, PvP or raid ).

The Elder Scrolls Online Tamriel Unlimited VGProfessional (4)

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is the name adopted by TESO during its passage from a subscription-based game to a free-to-play one. All content previously released in the MMO are included in this version, from the first additions to the last big update 6. If the game has dropped its monthly subscription, it now offers a paid premium formula with great boost to your character and armors that you can buy with real currency.

Another sacrifice to this console version is the complete disappearance of chat channels. Say farewell to inflamed conversations between players as they are reduced to simple exchanges of shortcut shouts. This remarkable absence, while understandable, is nevertheless fixed by the introduction of voice chat that automatically enables close to other players. In fact, visiting a city with the activated function unfortunately results in a cacophony of players obviously not aware of the tool being on: telephone conversations, music, babies crying in the back, parents and all sorts of noise.

One of the great thing that TESO introduce was their megaservers. Like on the PC, players will be grouped according to their machine on both European and American servers. It is therefore impossible to play on Xbox One with your PlayStation 4 friends. In short, The Elder Scrolls Online console version uses the technical means available to provide a range of tools dedicated to social interactions without reducing the opportunities offered by a PC. In this sense, the experience tends to be closer to that of a co-op RPG in which group play seems reserved for small moments embedded in a scripted experience mainly oriented towards the story alone. ZeniMax also tries to conquer the hearts of fans by betting everything on this aspect: TESO is an the online version of Skyrim that everyone wanted. A smart approach, considering the millions of players marked by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim experience.

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If the adaptation to consoles has managed to find the right balance with maneuverability and interface, it is unfortunately otherwise when it comes to the graphics. Even with the so-called next generation of consoles, the game is locked to 30 fps in most case with low specs PC textures. There are screen tears all around your path throughout cities, and textures take long time to load, sometime appearing almost 10 seconds after looking at the same player armor.

Back in April 2014, the MMO version of the legendary Elder Scrolls RPG had failed to win the critics and fans. But far from giving up, Bethesda remained attentive to player demands and evolved their baby in the right way. The game got major update batch, every two months or so, not to mention the minor ones. If the different play areas were already numerous in the Vanilla version, the Raidelorn quickly made its appearance, and has even grown bigger with the addition of Upper Raidelorn in the 1.4.3 patch. The occasion obviously to participate in new raids, and experience new game modes, reserved for the most hardened veterans, pitting 12 players to beat a boss with limited revives.

Of course all the changes to TESO has been done over a year of launch. There’s much more, but they would be enough to fill an encyclopedia. But no aspect of the game seems to have been forgotten over the port and the level cap is high enough for hardcore players, and it is now less tedious to get there. Champion points have also emerged, and help improve your character skills in the classic Warrior / Mage / Rogue constellations.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by Bethesda. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC in both retail and online store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.

What we liked

• Gameplay well suited for consoles
• Explore the vast universe of The Elder Scrolls on consoles
• Perfectly integrated Voice chat interface
• A multifaceted game that fuse MMORPG, coop RPG and solo experience, now no monthly subscription

What is not fun

• Graphics could be much better when compared to the PC version
• Removing written chat channels lost the typical MMO interest
• Voice chat needs more filter options

Editor Rating
 
Concept
7.8

 
Graphics
7.5

 
Sound
8.8

 
Playability
8.2

 
Entertainment
8.4

 
Replay Value
8.0

Final Score
8.1


Our final verdict
 

The Elder Scrolls Online console version offers a viable alternative for all concerned to not have a good enough PC to run the title. Console-ready at launch with its interface and gameplay, the console gameplay does not suffer during the port giving a great experience. Concessions have nevertheless been made to this port: the social side has disappeared with the lack of chat channels, but also with graphics rendering worthy of a preset medium on PC. With this adaptation, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited blurs the boundaries between a coop RPG and MMORPG to play in the courtyard of the scripted MMO that many players will travel solo or in small group.

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