There are few RPGs that carry the weight of The Elder Scrolls’ title. Since the release of Morrowind in 2002, the series has been analogous with greatness, producing impressive sales numbers and amounting millions of fans worldwide. It’s strange, then, that even the loyalist of supporters expect Zenimax’s MMO debut to crash and burn. Or is it?
When The Elder Scrolls Online was first announced, it seemed as if series advocates had been split into two groups: those who have always wanted to explore Tamriel with friends since their days in the Breton homeland of High Rock, and those who preferred the life of a solitary hero, saving the world where needed by their lonesome. However, neither group was particularly roused by early showings of the game. Clearly following the series’ tradition of clunky combat, those with hands-on experience have expressed concerns regarding its more action-oriented mechanics, and their overall lack of fluidity so far into development. Other concerns were voiced regarding the lack of focus and visuals — although it’s common for online-based games to be less graphically imposing than single player experiences.
However, as the release date draws closer, it doesn’t seem as if the lack of polish, the framerate issues, the lack of interesting content or terribly stiff-looking PvP have been rectified. Even the most recent gameplay trailer is looking rather drab. More so worrying is that the game has been in development since 2007, leading us to wonder whether its become less of a product of passion and more of an attempt to recoup a tremendous investment.
The unsettling response by fans to showings of the early build hasn’t been all that detrimental to its critical reception, however. Although the mostly positive response by journalistic-testers, whose only real concerns were for its potentially weedy server functionality — especially during more hectic bouts of player interaction — has still failed to alleviate much of the gaming community’s uneasiness. After all, SWTOR had a stronger franchise blowing its sails and still managed to drown in its own ambition, quickly drifting into Free to Play territory.
The problem isn’t only with quality, though. The lack of hype, the bloated budget, the loan recently taken by Zenimax Online Studios and the lack of fan support is also a problem, and it seems to be obvious to everyone but the right people. According to a now removed tweet, The Elder Scrolls Online has surpassed SWTOR in development cost, reaching a price tag of 200 million. While not entirely surprising considering its scope, the fact that its existence isn’t sitting well with series enthusiasts is a cause for concern. Its failure could potentially destroy The Elder Scrolls franchise — a risk that nearly every subscription based release faces upon launch. Will there be enough end-game content to keep players from cancelling their monthly payments? Will enough players even jump in when the game releases?
The fact that it’ll be available on PC as well as consoles may very well save it from complete failure, but only time will tell. The Elder Scrolls Online releases on April 4, 2014 for PC, and June on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.