Due to the always-online nature of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, we wanted to wait a while before publishing a final review. Throughout our PlayStation 4 playthrough, we’ll be publishing short articles that let you in on what we’ve been experiencing so far.
My opinion on AAA visuals can be boiled down to a single statement: I’d rather play an uglier game that runs at a solid, stagnant framerate than a pretty one with constant drops. While The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited isn’t the prettiest PlayStation 4 game out there, it still has its moments where it looks pretty damn good. Unfortunately for everyone involved, framerate issues mar the launch experience, especially when multiple players are on screen. While certain games are able to get away with having a sub-standard framerate (read: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on console), an MMO feels like the type of game that should place increased emphasis on smoothness. After all, having a multitude of players on screen at any given time is a staple of basic MMO design, so the fact that The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited struggles with this is a bona fide problem.
It’s worth noting that we’re talking about a launch MMO here, at least on consoles, so there’s a fair chance that some of these technical issues might be fixed at some point. Still, we can only judge a game based on the evidence we have, rather utilizing our hopes for the future to form an opinion.
Whenever players are roaming through open areas without a great deal of NPC or player population, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited runs at a solid thirty frames-per-second. This makes combat feel solid, or at least as solid as an Elder Scrolls game’s combat can feel, though things seem to change whenever players enter large villages or highly populated areas. One of the biggest issues with The Elder Scrolls Online is the fact that players are completing a great deal of activities on their own, even though there are a ton of other players around them. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to complete a single player activity only to suffer through massive framerate drops due to the presence of other players doing the same thing. It’d be one thing if a group of players were completing a massive activity together and it was a struggle to maintain a constant thirty frames-per-second, but when the presence of other players makes early game content a struggle, that’s a real issue. What’s even more strange is that the framerate doesn’t seem to drop as heavily during Remote Play sessions, so if you’re looking to play a smoother version of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, it might be worth it to grab your Vita and suffer through the back-touch-heavy combat controls.
It wouldn’t be out of the question to see The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited‘s multi-frame stutters (emphasis on multi-frame) turn off a great deal of console players. The Elder Scrolls series has always had a fair amount of jankiness to it, something longtime fans of the series have come to appreciate in a weird way, but when walking through a village becomes a challenge due to technical issues, that’s a real issue. Granted, these framerate issues don’t push this title into the realm of the unplayable, but it’s enough of a problem to sour the experience a bit.