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.
I’ve spent roughly fifteen hours roaming around the vast world of Tamriel, leveling up Alison Brie the Wood Elf (yes, I’m a freak, I know) and accomplishing various tasks. There’s an insane amount of things to do in The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, but I’ve often found myself wondering whether or not these tasks I’m completing actually mean anything. Granted, I often have to remind myself that, in the grand scheme of things, nothing I do in any particular game actually matters, but that’s a large meta conversation for another day. In this case, I’ve been pontificating as to whether any of the individual pieces of content in The Elder Scrolls Online is actually consequential. Am I just running from Point A to Point B over and over again, or am I actively involved in this world?
In terms of the early game stages, I feel as though the former is, sadly, more correct.
Every quest that I’ve undergone so far seems to involve the same basic process: talk to someone, wander over to a point on the map, interact with an object or person and return to reap the rewards. What’s strange is that I feel myself compelled to do all of this over and over again, like there’s some sort of invisible hook yanking me back into this grind. That’s the weirdest part of Zenimax Online’s controversial MMO: there feels like there’s a lack of interesting content, but this doesn’t stop players (including myself) from wanting to complete everything in sight. Maybe this is the Assassin’s Creed Effect, where simply populating an interesting world with activities is enough to get players’ completion-senses to kick in. Sure, some quests might have more combat than others, which is actually nice considering The Elder Scrolls Online has surprisingly engaging battles, but the general proceedings always feel identical. Basically, this is the type of game that eats hours and hours of your life before you finally start to question: what the hell am I doing with my time? The fact that these thoughts are starting to pop into my head only fifteen hours in is something that doesn’t speak well for the content quality here.
It’s funny though, as much as the previous paragraph seems to criticize the way quests work in The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, there’s something oddly satisfying about completing them. There’s a reward loop that seems to constantly activate every time you take on a new quest and complete it, and repeating this process in order to unlock better equipment and skills is exciting in a way. Yes, I’ve played games that are way more satisfying in this regard, but The Elder Scrolls Online allows me to turn my brain off in a way that very few games are able to, and there’s definitely something to that. Still, when it comes to critiquing a title for review, it’s hard to deny that there might be a bona fide content quality problem here, for better and for worse.