The Elder Scrolls Online Impressions – The First 10 Levels

Editor’s Note: In an effort to provide ongoing information on MMO titles we’re playing, GameFront offers up a series of impressions pieces. Once we’ve had enough time to fully experience the game, we’ll post a final, scored review. This piece is our take on the first 10 levels of content.

The Elder Scrolls Online offers up a far different experience in its first 10 levels than most MMOs.

The game begins with a tutorial that shows you the ropes, explains how to fight and all the other basics of gameplay. But after that, TESO takes on a different feel. In most titles in the genre, the first 10 levels go by in a blur as you quickly ramp up your abilities in a game’s starting areas. In TESO, your first 10 levels are punctuated by exploration and discovery, more so than in any MMO I’ve played to date.

Getting Into Character

Characters can vary quite a bit in The Elder Scrolls Online, but not in the early game. There are three factions comprising nine races, but only four classes to choose from. Here are my quick and dirty class descriptions:

  • Dragon Knight: A melee fighter who also uses blasts of magical energy to damage his enemies.
  • Nightblade: The rogue of TESO, who uses stealth and cunning to make their way through the world.
  • Templar: A knight who calls on the power of light and the sun to heal their allies and damage foes.
  • Sorcerer: A magic-user who can also summon minions to fight by their side.

Unlike many current MMOs, TESO doesn’t restrict classes from using any gear at all. If want to make a Sorcerer who dual-wields daggers, that’s totally okay. You could also make a Nightblade who uses a magic staff. It’s all up to you.

The same goes for your armor. Just because you’re a Dragon Knight doesn’t mean you need to wear heavy armor. You also can mix and match armor types without any problem. Some gear pieces may have more beneficial stats for your class than others, but you can wear anything. It lets you have a lot of freedom in designing the type of character you want to play.

TESO also includes a raft of character customization options. If you’re one of those folks who likes to get their character designed just so, be prepared for lots of options and sliders. You can adjust anything from hand size to hair style to eye color, and just about everything in between. Just like a lot of things in TESO, it’s very reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Exploring the world

The Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t just encourage players to explore the vast world of Tamriel — it requires it. Unlike a typical MMO, TESO doesn’t have a host of quest givers around town just waiting to have you kill 10 bears. Instead, you’ll find the main story quests and an occasional side quest in town, but if these are all you bother to complete, you’ll find yourself in a precarious position before you finish the story in the starting zone. You might even be too weak to progress.

You see, the vast majority of the side quests in TESO are not simply handed to you. You’ll have to go out and explore the world to find them. You might find some ruins where the spirits are restless and you need to help rescue someone who’s lost, or you might find a town that’s under attack. Regardless of what the quest is, you can’t pick it up or even see it on the map unless you’ve explored the area in which it’s found.

This is actually a nice touch, as it forces players to do more than just grind out quests. It places a premium on exploration and discovery, something that’s gone missing from the MMO genre of late, save for the few people who have the urge to explore every inch of the map. If you’re one of those, you’re going to find all sorts of fun thing in TESO.

Skilling up

Much like Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls Online offers players a wide variety of skills, regardless of what class you choose. Each time you level, you’ll gain a skill point to spend as you see fit. You can also gain additional skill points by completing specific quests, and by locating “skyshards.” These items are found throughout the world of TESO, and gathering three of them will net you a skill point.

As mentioned before, you can wear any armor and use any weapon, and as you do so, you’ll increase your skill with whatever you are using. If you use your staff a lot, you’ll level it up, unlocking more skills related to it. Same thing if you choose to wear lots of light armor. Class-specific skills, like the Sorcerer summoning a minion, also level as they get used.

By spending you skill points, you can unlock new abilities or upgrade existing ones. For example, the Sorcerer can upgrade his summoned minion from an imp-like familiar to a small dinosaur-like creature called a Clannfear. This is called morphing, and it allows you to even further customize how your character plays.

The experience

The Elder Scrolls Online delivers an experience that is simultaneously both familiar and different. For fans of the single-player Elder Scrolls titles, it will feel instantly familiar. The UI is quite similar, skills and perks work the same way, and even the art style is similar. The cities and areas are places you’ve visited in previous titles, and the lore is the same, of course.

The thing that will feel different to Elder Scrolls vets is how the game has changed with the addition of other players. The freedom to do just about anything you want in the world is somewhat curtailed by the fact that you’re now cohabiting the world with thousands of other people. Still, the game maintains enough of the Skyrim feel to make fans feel at home. Just don’t plan on offing that NPC that’s been annoying you all through the starting area.

To MMO vets, TESO will also feel somewhat familiar. It uses the same camera-tied-to-mouse style of controls that games like Neverwinter do, and you’ll be mashing hotkeys to fire off your abilities. There’s crafting, cooking, and even fishing to distract you, and you can drop hours of gameplay time just searching through containers and reading the books you come across in your travels.

For both Skyrim and MMO players, this familiarity will be a boon. They’ll easily be able to drop in, decipher the system, and get busy playing. There will be some learning curve, but it’s mostly minimal. It could be a bit steeper for folks who haven’t played any of the action MMO titles like Neverwinter, as the ‘mouse-tied-to-camera’ control scheme can be a bit unnerving at first.

Technically speaking, the game runs smoothly, and doesn’t seem to require a monster PC to have a great experience. While there were some hiccups during the Early Access period that resulted in extended downtime, those issues seem to have been sorted out since the game launched officially (at least so far).

In the early levels, TESO seems to be just what fans of The Elder Scrolls might want in an MMO. It feels a lot like Skyrim, and in many ways it plays a lot like Skyrim. Skills and abilities are fun, and there are a ton of ways to make your character unique. I do foresee some complaints from people who don’t buy into the need to explore to find your side quests, but all in all, the launch of TESO has been solid so far.

The first 10 levels were pretty enjoyable. The Elder Scrolls Online nails the feeling of making your way in a dangerous world, something other MMOs haven’t managed nearly as well. Wandering the countryside in search of adventure is a great experience, and the forced exploration helps you lose yourself in the world. Organically discovering quests has a much better feel than simply being handed them in town. As someone who’s played the Elder Scrolls games in the past, the familiarity with the world was a nice plus.

You’ll spend a lot more time getting from level one to 10 than in other MMOs, but the journey is worth it, at least so far. We’ll be playing more, and telling you what we think, in the coming days.


Read more of Ron Whitaker’s work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @ffronw and @gamefrontcom.

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11 Comments on The Elder Scrolls Online Impressions – The First 10 Levels

Zing 45

On April 8, 2014 at 9:25 pm

After level 10, the game just opens up so much more. It really is incredibly enjoyable and the role players out there have almost unlimited options to work with. The real test will be to see if there is enough end game content for people to keep going on. The first level 50s have already started popping up so only time will tell now.

Mike

On April 9, 2014 at 4:10 am

http://www.ownedcore.com/forums/elder-scrolls-online/elder-scrolls-online-general/470180-teleport-botting-video-proof.html

Game is already full of hackers. Was fun while it lasted.

max

On April 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

i always been a huge fan of the elder scrolls and always hater MMORPG, why the *uck did this game turn into *hit ?

Maay

On April 9, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I may be the only one to think like that, but I am really disappointed about the way NPC’s talk during dialog. There is no emotions, lips are barely moving, head and body movement don’t match with the text…
Given the quality of the voice acting, it would have made a lot more sense to me if Zenimax had invested a bit more in NPC animation, so that NPCs appear more like people than puppets, that dialogs are more like cutscenes than a voice reading text. To me, this alone ruins immersion, I lose interest in the story, and then it all feels like grinding…
And our own chars have no voice either, this is bothering me as well, very much.
For all its problems, this is a part that SWTOR does well, and I guess I’ve grown used to it. Maybe I was expecting too much from TESO ?

Ron Whitaker

On April 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm

@Maay – I’m wondering if the same thing that happened to me with SWTOR will happen with TESO – I just got tired of the voice acting. It’s very cool at times, but at others, I just wanted to read the damn quest and go on. That hasn’t happened yet, but we shall see.

Siannah

On April 9, 2014 at 2:29 pm

@Maay – lips and body matching the text for 10202 NPCs? (see http://www.gamefront.com/the-elder-scrolls-online-by-the-numbers/)
Not judging the game as I haven’t played it outside of the beta, but I doubt this effort would make the game that much better (or worse) to justify it…

Skeletors Sack

On April 10, 2014 at 9:32 am

I’m enjoying The Elder Scrolls Online quite a bit and today I just killed Balreth (See below). I love the enemy design! The game is buggy but I imagine it will get better!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrO9FDL43a0

I’m only level 8 but man, I haven’t played an MMO like this since WoW (before Activision bought them).

Maay

On April 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

@Ron
I agree with you, it does get tiring after you’ve run through the stories a couple of times. But any story would, voiced or not. And in STWOR you can always fast-forward by pressing space.

@Siannah
they’ve used actors for the important parts of the story, important NPCs, and text-to-speech for others. For the important NPCs they could have worked on lip-sync a bit more, and that would have made the acting even more realistic. A true acting (motion capture) would have been awesome, but that isn’t necessary. I just want the important NPCs, those with real actor voice, to look and feel real.
At the moment, they look and feel like puppets, and that ruins the voice acting… at least to me

jak

On April 10, 2014 at 11:24 pm

First 10 levels went nice and i had lots of fun, but suddenly it all became kind of a bore for me.
Maybe it’s the way combat goes and combat animations, maybe the quests that at some point started to sound boring, definitely because of the way other players around you complete the quests for you, the too many loot is overwhelming in regard to bag slots and the need to empty bag all the time, also it makes loot something you don’t appreciate no more. the cost of a mount makes me very angry with the devs because it’s very clear that the price is so high so you’ll spend real money to buy a mount. the imperial race that you can’t play even if you spend 15$ every month. yeah, well this is what’s on my mind at the moment.

alex

On April 13, 2014 at 3:29 am

this game is full of bugs. I was just walking over a bridge in daggerfall and im glitched out so I cant do anything

Deniz

On April 19, 2014 at 2:13 pm

In the first 10 level, players have to learn “how to be successful in crafting?” answers. It takes a many time, but if you learn anything about crafting, your character will be a monster.