‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ Console Impressions — First Few Days In Tamriel

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited launched this past week for Xbox One and PS4, finally bringing console players the next chapter in the Elder Scrolls series a year after its initial delay. So how does The Elder Scrolls Online for console stack up against other MMOs and against its PC counterpart?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am playing Elder Scrolls Online on Xbox One. Having spent extensive time on the PC version, thanks to its countless beta events and eventually being granted access to its private test server (before it became the public test server), I’ve sunk close to 100 hours into Elder Scrolls Online on PC. The initial April 2014 launch wasn’t a high point for the MMO set in Tamriel, with multiple bugs, login issues and the massive “gold farmer” problem. Truth be told, Tamriel Unlimited’s console launch isn’t quite as bad as the PC launch, but it hasn’t been a breeze either.

Upon installing the game on Xbox One, it took about 30 full minutes to log in the first time. While Elder Scrolls Online for console follows the current trend of MMOs launching with issues, the hope was after a year delay, many of these common problems that plague MMO launches simply wouldn’t be there. Unfortunately, the launch of Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited has been marred with issues on the console. Most of them have been ironed out, thanks to post-launch patches, but the fact remains: a game that launched a year later than originally slated, only held one true stress-test (that we know of), and clearly had a large following of players eager to dive into the game, had issues at launch. I’ve only had one crash — one that caused my system to lock up briefly — but for the most part the experience has been smooth when actually in game.

Launch issues aside, if you can get into the game and play, you’re actually in for a treat. Elder Scrolls Online feels like it belongs on console, from the way the camera is positioned in third person, the Skyrim-esque feel of the first person view, to the slick, though not completely flawless, gamepad controls. While the PC version does look more visually appealing, with higher texture resolutions, better anti-aliasing and lighting effects, the Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t look bad on console, especially given that it’s an MMO. The 30 frames-per-second lock, when stable, also don’t detract from the experience one bit, either.

The gamepad controls are where the console version really shines. Elder Scrolls Online feels like a totally different game going from the PC’s mouse and keyboard to the Xbox One’s gamepad. Honestly, Zenimax needs to hurry and add gamepad support to the PC version of Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. Normally I prefer keyboard and mouse over gamepad, but the way Zenimax has mapped the controller (albeit with a few questionable keymaps, such as having to stop your character moving to resheathe a weapon) makes this feel much more like the Elder Scrolls games of old.

Elder SCrolls Online Console

The moments I have been able to play a few hours of Elder Scrolls Online have been great. I’ve spent most of my time playing a Daggerfall Covenant Nightblade using a two-handed greatsword, and honestly it’s the most fun I’ve had in Elder Scrolls Online in quite some time. I did transfer my Vampire Imperial Templar, which is a higher level than my newer Nightblade, from my PC version as well, but honestly I felt I wanted a new experience on the new platform. Questing with a friend is a real treat as well, especially just romping through Glenumbra, taking down Lurchers or Bloodthorn Cultists with relative ease.

The in-game voice chat, when utilized, isn’t bad and a lot more reliable than Xbox One’s native party chat system. However, when not in a voice chat with a friend, the social element of The Elder Scrolls Online feel lacking, almost as if you’re deaf running around Tamriel. Silence permeates the console version, whereas the PC version feels alive thanks to its various chat channels. Hopefully Zenimax does something to increase the social feel of the MMO, because as of now I feel alone in a sea of other adventurers.

All in all, four days in, The Elder Scrolls Online has been a mostly pleasing experience. With the server issues hopefully in the rear-view mirror, Elder Scrolls Online fans can hopefully jump in and forge their own adventures within Tamriel. If you have the patience to sit in the occasional queue, you’re not in for a bad experience.

Playing The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on console? Sound off with your favorite experience in Elder Scrolls Online in the comments below.

[Images via Elder Scrolls Online]

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