When The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited was announced, many fans wondered if this would be a massively multiplayer RPG that embraced gamepad support. Many MMOs have the ability to use a gamepad, but none of them are really specifically meant to be used with them. However, as details began to trickle out during development regarding character movement, active skills, and so on, many potential players saw that gamepad support could be a reality. Unfortunately, implementing gamepad in the PC version of The Elder Scrolls Online was not in the cards at launch.
So after months of waiting, Elder Scrolls Online finally announced that controller support, originally alluded to in an ESO AMA on Reddit, would be making its way to the PC version of ESO with the recent Orsinium update. Obviously, gamepad play has been created — the console versions use the controller to play Tamriel Unlimited — but just how much of a difference does it make on PC?
It’s like playing Elder Scrolls Online for the first time again.
Now, if you’ve played the game on a console, no doubt you understand that the gamepad support is superb. With Elder Scrolls Online featuring active combat, blocking, and a limited skill bar, mapping complicated hot bars like you see in World of Warcraft or The Lord of the Rings Online weren’t an issue for Zenimax to overcome. The issue came about when creating the UI and making sure that whether you use a gamepad or mouse and keyboard, your UI was going to be easily navigable.
After playing my original PC character from launch, I am convinced that gamepad was always considered as an equally important mode of controlling your character in Elder Scrolls Online. For much of the development, the comparison kept being made to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In fact, many fans panned Tamriel Unlimited because it didn’t have that Skyrim feel to the game. While ESO has never been, nor will it be, completely akin to Skyrim (the very nature of it being multiplayer decides that quickly), using your gamepad on PC finally makes the game feel like Skyrim does.
Your attack and block are mapped to your triggers, with your face buttons and bumpers being used to activate your skills. Because of the limited nature of the skill bar in ESO, mapping your skills is easily done, and you don’t have to do any real complicated button combos to use a particular skill (the outlier being LB+RB for your Ultimate skill). The great UI from the console is brought into the PC version when you activate gamepad support in the menu, and even this begins to feel a bit like the past Elder Scrolls game. Everything is well laid out and easily accessed with your gamepad.
You can still use your mouse and keyboard while in gamepad mode (How else would you type in chat?), but the UI retains its console-esque visage until you disable support in the menu. While many PC games offer the ability to dynamically swap UIs based on the last input method, Elder Scrolls Online is still in its infancy of implementing gamepad on the PC, so if this feature comes, it won’t be here soon.
For those players who want to kick back and explore Tamriel, especially the beautiful new area of Orsinium, the gamepad makes it easier than ever. I’m no longer hunched over a keyboard, stretching fingers to use skills while keeping my character moving. Instead, I’m able to recline and fight bandits and Daedra with a few presses of a button. Even though I’ve played the Xbox One version of ESO extensively, my original experience with ESO dates back to launch on PC. Being able to go back and play through my Imperial Templar in a whole new way is enticing and definitely keeping me glued to my monitor as a result.
It’s a free update as well, so if you have a Xbox 360 or Xbox One input lying around, definitely give it a shot, regardless of whether you purchased Orsinium or not. Are you a PC player using a gamepad in Elder Scrolls Online for the first time? Sound off with your experience below.
[Images via TheElder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited]