|System: PS4, Xbox One|
|Dev: ZeniMax Online Studios|
|Pub: Bethesda Softworks|
|Release: June 15, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Over a year since the original PC release, the world of Tamriel has finally opened its doors to console owners. There was, and still is, a lot of skepticism in the community on whether The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited could find an eager and stable audience on the PS4 and Xbox One. Now granted, the first few days after launch don't give an accurate insight into the longevity of an MMO, but so far the starting cities have been bustling with enthusiastic players.
The transition onto console platforms is one suited for The Elder Scrolls franchise, and inches the needle closer to the feel of their single player titles. Exploration and combat are suited for controller input. Having a small array of activated abilities mapped to face buttons and secondary back buttons allows you to keep pummeling out spells and powers while staying mobile and evading attacks. With the right trigger for weapon use and left trigger for blocking, combat in TESO:TU is more tactile than most MMORPGs. I personally enjoy being able to quick-snap between a zoomed out third-person vantage while exploring for crafting resources to a first-person perspective when engaged in combat. Swapping weapon sets, however, forces your thumb off the left analog stick to push the left gamepad button. It would have been better suited elsewhere, and unfortunately the game does not allow you to configure custom inputs.
As for content, everything from the PC version is available and subscription-free. With just the initial game purchase, you're unbound to explore the massive storylines of all three of the game's factions, including all the veteran level content, the PvP zone in Cyrodiil, and all the dungeons. The premium Crown Store mostly stocks mounts and cosmetic upgrades. I was even able to upload my PC characters at the initial setup, though sadly this is a one time copy and paste, negating my premature enthusiasm at the possibility of cross-platform play. It was interesting to boot up my veteran level Templar who had parked herself in Craglorn for the past few months. After wandering around the high-level zones for awhile it became clear that not many PC adopters made the transition to the console version, as the areas were barren.
Starting up a fresh character allowed me to test out the most critical point of console version, communication. Bethesda has opted to go with a voice chat only system, which is superior in some respects, but completely eliminating a text input obstructs certain useful liberties we enjoy on the PC. To its benefit, having voice chat in groups (especially in dungeons) is more strategic and keeps players from having to stop in their tracks to type. With such an optimistic community of early settlers, my dungeon runs thus far have been welcomed with positive critiques and thanks for the help. The lack of a text bar also eliminates an outlet for gold spammers. In heavily populated cities, the area chat gives a sense of immersion, though it's easy to be pulled out of the fantasy when you start hearing Nirvana in someone's background or tweeners feeling they need to invade every conversation with a random response. The symbol saturated gamertags above people's heads don't help.
One thing the lack of text eliminates is impromptu grouping for quests. Yes, there is a dedicated grouping tool, but it doesn't account for spontaneous partnerships. I drifted more towards exploring the zones by myself during my PC run, but always kept my support line open should a nearby player need help with a boss, or my healing skills to tackle a tough quest, or when there was a call to arms to take out a dark anchor that had just dropped from the sky. Yet now I get this random stalker tailing me around, thrusting out friend requests just to get my attention. The crafting community has also been neglected with the lack of text. With no auction system, and a structured trading system limited to guilds, buying or selling particular materials is nigh impossible. Also, guilds are forced into online forums simply to recruit new members.