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 xboxone 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.
There needs to be some measure of text integration to keep the community thriving and happy. Perhaps a trading interface that allows you to tag specific items for trade and notifies you when a buyer or seller responds. Guilds should be allowed to post their pitch within the game via the guild tab, with players able to peruse a list of perspective guilds and sort them with filters such as casual vs. raiding, roleplaying, trading, PvP vs. PvE., etc.
For those who drifted away from the PC version, Tamriel Unlimited has a couple of new features that were integrated after my initial review last summer. First is the Champion System, an alternative leveling system that unlocks once one of your characters breaches the level 50 mark and starts on the path of Veteran Rank. Applying points to various passives provides a meaningful drive for those looking to maximize their character’s potential. It does, however, create a wider segregation when grouping for the toughest Dungeons and Trials. The other new inclusion is the Justice System. Now players can pickpocket or murder non-essential NPCs to snag their inventory. These “hot” items can be sold to a fence for a decent bit of coin, or laundered if you would like to retain something in particular. If caught committing these acts, however, a bounty will be placed on your head until you are either caught by the law, pay to have the bounty wiped clean, or flee into the wilds until the bounty decays over a time. It’s a tasty appetizer for those who enjoy subterfuge, yet it is still not a fully integrated feature as there is no formal quest line for the Thieves Guild or Dark Brotherhood, and no PvP vigilante/bounty hunter as of yet, though the rumors persist that these are coming at some point.
One glaring difference between the console and PC version is the visuals. Tamriel Unlimited on the xboxone and Xbox One is not pretty at all. The environments are grand in scale, with hundreds of miles of varied landscapes to discover, but in close proximity, the flat textures of the architecture and natural landscapes paired with a very muted color palette are far beneath the quality the PC can provide. Even the well outdated Radeon HD 5700 Series card on my PC was noticeably better than what the Xbox One version displayed.
Little has changed on the audio front. Much of your time exploring the vast world is done in the peaceful serenity of The Elder Scrolls ‘ beautiful compositions. Sound effects invade the clashes of combat, but don’t provide much vigor to the engagement. The hundreds of quest givers and other NPCs are voiced by a handful of skilled actors who do little to alter their accents between characters. Yet still, having an encyclopedic sized script all fully voiced is impressive.
From my endeavors thus far, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited has the potential to defy the skeptics and bear fruit on the xboxone and Xbox One. The controller is a far superior input, the interface is much cleaner and more accessible, the voice chat is ideal for grouping, the subscription is now free, and it brings the MMO genre to the console platform that has few competitors at present. The social aspect needs some additions and the Justice System needs to be finished, but these are features that can, and hopefully will, be included with near future updates. But even with its caveats, when faced with both options, I find myself gravitating towards the couch rather than my desk chair for a romp through Tamriel.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
The poor quality of the visuals is apparent from the moment you boot up the game on the console. The grand scale makes it immersive, it just looks very dated up close. 4.3 Control
Using a console controller is a refreshing way to play an MMO, and ideal for The Elder Scrolls interface. Voice chat works well in groups, but eliminating text input limits certain functions. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The Elder Scrolls series has always masterfully orchestrated melodies that fit the mood and environment without being overly cinematic, and it is no different here. It’s all fully voice acted, though the cast list is fairly short. 4.6 Play Value
With the subscription format removed, hundreds upon hundreds of hours of engaging gameplay are yours to enjoy from the comfort of your couch. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|