Are We Forgetting To Look Past The "Elder Scrolls" In Elder Scrolls Online?

Last month Zenimax announced that their MMO, set in Tamriel (The Elder Scrolls Universe), would be both losing its monthly subscription fee and coming to PS4 and Xbox One. It will be renamed The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited and is to be released on June 9th 2015.

I think I can be forgiven for saying that ESO hasn't had the best of starts. For many people, myself included, the game was tainted when the subscription fee was announced. As IGN put it as a title on one of their videos "Did The Elder Scrolls Online Just Commit Suicide?" It isn't unfair to say the answer to that is yes, I don't think - but I believe there is a deeper reason for why it didn't do as well as many people hoped.

For over 20 years Bethesda has built The Elder Scrolls from a game meant to be set in an Arena (hence the title of the first game - and the interesting story behind it, which I hope to one day write about) and refined it to the phenomena which was Skyrim. A game which is not only still modded, but also still written about on mainstream gaming websites regularly and still has new adopters despite being released in 2011.

It had been rumoured a long time before, but ESO was officially announced near the end of 2012. However the game had been in production since 2007 when Zenimax Online Studios was founded. Not only does this mean it is technically "older" than Skyrim, and was being developed since directly after The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (released in 2006) but also that it was being developed by a different company - NOT Bethesda.

Of course, Zenimax and Bethesda are closely tied. Zenimax Media (as I understand) own Bethesda and are the publishing arm of the company and Zenimax Online Studios were (effectively) created for the sole purpose of building and maintaining ESO.

This means that ESO is not really a proper Elder Scrolls game in the traditional sense. For me at least Elder Scrolls means vast, beautiful vistas, an engaging story, weird faces, and starting the game off in prison. In fact ESO does start in a prison, and the landscapes are lovely to look at. Due to me not having actually played the game properly yet, I can't comment on the story, but characters did have normal faces. And that, however small, insignificant, and intended as a joke it was - begins to deliver us to the heart of the matter.

This, dear reader, is not an Elder Scrolls game. Not really. Nor was it, from what I can see, intended to primarily be one. In fact, the focus was to build an MMO while also stealing from the timeline and world created by Bethesda, Todd Howard and all the team there. I believe this is something which people don't quite realise. This isn't meant to be another invest-over-70-hours-and-feel-as-though-you-live-there game or another step in the Elder Scrolls lore. It isn't supposed to tide you over until the next proper Elder Scrolls is announced (please let there be something at E3!) and it shouldn't. This game should really not have to do that because that is not what it is meant to be.

As an MMO it is so incredibly impressive in the way it looks, and from the little I have played, it feels that the game is almost in a limbo between fully fledged ES game and traditional MMO. Herein lies the problem. Here is where people get caught up. In the fact that this great accomplishment in how MMO games can be made is being largely ignored because people can't get over two things: the completely annoying but-you-can-understand-why-they-did-it sub fee and the Elder Scrolls.

Surely the success of the 'Scrolls games could have told this would happen? Surely it should have been branded from the started as a continuation or a revisit to what you love, but not meant to be in the same way? Or perhaps it is our fault for not listening. For not understanding what it was meant to be.

So, dear reader, when June the 9th comes and you're wondering whether to give ESO another try, or its first - just remember that its not just meant to be an Elder Scrolls experience, but also an MMO. It's not multiplayer Skyrim, for that you need a PC and the mod that grants the privilege. It shouldn't have to be. Give it a try. I dare you.

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