I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you play video games with any kind of regularity, you’ve at the very least heard of The Elder Scrolls series. Oblivion came out ten years ago, Skyrim in 2011 and people still play both. Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is the newest iteration and the first MMO in the series.
It’s a bit hard to explain what ESO is all about, not because it’s unclear, but because it’s about everything. You can play as any of the ten available races, in one of three factions and specializing in one of four classes. You can have up to eight characters at one time (which I’m sure was done on purpose by Bethesda to me because they know how much I’d like to be able to have one character for each race). You can play straight through the main story quests and work on getting the best armor and weapons or you can run around the world in your bra and panties fishing in various ponds (not that I’ve done that or anything). You can ride a tiger across Tamriel with a cute little goat following you everywhere you go. In ESO you can do whatever the hell you want (unless you’re deaf, which I’ll get to in a minute).
On top of the option to do whatever you can think of, the world you get to do it in in amazing. The detail in ESO is one of my favorite things about it because there’s something amazing to look at no matter where you are. Characters are great looking, even the ugly ones are wonderfully ugly, the landscape is stunning, armor and weapons are unique. For lack of a better word, ESO is just pretty. In terms of a video game in general, the fairly regular bugs aside, it’s a great game that’s a lot of fun to play.
If you’re a deaf/HoH player though, you’re in for a somewhat disappointing experience. One of the key features of MMOs is the ability to chat with other players. That’s how you make friends in the game. For the console version of the game, Bethesda decided to give a big middle finger to deaf players by offering voice chat as the only means of communication (aside from the numerous emotes, but who wants to stand there waving at random people like an idiot all day because there’s no “Hi, I’m deaf and I’d like to be your friend but can’t chat with you” emote). For deaf players, the only difference between ESO and Skyrim is that in ESO, sometimes you’re lucky enough to bump into another player fighting the same thing as you, so you get a little unexpected help, but by the time you’ve navigated through the emote menu to wave or curtsy, the other player is long gone.
The important dialogue in the game is very well captioned, appearing in a dark box above the choices for responding. Captions for other dialogue appear in huge text, right in the center of the screen, which would be lovely, if it didn’t block out so much of the action. There is controller vibration for fights or if you’re injured badly because you decided to jump off a cliff and as I previously mentioned, the game is beautiful to look at.
The verdict? If you are a fan of Skyrim or Oblivion and are looking for just an updated version of an RPG, this is a great choice. It’s fun and you won’t ever run out of things to do. But if you’re looking for the social experience of an MMO and you’re a console player, ESO isn’t going to give you what you want.
Clear visual cues
Great looking game
Controller vibration indicates intensity of the sound
Completely inaccessible as an MMO