Elder Scrolls Online – Worth playing in 2023?

Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) first launched in 2014 and since then has added a new chapters, activities, dungeons, features, and locations for players to explore. I decided to return after a break from the game and see for myself if it improved, especially since the premiere of the new chapter, Necrom, took place on June 5.

9 long years…

Yes, the game has been around for a long time. The amount of content is enormous. With each new chapter, there is something more to do. 

You can choose from many races (Khajit, High Elf, Imperial, Nord, Argonian, Dark Elf, Wood Elf, Orc, Breton, Redguard – you can customize how you want to look) and classes (Dragon Knight, Templar, Sorcerer, Nightblade, Warden and Necromancer). You also have to choose which alliance to join. There are three: Aldmeri Dominion, Daggerfall Covenant, and Ebonheart Pact. You can become a vampire or a werewolf; you can participate in PVP Battlefields, Trials, and Dungeons. You can play Tales of Tribute (a card game), harvest materials, craft, trade with others, join a guild, role-play… there are a lot of possibilities and each year there are more and more (for example: since the Blackwood chapter we now have companions!)… But is it worth playing?

The good…

The game offers a huge open world, deep lore, captivating storylines, and interesting characters. The graphics are very good, the music is wonderful, and the voice acting in ESO is great (though not for every character). You can spend all day exploring each zone and just admiring everything. You can also revisit iconic locations like Solitude, Windhelm, Anvil, Imperial City, or Blackreach, from the single-player titles.

I very much enjoyed PVP and PVE. You have a lot of options while playing both: you can choose fighting styles (healer, damage dealer, tank), you can choose from lots and lots of gear and maximize their stats, and also you can build your characters’ abilities as you explore what the best role for you is. The combat allows you to create satisfying combos while fighting and you never feel like you don’t have control over what you’re doing. 

The loot (armor sets, jewelry, weapons, diagrams for furniture, food and beverages recipes) drops not only from dungeon bosses but also from various chests and treasures you can find while exploring the world.

Companions are an addition I really appreciate! You can interact with them, you can dress them however you like, changing their clothes, gear, and armor. They each have unique story quests and once you finish their quests, you can choose to summon your new companions at any time. It is also a huge relief that they’re not useless and they actually can help in battle. They also comment on your actions (they can like or dislike what you’re doing) and will talk about the world as you travel so that even during solitary journeys you never feel truly alone.

The archeology skill line is one of my favorite skill lines added to the game. I was skeptical at first but I was quickly proven wrong. If you can’t afford items for your house or for yourself, this is a great opportunity to become rich.  You can try to find antiquities to sell them or decorate your home and it is surprisingly easy to find new leads.

…and the bad.

Grinding. It can be incredibly tiresome. You can spend far too many hours hunting for a specific set of gear only to constantly get something else. This is expounded upon by the limited space in your bag. If you don’t have an ESO Plus membership (a subscription) all of your craft items will end up in your bag with all your weapons, armor, and other things… meaning you’ll run out of space pretty fast. Of course, you can expand your bag by paying for the membership or you can pay in game currency to increase space but the cost is high (the more space you need, the more gold you spend).

Another annoying feature is the riding skills system. It is tedious to improve the riding skills of my mounts every time I create a new character. Mounts are character-bound and can only be improved once every 20 hours at a stable. They have three stats available for increase, and each can be raised to a maximum of 60: speed, stamina, and capacity. Each upgrade costs 250 gold and you can upgrade only one stat at a time, making it take half a year to max out. Every time I need to do this on a new character I want to cry.

Besides loot drops, leveling also requires immense grinding. When you reach a certain point, leveling in ESO is painfully slow. After level 50 you start earning Champion Points that you can use to unlock passive abilities. You earn these points by engaging in activities that provide you with valuable experience (dungeons, dolmens – also known as Dark Anchors, and by playing Battlegrounds). The maximum amount of Champion Points you can earn is 3600 (1200 for each of three constellations), but because of how hard they are to get I am always impressed when I see someone with CP above 1000.

Free-to-play or pay-to-win?

Any in-game items that can be obtained through real-money purchases do not provide any advantages over other players – they’re mostly cosmetics in nature. The problem is that they’re much better compared to what you can earn by doing dolmens, dungeons, and dailies. Because of this, some players might feel like more focus is put on paid content. You can play the game and never pay any money for it, but to be honest, you’ll miss a lot. If you become an ESO Plus member you’ll gain access to all previous DLCs (including zones, quests, dungeons), unlimited craft bag, and Crowns to spend in the Crown Store.

When it comes to skills, even if you desire to acquire a skill that can only be obtained through a purchase (for instance Dark Brotherhood Skill line, Psijic Skill line), you will still need to invest time and effort into leveling up in order to fully unlock it. These kinds of skill lines appeared with a new DLC or a new chapter, so getting them is not possible in the basic game.

The game has flaws, and although playing without ESO Plus can spoil the fun, it’s worth seeing what this title has to offer. Elder Scrolls Online has not lost its charm over the years and continues to attract many players. The game continues to hold significant value for individuals intrigued by the idea of embarking on a grand adventure in a vast open world and intricately customizing every aspect of their character. Despite being one of the most sought-after franchises in the gaming industry, The Elder Scrolls Online manages to maintain its appeal and relevance in 2023.

New chapter – Necrom

The release of the next chapter is here! On June 5, 2023 (PC/MAC), we will be able to play Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom, Shadow over Morrowind. This is one of the reasons why I was drawn back to the game. We can expect a new zone, a new dungeon, two new companions, and a new class – the Arcanist. We will also meet the well-known Daedric prince of knowledge – Hermaeus Mora.

Will it be good? I certainly hope so. We will visit Apocrypha and become an agent of the Daedric prince. This is an unexpected development considering the poor reception with the other princes in previous campaigns.

The developers have a unique opportunity to weave a captivating narrative entailing Necrom. Will they steer clear of the predictable storytelling patterns found in certain previous chapters, which often revolve around world-ending scenarios? It would be refreshing. I hope that this new story will keep players engaged, intrigued, and eager for more.

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