Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) had a rough first year after its initial release in April 2014.
With highly rated predecessors, such as Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, the expectations for the sixth installment of the Elder Scrolls series were sky-high. So why did this game, which had so much potential, become a disaster?
It was mainly due to its pricing system. First, you had to buy the game for $59.95, then you also had to pay a monthly subscription fee in order to play it. For obvious reasons, this is not a very popular business model. Worst yet, ESO got mixed reviews and only a mere 63% of the Steam users who bought the game recommended it.
On March 17th however, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited went live on PC and Mac, and the game was given a new chance. But was it enough to deserve your hard earned cash? Short-answer, yes.
Note: As always, this game was reviewed on Mac hardware. Read on for the full specs.
Enter Elder Scrolls Online on Mac
A couple of days before Tamriel Unlimited launched, there were on average 850 people simultaneously playing ESO (on Steam). By March 19th, that number skyrocketed to 3,500. This shows how Tamriel Unlimited was a game changer.
The new pricing model certainly helped (Tamriel Unlimited no longer requires a monthly subscription), but the game also received enough new features and improvements to give it a spot among the Mac’s best strategy games and put the game back on everyone’s radar.
The story is set in Tamriel and unfolds 1,000 years before the events of the previous Elder Scrolls games. Tamriel is a world in turmoil. The emperor of Cyrodiil has been assassinated and no rightful ruler sits on the throne. So the nine races of Tamriel have gone together and created three different factions:
- The Ebonheart Pact: Nords, Argonians, and Dark Elves
- The Aldmeri Dominion: High Elves, Wood Elves, and Khajiit
- The Daggerfall Covenant: Orcs, Bretons, and Redguards
These three alliances fight for control over Tamriel. Meanwhile, the evil god Molag Bal threatens to invade Tamriel with an undead army. Your mission is to stop him and bring justice onto the people of Tamriel.
When you first start the game, you face the Elder Scrolls character creator. You choose one of the three factions and a race from the factions’ respective races. I suggest you consider this deeply since it affects most of the things you’ll encounter when playing ESO.
Another decision you’ll have to make is what class your character should be. This feature is new to the Elder Scrolls franchise and it lets you chose among four classes: Sorcerer, Dragonknight (Warrior), Nightblade (Rogue), and Templar (Healer).
But surely, the biggest part of Elder Scrolls games is the exploration. And ESO: Tamriel Unlimited doesn’t disappoint. The world of Tamriel features 18 zones, including the PVP zone. All of these zones feature different creatures and environments. It has everything from crabs to mammoths. Traveling to a new zone and exploring all the new and cool stuff is really exciting. I do suggest, though, that you use a timer, because the vast world of Tamriel is so big it will trap you inside of it for hours if you’re not careful.
Elder Scrolls or MMO?
A lot of critics claimed that ESO wasn’t a true Elder Scrolls-fashioned game and that if you’re looking for an MMO you shouldn’t play ESO.
These statements are not true. Elder Scrolls Online is not like the other Elder Scrolls games, in just as few aspects, such as the fact that it’s an MMO instead of a singleplayer game.
However, when the characteristic Elder Scrolls music starts playing as you explore the world, you can sense a true Elder Scrolls feeling. As for the MMO comment, this is a full-scale MMO, no question about it. The multiplayer part has its flaws, but it’s getting better all the time. Even if you don’t like MMOs, this game will suit you fine, too.
Elder Scrolls Online can be played as a single player game without a doubt, and the multiplayer and singleplayer parts work together flawlessly. Which is why most people play ESO as a singleplayer game.
When it comes to multiplayer, ESO offers different ways to play with others; one of them is to take part in group dungeons.
You simply gather or join a group of four players and then venture through the dungeon for loot, achievements and experience points. There is also the alliance war, which takes place in Cyrodiil, the empire nation. ESO’s community really surprised me too. Everyone is willing to help when tackling a group dungeon or some other multiplayer event. My experience with it so far has been great.
The alliance war is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a PVP battle between players from different alliances, wherein you capture forts and defend them from enemies. It’s a real-time war between real people, which is extremely cool.
The goal is to capture all of the forts surrounding the capital of the empire, Cyrodiil. The alliance that holds all of those forts gets to choose a player to sit on the throne of Tamriel and become the emperor. The player who becomes emperor gets to have a unique, fancy emperor armor as well as a whole new skill tree and quest line.
When it comes to combat, ESO’s combat system is solid and it centers around abilities. This feature is new to the Elder Scrolls franchise. I have to say, ZeniMax has done a great job with this part. The amount of abilities available is staggering, and they sure look cool, but it does get a bit laggy sometimes. There are times when abilities don’t activate, the animation freezes, and so forth.
Despite that, the combat system is great and it makes for a really fun experience.
Tamriel Unlimited is a solid experience, however, their reward-system still needs some fixing. In ESO, loot is important. However, its loot system has to be fixed. You can fight a high level boss but get rewarded for it with just 10 gold. To put that in perspective, the cheapest horse you can buy costs 10,000.
Plus, the loot is just junk 80% of the time, which you’ll throw away or sell later anyway.
Elder Scrolls Online Mac Performance
I played ESO with the graphics settings on “high” (ultra graphics only apply to a couple of settings) and a resolution of 2560 x 1440. With this, my frames per second rarely dropped below 35. I’ve had no problems playing with these settings. Jumping from zone to zone within just seconds is the best feeling in the world.
The performance was actually better than I expected. The world renders fast 90% of the time. Sometimes, however, the graphics failed to load and then you just have to wait. Despite the great performance, I noticed some minor bugs, which are mostly annoying rather than harmful. However, in most cases, just logging off and on again or restarting ESO helps.
Visually, this is a beautiful game—the water, the sunlight, everything in Tamriel looks beautiful.
ESO Mac System Requirements:
- OS: OS X 10.7 or higher
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo
- Video Card: Intel HD Graphics 4000, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M, ATI Radeon HD 6490M or better
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard Drive: 60 GB available space
- Internet connection
- Model: iMac (27-inch, Late 2012)
- OS: OS X 10.10.3
- CPU: 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX (1GB)
- RAM: 16 GB
With so many quests, fun combat, great graphics and a world filled with interesting environments and creatures, ESO Online deserves your attention. On the downside, the game is sometimes laggy and has minor bugs here and there.
ESO is an addicting game, and it’s without a doubt one of my favorite games of all time. I’ve been getting hooked on it for hours and I highly recommend you to buy it. This is a great addition to Mac gaming.
Note from Ric: This Review comes from Rasmus Englund, one of Mac Gamer HQ’s newest contributors.