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Elder Scrolls Online Mac Review

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.

Mac Game Store button

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.

Elder Scrolls Online Mac 5

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.

Elder Scrolls Online Mac 2

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.

Elder Scrolls Online Mac 3

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.

Elder Scrolls Online Mac 4

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

Mac used:

  • 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


Final Word

Review Stars 4



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.

Get it from the MacGameStore.

Note from Ric: This Review comes from Rasmus Englund, one of Mac Gamer HQ’s newest  contributors.

  • Chris Tallant

    I agree with just about every point you made. I’m playing on my 2012 non-retina MBP and saw no problems running default config.
    The bigger problem I have is trying to play with idiots online. All too often will you find some group where you’re clearly the only one with a full brain.
    And, since I played in the original alpha/beta/release – and monthly payment, I still haven’t spent too much time figuring out the new store design since the relaunch.

    • Rasmus Englund

      Almost all online games these days has its fair share of idiots.
      But my experience however has been great! PvP, group dungeons etc. really nice people!

      I joined when Tamriel Unlimited was launched so I haven’t had any experience with the previous store designs! 🙂

      Great game though! But do keep an eye on the clock 😉
      Time runs fast when you have fun

    • Camilo Alonso López Cristoffan

      Well man, there are always this idiots in MMOs so We just have to deal with them and hope that race of players won’t last forever!

      • Rasmus Englund

        Yeah! That’s the sad part of online gaming.
        But let’s hope, as you said, that they eventually go away

        • Chris Tallant

          In all fairness, I do need to give ESO another chance now that more people have settled into the seat. Although, the last time I played it almost looked like the graphics were dumbed down a bit… did anyone else notice this?

          • Rasmus Englund

            Well I’ve heard lots of complaints about the graphics. But honestly I love it.
            It might not be Witcher 3 epic titan mega graphics but its still good!

    • mikelyons

      I learned a long time ago starting with Asheron’s Call and a lot of MMO’s that followed not to mention years in EverQuest and EverQuest 2 to expect the worst in many people in anonymous worlds where actions and words have no meaningful consequences. It really tends to bring out the worst in some people, sometimes a lot of them. Then there is the whole “me” mentality often seen in MMO communities where people have their own personal agendas first and foremost which typically involve the advancement of their own character in terms of experience and the all important loot. For a lot of these people, in game acquaintances are simply the means to an end and little if anything more. Expecting to make actual friends with strangers online in competitive game worlds is largely folly unfortunately. Yes, it can and does happen sometimes but I’d never go in expecting that so I am very pleasantly surprised if it does happen. The endless drama of guilds, pickup groups, etc. really puts me off as does the constant linking of “look what amazing thing I got!” This is usually followed by something like, “I like my (purple) Amazing Sword of Better than What the Other Guy Just Linked” and so on. I hate to be so negative but I am a realist who’s experienced MMO’s for some 15 years now and that’s what I’ve seen regardless of the game. This is why the only MMO that could appeal to me anymore is one which offers an engaging solo experience and possibly pvp so I can kill the people that make me unhappy at times.

      • Chris Tallant

        You have some perfect and dead-on points, Mike. I also played AC, and even UO back in the day; back when dying in an online game meant losing a significant portion of items carried on one’s toon. However, as much as I hate to admit it, I too suffer from the automatic prejudice of every PUG being full of people I need to keep a close eye on during the run. I still play WoW, and the guild I’m part of happens to be the largest guild in North America (Alea Iacta Est) with around 5,000 members, so it’s a nice gaming session no matter what one wants to do, what one’s role within the group, and no matter what time one wants to play.. and part of this also plays into my current problem of comparing new guilds and groups in other games (GuildWars 2, ESO, EVE Online, etc) to AIE when they can’t possibly compete due to the pure numbers and amazing management from the officers and leaders of the guild. It’s hard to play a game and expect something never intended to exist within that framework to begin with, and GW2 is the closest I’ve seen at this point, but again – it simply comes down to the people I’m running the game with at the moment. Because everyone wants to help and “play nice” with each other, that doesn’t guarantee that one day it’ll all change for the worse.
        Honestly, I’d still love to see a MacGamer guild across many of these communities, where a few of the simple rules could be: “Don’t be an asshat who ninjas, and /dance whenever possible.” Hey – I can dream, right?

        • mikelyons

          Yeah, we can always dream. That’s for sure. Although I’m on vacation from any MMO games currently, WoW was the last one I was playing. I’ve been playing it on and off since just before TBC came out. My first character was a Tauren Druid named Bigfeets. Once the Blood Elves were out, everyone in my guild (The Old Timers Guild) was rolling new BE toons and so I rerolled to be able to play with them and my BE Paladin was born. He was my main for a very long time but I hated healing as Pally back then. Keep in mind, I was coming from being a very powerful raid geared cleric in the number 1 guild on my server in EverQuest. So to play this single target heal one trick pony was quite the let down. I went Ret before ret was cool to escape that and had fun with him once changes made ret spec very cool. Anyway, ultimately after my most recent break, I returned before the latest expansion and quickly leveled a Troll Druid to be a gatherer, the plan being to load up on stuff for my crafters and make profits on the rest. Instead, I fell in love with the class and that guy, garrisons reduced the value of farmed mats and I really didn’t need money anyway. I was fine.

          I burned out on keeping up just one garrison and doing some casual raiding with my guild and took yet another vacation. While I like Old Timers and have been with them for many years and multiple games, like any large guild there is within it the same ups and downs I spoke of before. I do have some friends there though and the atmosphere is generally pretty positive. For anything group oriented it sure beats pugs which I avoid like the plague. I know there is good and bad there but I just can’t deal with the bad anymore.

          As Imoen would say, “I done had enough of this!”

        • mikelyons

          That reply I just wrote was enough wall of text so here comes another! haha!

          I’d like to try ESO after reading the review here on the Mac version of it. I don’t know if I’ll bother to join the OTG chapter for that game though. Old Timers has a presence in all the popular MMOs as well as a variety of other games online. It’s cool that you can move from one game to another and you are already in a guild that’s basically a known quantity.

          Anyway, I may just venture solo for the peace and relative quiet of it. The same applies to GW2 which I’d eventually like to spend some time in. Last but not least, I want to revisit DDO & LoTRO because I enjoyed both of those games. Oh, and I almost forgot: Ryzom. That’s a free download on the Mac App store and you can play the first 125 levels I think it is before they ask for a contributory monthly to keep it running for the next 125 levels. Thats a boatload of free play there though with no f2p restrictions of any kind so far as I know. I had friends who played that ages ago when I was raiding in EQ and they liked it. I did pop in a while back and there was people playing. It appears to have an old EQ-like feel to it so that might be fun to spend some time with.

          In other news, crazy me has a ridiculous backlog of Mac games to catch up on and is wrestling with just forgetting about the Windows titles I’d already owned when I switched to Mac three years ago, not that this is the first one I’ve ever had. If I live long enough, I could get the best of those for PS3 for cheap and enjoy lounging on the sofa while I play them. That’s kind of a big if.

    • Isn’t that the problem in every MMO out there? (the people lacking full brains thing) 😉

  • Camilo Alonso López Cristoffan

    Nice review!!! I was also hyped when they announced ESO, but after reading reviews and comments I was immediately not so optimistic. But reading this review I may give it a try sometime!

    • Rasmus Englund

      I’d say give it a try!
      I spent like almost 70 hours the first two weeks after I bought it!
      A lot of fun and great addition to Mac Gaming!

    • Rasmus Englund

      The hefty price tag though is not good!
      I bought it on Steam when they had a massive sale, so win win for me ;D

    • Yeah and keep in mind that they did a ton if improvements with the Tamriel Unlimited expansion.

  • ikir

    I’m very interested in this game… i would buy it for sure if didn’t had a WoW private server 😛

    • Josh Hatchett

      Sharing is caring mate! ;D

    • Private server? What is that?

      • mikelyons

        It’s an unauthorized (by Blizzard) server that is usually free to play on and these often have rules changes applied to the game. i am not talking about WoW specifically but any MMO where people do this. This falls into the same realm as piracy given the MMO maker earns no revenue from their game in this case aside of possible client purchases. Whether or not people playing on free servers actually pay for the clients either is questionable though.

  • mikelyons

    Very nice review. It’s good to see how nicely it ran on the test system. I hope you review The Witcher 3 for us when it releases for Mac. It will be very interesting to see how well that one will run and at what kind of settings.

    • Rasmus Englund

      Do you know when the Witcher 3 will release on mac?

      • mikelyons

        No idea. They aren’t telling. I think they have announced for Linux but I am not even sure if they have announced for Mac. It’s purely assumption based on the previous two games having Mac versions and that fact that a Linux port means OpenGL so doing one for the larger Mac market would make sense while they are at it.

        • They announced this for Linux? Didn’t know that. At least it makes it all the more likely to come to the Mac too…

      • Chris Tallant

        Witcher 3 is programmed using the OpenGL framework, so it’s more or less a testing/troubleshooting/bug fixing issue at this point.. Just give it time.

        • Rasmus Englund

          I really hope you’re right! I have close friend who recently got it and he’s been sooo hyped about it. And it sure does look amazing!
          Also the two other witcher games has made it to the mac so it’d make sense to see the third installment coming to mac.

          • I’ve been playing Witcher 3 on my roommate’s PC and it is immersive, massive, addictive, astonishing in every category except perhaps the music scores.

            On my second playthrough now on friend’s system, but should CD Projekt Red release it for Mac I will buy it and play it again without hesitation.

    • Chris Tallant

      I would absolutely love to do away with the numerical grading of reviews all together. Personally, it’s too much of a wide-category to compare items that aren’t alike. StarCraft 2 and Command and Conquer are strategy games that could get similar reviews depending on which flavor of the title the reviewer is playing. But StarCraft 2 compared to Skyrim? How? I’ve tried writing dissertations on how the rating system in movies and media in general doesn’t compare fairly and gives people a poor indicator to the real quality of the game underneath, but very few people listened.

      • mikelyons

        I like them personally but always taken with a healthy grain of salt. I see them as a ballpark indicator but reading the review is necessary to see how they came up with that. Taken by itself, a number or number of stars tells one very little beyond the extremes where 1 star may indicate a humorous review awaits and 5 stars indicates somebody loved this game, etc. but I’d need to read why they loved it to figure out if I might also. By the same token, I’d want to know why a review was lukewarm or poor because I might not have a problem with whatever the reviewer disliked. Metacritic numbers can be way off this way when compared to user feedback and reviews on Steam for some games I’ve noticed.

        Anyway, I see no harm in them so long as people have the sense to read the actual review. Even there, one review isn’t very telling. I am more inclined to seek out user feedback about how much fun people perceive a game to be and why along with information on any bugs/technical issues, etc. I get my best info there. Even that one has to keep in mind who the reviewing group is. GOG is a good example of this where all classics tend to be glorified whether or not they still are worthy pursuits in 2015. I tend to like classics myself but would only really want to to play the truly outstanding titles from bygone times in no small part for the nostalgia.

        • I completely agree with you these, numbers are supposed to give a ballpark idea of how accomplished a game is or not. And then again, it will depend on the reviewer too. Nothing beats reading a few different reviews to get a better sense of a game.

          • mikelyons

            I agree. I do really like the Mac focused reviews here. Mac games on Mac hardware with useful info about performance as well as the game itself. Otherwise, I am a big fan of user reviews and will often check Steam or GOG forums for those. It’s not that I always go by what is popular or not but rather the info they share tells me if I might like something or not.

    • Can’t wait to get The Witcher 3 on Mac so trust me it’s coming 😉 And you’re right. We do need a standard and public system. I will think about it and see where we can put it. Thanks for the comment Mike.

      • mikelyons

        You’re welcome and thank you. The Witcher 3 native I hope for Mac would be greatness. By all accounts I’ve seen thus far it is a fantastic role playing game. Naturally, I will hope to see a Mac version reviewed here with the all important performance assessment.

        Off topic but how about that Metal announcement yesterday? Woo-hoo! Article incoming? 😀

      • Josh Hatchett

        I have The Witcher 3 on PS4, but I really want it for iMac instead because I can’t read most of the in-game text on my TV…

  • Kelvin

    It sounds very exciting. I would probably buy it if I hadn’t purchased Guild Wars 2.

    • How is the Mac client working these days? For a long time, many gamers would complain that the Mac client was very poor….

      • Kelvin

        I haven’t encountered any issue in my 150 hours gameplay yet. It did crash for a few times, but that didn’t bother me much.

    • Josh Hatchett

      I’m with you, I love GW2 running on my iMac so I haven’t really had a reason to get a new MMO.

      I wish this game had a trial to rope me into.

  • ironhorse40

    Its nice for them to bring The Elder Scrolls online Mac. However, it lame to keep their stand alone games from us. I for one don’t like game companies, that pick games we get from them. I know couple of Mac game developers, tried to get Skyrim for Mac.

    • Rasmus Englund

      Yeah! Companies who decides to get their games to the Mac every time are the best!
      Blizzard is a great example

      • Blizzard and Valve are just one league ahead of everyone else 🙂

    • Josh Hatchett

      The reason being is that the Elder Scrolls MMO and their standalone games were made by two separate companies. Elder Scrolls Online was made by ZeniMax Online Studios, not Bethesda, which is why it isn’t nearly as good as it could and also why it’s available on most every platform.

      • @ironhorse40:disqus indeed, that’s the main reason we got ESO but not the offline ones.Bethesda clearly doesn’t care about the Mac and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Regarding the Mac port however, what do you mean by “a couple of Mac developers tried”?

  • Josh Hatchett

    I would honestly buy this if it were truly cross-platform. My wife could play on PS4 and I could play with her on my iMac. Her Macbook probably wouldn’t handle this game as Guild Wars 2 sometimes struggles. They kind of shot themselves in the foot by not making it like DC Universe or FFXIV – cross platform between consoles and PCs, in my opinion, is the future.

    • Don’t know if FFXIV is a good example right now! 😉

  • jeff1234

    Played the game when it was beta. Was somewhat okey. But then they said you need to buy the game and pay for monthly subscription. Still waiting for it to be free2play then I will try it once again. but have no intention of spending $60 for a game that doesn’t even have a trial. I do not wanna buy a game that I can’t try how it is actually. 🙁

    • The fact it removed the subscription was a good start and definitely made the game better. Now, no trial kinda sucks, specially as most other MMOs have. That said, WoW has it buy you need to pay every month and most normal games without subscription don’t give you any trials…