Elder Scrolls Online Review Part One

Introduction

So The Elder Scrolls Online is finally live and kicking. I played through the beta and enjoyed what I saw so decided to dive in and see what the finished product looked like. To be honest it’s a mixed bag, and despite thoroughly enjoying myself so far I still can’t decide if it’s good or not.

It is by no means a bad game, in fact I’m loving it, but what makes it difficult to call is the fact that this is an Elder Scrolls game. How well does it really blend in its new genre?

Gameplay

So the game plays just like you’d expect, an Elder Scrolls like experience in an MMO setting. My preferred play style was first person, it’s how I like to play anything from the Elder Scrolls franchise. Combined with the gorgeous visuals and combat that works pretty well considering this is an MMO, the first person play style works extremely nicely.

Where it falls short however is when the MMO of the game creeps in, special moves that appear as if from nowhere and awful knock-back and cool down effects. My character gets stunned by a special move and from my perspective just looks like he’s stood there doing absolutely nothing, leading me to wonder if the game has crashed. It hasn’t it’s just a typical MMO feature that just doesn’t seem to fit with first person. I use one of my abilities, a magical spear jab, and randomly a golden spear appears in my view, stabbing at the enemy. I’m not holding it, or wielding it, it’s just there. Again another MMO style that just doesn’t seem to fit and ruins the experience.

These aren’t game breaking, in fact they are easily over looked considering how enjoyable the combat can be. The issue is they are stark reminders that we are playing an MMO and that these two game styles have somehow been forced together.

Now back to what’s good about combat. It feels pretty satisfying, your attacks actually making an impact on your enemy. You can dodge attacks, block and counter. Anyone who has played Skyrim will feel immediately at home with the combat.

Crafting

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed in the game is it’s crafting system. There is no need to decide on a profession or craft, you can literally collect and harvest any resources from the world and craft what you like, levelling your crafting abilities as you go. In your character progression tree you can select crafting abilities to assign your skills to, so it does make sense to go with a single craft that you will be using more than the others. However you can continue working in other areas.

I’ve gone with blacksmithing as my main crafting skill. As I wonder the world I discover resource nodes, and can mine these without having to carry any mining equipment with me. When I return to town I can visit the different crafting areas or shops, and put my resources to good use. The majority of my equipment I have equipped has been crafted by myself, and I also carry an assortment of potions I’ve created. It’s pretty good fun putting together a self sufficient character.

The crafting also gives another reason to go exploring. Crafting potions requires the player to collect different ingredients from plants and animals from around the world. You can consume the raw ingredients to find out some of their effects or you can just try random chance when throwing together a potion. It’s pretty interesting discovering what the different ingredients are capable of creating, giving the player an incentive to go off seeking out these ingredients.

Exploration

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about the Elder Scrolls Online is the exploration. The world is extremely detailed, with loads to see and do. Just taking a long walk, looking for new things to do is great fun. I’ve discovered all sorts of random quests while I’ve been out looking for new ingredients and exploring the world.

The landscapes are varied which really helps to keep things interesting. I’ve seen sprawling deserts, fiery mountains, ancient ruins, forests, all sorts! Just going off to see what new stuff I can find is great, and I have the freedom to do that right from the start. I’m not limited to following a defined path, I can choose my destination and set out to it.

Quests

Now it would be foolish of me not to talk about the quests. The developers have done a fantastic job of keeping things interesting in the Elder Scrolls Online, offering players intriguing and fun adventures to embark upon. Now I’m not going to lie, you will encounter fetch quests, or kill so many of these quests, but the majority of the quests I’ve completed so far have been long and interesting, following the usual Elder Scrolls style rather than an MMO style.

My only major issue with the quests are the other players. It becomes extremely jarring when you are tasked with a quest to save the city from invaders, the only hope the city has, and you see so many others completing the exact same quest as you. Delving into an ancient tomb, long abandoned… filled with other players, once again ruining the immersion. Sometimes it works great, seeing others involved in a battle that you’re fighting, but so many times it just breaks the experience.

For the most part questing in the Elder Scrolls Online is just fantastic, unlike any MMO I’ve played in a long time. The ability just to run off in any chosen direction and discover new quests to complete is a welcome one. You’re not pushed in a single direction, you have your own freedom to do things how you like.

Graphics

The art style and the graphics of this game are simply gorgeous. The detail that the developers have put into this game is just brilliant, combined with the huge number of environments it just makes this game a joy to explore and be a part of.

My only disappointment with the graphics is that the weapons seem to be relatively low resolution in comparison with the rest of the game. Now considering that I have to spend a lot of time with my weapon drawn, right in front of my eyes, I’d have liked to have seen some more focus on making the weapons look great.

Stand Out Feature

It’s too soon to call this. From what I’ve played of the game there are a lot of stand out features, stuff that I’ve really loved. In my next review I’ll focus on the later stages of the game play, PVP and PVE, shedding more light on how battles work. I’ve heard and seen some great things about this but had little input so far. So look out for my second part to the Elder Scrolls Online review. All I can say about this game so far is that for an MMO it is just simply amazing. I’ve not had this much fun in a very long time on an MMO. Fingers crossed it can keep up that momentum into the later stages.

 

 

Elder Scrolls Online Preview

When I saw the announcement for The Elder Scrolls Online my heart fluttered and sunk. My feelings were mixed, on one hand we were finally being given the opportunity to play with our friends in Tamriel, on the other hand there was a risk of this being a quick and easy cash in for the studio.

I watched trailers and hands on videos, showing off what this game was all about, but still I was unsure. We’ve all been let down by MMO’s before, ones that had extremely fancy game trailers, how could we possibly know whether or not this would be any different?

Finally the beta weekend came up and I got my first hands on experience with this game and straight away a number of my fears melted away. The first thing you notice when you jump into The Elder Scrolls Online is just how detailed it is. The character creation has an awful lot of depth, giving the player a huge amount of customisation options and the character graphics are absolutely superb.

Pretty impressive and very similar style to Skyrim.

Once I created my character I was thrown into my first dungeon, a prison, from which I had to escape. My first quest was fully voiced and felt like something from Skyrim, not World of Warcraft. The same can be said for the majority of quests I have played through, they are all pretty detailed, not your standard fetch or kill style quests.

The gameplay felt very similar to Skyrim, a first person or third person adventure depending on your preference. I played first person, a warrior wielding two handed weapons. A soon as I entered combat I found myself in familiar territory, the game handles just like Skyrim, left mouse click attacks and right blocks but there are also a couple of extras thrown into the mix, such as the ability to double tap your direction keys to dodge and evade attacks.

A lovely reminder of my days spent in Skyrim

Once you fight through your first quest you’ll be taken to a new location. I played as a Nord and was transported to a snowy village with lush forest surrounding it. The environment was absolutely stunning and an absolute pleasure to explore. Unlike other MMO’s, the graphics are rich and detailed, the environments exceptionally well developed. There were large forests to wander through, high mountains, flowing rivers and cascading waterfalls, really something I didn’t expect to see in an MMO.

Time for a drink
Time for a drink

I teamed up with my brother and we went exploring, seeking out new and random quests which were all voice acted and interesting. Some of the quests were bizarre and humorous, sending us on random missions, while others were more serious, pitting us against invading soldiers. My only gripe when exploring with a friend is that even when you are both grouped together and completing the same quest there is no combining or sharing the quest. If one of you completes the quest they are the only one to do so. I loved the way SWTOR handled a group when completing quests and

I created a second character in order to check out some of the other starting locations and found myself in a desert village, a huge port beside a beautiful ocean. Once again exploring felt great, wandering along side cliff edges and looking down at beautiful lagoons. All of the fauna was different, completely styled to match the hot and arid landscape I was exploring. Interesting animals roamed the sands and ruins were scattered about all over. The whole place was a stark contrast to the earlier snowy landscapes I’d explored as a Nord.

A stark contrast to my earlier play through

I teamed up with my brother and we went exploring, seeking out new and random quests which were all voice acted and interesting. Some of the quests were bizarre and humorous, sending us on random missions, while others were more serious, pitting us against invading soldiers. My only gripe when exploring with a friend is that even when you are both grouped together and completing the same quest there is no combining or sharing the quest. If one of you completes the quest they are the only one to do so. I loved the way SWTOR handled a group when completing quests and would love to see something similar in ESO.

I’ll admit, I’m still undecided about this game. I want to love it and I came pretty close. I can see myself sinking hundreds of hours into ESO, exploring alongside friends and drinking in the new environments. On the flip side it’s an MMO and they are normally plagued with issues, ready to ruin the game experience. The subscription worries me as I’m not a fan of having to pay for a game upfront then continue paying monthly. If the developers can continue to deliver updates and new content after the games release then maybe, just maybe, I’ll take the plunge and finally commit to an MMO.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic Elder Scrolls experience, even if it is online.

Samsung Ativ PC Pro Day by Day

Well my Samsung Ativ PC Pro has just arrived and I’ll be writing my thoughts on the device one day at a time. So far I’m very impressed by it and I look forward to using it more and seeing how it really performs in real world usage. So what will I look at when reviewing this beast?

Samsung

Right now I use a MacBook Air which I absolutely love. Its a great piece of kit and does most things that I need but its getting old and lacks power now. I also love the form factor of something like the Ativ PC Pro and I’m intrigued to see how well it performs as a tablet and also ultrabook. Obviously I do a lot of writing and the Mac has proved to be a great companion for all of my notes and work. I’ll take the Ativ PC Pro for a real spin and see how productive it really can be!

I’ve ordered myself a larger 256GB SSD (http://amzn.to/Z43Ec9) which I will fit into the tablet. This will hopefully be arriving this week and I’ll let you know how well the installation goes!

Day One

I’ve been using the Ativ PC Pro for just over 24 hours now and I must say I’m pleasantly surprised. I felt that I was going to be underwhelmed by this tablet due to the negativity that Windows 8 has received but I’ve got to admit that the OS actually performs very well. The tablet feels premium and performs well handling pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it. I’ve spent most of my time installing my applications and customizing the device but so far I’m impressed.

My first impressions of the OS is that it offers the best of both worlds. On the one hand I have the traditional desktop mode which I’ve spent most time using with my tablet docked in the keyboard. This performs exactly how you would expect from a Windows device. I’ve not had a chance to spend much time with Modern UI but from my brief play it handles well and gives a touch friendly environment. The thing that I love about this device when compared to other tablets is that it offers me everything. There’s no need to worry about where I will download my media content for example, I’ve got the choice to use iTunes or Google Music and I don’t need to worry about converting files. This is a full Windows experience and I love it so far.

So the device itself, what’s it like? Nice, very nice. It’s obviously bigger than your traditional tablet but that suits me just fine. It feels premium and when docked in it’s keyboard it feels and handles like an ultrabook. It’s on the heavy side so one handed use will get uncomfortable after a while and it’s also very long so using this device in portrait seems odd. It has all the ports I require and doesn’t really compromise on anything.

One of the biggest advantages is also the biggest let downs. I went for the Samsung Ativ PC Pro over the Microsoft Surface Pro due to it’s keyboard dock. The keyboard is great to use and the trackpad works well although it is a little on the small side. However the keyboard disconnects that are so widely reported are exceptionally annoying causing the keyboard to disconnect at even the slightest movement. The dock also feels extremely cheap and light which is odd considering how well made the tablet itself feels. It’s a shame that Samsung didn’t really go to the same effort in building the keyboard dock as they did the tablet. What I would have loved to see is something that employs the same materials as the tablet and perhaps uses bluetooth to connect with the tablet to avoid disconnection issues.

I’ve installed a couple of games onto the tablet just to test out how well it handles them. So far I’ve tried out Torchlight 2 and Guild Wars 2 and both games have handled well. As I mentioned I’ve not had a great deal of time yet to really test out the tablet but I’ll get some benchmarks etc in my day 2 experience.

Day Two

Well another day down and I’m still impressed by the Ativ. One thing that has struck me is how well the battery performs. I expected a couple of hours at best but I’ve squeezed over to 5 hours of screen on time and a couple of these were spent playing Guild Wars 2. Considering the power needed to keep this going it doesn’t overheat even when gaming and just keeps on performing.

So when it comes to gaming how well does it actually do it? It’s acceptable but won’t blow your socks off. If you’re looking for something that’s going to act as your gaming machine then look elsewhere, perhaps the Razer Edge? Yes the Ativ can game but it doesn’t deliver stellar performance. My session in Guild Wars was relatively smooth but bear in mind I had to drop all settings to low and lower the resolution to 720. The other problem I faced when gaming with this tablet was the keyboard dock. For whatever reason you cannot use the trackpad simultaneously with the keyboard which makes controlling your character difficult. I just hooked up a bluetooth mouse and problem solved but still it’s just another flaw with the dock.

I also decided to spend a few hours using the Ativ as a tablet because lets face it Windows 8 has been marketed at the touchscreen crowd. Desktop performed reasonably well with only a few icons being too small to hit
but at the end of the day it’s what you would expect. What I really wanted to find out is how well Modern UI performed. It was all lovely, pleasant boring. It just felt like a really dumbed down windows and left me constantly longing for my keyboard and mouse. It’s ok for those occasions when space is limited but in comparison to the likes of Android left me feeling underwhelmed. The other issue with using the Ativ as a tablet only is its weight! After a few minutes of using this I had to rest it somewhere because it is big. It’s also long which makes using it in portrait feel a little bit odd.

So to sum up if you plan on using it as a tablet only it maybe worth looking at other options unless you need the sheer power of this machine. However if like me you want a good mix and a hybrid machine then don’t let my experience of using it as a tablet put you off.

Day Three

I think I’ve got a good grasp of how well this tablet performs now. I went into this wondering if I would be getting rid of my MacBook and using only one device. My expectations were low, Windows 8 hasn’t exactly had a great ride since it’s launch. So what’s the outcome?

I love it! Sure there are things that aren’t up to scratch within the OS but for the most part it does what it needs to and its got a lot of polish and even better it offers a full desktop OS unlike any others offer right now. I can load up all my old applications and also play full PC games on my tablet. No other OS gives me this power right now and that’s where Windows 8 beats Android and iOS hands down.

When it comes to hardware I love pretty much everything about the tablet. It gets a little hot when under heavy load but its not uncomfortable. The biggest let down is the keyboard dock which has an appalling trackpad and is missing so many features. It’s just too light so tips over on non flat surfaces, could have been solved with an additional battery and the disconnection issues… the less said about that the better. If Samsung can manufacture a better dock then this device will be absolutely fantastic.

The tablet market is about to get flooded with Windows 8 devices but in my opinion the Samsung Ativ PC Pro is head and shoulders above the rest. I just really hope that manufactures don’t start pulling out of the Windows 8 space. I thought I was going to hate it but this has been a refreshing experience. It’s a no compromise device and I all I can say is that if you’re in the market for something portable but with power then this is your device.

For a full spec list and current prices check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/Yb7ih6

For a full list of accessories available check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/11Ul2kL