Day two of my latest adventure in the lands of Tamriel on PlayStation 4 begins with me dodging town guards – apparently stealing every loaf of bread has drawn the ire of the city. It didn’t help that I “accidentally” launched a fireball blast at a citizen that was napping on the docks either. If the guards catch me, I’ll have to pay a hefty fine, but I can deal with that – my coffers are overloaded with all the pickpocketing and stealing I’ve been doing, so I have more than enough to purchase a mount and some nice gear, even though I’m only around level 10.
My lawbreaking adventures are just one aspect that has been added to Elder Scrolls Online since its PC launch last year, and a noticeable feature in the newly released Tamriel Unlimited on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. In addition to adding more of the freedom we have all come to know and love through other Elder Scrolls titles, there’s a hefty endgame component, essentially an alternate advancement system, that lets players continue to grow and develop after level cap. As always with an Elder Scrolls game, it’s up to you to determine the direction of your character through item use and exploration – if you want to be rogue that wears plate armor, or a two-handed cloth wearer, you can create a template of your very own as you explore the vast world.
The Elder Scrolls Online’s control scheme lends itself well to controller mapping and for combat. Because there’s a focus on a few key skills and the timing of basic attacks, you have a full range of powers at your fingertips without having to worry about overbearing and overloaded hotbars. The sparse UI does an excellent job allowing you to see what abilities are available without taking up valuable screen real estate. The game’s controls feel fitting for console, and the combat seems to have bit more weight behind sword strikes and offensive actions than my trip to Tamriel last year. On the subject of crafting, it’s incredibly satisfying to load your pack up with dungeon loot, and then break it all down to craft fantastic equipment.
Ability morphing lets you hone your powers by adding special features to skills that may seem basic at first. Each class line contains ultimate abilities that can only be used for additional complexity and fun to combat. For my time on console, I piloted a heavily armored storm mage, who essentially turns into Emperor Palpatine, capable of electrocuting packs of enemies.
Voice chat is easy to access and use, though you may wish to turn it off in heavily populated areas. The game’s dungeon grouping system has improved some of the issues I had with risk/reward ratios during my first trek through ESO, but it’s still slightly frustrating that the group finder doesn’t simply match players and dump them directly into an instance – you still have to port around a bit to get to your final destination.
The crown shop contains a motley assortment of consumables and cosmetics for those that want to continue supporting the game after initial purchase. Things like pets, mounts, jester outfits, and other assorted items are available for a price. Players can also opt to sign up for “membership plus” which is essentially a subscription that provides crowns each month, and presumably other content offerings down the line.
Due to a comfortable control scheme and a buy-to-play model that takes the pressure out of being forced to “get the most efficiency” out of your playtime, Elder Scrolls Online is a solid fit for console – it’s far more fun to wander aimlessly, farm gobs of consumables and craftables, and spend thirty minutes trying to steal a goblet undetected if you’re not constantly thinking about a subscription fee ticking in the background.
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