Deep World of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

Assessing a game like “The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited,” now available for the PS4 and Xbox One after last year’s release on PCs, requires a bit of background. MMORPGs have loyal, devoted fans. They know more about the genre than you. And they are understandably defensive of their favorite games, titles in which they spend not just hours or days but weeks and months of their lives. These games demand commitment.

They are not casual endeavors in any way. And so saying a highly anticipated one doesn’t really work for me demands that I also admit that the entire genre is a bit of a mystery to this gamer. A lot of video game critics would have you believe that they love and enjoy playing games from any genre. It’s silly to think that we’re not people too, and people have preferences. The non-stop questing of games like “Tamriel Unlimited” just doesn’t appeal to me. Go find this guy, go find that guy, go find this guy again. And yet I can see why really good ones suck players into their world and offer a few suggestions as to how “Tamriel” falls slightly short.

It doesn’t help my perception of “Elder Scrolls Online” that I’m still woefully addicted to “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” (and if you’re preparing to play that masterpiece, read this guide as to how to maximize enjoyment) and digging into “LEGO Jurassic World” while also mentally preparing myself for the potential awesomeness of “Batman: Arkham Knight.” In other worlds, “Tamriel” comes along at a surprisingly busy time for PS4 gamers.

And it comes with a name that really means something to gamers as “Oblivion” and “Skyrim” landed on numerous Game of the Year ballots. Ultimately, “Tamriel” feels like something designed for only the most hardcore “Elder Scrolls” fans. Everyone else should play “Wild Hunt.”

After designing your character from a typically wide array of customizable options, both visual and in terms of playing style, you’re dumped on to the continent of Tamriel.

The storyline here is loosely connected with the other titles, taking place a millennium before “Skyrim” and 800 years before “Morrowind” and “Oblivion.” After saving a Prophet from his imprisonment, you’re told that you need to stop the reign of an evil prince named Molag Bal. The game encourages exploration, although straying too far off quest paths at the beginning will get you quickly killed. There’s a nice progression of powers with quests constantly granting the player new skills to upgrade and new items to put into enemy-killing motion. For the first few hours, “Tamriel” in a series of fetch quests. Go here, find this or talk this to person, come back and get your XP. You’ll see other gamers roaming the same lands and you can try to interact with them although most people just kind of run around doing their own thing.

While it’s undeniably deep, why doesn’t “Tamriel” cast a spell on me? It looks clunky, for sure, especially in a world in which “Bloodborne” and “The Witcher 3” are so visually captivating (and, yes, I know that’s much harder to do in an MMORPG but it doesn’t change the reality of the visual experience). It also plays a bit like a relic. It reminds me of games I tested out and didn’t love on PCs years ago more than something I need to play in 2015.

Combat is remarkably clunky with swinging motions of weapons that don’t look like they’re connecting and inconsistent damage (given and taken). And hours into the game, I still don’t care about what’s happening. While I may not be the ideal candidate for an MMORPG, isn’t that the ultimate test of one? It needs to pull you into its world so much that you don’t want to leave it and are willing to devote dozens of hours to exploring it. Only the most hardcore fans of “Elder Scrolls” and MMORPGs in general will have that kind of commitment to “Tamriel Unlimited.”

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