Whenever a massively-multiplayer-anything sets out to make you The Chosen One, they are making a huge mistake. It’s nearly impossible to suspend your disbelief enough to ignore the thousands of other “chosen ones” running around you, dancing beside the blacksmith, doing pushups on a dying NPC.
Wouldn’t be quite so bad if ESO used instancing in any reasonable way. Sometimes party members on a different step of a quest will phase out of existence, yet at the same time there are pathetically few quests where you will actually be alone in a dungeon, doing something meant to feel important. More often than not you’ll be surrounded by the same swarms of people you find everywhere else. Sometimes they’ll just be in a cluster, farming an enemy that is supposed to be significant but has been reduced to little more than a harvesting node. Even when NPCs lined up on the sides of the road to applaud my triumphant return to town, I was hard pressed to even remember what I’d done for them that was so important.
Most of these issues are completely acceptable (and often technically required or limited) parts of your run-of-the-mill MMO, but they also directly work against much of what makes the worlds of Elder Scrolls games like Skyrim and Oblivion feel so immersive and real. Consequently ESO feels even more two-dimensional by comparison, and for the best possible experience you should probably try to avoid making that comparison altogether. As I said before (and I do feel that I need to restate this) I’m enjoying my time in The Elder Scrolls Online, but I don’t think it’s because I like The Elder Scrolls. If anything, it’s in spite of that.
This is not the multiplayer Elder Scrolls game so many of us desperately want. It does do a lot of interesting things with MMO conventions (which I’ll talk about in more detail next week), but it is what it is. There is still a lot that will appeal to the die-hard franchise fan. You’ll find ancestors of familiar characters, you’ll see what some of your favorite locations looked like a millennium earlier, you’ll get to interact with events you’d only read about in lorebooks before, and if you’re anything like me the arrangements of all-too familiar music will send shivers down your spine… Just know what you’re getting into, and adjust your expectations accordingly.