The Sub is Back – The Elder Scrolls Online

November 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

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Old news alert! I wrote this a while back and promptly forgot about it. Imagine you are reading this just after the announcement for maximum interest. Ta!

The Elder Scrolls Online is climbing the gears as it’s beta rolls on, and I am still sitting here waiting on an invite. I’m not bitter or anything, but Bethesda are really starting to fray my washcloth. Much has been said about this attempt to bring multiplayer to the lands formerly stalked by a single dragonborn/chosen one, and as I can’t validate any of it, all I can do to feel involved is sit here with my pen and my checklist of ways Bethesda could screw TESO up, and play bingo.

They announced TESO would be using monthly subs, which means I can score out “Free 2 Play” from my list, thank goodness. That would have been a massive mistake.

The game itself is irrelevant at this point – it’ll either work or it won’t. A few people were having a whine about the lack of a real first-person perspective (a worthy whine, in my opinion), but that was allegedly fixed. Which leaves the rest of the rather floaty combat seen in the videos a large yellow question-mark floating above TESO’s head, hopefully to be sorted at some point between now and release. Again, I’m not getting bogged down in mechanical observations as – I can’t play the bloody thing.

What I will say is this – after a few turns around the various free-to-play MMOs currently kicking around, Bethesda’s decision to use the old-timey tenner-a-month subscription system is something of a relief.

Take the relatively recent Neverwinter – a free-to-play sword-and-sorcery romp that takes much of the traditional D&D rules and notions and fires it through an MMO-shaped filter to various degrees of success. It’s not bad, and that’s about all I have to say on it. I mean, it works – the terminology is comfortably familiar to anyone who has ever actually rolled a d20, but it kind of sprains itself on the details. Daily abilities, for an example, aren’t “daily”, they just take a while to cool down. But I digress.

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The issue with Neverwinter isn’t the game-play, it isn’t the look or styling (both range from “neat” to “wow, that’s very pretty”), it’s not even the horrific voice acting from NPCs or the ropey animations that seem to plague everything that moves.

No, the real killer is the ever present buy-stuff-for-real-cash shop that makes itself known whenever possible, including opening on it’s own if you click the wrong icon on the button-busy screen. It’s the eternal squeal of the freebie player trying to sell you stuff in the fucking starting areas. It’s the almost desperate cluttering of your screen, every corner crammed with symbols, buttons and important-looking icons that have absolutely nothing to do with anything other than spending money. Over in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the story is much the same.

Champions Online was another. It had a cleverly open-handed approach to creating your own character, which was then shot to pieces when it went F2P, asking you to pay for the only classes that were actually any fun (I miss my power-armour character). Star Trek Online, doomed from the start thanks to a general disregard for the subject matter and woeful writing, is now full of green-glowing Intrepid-class ships called “Voyejar”, pet shuttle-craft and even the occasional chap running around in uniforms 200 years out of date. And don’t get me started on the custom race stuff…

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I am being unfair, and I know it. But the fact remains large and brightly lit – Free-2-Play does not a good game make. I’ve lost count of the number of games that have turned into patchwork quilts of nonsense through the unduly-glorified concept of F2P, and yes – am including Team Fortress 2 in that, sadly. And if paying a tenner a month for TESO means they can avoid the pet mud-crabs, the mosaic interface issues and keep out the bots – it’s all good.

Screenshots are courtesy of Google Image Search seeing as I’m not important enough for a beta key… *sobs*

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