Games of the Decade #8 – The Elder Scrolls Online

Many people will probably be shocked to see The Elder Scrolls Online as one of my favourite games of the decade instead of Skyrim. The main reason for this, is that Skyrim never hooked me as much as ESO has. While I think Skyrim is a great game, it had a number of shortcomings and hardly evolved its formula from Oblivion. The world and exploration was impressive as always, however, it failed to provide a compelling narrative (where the ending was anticlimactic and lacklustre) or any real, interesting characters. It also lost a lot of charm and quirkiness that Oblivion had. ESO may have had issues at launch, but it quickly grew into one of the best Elder Scrolls experiences to date.

The aspect that I have always adored about The Elder Scrolls, is the lore and world. While the games haven’t really had many well written and compelling characters in my opinion, the very world itself has always been a substitute in a lot of ways. ESO really uses this to its advantage and keeps me engaged and intrigued to explore and continue discovering more and more. Also, being able to traverse such a variety of lands and provinces of Tamriel and beyond make it the most varied game in the series. The expansions and DLC add continued interesting locations, such as the gorgeous Summerset Isle, but even the base game has such a significant amount of places to discover. Every zone looks and feels completely different to the next. 

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There are so many interesting stories throughout the game, from the main quests, to the huge number of side quests. It’s these, and the characters you meet along the way, that bring that charm and personality that was lacking for me in Skyrim. It also helps that the Deadric Prince of Madness himself, Sheogorath, plays a prominent role in the Mage’s Guild story. Quests are handled generally well throughout, and the DLC in particular are standouts, where the quality is kept high. 

Music is also excellent, but what really impressed me is how they finally made magic fun and viable. In previous games, magic was only ever useful as a secondary system in combat. It was never viable or enjoyable to be someone solely using magic and mage’s equipment. This was such a disappointment for someone who always likes to play as a magic wielder in RPG’s. ESO completely changed that. Magic Staffs are finally effective to use and don’t require charging up, so you don’t need to use other melee weapons. There is a greater variety of damage spells instead of the basic elemental ones. It also helps that magicka replenishes more easily in combat, meaning you don’t have to rely on a large number of potions or switching to other weapons. I hope that the next Elder Scrolls takes inspiration from this magic system, as it desperately needs an overhaul.

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Thank you for reading and I hope you can see why Elder Scrolls Online made my list for the greatest games of the decade. It might not be a popular choice, but I can’t deny the quality of the experience that hooked me for more than 700 hours and continues to do so. For all things gaming, stay tuned to Honest Gamer.

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