TESO turns 10 and you should be playing it
5 mins read

TESO turns 10 and you should be playing it

I’ve rambled plenty about The Elder Scrolls Online (aka TESO for the sake of brevity) in the past, so it only makes sense that I try to talk more readers into checking it out now that it’s turning 10 years old, which is like ten times the period during which the average live-service AAA slop stays relevant nowadays. This isn’t a sponsored post, I promise.

Mind you, TESO had its fair share of ‘early days struggles’ like 99% of huge online games, but it managed to make a sizable comeback by doubling down on what the Elder Scrolls series is known for (but, you know, online) instead of trying eat a large piece of World of Warcraft‘s cake (FF14 is much better at that). Making The Elder Scrolls Online feel at least partially like an Elder Scrolls adventure would’ve been a logical starting idea, yet quick-profit-seeking executives didn’t think so at first. Go figure.

Fast-forward to literally a decade later and TESO continues to thrive by committing to the most loyal Elder Scrolls fanbase and everyone who boarded its MMORPG ship over the years because it seemed like a far more welcoming online experience than the alternatives (they’re not wrong). The secret sauce? Having something for every type of player and respecting the amount of time they want to put into the game. That said, I’d argue TESO isn’t your best bet if you’re a sweaty dungeon-crawling maniac in spite of the solid endgame offerings available.

This summer, following tradition, a new major chapter will arrive: Gold Road. The most hardcore players, no matter their playstyle are of course jumping into it as soon as it’s available, but I personally am not in a rush, and neither should you if you’re starting the journey now (or about to start after reading this piece). TESO likes to keep the wheels spinning with big limited-time events, minor DLC packs, and major expansions like most of its peers, yet it’s the one MMORPG which gives you a thumbs-up if you want to solo most of its core content and/or take a more peaceful stroll through everything Tamriel has to offer.

TESO - Cities
Image credit: Bethesda Softworks

While World of Warcraft might be going up after a handful of ‘whatever’ years, I’d say its priorities still are often confusing in an attempt to capture the attention of players way outside its sphere of influence. TESO and even once-doomed MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic instead focused on building upon their strengths and then, once a solid player base had been established, carefully studied what each subset of players wanted to spend more money on. If BioWare’s long-running MMORPG is at its best with high-quality, single-player-like story campaigns, then TESO excels at giving diehard TES enjoyers a good amount of traditional content reminiscent of Oblivion and Skyrim (and sometimes even Morrowind) before inviting them into more social activities.

Following its rough first couple of years, the team behind TESO (and the powers that be at Bethesda) realized most of its core audience wasn’t interested in the game to hit raised level caps as fast as humanly possible or to top PvP leaderboards even if the possibility to do so was there. The ‘second life’ element the Elder Scrolls franchise is known for, which is what has kept Skyrim relevant for over a decade, had to be nurtured, and so we find ourselves looking at a major, highly successful MMORPG in which decorating houses is nearly as important as clearing dungeons and engaging with countless beautifully crafted storylines.

TESO - Dungeons
Image credit: Bethesda Softworks

There’s a good reason why TESO is so prominent in Xbox’s bigger streams. Many gamers looking at the enduring MMORPG from outside seemingly don’t understand it’s actually flourishing and printing more money for Bethesda and the Xbox division than several of their most ambitious AAA games. Even if Fallout 76 also managed to take off despite one of the most disastrous online launches in recent memory, Bethesda’s biggest success story in that space still is ZeniMax Online Studios’ behemoth. Moreover, we shouldn’t overlook it’s by far the sturdiest and most reliable MMORPG experience on consoles at the moment, which is kind of a massive win that some competitors are struggling to land.

The fact I keep coming back to the game every now and then to check out what’s new and slowly work my way through expansion packs from years ago (the content structure being modular really breaks the FOMO curse) in spite of my super busy backlog speaks volumes about how much of a ‘happy place’ The Elder Scrolls Online is. While we wait for Starfield to fully realize its vision and for the first-ever in-game footage of the sixth mainline Elder Scrolls (which I can’t see arriving this generation at all), my personal recommendation is to give this take on Bethesda’s flagship universe a fair shake.

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