Is Elder Scrolls Online Worth Playing in 2021?

Is Elder Scrolls Online worth playing in 2021?  It is a question worth asking, as ESO was originally released back in 2014, which is a lifetime in the video game industry.

Elder Scrolls Online in 2021 is a very different and much-improved game from the one that launched to a mixed reception all those years ago.  Zenimax Online Studios (ZOS) has continued to release a steady stream of expansions and regular updates to ensure that will will thrive for years to come.

A lot has changed over the years, so if you’re a new or returning player wondering “is ESO still worth playing in 2021?” then relax – I got this.  

Is Elder Scrolls Online Worth Playing in 2021?  Yes.

Okay, so what makes ESO worth playing in 2021 and keeps a veteran of the game coming back for more?  It helps that I adore the Elder Scrolls universe, but beyond that, there are some things that can only be found in ESO which makes it a must-play game for fans of MMORPGs.

These are the key reasons that Elder Scrolls Online is worth playing today:

It Is a Beauty to Behold

Elder Scrolls Online is still a good looking game, even all these years after release.  Rather than relying on photo-realistic visuals which wouldn’t have aged well, ESO instead adopted a slightly fantastical aesthetic while keeping it mature, making it a joy to look at while playing even today.

The beauty of the ESO is complimented by the stellar soundtrack that serves to capture and amplify the atmosphere on offer to players.

Side-tidbit here. Even though playing ESO on a non-gaming PC doesn’t do the game’s visuals justice, it can still be run on some surprisingly low minimums. I found myself without a GPU for a while a few years ago, and I was still able to run the game on the Intel 4000HD that I was left with. It wasn’t great and I believe the graphics setting would be called ‘potato quality, but it ran…just.

The user interface is thankfully minimalistic, which in my opinion allows a cleaner and more pleasing viewing experience.  With add-ons though, this can be changed to the player’s preference.

Is ESO worth playing in 2021 for the graphics?  That depends on what you look for in games from a visual perspective, but the graphics have certainly aged well

For the Loot

Destiny 2’s Cade jokes about it, but I firmly fall into the category of player that needs my loot. It needs to provide a sense of progression, achievement and outright awesomeness to properly reflect my feats in-game.

Personally, I find the loot structure in Elder Scrolls Online delivers on all those points. Gear sets work by requiring the player to equip multiple slots of the same set to obtain higher bonuses and each set is designed to fulfil a particular role.

Gear is available from specific locations and provides unique bonuses that stimulate a rigorous trial of theory-crafting, testing and triumph to find the optimal setup. The best gear is available from the harder content, but the difference is not so great as to prevent a good player from clearing end game content without it.

Elder Scrolls Online strikes the right balance between good gear choices and a singular best gear set that everyone must use.

Transmutation (the ability to re-trait items) probably doesn’t mean a lot if you don’t play, but this was a great win on the quality of life front. RNGesus can be fickle, so the ability to collect 50 transmutation stones to switch out the trait (a buff characteristic on a piece of gear) reduced the amount of rerunning content hoping for the perfect drop.

Similarly, the inclusion of the weekend golden vendor (allowing players to purchase from a random rotation of items) also helped to reduce the reliance on RNG by allowing direct purchase of a desirable item if it happened to be available that weekend. RNG still, I know – but every little helps.

In addition, the ability to trade items that are typically bind-on-pickup (i.e. untradeable) for a two-hour window to group members within dungeons and trials made it much easier to help and get help from friends, guildmates and random strangers to obtain that last item for which you were looking.

As you can probably tell, gear is important in ESO and the developers have recognised this by making changes to improve the loot earning experience.

Is ESO worth playing in 2021 for the loot?  If you’re a fellow loot lover then heck yes, you will find that the gear makes it more than worthwhile.

Speaking of Quality of Life Changes…

ZOS has implemented numerous other quality of life type changes to Elder Scrolls Online over the years since release.  They have made the game a much more enjoyable experience to play.

The crafting bag (available with an active ESO Plus subscription) is a virtual necessity for hoarders but you can get by without it. There’s nine levels of crafting across three trades, plus runes for enchanting, ingredients for potion making, and now jewelry making has also been introduced – you get the picture, my poor characters are swimming in materials.

However, they do so in style as the dye system followed by the outfit system was introduced providing even more freedom to customise one’s appearance (through obtaining and learning style motifs).

The characters also have plenty of company from other players thanks to the removal of alliance segregation in the PVE world with the One Tamriel update. Players are now able to quest, run dungeons or just socialise in a tavern with friends from any alliance. This extends to friends of all levels as everyone and everything is now scaled to max level through gaining lowbie bonuses to stats that are gradually repealed until the character hits level 50 and reaches champion point 160.

The veteran rank system was overhauled back in 2016 to make leveling your second, third, fourth etc. character much easier (as Champion Points are player account-based, all alternate characters you have are able to access your accumulated account-wide Champion Points at level 50). If you want to level even more characters, additional character slots also became available for purchase via the crown store.

Additional convenience items such as race and name change tokens have also been added to the crown store to help fix any regretful decisions. A great feature for adult gamers – no one wants to re-level a character all over again because you no longer fancy your character’s hairstyle or to fix a name typo.

How Hard Is It to Catch Up in Elder Scrolls Online?

So, you now know that Elder Scrolls Online is worth playing in 2021.  How hard is it to catch-up in ESO when some players have been playing it from day one?  Is it too late to join in? Is the gap between the haves and the have-nots too great?

Absolutely not!

In fact, the game has so much to offer that you regularly find people who master one side of the game starting from square one on another aspect of the game.  It is a part of the fun of playing a game with so much depth.

The Knowledge Barrier

Elder Scrolls Online does not sell max level characters tokens or any such ‘jump to end-game’ type mechanic and I can honestly say thank goodness for that! Players need the time spent leveling (and practicing) to learn how to play the game properly. Whilst this provides depth to experienced players, it also makes it very hard for a new entrant to get to terms with how to succeed.

ESO is structured around the holy trinity of Tank, DPS and Heals for group content and learning these roles does take some time. The game does a very poor job explaining the details of how to perform your role. The skill advisor added was a step in the right direction, but honestly more in-depth practice tutorials wouldn’t go awry. The recent change to not having all the weapons and armor skill lines visible by default seems counter-intuitive and unnecessary.

Fortunately, there are many people in-game who can help and numerous guides produced by the community on the internet to help a beginner on the path to becoming a hardened veteran.  There are also several knowledgeable YouTubers creating amazing content to get you up and running as quickly as possible.

A Note on Making Gold

The player market system is also rather unique, as it operates by having NPC stalls that player guilds can hire out on a weekly basis. This acts as the guild’s shopfront, allowing the wider public to purchase the items listed by guild members. There is no central auction house and in order to sell an item, players need to either be in a guild that can afford to hire a trader or resort to peddling their wares on zone chat.

Being on PC, I actually don’t mind this system.  It creates an incentive for guilds to function smoothly and allows a shopper to snag a bargain from more remotely located traders. But without add-ons and websites like Tamriel Trade Centre, it can be a pain to use. Fortunately, improvements are on the way.

Will I Be Alone?

Fear not, a new player will not be a solitary soul in a sea of experienced vets.

At prime time, the world of Tamriel is buzzing with activity and it is actually hard to find a zone without other players of all levels present. There are constantly people completing content for the first time even after all these years.

I myself have run in groups with people who are completing four-year-old content for the first time, and having an absolute blast while doing so. That feeling of triumph when you share in the first successful completion for a new group is just as sweet today as it was then.

What Is There to Do in Elder Scrolls Online?

Lots. And lots. Broadly speaking, there is a Player-Versus-Environment (PVE) and Player-Versus-Player (PVP) side to the game. Both of which has content for casual and hardcore end gamers. The group finder tool was added to help find other players to do dungeons and to enter PVP battlegrounds.


Quests are fully voice acted (with subtitles optional) and are narrative-driven with numerous repeatable daily quests available as well. There are numerous large storylines like the main quest, region quests and guild quests alongside the smaller side quests that can be found while wandering the countryside.

Dungeons, Trials and Arenas

Elder Scrolls Online has both four-player dungeons as well as trials for twelve-person teams (both of which come in normal and veteran versions). Arenas are longer endeavours that span over a number of stages with a boss to defeat at the end of each. Veteran trials and arenas also have scoreboards to show who truly is the best of the best plus weekly rewards for those that achieve the highest scores that week.

These places are where some of the best gear drops and with the addition of transmutation, the farming for gear is no longer as painful.


This is where the big PVP fighting occurs. If you watch the trailers, you’ll see that there are three alliances vying for control of Cyrodiil and to take over leadership of Tamriel. Here is where the players come together to bash it out. Think Planetside 2 type fights with legions of players fighting for control over key map points (outposts and forts) across the landscape.

Set up siege weapon lines to bring down fortifications and charge through the breach with your chosen alliance or attempt to beat back the onslaught as valiant defenders, the tide of battle rages on unending. The best way to enjoy this content is to join an organised outfit, smashing through enemy lines or beating a hasty retreat.


If pitched battles in the field aren’t your thing, small scale PVP is available in Battlegrounds. These are three-way matches with four players per side in closed arenas. Your choice of flavours are deathmatch, capture the relic or domination. Each match ends after 15 minutes or a team reaches the maximum score, needless to say – the fighting is fast-paced and frantic.

Roleplay (RP)

If you’re tired of playing game content, why not make up your own? Elder Scrolls Online roleplay guilds are some of the most welcoming you will find in any game.

The game’s extensive history of lore, depth of character customisation and beautiful graphics make it a prime candidate for indulging in a bit of make-believe.  Here, talented writers and creators bring the world to life through their narrative and co-creation of story.

To get involved, your best bet is to head over to the main ESO RP website, do a bit of research into the lore, find inspiration for your character’s backstory and then jump right in by meeting fellow role players.  You can also check out our list of Elder Scrolls Online roleplay guilds.

How to Improve Elder Scrolls Online

You know the answer to “is ESO worth playing in 2021” (yes) and you know that the game is extremely well balanced with plenty to do.  But, it isn’t perfect.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways that you can improve your experience with Elder Scrolls Online.

Add-Ons and Modifications

The game experience, in general, is much better with add-ons and other peripheral services. For example, a rudimentary DPS meter was added to the game years after launch, but the player made add-ons are far superior.

In addition, third-party voice comms such as Discord or TeamSpeak are mandatory for serious group content. Whilst consoles do have voice chat, they lack the wealth of add-ons available which on PC can also be managed via handy tools like Minion Add-on Management.


ESO has generally stuck to a weekly maintenance schedule. Unfortunately, if you happen to live in Australia or generally on that side of the world this typically falls on a weekday evening. I’m okay with that maintenance during my prime time – happy to take one for the team. However, there are still bugs that persist over multiple patches (group finder, in particular, can be a little temperamental).

ZOS does try to communicate any unforeseen outages on their official forums, and their community managers do seem dedicated to providing updates during any such downtimes.

On balance, it’s not terrible – but just expect that it’s not 100% bug proof.

Is Elder Scrolls Online Adult Gamer Friendly?

Look, let’s be real – I imagine I’m preaching to the choir when I say that online games and MMORPGs are not just the domain of teenagers anymore. We all grew up into adult gamers and didn’t leave those games behind.

Forgive the selection bias, but in my experience, I would say that the majority of my meaningful interactions in-game have been with other adults (and of all ages).

Know that we may not be able to achieve everything in-game, but with enough practice there is nothing stopping adult gamers from reaching and succeeding in end-game material.

Conversely, if the objective is to unwind with a relaxing game session, the option to do some light questing, go a few rounds in PvP, run a few easy dungeons or even go fishing is available.

Final Thoughts

So to summarise, Elder Scrolls Online is worth playing today and has much to offer in the months and years to come.  There is a heap of things to do and it is now presented as a more mature package thanks to the many improved features implemented since launch.

I look forward to what is coming next and I hope to see you in Tamriel soon.


Leave a Reply
  1. ESO is NOT worth playing anymore, they have changed the alliance skill rapid maneuver that allows you to run 30% faster and swapped it for vigor a healing skill. They are catering to one class instead of the whole game! I have sent bug reports and emailed customer support and got no reply!

    In other words they are forcing people to have to play many more hours to get the same thing they had already! It is starting to remind me of everquest! There is a reason I stopped playing that game.


  2. So I’m a first time player into ESO – so I can concede to Stormbringer’s point. I do not have a long history of playing the game and their points are most likely are valid but I can say I’m really enjoying just experiencing the ESO world for the first time and getting a better understanding of the game’s mechanics. The quest lines have a lot of depth to them and don’t feel repetitive. The game is not perfect and has its flaws as mentioned above but would say its well worth at least one play through if you have never played before.

  3. Well written defiantly convinced me to by this game. I’m not much of a gamer, do to working alot but after reading what you wrote defiantly seems to fit my life style.Also something i’ll probly be playing for years. On xbox one and ill probly get it for my pc if my laptop can run it thanks again for writing this article. Much appreciated.

  4. I completely disagrees with Stormbringer. I have now played for 5 months on a daily basis. I enjoy the game immensely, and yes you have to farm to get specific items to play the META, but if you dont like that – Dont. Play your way, and eventually the meta gear shows up…

    On another note. The rapid maneuver skill is not changed… Just moved to another slot in the skill tree.
    That means you actually have to play the part of the game that unlocks it more than 15 minutes. Try PVP in a guild and unlock it quicky… I unlocked it without focussing on it in one evening trying the pvp map. The skill is not required, but nice to have. Many other essential skills take much longer to unlock, but it happens with normal play like in any other game. This is just an issue because non pvp’ers want pvp skills…

  5. How much were you paid to say “yes” it is worth playing, optimization issues, lag issues, massive number of unresolved bugs that effect multiple facets of the game, a company that seemingly doesn’t have customer service or care about its customer base.

    Plenty to do depending on what you want to do, some of it is just boring crap you are forced to do to get what you need such as skyshard gathering, running the same dungeon 100 times to get a specific set weapon

    You speak of balance, there are loads of balance issues, can you play any class and be successful YES but not all classes are good at all content, they are not balanced at all.

    So NO in its current state it is not worth playing.

  6. Just got it yesterday. Came from another MMO and after 10 hours I am loving it! Hopefully it continues to keep me entertained for a while because there’s nothing else coming this year!

  7. YES: If you like to have multiple champs with classes and skills for the different content. NO: If you like to stick to a single champ and try to build it for everything. Personally love this game because of the variety thing that you can do. I play the most 2 hours a day, but usually less than an hour. And so far missed only vet trials as for those you need a couple of hours of commitment. Yes there are issues with lags, yes for some content some classes are bad or to say other classes will perform much better, but still worth playing.

  8. If you love a broken house system, server lag, blue screens of death, getting kicked off for “spamming” a button, or even just dropping down a rabbit hole, then ESO is the game for you. Keep in mind that this is as of November 28, 2020.

    If ZOS fixes these problems, then the game will be worth playing again. As of now, it’s broken to the point of unplayability.

  9. The game is not worth it right now. The amount of bugs plaguing dungeons and trials is making it impossible in many cases to finish the content to get rewarded.

    The communication has been radio silent from ZOS. The only feedback you see are the forum moderators shutting down threads discussing the issues, especially if the player gets to close to the truth.

    There are a couple handfuls of ZOS employees hiding behind the guise of being a gamer, they always have each others back and always dismiss factual concerns by the players. It reeks of public relations cover ups.

    I am not even going to go into detail about the crummy business model of the game. That is a novel in itself.

    Overall, my time in ESO has been a complete waste. I wasted a lot of money, wasted time trying to complete content that bugs refuse to allow me to finish. The complete lack of respect for the player by ZOS.

    I actually feel bad for Microsoft, they don’t know what kind of trash heap they are purchasing.

  10. I agree with CatMom, with the exception that I don’t think that they are even capable to fix the bugs that make this game unplayable.

    I will add to this list of regularly occuring bugs / performance issues:

    – Unplayability on high demand times. Each new expansion the servers grind to a halt.
    – PVP being unplayable even on a weeknight, at prime-time when all the players actually have time to play, lagging/glitching/disconnecting is a normal occurence
    – Dungeons/trials crashing on every possible thinkable event. And even just because.
    – NPC’s where you can spend your “event tickets” just disappear mid-event, without the developers knowing why
    – Customer support in stead of trying to help you actually solve the problem, tries to blame it on everything from your driver to windows updates, even when you have said multiple times they are up to date. If they could, they would blame it on your cat being home alone during daytime.
    – I could go on, but I think the point has been made

    The reason I am writing this here, is because when writing on the forums it is just ignored, and if you are to obvious is your complaints about mismanagement, you are given an official warning and scared into silence. When reporting it to customer support nothing is done, you are being sent around in circles until you just give up, and endure the crashes hoping that someday it will maybe be better.

    So I am trying to warn others not to buy into this scam, because when people keep paying these kinds of companies, it gives them no incentive to change.

    The reason I have lost faith in their ability to fix those bugs is because I’ve played this game since beta and have seen bugs that have been around for years. Others that have just been made worse. The code-base is probably such a mess from bugfix over patch over quickfix that not even the developers know what’s going on anymore. As an example: They managed to lose the key NPC during an event (yes, lose, the NPC was actually unfindable in most of the games instances, and no-one knew why), and didn’t even attempt to fix it during the event.

    When reading the sentence: “You know the answer to “is ESO worth playing in 2020” (yes)” I really start doubting which one of your reviewers actually played the game. If at all, maybe you just read stuff online, and asked ZoS about the quality? That would be the only plausible way for you to come up with such a verdict. Since in the entire of 2020 this game has not been worth playing

  11. I am not sure why my previous post was not placed, maybe because it was too long, so here goes a shortened version:

    This game is absolutely not worth it at the moment. It’s not even playable if you want to do large scale PVP or end game PVE.

    For the ones that dont do either of those, expect frequent crashes, lag and all other sorts of things that make this game more of a headdache than a joy to play.

    Add to that a customer service team that only blames the customer for their game not working, and you have ESO.

  12. I am glad I read the comments here. My friends and I have been looking for another game to play together. We are all Skyrim fans, so I’m having a lot at ESOL.
    Although being a computer tech means I understand how many things can be screwed up in Windows to cause game crashes and bugs that can be eliminated with a clean Windows install, many of the complaints here sound only too familiar as compared to some games I have been playing. Someone also mentioned that the game is being sold to Microsoft, so sorry, but that’s a game breaker. I only use Windows because I have to to play the games I want to play. If Linux was 100% compatible for gaming, I wouldn’t own anything made by Microsoft. They have ruined far too many things over the decades for be to bother with them anymore.

  13. ESO is not worth playing. The PVP is an utter joke. No semblance of balance whatsoever. The PVE is repetitive, the monetization is down right criminal. If you are a player who likes to collect, you better be prepared to spend 100 bucks a month easy to keep up, this is on top of the 15 dollar a month sub for ESO plus which is mandatory if you like to decorate homes (it doubles the amount of furniture you can place) and or if you like to craft.

    The next chapter in 2021 is feature light. ESO is basically going to give the players a companion like SWTOR… original. The dev team is out of touch with the desires of the community.

    As far as performance goes, its pure trash. The servers will drop you often, getting sent to the desktop because someone else uses an ability is common. It’s pretty bad.

  14. Being an Elder Scrolls fan I started playing ESO when it first launched. But it didn’t take long to see the core flaws in the game. I’ve recently tried to pick it up again but it still has the same problems.

    1) Monetization is everything.
    All The whole purpose of the game is to make you spend money on upgrades, subscriptions, items and expansions. If you like messages like “OFFER!!! NOW 20% OFF ON !!! BUY NOW! ONLY 3 DAYS LEFT” this game is for you. Personally I think it makes the game feel cheap. Unless you buy a subscription your inventory will be constantly full, they even throw junk items at you just to fill up spots. And if you spend some cache you get all the consumables you need.

    2) No progression.
    I like to level my chars and see them rise from nothing to champions. But ESO doesn’t work like that, wherever you go whatever you do everything scales with you. Whenever you level you get more health, do more damage and get new skills (you’re limited to 5 active skills though). But at the same time all mobs you face gets the same thing so that wolf just outside of town that took 5 hits at level 1 will still take about 5 hits at level 40. Somehow this also applies to your gear, the stats change depending on the level of your character. So that sword you got at level 10 is nearly as good as one found when 30. If you grind your way thru to the endgame content and stop leveling you can finally make some choices that make a difference.

    3) Around the corner there are just more quests.
    As many other MMORPGs they say there is so much to do and explore, but when you look at it it’s just more of the same. You can go anywhere, but since everything scales to your character you get the same challenge wherever you go. The quests are the standard “go there”, “kill that”, “collect x of these”, “talk to that person”, we have seen it before. Sometimes you get to make a choice on what to answer, but since you share the world with everyone else, whatever you reply will never have an effect on the world. Sure there are many quests to do but it’s only storytelling. Personally if I want to get a story, I see a movie or read a book.

    4) Bugs, quirks and bad design
    As many others have pointed out, ESO is a pretty poorly designed game and not much of it has improved since launch. For me the GUI is causing the most frustration, constantly closing and resetting it feels as it’s actively working against you. The many loading screens everytime you walk thru a door breaks immersion. And the inability to log in again after a crash because “you are already logged in”.

    If you liked ESO back in 2014 when it was released, you will probably enjoy it in 2021 because nothing has changed. If you haven’t played it before, you can get much more for your money elsewhere…

  15. The game seems lackluster to me. The environment is pathetic at best. For example look at the trailer right? You would assume that the in game graphics would look like the trailer, WRONG!!! That’s one reason why I got upset with the game. I switched to bdo and OMG what cool graphics do they have! Or try a game from square Enix, ff series have the best graphics I’ve ever seen. Clearly my response is about graphics quality…

  16. People live & love to complain. It helps to vent their frustrations but also people feel smarter when they break things down in a critical way. For those of us who do that in real life and are busy with other things, eso is a fantastic place to escape! It’s difficult and complex enough to satisfy intelligent minds but can also be easy enough so a person seeking a fantasy escape can just chill and enjoy the questing or decorating a house or relax while getting fishing achievements or crafting, farming, antiquities….etc. Are there issues with the game? Yeah! Isn’t that life!? Where in life are “the mechanics” are fail proof? The whining from some people is relentless and a good indication of how much attention might need be paid to their real life instead of ripping down a game played by literally millions. ESO has its issues, but generally it’s a fantasy world unmatched.

  17. I disagree. It’s got a great premise and design but the performance is awful. They’ve tried a lot to improve performance, and by a lot I mean deleting animations and nerfing everything else, removing so much of the game that what’s left is pretty bland. The champion system was also overhauled so that you must select a handful of bonuses that were all able to be used before, as to lessen the strain on the severs. I mean they’ve done everything to improve performance except upgrade or replace their servers, and now with the deep pockets of Microsoft and all they make on subs and loot boxes it still hasn’t happened. I’d recommend ff14 or another mmo that actually caters to the player base

  18. I’m obviously late to this thread 🙂 but I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your comment. Gamers that seem to hate all games (yet play them for 1000’s of hours and claim them as their main hobby) are so insufferable. When arguing with these people the first question should be: What is happening in your real life that’s causing you to act this way. Anyways, just wanted to say how spot on your comment was!

  19. HATERS, go cry in the corner, coz TESO is the best MMORPG so far! Also the best MMO for new players and the new things they implement are always for the better 🙂 + TESO is constantly evolving – the best sets are changing with time and patches + the Item collecting system is great, you can have 400 sets without even have them in the inventory and you can reconstruct any of them when you need it. + the old content never optated. You can play so many builds and everything in a build can be customized for your style… So my advice is: Guys don’t listen to haters this is the best game seriously 🙂 Back in the time I started with WoW and since then I tried every famous MMORPG out there but there is nothing even close to the class of ESO!

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Written by Tom Svalinn