Is Elder Scrolls Online worth playing in 2020? 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 2020 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 worth playing in 2020?” then relax – I got this.
Is Elder Scrolls Online Worth Playing in 2020? Yes.
Okay, so what makes ESO worth playing in 2020 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 2020 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 2020 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 2020. 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?
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.
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 2020” (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 It 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.
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.