So I was finally able to get into the beta this weekend before the game launches in a few weeks. I nearly 15 hours playing it. When I stop and think about it...that's a lot of time...
Elder Scrolls Online is basically just an online version of the sandbox games with a subscription. That sounds like what you would expect, but when you bump the game up against other MMOs that are out currently, it's an awkward experience - at least at first.

The Weird UI And Things That Took Getting Used To

The user interface (UI) is mostly hidden unless you call it up on the game (i for inventory, m for map, etc). That's different than most MMOs, which usually have action bars, mini-maps, and more.
The main problem I see with the UI and menu system is how they work more like a traditional offline game instead of an online game. Since this is an MMO, you can't pause the game. Checking anything in the menu system essentially pauses your character but nothing around you (you can still auto-run though). So if you want to down a health potion in the middle of a fight, you're immobile, but not necessarily your enemy. Then you're spending time scrolling through the bags looking for something while you're getting beat down. 
I also find it annoying that there's no mini-map on the screen, but maybe someone will create an add-on once the game launches that will address that.
The mouse controls your field of view. See that set set of arrows in the center of the screenshot? That's the center.
If you want to examine anything, swing the mouse around to put it in the center. So if you feel like pilfering some bottles from a table, your whole screen jiggles while you line up the mouse on the crate. For me, it's an uncomfortable and jarring feeling. I found myself wanting to use a controller while playing a PC game - which I almost never do.
Fighting is different than traditional MMOs as well. You click the mouse buttons to attack, similar to a single player action game. That's a departure from the traditional number row above the keys (1-0 buttons) used for actions that most MMOs have (you assign different skills to different numbers, then press whatever you want to do while fighting).
You do get a small action bar down at the bottom that appears once you're close to combat. You can also toggle it in the settings to always be on.
You slot various skills you've purchased through leveling up and you can choose between your class, guilds your affiliated with, weapon skills and more. Your action slots are limited (more so than even Guild Wars 2 skill bar) so you have to choose wisely before picking a fight.
The voice acting is nice (Jennifer Hale, John Cleese and more!). However, I can read the quest text faster than they're talking, so I found myself just clicking through and ignoring their voices. It reminds me a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic in that regard.
Graphics are pretty good, but if you're expecting them to be like Skyrim you'll be disappointed. Once the game is out of beta it might be more polished, but I'd say they're still pretty good. Honestly, the graphics are pretty reminiscent of Lord of the Rings Online, though updated. Everything is pretty, but even at max settings the game is a few pegs below what I cant get Guild Wars 2 to look like.

Things That Were Awesome

There are plenty of nice elements to the game. The put a lot of detail in every aspect of the game. Plus you can loot a ton of stuff out of crates and sacks (and oddly no NPCs seem to mind).
They have lock-picking, which I'm terrible at so far. But I love it and look forward to getting better at it.
Fast travel is always nice. Gone are the days of having to take a flight path like in World Of Warcraft that used to take anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes (I think they've since changed this).
Plus you can buy a cheap horse early on. It's slow, but still beats walking everywhere.
They were sure to include books to read and, on those lucky discoveries, you can gain a skill increase. I thought that was a very nice touch. I loved that in past Elder Scrolls games.
And snobby elves that think they're better than non-elves. Historically different races in Elder Scrolls have been, well, racist towards outsiders. So if you're a Khajiit (cat person) wandering around in elf territory - they're a little more curt with you than if you're a fellow elf (as long as you're the right kind of elf that is!).
I haven't seen any terrible (and revealing) armor for female characters. I can't even begin to explain how wonderful it is to not have to run around with my butt hanging out just because I chose a female instead of male character.
You pick a class (basically a fighter, mage, paladin, thief) when you first create a character, but you can customize it pretty heavily - just like in other Elder Scrolls games.
For example, I created a Nightblade (thief) and I joined the Mages guild. I can level up magic skills and do some basic casting. While I'd never be as good as someone who started out as a caster, I'm not locked into never being able to access some basic skills in the other classes.
Crafting is similar to other Elder Scrolls games. That means for Alchemy you can still mix and match items to try and find new potions (which I love).
For cooking, however, you need to start with a recipe (that you find while exploring).
With blacksmithing, woodworking and cloth-making, you already know the recipes. Instead you just have to find the raw materials. Once I was able to collect various supplies, I started to get the hang of crafting pretty quickly. See that ugly hat on my character? I made that!
And if you should so desire, you can play the game in first person, just like past Elder Scrolls games.


So far I've really enjoyed playing the game, despite broken quests (it it still in beta, after all). It feels very similar to previous Elder Scrolls games. So similar, in fact, that I have to ask why exactly this is an online game (with a monthly subscription, no less).
I would buy this game in a heartbeat if it were offline. I'd even buy it if the model was similar to Guild Wars 2 where you buy the game and there's no monthly subscription. (There is a cash shop for various cosmetics and other items if you want to buy things, but none of the areas are locked out requiring purchase and no items in the shop give players who use it a big advantage over those who do not.)
I did find myself missing it when I wasn't playing it. I definitely want to play another Elder Scrolls game. I'm not sure $59.99 and then another monthly charge on top of that is worth it. I personally don't think I'd get much out of the online and connected portion of this game, so it's hard to justify a $14.99 monthly subscription.
But if you love past Elder Scrolls games and enjoy a lot of the elements of MMOs (dungeon running, partying for quests), this is a good game to play. Even if you can do the majority of the content solo (which you seem to be able to), sometimes it's nice to have a friend along.


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