I spent about 20 hours in the Elder Scrolls Online Beta and these are my impressions. On one weekend I played as a Breton and got through the starting area and a little bit of the next area. The next weekend I played as a Bosmer (Wood Elf) in that factions starting area. Players in the other faction or at higher levels may have a different experience. I was offered a choice between 4 classes. I don't know enough about race and class restrictions but there didn't seem to be many of them beyond the number to choose from. I played as a templar (cleric) and I could have used any weapons or armor I wanted. There were bonuses for race, e.g. Bretons have "Light Armor Affinity."
The thing that pleased me most as I played through the Breton introductory zone (after the tutorial zone) was I never once got a quest that required me to kill X number of creature Y or get X number of item Z from creature Y. Instead quests were inventive and told stories. Killing enemies was incidental to performing the quests not the point of the quests themselves. However, the Bosmer area had a distinctly MMO by the numbers design that had none of the inventiveness I saw in my first foray in this gameworld. I had many quests where I had to kill X creature Y, collect X of item Z from killing creature Y, or go fetch item W and bring it back. Very disappointing compared to my previous experience.
One thing this Bosmer area had that the previous one didn't was the dynamic world that changed around you as you completed major questlines. For example when you first arrive the city of Davon's Watch is under siege by the Daggerfall Covenant faction, with fighting going on between guards and enemy soldiers and parts of the city burning. As you help the inhabitants fend off the assault in various ways enemies disappear and the city returns to peace. This does not happen with every quest, though, I still saw events going on that I thought I had helped end, and monsters reappear that I had already killed.
Every NPC I met and talked to was fully voiced, though my own character was not, but I'm not sure how I would feel about having my character speak anyway - I've never seen that in an MMO.
A very nice touch was that player characters didn't always just stand there fidgeting when they weren't active. If a player was looking at their map or journal - they appeared to be doing so in the game. If they were looking at their inventory, they were seen rummaging through a backpack. I thought that was pretty cool.
Crafting is always one of my favorite parts of any MMO I've played, and it was pretty deep and rewarding here. Raw materials are harvested out in the world from creatures (hides), objects on the landscape (ore and fiber for cloth) or from crates and barrels (cooking ingredients). You can also deconstruct items in your inventory to get their appropriate materials. To create an item, you need the basic material (like metal or cloth), and a race specific item you can buy from a vendor. Then you can optionally add a gem to get a bonus effect like extra health ot regeneration. You don't have any interactive effect on the actual item creation process like you do in Everquest 2 and other games, you just click a button and the item you want is generated. Failure does not seem possible. One exception to this is alchemy, where only certain combinations of ingredients will produce anything, as in the single player games. In those cases you lose your ingredients. The items I was able to make were very useful and were not easily replaced by drops or quest rewards, and I did do all the quests. In fact some gear slots would not have been filled had I not crafted those items. The only alternative would be to buy gear, and from what I saw it's pretty expensive and exactly the same as crafted or drops. Crafting can also be used to improve your items, like using whetstones to make your weapon do more damage, which does have a chance to fail that lowers as you use more of the required item. Those items are apparently pretty rare, as I never got one during my playtime.
Combat was slightly more action oriented than most MMO's. You don't just click on your enemy to target it and click on skill buttons. You need to aim your swings and ranged shots, though the aiming seems pretty forgiving. It's not the same action experience as Tera, but it's somewhere between that and the usual MMO button clicking. I'm pretty sure anyone involved in killing a MOB has the typical chance to get whatever it usually drops. Gear drops seem to be more rare than they are in other MMO's; as I said I was not able to gear up on drops during the times I could have found level-appropriate items. (Items dropped, rewarded or crafted, have levels you need to meet to equip them.)
The game was obviously set in the Elder Scrolls universe, the races were there, I fought daedra, there were Dwemer and Aelid ruins. However, I really wasn't getting the same vibe I do from the single player games. It could be that the area I started in was a desert, and I don't recall any desert areas in any of the games since Daggerfall. It just didn't seem like the same fantasy setting. Many of the single player mainstays were missing from what I experienced so far. There were no fighter's, mage of thieve's guilds and I only found two books I could read. To me something just seemed to be "off." Maybe that would change as I got to more familiar areas of the world.
My biggest diappointment with TESO is that for entire time I spent playing it felt like a single player game. I could see other players, join their fights and have them join mine, but other than that you would never know you were playing an MMO. There was absolutely no reason to group with other players from what I experience so far. Quests followed a chain, and when you complete the quests in the first area, you're shipped off to the next designated area with no choice in the matter - it felt way to guided and linear for an MMO. There were no quests that required a group, and nothing I encountered could not be defeated easily playing solo. One of the most potentialy appealing aspects of MMO's is cooperating with other players, making friends and accomplishing things together that you can't on your own. I don't think you should be able to wait until "endgame" raiding to ever communicate in game with another human. I wish someone would junk up and make an MMO that required grouping for normal content. If everyone has to do it, then it's not that hard. Eventually you make a set group of friends you play with often, and the experience is much richer for it. Yes, other players can be a pain sometimes, but that just points up how rewarding a good group experience is, and it also forces people prone to griefing or rudeness to mend their ways if they want to keep playing and avoid a reputation as a jerk.
Overall TESO adds a little to the current state of the art of the MMO, but not enough to really make me want to play. It does not do enough to put the Multiplayer back to really appeal to me, in fact it seems to move farther away than any other game I've played. By the end of my experience I was getting bored with the game because it was so much more of the same. I've decided I'm going to pass on this game unless it goes 'Buy to Play' (ala Guild Wars) or 'Free to Play' as long as it's not plagued by overly restrictive paywalls. I love the Elder Scrolls series and I wanted to like this game, but it's just not cutting it for me. Sorry, Tamriel, maybe later.