LOS ANGELES — One of the premiere role playing franchises in gaming is stepping into new ground. The Elder Scrolls Online is going to try to capture the same epic fantasy experience players love from the series and adapt it for multiple players. As a big Elder Scrolls fan who has not really dived into the world of MMORPG’s I was rather skeptical walking into Bethesda’s theater at this year’s E3. Needless to say I came out a believer, and here are the reasons why:
1. The entire continent of Tamriel is playable.
The past Elder Scrolls games have limited you to one or two provinces at a time. While the very first Elder Scrolls game, Arena, did let you explore the entire continent, the areas were randomly generated. Since then, fans have always been restricted to the very thematic provinces. Skyrim feels appropriately cold and unwelcoming, while Cyrodiil captures the lush forest and ebony marvel of the Imperial City. Elder Scrolls Online promises to create the most detailed depiction of Tamriel to date. You will be able to travel across all of the provinces and see each race in their homelands. This prospect should get any well versed Elder Scrolls fan excited.
2. It takes place 1,000 years before Skyrim.
This means a new era to explore and become attached to. The past Elder Scrolls games have kept us moving forward and seeing history develop before us. Online will let us understand just how the provinces were born, where did the empire arise and witness the coming of the very first Dragonborn. It is a very interesting time for the series’ lore (think Knights of the Old Republic for Star Wars) and has plenty of promise to make this one of the more engrossing Elder Scrolls experiences around.
3. Three factions fight for control of Cyrodiil. Pick a side.
Before there was an Empire there were three distinct factions: The Ebonheart Pact (uniting the Dunmer of Morrowind, Nords of Skyrim, and Argonians of Black Marsh) the Daggerfell Covenant (bringing together the provinces of High Rock and Hammerfell which include the Orcs, Breton and Redguard races) and the Aldmeri Dominion (combining the High Elves of Summerset Isle, Wood Elves of Valenwood and Khajiit of Elsweyr). Each wants different things for the future of the continent and it will be up to you as a player to see these goals come to fruition. The varieties of quests possible for each of these factions add some interesting variety to how the game can play out, and the different end game each player can reach.
4. Real Time Combat
My biggest gripes with MMORPG’s is that combat does not feel fluid. Too often I am clicking at different abilities on my screen and opening and closing inventory screens; I don’t feel like I am in control of the action. The main reason why I was scared when Elder Scrolls Online was announced was due to how much I have grown to like the combat in the series. It isn’t perfect, but it feels right, especially in Skyrim. Thankfully, ZeniMax Online is focusing on making the combat much more fluid than with previous online games. From what I’ve seen characters block, attack and cast spells like a traditional 3rd person fantasy game, giving me high hopes for this entry in the franchise.
5. Disappearing UI
Along with my dislike for MMORPG’s combat systems comes my annoyance with their heavily cluttered UI. Most of the time I can barely see what is in front of me and the combat reliance on it keeps my eyes on the menu rather than the action. Elder Scrolls Online features a disappearing UI, almost like in you would find on an average Mac. The menu’s are neatly arranged at the bottom of the screen and only appear when you mouse over them. It is a nice touch that changes the style of play drastically, making the transition for Elder Scrolls fans into this new world of online gaming that much easier.
6. 25 person PVP dungeons
Tamriel is littered with dungeons and ruins for players to explore. For almost 20 years we have been doing this alone. The Elder Scrolls Online lets you bring up to 25 people into the same dungeon to take on the dangers inside. There are also private dungeons for small parties if that is more your style, but the entire game is still built around PVP battles. The real-time combat mentioned earlier can lead to some very intense battles, both in a raid party or against another player. Zenimax Online is also promising hundreds of units on screen at once, making the wishes of epic battles in the fields of Cyrodiil that much closer to reality for fans.
7. Adaptive quests
The Elder Scrolls games are built around the concept of discovery and improvisation. The way most MMORPG’s dispense quests (in a lobby, usually in the form of a fetch quest) does not fit in neatly with the gameplay the series in known for. I am pleased to say that from what I have seen of the game, the adaptive quest system is sure to make the experience in the Elder Scrolls Online as good as that in a traditional single player game. In the short tidbit I saw, the main character was exploring the world when he discovered a new area. In there he met up with a member of the Mage’s Guild who told him about spirits haunting the swamp nearby. The player then explores more of the area until he finds a crypt. Here he puts on an ancient suit of armor and is transported to an ancient battle. The game changes into a sepia tone and the player fixed a problem that had happened in the past. Once this was resolved, he was transported back to the present where the swamp was cleared of lost souls. The player not only found a quest in the game world while actively exploring, but the results had a noticeable impact on the game world.
These are the experiences that make a game like the Elder Scrolls special. It is for these reasons that I cannot wait to see what Zenimax Online has in store when the game releases next year.