Preview: The Elder Scrolls Online from Quakecon 2013
When it comes to MMOs, my history only is with Final Fantasy XI, dabbled in World of Warcraft, and played through Star Wars: Old Republic (even though it was more of a single player campaign to me). I have played a great share of the Elder Scrolls franchise starting with Morrowind through Skyrim. I have yet to beat Skyrim as there is so much to do. That is the best thing about Elder Scrolls games; they let you go and do what you want, and truly is the perfect sandbox. So it is only fitting that the next chapter in Elder Scrolls be taken online to allow massive people to join and fight for Tamriel.
The Elder Scrolls Online is set roughly 1,000 years before the events in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the coming of the Dragonborn, and just before the rise of Tiber Septim, the first Emperor of Tamriel. Three Alliances have emerged across the continent, each struggling for supremacy over the land. As these great powers battle one another for control of the Imperial City – and with it all of Tamriel – darker forces are moving to destroy the world.
So when I first sat down I was welcomed with the character creation screen. I chose to be a dark elf thief. Once I got through the customization(and trust me for character creation people you will spend hours doing this) I was thrown into a house in a small village. My first quest was to talk to the captain of the town. I had to go out on a search mission to find out what had happened to some of her soldiers. I teamed up with my friend John who also joined me in the hands on demo(he played as a Breton sorceress) and took off. First thing we noticed was that our quests were separate to us. Even though we had the same quest active, we had to complete each action separately. This bothered me a little bit as I was comparing this to Star Wars: Old Republic where once you are in a party you completed your quests as one; so only one person really had to complete the action for it to trigger or complete for everyone. I understand that every person should experience the game themselves, but in an MMO that is the whole purpose is to work together, and complete missions together. This was just a minor gripe however that I had when first starting out.
Also, ESO looks amazing. This is better than any MMO that I have played. The land, buildings, NPCs all look incredible. The movement of your character is fluid, even in combat. The combat system is in real time, there is cool down for your abilities, but that is standard in any MMO. The quests themselves were your standard MMO(run here to talk to these people, go here to kill these people, etc.). Just like in any MMO; you can do them when you feel like as they will always be in your queue in the top right of your screen. You can go fishing, cook food, craft beer, or talk to the local people in the area to learn more about the town you are in. There are also books. Just like in any Elder Scrolls game; there is a lot of optional reading in books that you will find lying around. For a book lover you will be in heaven. All the NPCs are voice acted so you don’t have to scroll through massive text messages.
When I first started playing Skyrim I did in third person. Once I switched to first person I never went back. If that is your preferred method of playing through Elder Scrolls you will not be disappointed. It looks, and feels just like any game you play that has the dual wielding ability. My character had dual swords for a while, but you have the option to equip whatever you want regardless of the class you chose. The game will recognize what you use the majority of the time, and level you in that way. Just like Skyrim, if you focus on two handed swords you will gradually gain levels with that skill. However, if you want to switch to magic, or dual wielding you can with the click of a button, and begin leveling in that.
The majority of the time I spent rushing through the missions so as to absorb as much as possible. John and I made it to the next part of the playthrough before anyone else which was pretty neat to see. The next area we unlocked was part of the Morrowind game. It had been YEARS since I played it so I was not too familiar with the location. That is, until I saw the netch which brought me right back. Those HUGE jellyfish type creatures were roaming the land, and moaning which was like walking through Jurassic Park watching the Brontosaurus. I was in paradise at that moment.
The music is what you would expect from ESO. Very much like what you would expect with an Elder Scrolls game with the violins serenading you while you walk over a bridge to go fishing, and then become dark when you were in a cave killing trolls. When you encounter a group of enemies, it is really neat to see them work together as you would if you were in a party. You will see mages healing their warriors while they were attacking you, so you need to plan out how to eliminate that threat so as to not die.
I could go on an on about what I experienced, but I will save you the read. Just know that ESO is definitely on my radar, and for any MMO fan it should be on yours. Bethesda is definitely pushing the bar when it comes to open world gaming(although that is not a shock considering the masterpieces they have made with the Elder Scrolls franchise). Once I finished my play through I was asked what I thought. I only asked him where I can go to donate a blood sample, and provide references to get into the beta. He laughed, and said that they are adding people daily. So if you haven’t, head over to http://elderscrollsonline.com/en/beta to enroll, and if you are one of the chosen consider it a privilege, and honor to play such a fantastic game.