Head into Tamriel for a little PvE.
As if we didn’t just spend half a lifetime wandering around the mountains of Skyrim, Zenimax Online Studios are poised to drag us right back in with the upcoming release of The Elder Scrolls Online. In case you’ve been living under rock, and the game’s title didn’t give it away, Bethesda’s latest will take the form of an MMO, marking the first (official) time you can truly play an Elder Scrolls game with your friends. Recently we had a chance to put our boots on the ground in Tamriel, so let’s have a look at how that went.
Our journey into The Elder Scrolls Online opens up in a place called Coldharbour, a plane of Oblivion, where players will find themselves imprisoned with little memory of who they are. Before your inevitable breakout, you’ll have to create your character. You’ll start by choosing one of three factions to align yourself with: Ebonheart Pact, Aldmeri Dominion, or Daggerfall Covenant. Your faction choice will also determine your choice of race, with three races being available for each faction, so you may want to start there. Actually, most of you will probably want to start by choosing your gender, but that probably goes without saying.
After you figure out what kind of person you want to be, you’ll pick from one of four starting classes. Right now our choices are Dragon Knight, Sorcerer, Nightblade, or Templar. Your class choice is important as it will dictate your key skill trees but, as you might expect, The Elder Scrolls Online leaves some room for customization. Speaking of customization, after you have the high level details hammered out you can go through an extensive list of body and facial customizations to ensure you have a truly unique looking hero. If I’ve ever seen an MMO with more appearance options, I can’t remember it.
Once you jump into the game itself, fans of the series are going to feel like they’re in a familiar place. The Elder Scrolls Online looks like a more polished version of Skryim and plays like a smoother one. Combat is largely the same at it’s core, with your mouse buttons each governing one hand of your character. The big difference being that as you gain new skills and spells, they will be assigned to your number keys. Your health also regenerates quite quickly when not in combat, so you won’t have to worry about carrying around a sack full of potions, at this point anyway.
Players are still free to scroll in and out of first person view, to third person view, and can still jump or crouch into stealth mode. It isn’t immediately clear how stealth will work when there are other players around, but you can absolutely sneak up on unsuspecting enemies for a surprise attack. The starting environment consists of a series of relatively small rooms but they feel like they belong in an Elder Scrolls game and eschew the linear approach that most MMO’s follow in their early stages. You’ll still find the world populated with chests and other objects to search, and some of these are even hidden so it’s worth your time to try jumping up to some place you shouldn’t be or ducking into every corner in search of loot.
After the introduction is over, the demo dumped us into an area called Bleakrock Isle on the northern coast of Skyrim. Once here, the game opens up considerably with quite a bit of land to explore as well as a couple of quest-givers. Rather than the “kill ten wolves” type of missions that often fill MMO’s, the missions you’ll take part in feel much more like traditional Elder Scrolls missions. You’ll be in and out of dungeons and mines, searching for NPC’s, and clearing buildings to find treasure.
As you progress, your character will gain experience levels but you’ll also have to level up each skill by using it, much like in the single player Elder Scrolls games. Skill points are awarded for levelling up, completing quests, and can also be found by exploring the world. When you advance a particular skill so far, it can then be ‘morphed,’ taking on a new aspect of your choice. My Sorcerer was able to morph his summoned scamp into a summoned clanfear, for example.
After completing the main quest line n Bleakrock Isle, you’ll escape to a section of Morrowind and, for fans, here is where things get real. Dhalmora looks like the Morrowind you remember, with huge mushrooms growing as tall as trees and other strange plants dotting the landscape. A sight for sore eyes, if you’re a long time fan of the Elder Scrolls series.
After putting in a few hours with The Elder Scrolls Online, I can say that it absolutely feels like and Elder Scrolls game rather than an Elder Scrolls flavored MMO and that is a good thing. Zenimax Online Studios seem to have created a solid base, and we’re excited to see how they can build upon it as the game progresses.