Preview: The Elder Scrolls Online
I’ve never been one for MMOs. I’ve never really been one for online multiplayer in general, so the thought of playing with hundreds – or thousands – of other players seemed like anathema. The one time I played World of Warcraft – because a 30 day free account came with my graphics card – I quit after 15 minutes. The Elder Scrolls Online already has 15 minutes on WoW, before it’s even launched. Here’s why The Elder Scrolls Online may make me rethink my opinion of MMOs.
After taking a seat in Bethesda’s mini-cinema at E3 I was treated to a short teaser of The Elder Scrolls Online. The video showed the various regions of Tamriel that would be included when TESO is released. I was particularly excited to see Morrowind as I was an avid player back in the day. Fans of The Elder Scrolls series will be excited to know that they’ll be able to visit every region of Tamriel in game eventually. Some areas will be locked off and come later as part of expansions.
The video also showed The Elder Scrolls signature first-person mode, which I was disappointed to learn wasn’t available for my play session. From the video, first person looked exactly as it did in Skyrim and previous games, I just didn’t have a chance to test it out for myself. I had to make do with the third person mode, which to my noobish eyes looked a hell of a lot like World of Warcraft or any other fantasy MMO. It wasn’t long though, before signature elements from The Elder Scrolls appeared and I started to get drawn in.
My first task was to create my character. Knowing I only had 30 minutes to play meant the usual hours I would spend creating my avatar were reduced to mere minutes. Things were made a little easier though, since the choice of race, facial features and the like were limited. I went with an Orc warrior, tweaked my stats, selected my special abilities and jumped into the game. My special abilities were mapped to the number keys – something I would discover later is pretty standard MMO far – and included a Scorpion-esque grappling hooker to draw my enemies closer and a super charged two handed weapon attack.
Despite playing in the third person – something I never do in The Elder Scrolls – and getting used to how an MMO actually plays, it wasn’t long until The Elder Scroll Online started to feel like an Elder Scrolls game. I was dropped somewhere in the middle of High Rock – a region not seen since the second game in the franchise – and decided to head for the city of Daggerfall. I never made it though. There were far too many enticing distractions along the way. I found a small farm that was overrun by monsters. Inside a large building were a group of sisters who needed my help. Upon talking to them it was clear that I was playing The Elder Scrolls. The dialogue was fully voice acted and the standard dialogue options from previous games were intact.
From what I could tell, the quests were fairly bog-standard MMO stuff. Go here. Kill this many of ‘X’. Collect so many ‘Y’...and so on, but in the short 30 minutes I played – without reaching a major town or city – I’d wager that I barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer. The time also flew by. It felt as though I’d only just sat down before the demo was over. In that time I’d managed to save the farm, but that only fractured into a handful of other quests that splintered further as I played. It’s clear that there’s going to be quite a lot of content in The Elder Scrolls Online which should make fans of the series happy.
It’s hard to talk about gameplay as such a novice of the genre. While it did feel very similar to Skyrim and its ilk there was a definite element of simplification. What I played was an unfinished build so it’s unfair to judge how the game will play based on that, but from my experience it was definitely a more straightforward and simple experience as compared to Skyrim. That being said, I still managed to have 30 minutes pass in the blink of an eye due to having so much fun. Bethesda are promising the full Elder Scrolls experience with The Elder Scrolls Online which is a meaty challenge. If they manage it I can see literally thousands of hours disappearing into the game, which both excited and terrifies me.
The Elder Scrolls Online will be available for PC, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One in 2014.