Zenimax Online’s offering, Elder Scrolls Online has been in beta for months now, and has finally opened up a semi-public beta. I was lucky enough to be tasked with giving you guys a preview of the latest game in the Elder Scrolls series. Players familiar to the ES series should be able to acclimatize well to the game. Not much has changed from Skyrim, though users should not expect ESO to be the next traditional ES game. The movement of such a well know series to an MMO format may bother some players, however if the player enters the game expecting a great MMO in the style of the Elder Scrolls they will not be disappointed.
In Elder Scrolls Online there are three main factions, each with three dedicated races, and the Imperials being more or less free agents. The first alliance is the Daggerfall Covenant. This alliance features the Bretons, Orcs, and Redguards. The second, which players of Skyrim should be familiar with, is the Aldmeri Dominion. This faction features the Altmer (High Elves), the Bosmer (Wood Elves) and the Khajiit (Anthropomorphic cats). The final faction is the Ebonheart Pact, which features the Nords, Dunmer (Dark Elves), and Argonians. Each faction starts the game in a beginning factions zone where other member of the same faction will play through the early levels of the game.
Weapon and armor skills and advancement work exactly like they have in previous elder scrolls games. In the introductory quest you will be asked to grab a weapon, and you are free to choose whichever you’d like. As you use your weapon your skill will advance with your weapon. As you advance you will begin to unlock active and passive skills related to your weapon of choice, possibly making ESO one of the most in-depth MMOs on the market today. The same holds true to armor types, if you want to use light armor, just equip it and you will gain experience for being hit.
The combat mechanic has remained relatively unchanged itself. To attack you must click the mouse, swinging a sword or drawing a bow. The right mouse button is assigned to block be default. One slight change to the combat mechanic is the ability to interrupt an attack by pressing both mouse buttons at the same time. This will stop the enemy attack and perform a counter. This is essential for maximizing combat effectiveness.
Player class skills are defined by the class the player chooses. Each class features three separate but complimentary branches you can choose from. As you level you will use your skill points to unlock skills, however some skills do carry a level requirement. These class skills can only be advanced by using the skills, so be sure not to neglect your class skills. There are also racial skills which will provide enhancements to certain weapons and armor. These are traditional to the series and fit very well within the scope of the lore.
The crafting in Elder Scrolls Online is much like it is in the previous Elder Scrolls games though seemingly more in-depth. The main crafting skills are armor, woodworking, provisioning, enchanting, and alchemy. Each skill requires a work bench and can be found within most major cities. Players will have to collect raw materials or break down items in their inventory to create the base materials needed for crafting. The player will then combine them together to create an item. The player also has the option of spending more crafting material to make a stronger, more resilient version of the item, and also has the option to improve the item further by using improvement materials. Each “material” skill (weapon smithing, wood working, armor smithing) has a research tree as well to unlock other racial styles and enhancements to the crafted item. Alchemy has remained the most untouched of the skills in that it requires two components that feature differing aspects. The only addition to alchemy is that the play must also include a solvent (mostly water, hey…it is universal). After the player has combined two ingredients feature the same attribute (resist fire for example), the ingredient will now display the attribute in the inventory. These attributes can also be combined to make multi-effect potions.
Scope, Lore, and Immersion
This is really where the Elder Scrolls Online stands out. From storytelling, to level design, to conversations the game is a beautiful immersive experience. From the beginning quest on ESO has impressed me. The landscapes are beautiful and open. Each conversation is done with a conversation interface featuring full voiced and animated characters, adding to the immersion. The cities feature moving actors that engage in conversation with each other which breathes life into a normally stale MMO environment. Overall the experience feels much like an Elder Scrolls game, with a living and dynamic world. The lore, setting, and scope may be a bit unfamiliar to players as this game takes place in the Second Era, a time set before the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Even though the setting and the lands may be unfamiliar, they are comfortable and feel perfectly in place.
As a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series, I must state that I might be biased in my interpretation and opinion of the game. I have tried my best to judge the title with as much objectivity as I can, so for those that may find my opinions partial, I have taken steps to not be. With this said, I am throghly pleased with my Elder Scrolls Online experience so far. This is not to say that there were not issues. The most common problem with the game so far is the inability of players to leave dialogues. The UI sometimes remains after the player has left the conversation, forcing the player to manually reset the UI using the chat box, and it is not uncommon in beta sessions to see the chat filled with requests for the command. Another thing I have noticed is that the audio levels for some conversations bounce around, sometimes being soft and other times being over amplified. I have noticed this with only a pair of conversations, but it was enough for me to notice and ruin the experience slightly. The negatives do not take away from the positives in my opinion.
When I first loaded Elder Scrolls Online I was expecting the same MMO experience with an ES flavor. I was happy to be disappointed. Zenimax Online has hit the proper middle ground between the two genres and it works very well. I still feel like I am playing an Elder Scrolls game, even though I am on an MMO server. I know some people have complained that the graphics have declined in quality, and I agree. However, expecting the graphical quality of Skyrim in an MMO is unrealistic. The engine must support multiple, simultaneous player characters and must meet the hardware on modern consoles and the average home PC. With regards to the graphics, they are more detailed than I expected but not Skyrim, and in the end I got more that what I thought could be delivered and am happy about the quality.
In summation, the Elder Scrolls Online has a lot of offer veteran and new players alike. I believe it will set a new standard for MMO games and will continue to impress and entertain. If you would like more insight into ESO please be sure to watch the video. I also hope you all have had as much fun watching the video and reading this as I have had making them both. Well, once again the sun sets Khenarthi’s Roost and I must answer the call of the Aldmeri Dominion. Farewell for now Sera, and I will see you in Tamriel.