Elder Scrolls is renowned for its vast open world with endless things to do, from robbing entire towns of anything you can pick up, massacring citizens, sniping out enemies from the shadows, or just clearing out caves you come across, it seriously never ends. Hell, Skyrim alone always sidetracks me every time I try to adventure on a quest, I walk 10 feet and I end up in a dungeon that takes me two hours to clear.
Unfortunately Elder Scrolls Online is an Elder Scrolls game by name and universe alone. If you go in expecting to play Skyrim with thousands of other players at the same time, you will be mistaken. You are actually more likely to be jumping into a world that looks like an Elder Scrolls game but playing more of a classic MMO.
We played ESO for two hours today and although it would appear to be a typical experience on the surface it is in no way the same game.
We started out choosing our class, they had three playable classes that decide which special skills are tied to your character. You are still able to level up and become proficient in any weapon but there are specific class skills that you will have to choose.
After you choose a class you pick a race that is specific to which class you are. Then you get to engage in a pretty elaborate customization system that lets you modify all of your extremities and then allows you to go into another full customization for your face.
The customization is a very strong aspect of the game and will let players feel very unique which is a big aspect for me and should be for most MMOs.
After that you arrive in a region in the bottom right of Tamriel, that is all desert. You get yourself introduced to the game and interact with characters, every NPC we encountered had full voice-overs.
Then after this brief introduction you get into the stereotypical MMO experience. You run around doing the typical quests, receiving rewards, and fighting endlessly spawning enemies.
Now everyone that has gone hands-on with the game has never accurately described combat. They mention it is different but I have never been able to decipher what those writers were trying to get at, but now I feel like they were hiding what it really is.
I was immediately misled when I saw a very clean HUD that had your character in third person and a cross hair, like the typical Elder Scrolls game. Then you experience right mouse acting as your block and then left mouse would swing your sword (holding it down would be a heavy swing). Everything seemed business as usual until you fought.
If you put the cross-hair and swung your sword in the general direction of enemies you would score a hit and just watch as a health bar would deplete. Then you could block incoming attacks or wait for them to perform a power swing which you can block, knocking them off their feet, and then countering.
This worked the same way for the bow and staves, there was no precision, and more than anything they removed the FPS-style that should have been the staple of the game. No one was looking for a stereotypical MMO experience, they wanted to play in the Tamriel they know on a massive scale. I mean why do you need to change the combat from a style that is one of the easiest to play/balance.
The best part of ESO, is they kept their proficiency system. You can level up your character overall and earn skill points that would let you unlock classic MMO skills as long your proficiency was high enough in that area. They had class, armor, and weapon proficiencies that all had skills you could unlock and use. So they still had the system where the class didn’t restrict which weapons you used.
Other things I also had issues from it changing from the classic Elder Scrolls experience. For example you could loot a good number of things, but then they would respawn 2 minutes later, allowing you to “farm” items and materials endlessly.
Another example is how (at least where we were playing) you were running around doing quests and didn’t stumble upon caves, dungeons, mines, or anything. We might have hit two and that was because one was a tutorial and the other was pretty far away that we decided to adventure to it on our own.
I played two action styled MMOs this weekend and have to say Neverwinter did it right, when Bethesda shouldn’t have changed it at all.
I’ve been wanting a multiplayer Elder Scrolls forever, I would love wandering through a region in Tamriel with a friend or maybe 3, and creating a makeshift Lord of the Rings fellowship. All the series really needed was co-op, but Bethesda kept claiming fans didn’t want a non-single player experience. Their hardcore fans would rage if you even mentioned co-op and now you are going to drop an MMO on them, with all the “it” factor elements removed.
The fans will still play this, but I don’t know how successful it will be in the long run. There is the potential to pull in the typical MMO gamer, but I can also see them upsetting their long-time fans. In the end I hope more than anything this doesn’t scare them from just releasing an Elder Scrolls game with a fully co-operative experience.