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Elder Scrolls Online Hands-On Preview

by on 03/24/2013

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.

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  • 03/24/2013 at 3:20 pm

    Neverwinter did it right compared to what? Sounds like a shameless plug to me ;)

    The foundry has potential to be cool in NW, but the PVE is very, very linear, and the PVP is cookie cutter.

  • disqus_cMTUKbSY9m
    03/24/2013 at 3:37 pm

    Neverwinter….I dont know, it just felt too simple, too cheap, when I played it. The only thing I liked about Neverwinter was the atmosphere/world appearance, that was amazing imo. Otherwise everything else just seemed…lacking.

  • 03/24/2013 at 6:57 pm

    I was interested in what what the author wrote until he complimented Neverwinter. I played the beta this weekend and that game was absolutely awful with dated graphics a linear quest system with horrible voiceovers and typical quests we have seen for years. I was bored to death and I love PVE. Then I realized that if he liked Neverwinter and didn’t like Elders Scrolls, that’s probably a good thing for me.

  • ExigentContact
    03/24/2013 at 7:29 pm

    This is a really poorly written preview that also has its share of inaccuracies. Namely the fact that first-person mode WILL be implemented into the game. A little research may have helped your preview.

    • 03/24/2013 at 7:46 pm

      Well it’s a bit hard to give an opinion on an aspect of the game that isn’t implemented yet. As newer builds of the game are made available for preview/review our criticism will obviously change.

      • ExigentContact
        03/24/2013 at 7:54 pm

        Still, a greater amount of understanding on the material at hand should be a necessity for any journalist. The way this author wrote it makes it seem that it’s blatantly not a part of the game when a five second Google fact check could tell you that it will be. A simple “first person was not available in the build I played, but will be by the game launches” would easily suffice.

        • 03/24/2013 at 8:18 pm

          Yes and no. When it comes to previewing/reviewing you can’t take what is “said” into much account. I think the recent SimCity release is a prime example. There was a lot said beforehand of what was going to be in the game and how the game was going to play. But when launched there were lots of broken features and things not working as they were stated. So while I understand what you’re saying, I think it’s more important that we provide criticisms based solely on the experience at hand and not the experience being promised. MMO’s are rough to preview and review anyway since the game can be changed drastically with a single patch or update.

          • Darren C
            03/24/2013 at 9:45 pm

            They told me personally only the melee class will be first person at first. They are running into problems doing it for others.

            Also if you feel the combat in Neverwinter was too easy and weak, you are going to really dislike the simplicity of this combat. And Neverwinter was nice enough to allow you to actually dodge attacks, ESO still let you become auto-hit by attacks.

            I did not go out to hate this game, I played it for two straight hours and as much as it hurts to say, I think the fans will be disappointed in the combat.

  • 03/25/2013 at 12:11 pm

    I am excited by the idea of this game, but I’m not sure about all the changes they seem to be making to Elder Scrolls to make it fit into the MMO genre. Also you mention Bethesda in the article but ZeniMax Online Studios is the developer not Bethesda right?

    • Darren C
      03/25/2013 at 12:59 pm

      Yeah technically ZOS is the developer but they fall under Bethesda so I just grouped them together. Let me be clear that the regular Elder Scrolls team is not responsible for this. But as it falls under Bethesda’s decision to make this, they can’t be separated completely.

      I would love for this to be good, the FPS gameplay that Elder Scrolls has combined with an MMO world would make typical MMO activities fun as well as make PvP like a multiplayer versus title – only requiring minimal balancing.

  • MatrixBunny
    03/25/2013 at 5:47 pm

    What the hell, TESo will have first person and it does feel different compared to most MMOs. Also Bethesda didn’t even made TESo so all of this is a really sloppy and poor preview, it almost seems like you didn’t even get your ‘hands-on’ this.

  • disqus_uHPcb9tjep
    03/27/2013 at 2:02 am

    Yeah this review was poorly written. I am not too nit picky but it seemed he didn’t know what he was taking about and wrote it late at night “unlock classic MMO skills as long your proficiency was high enough” I give it a C+

  • mfmaxpower
    03/31/2013 at 2:06 pm

    “I mean why do you need to change the combat from a style that is one of the easiest to play/balance.”

    I’m not sure I can trust the analysis of someone who thinks that combat in Elder Scrolls wasn’t desperately outdated. Skyrim is top-class quality in most of its systems except for its combat, which plays like a game 10-years old.

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