Elder Scrolls Online: What We Can Expect
Here we are again, presented with another game to ponder about months/years before its release. And isn’t it agonizing? It’s an all-familiar feeling, having waited for many other MMO’s, wanting to delve into what it has to offer immediately to compare it to all other experiences you’ve had with the genre. But once you get to that point you are left with a question, a question that needs to satisfy your deepest nerd desires: Was it worth the wait?
Bethesda and ZeniMax Online Studios released a 9-minute long video earlier this month detailing very primitive concepts of the game. This was the chunkiest bit of information we have got so far and I must say looks amazing. Since we don’t have a release date for the game yet (set to release in 2013 hopefully), and are starting to get tidbits of revelations and teasers of what it has to offer, we are still far away from judging the game too harshly. But let’s not have nightmares about it’s potential success/failure shall we? Instead, let’s look at what this game is shaping up to become.
The video is abundant with visuals from the game and gives us a great example of what to expect from its combat system. Aiming for real-time strategic combat, it sets a standard expectation from what an MMO should bring to the table, seeing as real-time combat is becoming more common with each new release.
It sounds as if Bethesda is making sure to not stray away from the familiar combat system you can find in it’s single player games (à la third person Skyrim styled). Using your mouse you can aim your weapon and move your camera around. With the left mouse button you attack with your weapon, holding it down delivers a power attack. With your right mouse button you can block incoming attacks. Your character will be agile through the battlefield, having the ability to roll, sprint, crouch, sneak and jump. This all sounds familiar as Bethesda seems to have stayed true to its Elder Scrolls combat roots. But will they succeed in implementing this? We have already seen similar combat systems, such as the combat in Age of Conan, and while it seems interesting and fresh, it deviates from the standard combat you get from a typical MMO. Players from their titles like Skyrim will feel right at home in this combat system, but how will players from other MMO’s adjust? Will they enjoy it?
//Gameplay, an MMO standard
Having 20 years worth of Elder Scrolls lore to work with, Elder Scrolls Online will never fail at having a story to tell and giving the player something to do. But as with any other MMO, the player would want to enjoy his experience with friends, and that will be made easier due to the implementation of a technology called mega-server. All players will be on one big server with game spaces and the game will figure out which instance to put you in based on where your friends or guild mates are.
Players can choose from creating a character from the 9 races the game offers. From here they will choose a basic class, but after this point, your skills and abilities are dynamically attained depending on the choices you make as you play through the game. Bethesda is real big on staying true to the Elder Scrolls franchise, meaning your character has the ability to wear any armor type, use any variety of skills, and increase either their Magicka, Stamina and Health as they see fit without feeling restricted. All of this allows you to create a character that is truly unique. Can you be a bow-wielding assassin? Yup! A heavy armor battle mage?! Indeed! A cloth character in a robe with a hammer that sneaks around stealthily healing others? Yeah! There’s a plethora of possibilities and is truly exciting. With the addition of perks, such as the possibility of becoming a werewolf or vampire, it gets even more exciting. However, I still hope to see a stat system implemented in the game as I love stat juggling. There’d also better be a way to reset my characters class. If I excel in heavy armor but want to make a switch, I should be able to – I tend to change my mind constantly.
The gameplay in Elder Scrolls Online contains the static MMO elements like dungeons and raids. The questing in the game will be done very similar to how it is done in Guild Wars 2 with dynamic events you find in the world through exploration. And it sounds as if the Elder Scrolls Online will feature scaling public dungeons that can be done solo or with as many people as you want. Keeping the same mentality as ArenaNet for loot systems, Elder Scrolls Online will allow any player who contributed towards a goal to be able to obtain something from their achievement and not have to compete with other teammates over player resources.
PVP in the game looks as if the developers are trying to make it less focused on what you achieve individually and more on what you achieve as a group. It seems as if they understand that one of the biggest problems with PVP in MMO games are most players stray away from PVP because they see no entry point due to gear scaling and player level brackets. Bethesda wants players to be able to jump into the action right away and at anytime, scaling each player equally. PVP battles include 3 factions battling each other to win the Imperial throne on the continent of Cyrodiil through sieges and giant, epic wars.
//Art, visuals and sound
This game is going to be huge, and will allow players to explore all of Tamriel for the first time. Morrowind, Cyrodil and Skyrim are going to feel like they did in the single player Elder Scrolls games, sharing the same unique art styles associated with each zone. From the video, the zones look very similar to their console titles sharing the same graphical beauty and environmental depth (just imagine Morrowind with Skyrims level of detail). However we have to keep in mind that as beautiful as Skyrim is on your console/PC, Elder Scrolls Online will most definitely have the ability to scale visuals to fit your computer’s hardware needs, and that is where similarity can become vague.
The video shows that ZeniMax have done a great job done with spell effects, armor skins, player models and animations. The only thing I’m really going to complain about in the art assets at this point is the music tracks we hear in the video. It feels very unfamiliar from all the other Elder Scrolls games as you can clearly tell it’s lacking in some Jeremy Soule. He is the man that makes the music in the Elder Scrolls eargasmic, and I expect the same quality of music he brought to Elder Scrolls III, IV and V to be present in Elder Scrolls Online. If it doesn’t give me the chills, it’s unworthy of being there.
Will it be worth every agonizing second of sitting in a chair, staring at a calendar and counting down the days? It’s still too early to tell, but I believe in the end it will be. I feel as if Bethesda has the perfect state of mind for making an MMO as they understand that it needs to bring innovation and something fresh for the community. Guild Wars 2 definitely raised the bar and brought something new in a much-needed and stale genre. Bethesda seems to be working off of that innovation. I’m waiting in anticipation to see which type of business model Bethesda will choose however.
What do you think? Will it be worth your wait? And what business model do you expect from them? Discuss in the comments, or on twitter @HrdRst