The Elder Scrolls Online Preview
After months of speculation, hoping and straight out guessing, Zenimax Online have finally revealed the first details for The Elder Scrolls Online. And what a reveal it was. The 9 minute opening video contains a ton of details on many of the systems in the game; many of the locations had much of what the developers are trying to do to make it as special an experience as possible. All of it sounds absolutely fantastic on paper and, I have to admit, it’s difficult not to start to feel quite excited about the whole thing. If they manage to pull off what they’re trying to pull off, it might just change the MMO world entirely. As part of a well-known brand, pushing innovation and building upon genre staples, could The Elder Scrolls Online be the next World of Warcraft?
Joining the Franchise
"Perhaps the biggest advantage The Elder Scrolls Online has going for it, like World of Warcraft before it, is that it is part of a well-loved, well-established franchise."
With a fervent PC following over the first three games and massive success in more recent years with Oblivion and Skyrim, there’s no doubt whatsoever that this is going to be a game that gathers a following, both from the MMO crown and those that just love the series it’s based upon. There’s plenty to entice both crowds: this is a game that boasts established locations and lore from twenty years of games, but there’s also a push in technology that will allow for both massive PvP battles and a massive social element in the game world itself (more on that later).
The important thing to remember here is that this is very much an Elder Scrolls game. Watch the trailer and it’ll be only a few moments before you notice iconic armour and monsters. This is a game that has been built to sit nicely alongside Skyrim and Oblivion. Even the combat system of The Elder Scrolls Online is reminiscent of those games, attacking with the left mouse button and defending with the right. We’ve yet to see how well that actually holds up, but it should be noted that in the video, there was a pretty obvious lack of numbers on the screen during a fight. It looks like they’re trying to find a decent mix between what’s been established in the series as a whole and what is accepted in the MMO genre.
Finding Your Style in The Elder Scrolls Online
From the video we’ve seen, The Elder Scrolls Online is going to look very much like you’d expect it. It’s The Elder Scrolls, but online. As I started watching the video, I got a definite vibe of World of Warcraft, that cartoony, stylized look that ages well and can be updated easily. This could be a bad thing or a good thing, but without a release copy it’s difficult to make any sort of definite judgement on it. It certainly looks enough like Skyrim – especially in characterization and location design – that long-time fans of the series will feel anything but short-changed, but it’s the MMO world that
Elder Scrolls Online vs Guild Wars 2?
I’m worried about on this one. The Elder Scrolls Online is a looker, that’s for sure, but can it compete with the beauty of TERA or the more series, but still gorgeous look of Guild Wars 2? People who want this game to succeed will say yes, I feel people less invested might be a little more cautious in their answer.
Elder Scrolls Online: Customization is Key
In bringing forward many of the systems from The Elder Scrolls games, the developers have given themselves a real challenge. Either this is going to be the most amazing customization system in an MMO – any multiplayer game, even – or this is never going to live up to how they’re going to advertise it. The idea is so simple; I’m amazed it hasn’t been done before: your character is yours, do what you want with it.
In The Elder Scrolls Online, you’ll pick a class like in any other MMO, be it mage, warrior, thief or medic. Unlike in other games however, how you develop that character is up to you. You can be a warrior mage, a character that can use magic but dresses in heavy armour and attacks with a double handed weapon. You can be stealthy, deadly from a distance, and useful for healing. If this doesn’t make this game a lead MMO contender, it will at least be influential and it probably won’t be long until other major MMOs allow you to do similar things.
More than this though, Elder Scrolls Online brings with it the popular perk system that allows you to edit your character even more. With every level gained (or every couple of levels), you’ll be able to pick a perk which will power up a certain aspect of your character. Maybe you’ll choose to increase the amount of health recovered from healing items or the amount of damage done when surrounded by enemies – the important thing is that you can create a unique character that matches the way you play. Add to this the vast customization options and the many different weapons and armours and your disposal and I think it’s fair to say this won’t be one of those games where you see your own character at every turn.
Again, it’s difficult to say how effective any of these systems will be. Even if the developers manage to create all these possible customization options and balance them fairly well, how long until someone on the internet reveals the best combination? How many diehard fans will end up just using the same thing over and over again? Will this vast customization offer more replayability, or less?
The Elder Scrolls Online: Mega Server
Perhaps the biggest eye-brow raiser for me was the mention of a Mega Server. This Mega Server will allow all people playing The Elder Scrolls Online to play on a single server, meaning vast amounts of players in the same huge, open world. I don’t know enough about the technology to out and out say they won’t be able to do it – I never cease to be amazed by the things these techies can do – but I know from experience that MMO launches are NEVER successful. Over multiple servers, with back-ups and everything, these things always fail on day one. The idea of only having a single server is crazy to me for that very reason. If three million people try to log-in on day one, will 2.9 million of them be met with an error code?
It’s a nice idea, but not one I see working practically when it’s called upon by the mass of gamers who will be interested in this game.
There’s much more to talk about when it comes to The Elder Scrolls Online, and I think it’s fair to say we’ll be covering a lot more ground over the coming weeks and months. For now though, I’m feeling quietly confident. This is a game that is going to change the way MMOs are viewed in the same way World of Warcraft did all those years ago. Whether it manages the following and longevity doesn’t really matter, but I have a sly feeling that it will. At the very least, this will be a game worth playing and I’m sure I’m not alone is saying that it’ll be a game worth watching as we get into 2013 as well.