Our take on Bethesda’s ambitious MMO
Just like many gamers out there, we here at OXCGN can’t get enough of the Elder Scrolls series. We jumped at the chance to be able to take part in the latest beta test held this past weekend like thousands of you out there. But instead of providing readers with a stock standard preview or impressions piece, both myself and Jayden have combined our powers to present a discussion relating to our experience with the latest from The Elder Scrolls Online.
Daniel: It’s safe to say that the Elder Scrolls games have been a popular series over the years, even more so with the release of Skyrim in 2011. It seemed like gamers from all walks of life found enjoyment in Bethesda’s highly-detailed worlds. It’s no surprise then that once The Elder Scrolls Online was announced, fans old and new couldn’t wait to travel across Tamriel with their friends. Being an MMO, I think most people were a bit hesitant to see how Bethesda would transform a historically singleplayer experience into a multiplayer one. There’s no argument that the worlds created by Bethesda afford it, but I was a bit sceptical, expecting the game to lose some of it’s shine to accommodate an MMO experience. I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong here. It still feels like a lore-rich Elder Scrolls game, but with an added addition of being able to interact with people across the world.
Jayden: Indeed, at it’s core the game looks, feels and plays like an Elder Scrolls title. From the snowy mountains of Skyrim to the outlandish deserts of Hammerfell the world is populated with the beasts, structures, landscapes and people that make the Elder Scrolls lore so unique. Even in the very beginning, situated in Molag Bal’s Daedric Realm, other players pour through the dank dungeons alongside you, a constant stream of escapees to aid you in the fight against the hordes of daedra. It felt good to be surrounded by other players once you arrive in your chosen faction’s home province. It adds real life and a sense of business to the world, seeing such a diverse range of characters all hunting, questing and forging in the world around you. There’s a great spontaneity to be found when you see a group of enemies and without a word you and a few newfound companions are able to take them down utilising the various classes and abilities to dominate the field.
Daniel: That’s what the Elder Scrolls still retains. At the heart of the series, is creating a character to representing you in this great big world. You’re still able to customise a character to suit your tastes, and while it is nowhere near as deep as the previous Elder Scrolls titles, there is still a lot of sliders to play around with, which no doubt will have players spending the first hour or so perfecting their chosen character (I should know, as this happened to me).
Jayden: One of my favourite things about the Elder Scrolls stems from this idea of having your own, unique character. As a part of the in-game crafting system for weapons, robes and armor there is an option called “Style”. By finding lore books around the world you are able to craft items in the style of a race or culture found in Tamriel instead of the usual early game ‘steel’ or ‘leather’ armors, giving you a little extra personality and choice right from the word go. There are no restrictions in relation to styles going together. If you like the look of the Dunmer Cuirass you can craft that, then add Daedric greaves, Imperial pauldrons and dual wield some curved Redguard scimitars. Each of these pieces can then be improved and built upon so what once may have been early game armor can now become something that holds back the toughest of endgame enemies. It’s all about making your character as you want, then taking them out and exploring the world how you see fit.
Daniel: And you’re given pretty much free reign to do things as you please. While as you said, everyone has to go through the obligatory ‘tutorial’ in the from of the prison in Oblivion, you’re then let loose into the world of Tamriel, depending on the race of your character. My Nord, The Hammer of Talos, belongs to the Ebonheart Pact, and begins his quest just off the coast of Skyrim. As you start to find your feet, you soon start to see players from across the world trudging across the land. After doing a few obligatory quests to open up the game’s backstory, I found my way to Morrowind. It is here the game really started to open up in my opinion. Not only are there more diverse quests, where you can pick and choose to undertake at your discretion, but your given information on your faction’s enemies, which filled with other players across the world, form the base for future PvP encounters. Just wandering around the town of Davon’s Watch, many people were doing things there own way. Some were questing, others were enchanting items, crafting armour and weapons, while others were experimenting with alchemy. It makes the world feel so much more immersive, how every Elder Scrolls world should be.
Jayden: Much like your Nord, my Breton Templar, a member of the Daggerfall Covenant, wound up in the city of Stros M’kai, a tropical oasis. After a similar amount of introductory questing I found myself on the Orcish isle Betnikh, where the game really does allow you to start your own journey. I played through the introductory story for both members of the Daggerfall Covenant and Aldmeri Dominion. Despite the basic introductory story similarities, it was quite a fun introduction to the faction you were about to become a part of. The characters you meet here are the ones that really shape the traditional Elder Scrolls world, managing to keep the story in the forefront of your character’s exploration and development without hindering the more open ended nature of the title.
Daniel: That’s another thing that surprised me. I was fortunate to play the game at E3 last year, and while I thought the characters we well voice-acted, they didn’t seem too fleshed out. Over the following months Bethesda have had developing ESO, I’m pleased to say that the characters have a bit more life now. While you can recognise some repeated voice actors, each character feels different, each going on with their daily routine. You can extend that to the world itself. From what I’ve seen, the world is quite beautiful and detailed. While ESO was never going to have as polished graphics as Skyrim (which some people absurdly thought), it’s definite adequate enough to make you remember journeying through the previous Elder Scroll lands of Skyrim and Morrowind.
Jayden: Too add to that, unlike in Skyrim, the combat has been dialled back a little from previous instalments. It was a little jittery and inaccurate in parts, but I assume that the overall control accuracy and movement will be polished a lot more in the final build. Using magic and abilities generally provided the most accurate and useful damage dealing, with area of effect attacks and guided attacks reliably hitting home. Dual wielding and melee works pretty well too, but blocking is generally not overly useful. Archery is the real hit and miss in the combat, with sneak attacks and proper aim rewarding the player with one hit kills. In open combat, however, it’s a little less reliable thanks to the beta being a little inaccurate with hit detection. Overall the combat and abilities, whilst being a little simplified for an MMO format, are still quite effective and fun, and will only get better in the final build.
Daniel: I have to agree. I am playing as a Dragonknight, the Warrior class, and for the majority of the time it feels like all I have to do is keep swinging my sword until the enemy is dead. I never got anywhere close to being in any danger. There really was no incentive to use my unlocked abilities from levelling up, as my primary weapon was working too well. Overall though, I’ve been impressed with ESO. Although I feel like it would have been far better to showcase the PvP elements a little bit more. Hopefully in future Beta tests we’re able to dive right into that. If you had to pick one feature as a favourite so far in ESO, what would it be? For me it has to be the emotes. Silly little interactions that enables you to perform all sorts of actions in the world. I spent a good hour in the middle of Bal Foyen with my shirt off, doing jumping jacks and push ups. Needless to say, it wasn’t too long before I was joined by 20 other people.
Jayden: That’s what makes Elder Scrolls Online so great, the other players that populate the world. My favourite thing was the openness and diverseness of the world. You can keep walking and walking, past the story mission objectives, and you’ll keep finding side missions, players and exciting new sights and enemies. There’s just so much to see and do, and when you think you’ve found the end, there’s a whole new continent to continue into.
Daniel: That’s what will bring ESO to life, the ability to explore Tamriel. I think linking back to the previous games through stories and tales will make it feel like a huge, living breathing world. But it’s not without any faults. There were a few bugs to do with the UI, I’d be stuck in the Dialogue Menu with NPCs on a few occasions, which was only fixable by reloading the UI. While not game-breaking, it was still an annoyance. I was fortunate to not encounter anything harsher than that. I guess my least favourite feature is the sheer amount of people complaining in the side chat, but over time those people who simply jump online to flame the game will leave us Elder Scrolls fans to enjoy Tamriel ourselves.
Jayden: Once the game has been in the hands of the community for a little longer the developers should have enough feedback to fix the minor issues and bugs that have popped up in the beta. I too got stuck in a few menus and conversations, but found no other major issues. The Elder Scrolls Online’s Beta has only cemented my faith in the series. To have a chance to relive my experiences with the previous titles and revisit iconic locations all over Tamriel with a new character and new companions is very exciting. I cannot wait to get my hands on the final build of this game and just get lost in this diverse fantasy universe once more.
Daniel: It’s plain to see we think Bethesda are on the right path with ESO. While I have enjoyed my time so far with the Beta, I’m yet to be 100% committed. Certainly Bethesda have crafted a fantastic and deep world, and will continue to do so with continued testing and feedback, but I’m still waiting to hear the final word on their subscription model. I need justification on spending money for the game, plus a monthly fee. While interactions with other players have been fun, it’s more a question of asking myself whether I want to pay a monthly fee to experience the whole of Tamriel.
Jayden: It will be very interesting to see how the subscription will work on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One and how the accounts connect with the PC version. I’m pretty excited to see how the game progresses and develops up to release and how Bethesda will continue the Elder Scrolls Online universe in the future!
Be sure to check out ESO’s official page to check out the latest on any future beta tests. The Elder Scrolls Online will be available on the 4/4/2014 on PC, with console releases to follow shortly after.