O ne of the biggest questions facing the upcoming MMO The Elder Scrolls Online is one that inevitably is asked about any A-List title that releases: Will this game redefine the genre as we know it? The Elder Scrolls as a franchise is known for pushing the limits of the traditional RPG game, so one would think Zenimax Online Studios will strive to do the same.
As we reported back in late October, ESO does showcase some promise. The game itself feels as though you are playing a single-player Elder Scrolls game, but with your friends, and there are elements that are implemented that have only be touched upon by competing MMOs. But is it enough to say this game will top all others and take the place as the gold-standard of Online Gaming? There are reasons to say “yes”, and some to disagree.
For starters, this game will take advantage of a combat mechanic seen in the single-player game and not yet seen in an MMO. Most all MMOs use an “auto attack” system in conjunction with a hotbar. This is done to compensate for latency across the server. To have a full fledged free-form combat system in a game as massive as ESO could potentially add lag to the server, thus making the game unenjoyable. The inclusion of the basic attack being free-form is a huge step in the direction of taking that next step in MMO combat mechanics. Other games will notice how this feature has positively effected the gameplay and want to implement that in their titles.
Classes in MMOs traditionally gave you that strict, rigid structure of how your gameplay would map out, ESO takes this system and throws it out the window. While the game will still include classes, it will only act as a guideline to start you on your path for the Imperial Throne…and wining your soul from Molag Bal of course. Each class can use any weapon or armor they choose, and doing so will effect which skills they can use. This mechanic isn’t new to the genre, some classes in Guild Wars 2 use this same system. However, ESO will take it to that next level. For example: in GW2, and Elementalist can use daggers, scepters, staffs and tridents. Each of these weapons give the Elementalist a different set of skills and also change your gameplay. Scepters are a more offensive weapon, whislt Staffs give you the opportunity for healing and CC. In the end though, the Elementalist is still bound to use only those weapons. In ESO, a character can use any weapon they pick up, from the bow to a two-handed warhammer. From daggers to longswords, staffs to battleaxes, the characters you play are yours to mold.
One drawback I believe the game will have has to do with the factions. While the three factions provide a starting point for the races and add to the storyline of the game, segmenting them and isolating their players from the other factions only diminishes the player base. An Argonian player not being able to quest with a friend who created a Redguard only causes players to create another character after spending time on the one they originally chose to make. Some players will not mind this because they will be used to creating alternate characters, players like myself who have a very limited window of gametime don’t want to be hindered by spending hours on one character just to switch after realizing you won’t be able to group with your buddy all because of the race they chose. In the end, this is probably more “knit-picky” than an actual problem, but one that will certainly be voiced by a portion of the player base.
Another drawback could be the subscription system they chose to go with. As of now, no subscription model has been announced, but one can assume that there will be some sort of “free-to-play” option with the way the industry is moving. Will this deter or bring players in? Some hardcore MMO fans don’t like the F2P or F2P hybrids as they think it only waters down the player base. If a player has to pay to play, more than likely they will be more determined to play more often and strive to get better gear. However, if the game is freely given, some players will be more lax and be less committal to raiding or doing end-game content. Myself, I would prefer the hybrid model: Free-2-Play, but with the option to sub up for all the content the game has to offer. Whichever model ZOS chooses, players will play, at least to a certain point. The inclusion of some subscription money coming in could also make ZOS more able to pay their employees to put out more content releases, thus making the game better for the long run. It will be tricky to find a good balance between the two, but there are plenty of games out there with a history of doing the hybrid subscription successfully, so ZOS should have no problem turning a potential drawback to a genre-changer.
What are some other ideas for how ESO is or can effectively change the genre for the better? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Send us a comment here to let us know what you think! Thanks again for reading!