One of the great things about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the simplicity of combat. Taking down enemies is as easy as a couple of button clicks, and it works so effortlessly you wonder why other games aren’t so simple. When The Elder Scrolls Online launches this year, Skyrim players will feel right at home in combat, as it really boils down to the same mechanics – with a few bonuses included.
As you set off on your adventure in Tamriel you’ll start playing just like you would in Skyrim. You’ll pick up a weapon – let’s use a sword as an example – and maybe a shield. By default you’ll click your left mouse button to swing your sword and hold the right mouse button to use your shield. Simple, right? But it just makes sense. Why make a game more difficult than it has to be? If I hit the enemy, I hit the enemy. I should get credit for it. Likewise, if my enemy hits me, then I should take appropriate damage and learn how to dodge. And in ESO, this is exactly what will be going on.
One of the things missing from earlier Elder Scrolls games was the ability to effectively dodge attacks. Sure it’s always been easy enough to sidestep out of the path of a goblin’s fireball or a Draugr’s predictable sword slash, but actually dodging and countering attacks wasn’t something that worked like you’d expect. In ESO, dodging your enemies attacks will actually help build “finesse points”, which will then go towards your “ultimate attack”, a powerful move that will require a certain amount of finesse points to unlock. So you don’t have to be a world-beater tank to earn an ultimate attack. You can float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and finesse attack like a baller.
So to visualize how these mechanics will work, let’s look at it from the perspective of Skyrim. Imagine creeping through a dungeon near Solitude as a powerful, yet vulnerable ranger. You’ve put away your bow because you’re in tight quarters, and have a sword out, ready to strike if needed. All of a sudden, one of those Restless Draugrs happens to sneak up on you, but out of the corner of your eye you see him right before he stabs you in the head. You dodge by rolling or leaping to the side, come up and immediately slash him a few times, then use your ultimate ability and cut the dude’s head clean off. Epic! By dodging, you’ve not only added a little realism to your game (who really just sidesteps when attacked by an undead monster?), but you’ve used an entirely new mechanic that gives you more control over both PvE and (in ESO) PvP players.
So yes, ESO will have a “hotbar,” but that hotbar is not the World of Warcraft modded-to-the-teeth 128 box user interface that gives you access to every ability and item under the sun. It is a six-slot bar that has your essential skills (attack 1, attack 2), three more spells or abilities that are class-based, and your ultimate ability. This hotbar was a logical step for this game, and is one that should probably be included in all future Elder Scrolls titles. In Skyrim, how often do you find yourself switching between blades, bows, spells, potions, etc? To me, it’s a tedious task having to rely on my memory and the “favorites” system to switch between weapons. Having a small hotbar on-screen will not only help keep me in the fight without needing to go through a tedious menu system, but it will also help me focus on developing my character.
How so, you ask? By only giving you on-screen access to six abilities, ZeniMax Online Studios will force you to use the skills you truly want to level up and customize for your character. Unlike games like Star Wars: The old Republic, you won’t be using 15 different skills and abilities in a battle, but rather focusing on a handful of skills at all times that you have customized and leveled up for your specific character and play style. ZeniMax is banking on the hope that veteran Elder Scrolls players will appreciate the similarities between ESO and past titles, and that MMO players will welcome the refreshing new direction that ESO and games like Guild Wars 2 are trying to usher in.
Combat in ESO may not necessarily be a revolution, but it surely is an evolution for MMOs. The decision to move away from screens full of icons and implementing the most basic of mechanics (mouse clicks), people new to Elder Scrolls, as well as games in general, should have a pretty easy time becoming familiar with the system. But on the same note, there will be enough skills to choose from, and by allowing players to level up skills as they use them and customize their character any way they want, it will be deep enough for even the most seasoned of MMO players.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a sales pitch for The Elder Scrolls Online. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the shape this game seems to be taking, especially when it comes to combat. By simplifying the interface but keeping the options and customization deep, I will be more likely to stay hooked to this game for a long time – rather than feeling overwhelmed with too many skills or spending hours researching the perfect build instead of actually playing the game.
With news that beta invites will be going out later this month, we’ll start learning more details of how this all works and exactly how WELL it works very soon. While there will likely be some growing pains for ZeniMax and perhaps even a learning curve for players used to accessing 10, 30, or even 50 skills during a fight, I am confident this was the correct route to take for this particular game. You can’t make an Elder Scrolls game and make it too complicated when it comes to interface and combat. By the same token, you can’t make an MMO and turn it into a co-op version of Skyrim (although there is a large contingent of us that would surely like to see something like this! But if you’re going massive, you have to do it right). ZeniMax has certainly captured my attention, and I can’t wait to finally get my hands on this game and experience it for myself.
I’m pretty sure I wont leave the house for a month…
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://mymiddleearth.com/wp-content/uploads/avatars/2330/209800074bd5c82316e83f77e0d73de4-bpfull.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Brian covers Elder Scrolls and PlayStation news for The Quest Gaming Network. He also has a strange fascination with Lara Croft. You can see all his work for QGN @SilentFury007 and follow him on Twitter at silentfury007.[/author_info] [/author]