A flood of news came down today about The Elder Scrolls Online, and in case you got lost in trying to read it all, we’ve got you covered. Read on for a quick recap on all of today’s news and announcements about ESO.
Susan Arendt of escapistmagazine.com got some playtime recently in ESO and wrote up her thoughts. Piecing together all the information from her lengthy article gives the impression that the game is shaping up to be very much what many fans are hoping for. Whether it’s the full voice acting for NPCs, quest discovery by simply walking around, or the inclusion of a first-person perspective, this may as well be The Elder Scrolls VI: Online.
Arendt noted the extreme amount of distractions available, simply in the starting area for the Daggerfall Covenant faction. Whether it be assisting random NPCs (NOT necessarily by delivering random packages or gathering 10 flowers, but by actually being helpful in a fun and interactive way), fending off mud crabs, lockpicking chests, combining ingredients to see what happens, and oh yeah, just walking around and exploring in general. Exploring is going to be one of the main ways you find things to do in this game, as it will help you not only discover quests, but also dungeons and materials needed for crafting.
Speaking of crafting, Arendt noted there would be five unique crafting professions: Provisioner, Weaponsmith, Armorsmith, Alchemist, and Enchanter. She said they work in about the same way, in that you combine a primary and secondary component and can add up to three “additives” to alter the item’s properties. It doesn’t sound that foreign if you’ve done much crafting in games before, and it’s nice to know it works basically the same way for all the professions. ZeniMax has already stated that some of the best items in the game will come from crafting, so choosing a profession and becoming proficient in it could be extremely valuable to your character.
She talked a little about combat, but specifically on enemies and their use of “synergy.” Groups of enemies will come together and dynamically take on you and your party. They will tackle the biggest threat first, and their synergy attacks will vary depending on the assemblage of the enemy types. The bigger the enemy group gets, the more they will work together to bring you down.
At the end of Arendt’s article she had some bullet points for key information, and they were too damn good to leave out of this recap. Rather than trying to rewrite what she said, I am going to directly quote her so you can be as blown away as I was.
“There’s tons to know about The Elder Scrolls Online, so let’s move on to the lightning round:
- There are three starting areas, one for each alliance: the Daggerfall Covenant (which we saw), the Ebonheart Pact, and the Aldmeri Dominion.
- You can learn new abilities at any point. You could pick up a new weapon and start a new skill line whenever you liked.
- The level cap is 50, but once you hit it, you’ll be given the option to go to one of the other two alliances and do all their content. Once you’ve hit 50 in that one, you can finish up the third. The loot drops are tied to your character and your level, so the Ebonheart content will be far more difficult on your third playthrough than on your first, but you don’t have to start a brand new character to experience the other alliances’ stories. You can, of course, if you’d rather, but you don’t have to. Overall, you’ll get a “couple hundred hours’ worth of extra content” by going through the other alliances.
- There will be Fighters and Mages Guilds at launch, but “most likely” no Thieves or Assassins. Hang on, hang on, don’t start shouting just yet. Just because they won’t make launch doesn’t mean they won’t eventually be making an appearance.
- First person mode will be available at launch. We saw a brief video of it that looked like it was ripped right from a single-player Elder Scrolls game. Gameplay Lead Nick Konkle swore to me – many, many times – it was just a straight-up recording from his personal play session the previous weekend. They’d wanted to do it all along, but had to work out the kinks of the animation first.
- There will be about 16 four-man dungeons at launch, one in every zone, with one public dungeon per zone.
- It will be available for Mac OS at launch, which means you have a far greater chance of playing with yours truly.
- You’ll make friends with NPCs – the trio you track down for Captain Keeler, for example, will follow you to your next destination and even fight with you – but you won’t have a Lydia-esque companion as you did in Skyrim. Which is just as well, because there won’t be any personal housing at launch, so there wouldn’t be anywhere for her to watch you sleep. Bethesda isn’t saying anything one way or the other about mounts, so keep that horse armor joke in your pocket for now.
- A guild system for social events is currently in the works, but is far from finalized.
- There will be PVP. We watched a live PVP demo in which one alliance was laying siege to another alliance’s keep with trebuchets. It was a very brief glimpse and it was difficult to really get a sense of what was going on but hey … trebuchets. Those are fun.
- In response to whether or not there were plans to release any kind of modding for The Elder Scrolls Online, Pete Hines quipped “We kinda did. It’s called Skyrim It works great, use that.” (Note, this wasn’t addressing UI modding.)”
IGN.com also got some time with the game, and writer Leif Johnson seemed equally impressed. He commented on how pretty the game looked, especially as he wandered around the island of Betnikh. He also mentioned that hardcore MMO fans may have a treat in-store for them, because even though the standard ESO user interface is clean and minimalistic, by pressing the Alt key, he was able to open up a much more detailed statistical interface.
Johnson also commented on how quests were not simple gathering tasks, but more meaningful, with a better choice system than what we’ve seen in games like Star Wars: The Old Republic. He specifically commented on how even though he and a groupmate made different decisions in dialog, they each saw their own story play out on-screen, not one chosen by a fellow player.
Johnson made it a point to note that ESO provided a “rewarding single player storyline that never comes close to ditching social elements so vital to MMOs. In fact, with open mob tagging, shared servers, and spell combos that require two or more players, it practically promotes it.” This is critical in what ZeniMax has said all along they are trying to accomplish, an online game that doesn’t betray the roots of Elder Scrolls.
While he expressed that combat felt similar to other Elder Scrolls games, he wasn’t thrilled with the animations, noting that they seemed stiff. However, despite appearances, he said it felt like he was actually hitting them, not just rolling the right number in some arbitrary MMO RPG table.
Johnson also included a quote from Game Director Matt Firor. Johnson said he was “happy to see the design so far seems focused on exploration and questing rather than grinds,” which is a critical component of making it an Elder Scrolls game. Firor said there are no raids in this game, because “That’s not Elder Scrolls.” Remember, from the beginning this game was not designed to be another run-of-the-mill MMO. ZeniMax’s mission statement from the beginning has always been to build an Elder Scrolls game that just so happens to also be an MMO.
PC Gamer’s Chris Thursten went into great detail about the time he spent with the game as well. He broke down the user interface a little bit more for us, saying it is “among the most minimalistic I’ve ever seen in an MMO.” The majority of your time in-game will be with only a crosshair, minimap, and quest tracker on-screen. Details such as health, stamina, and magicka only appear when they are being affected in some way (like in Skyrim). When entering dialog he noted that the game zooms into first person mode, with slightly more in regards to dialog options. He again noted all NPCs are fully voiced, but that facial animations were a little rough.
Opening up your inventory screen zooms in on your character, giving you the opportunity to affix items and see how they appear in-game. The same is true for your skill menu, which also zooms in allowing you to see your character still in the world.
When it comes to combat, another thing that differentiates ESO from other MMOs is the fact that there is no cooldown. But don’t worry, players won’t simply be spamming their most powerful attack the entire time, as your ability to perform attacks or spells all depends on the amount of health, stamina, or magicka you have available. The game is more reliant on being involved in the fight, attacking and dodging in order to be successful. Not just standing in one place and punching number keys until your target disappears.
Thursten also noted that spells do not need to be equipped into a hand to be used, but they just fire instantly.
While sneaking IS in the game, it’s currently not as deep or involved as it is in Skyrim. Thursten said that sneaking is used mostly for sneaking around groups of enemies, or you can snatch a disguise that allows you to walk around normally (just don’t get too close to the enemies or they’ll realize you’re not one of them). He also mentioned sneaking is line-of-sight based, and not dependent on lighting.
As has been noted previously, when you level up a character you’ll be able to add a point to either health, stamina, or magicka, and you’ll get a skill point as well. When you put points into skills, you eventually unlock new passive and active skills which level up through use.
As far as guilds, the Fighters’ and Mages’ Guilds will be available at launch, with the possibility of the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood to be added later.
You can read Thursten’s entire article here.