So E3 2013 was a massive event full of surprises, revelations, and head-scratchers. While the battle for next generation console superiority had already begun a few weeks prior at Microsoft’s Xbox One unveiling event, things really took off when Sony held no punches at its E3 press conference. But the biggest news of the week had nothing to do with the console war, but about a little game called Elder Scrolls Online.
Elder Scrolls Online will be on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2014.
That’s some pretty big news right there, folks. You probably know by now just how excited, yet caught off guard the Quest Gaming Network crew was by this bold move. As Shank so eloquently put it last week, “…that’s exactly what ZOS is aiming to deliver on, that promise of “anyone can play this game however he wants to.”
It is for this reason – the announcement that Elder Scrolls Online will be available on PC, Mac, and next generation consoles, that ESO wins the “SilentFury Best of E3 Award.” This is a very prestigious award, and one I am sure the crew at Bethesda and ZOS are absolutely thrilled with. This award is earned not simply because they made a big announcement, but because they are listening to their fans, thinking about the big picture, and at the same time, making a great game.
Because let’s be honest, this really is shaping up to be a great game.
I got some time with the game at E3 and came away feeling like they were making the Elder Scrolls game I always wanted. Oblivion and Skyrim are arguably two of my favorite games, but there was always something missing. While it has been great feeling like my character was the hero of Tamriel, I always wondered how fun it would be to bring a few companions along that weren’t as annoying as… let’s say… Serana. Instead, I wanted to bring along Bradford, Shank, or heck, even Dienforce, to clear some dungeons, collect some epic loot, and have fun together while doing it. Now that ESO is coming together and I’ve seen that it really is just another Elder Scrolls game, that dream is finally coming true.
Here’s ESO’s biggest hurdle:. Elder Scrolls Online is mis-titled. Rather, it’s misleading in its title. When a game is called ABC Online, gamers these days tend to get a vision in their head: MMO. And yes, this game is an MMO, in the sense that there are many people online you can play multiplayer with, but it is NOT your traditional MMO. ZOS has stated from the beginning they wanted this to be an Elder Scrolls game first, and an MMO second, and I think they are finding that groove perfectly. ESO doesn’t look like a typical MMO, it doesn’t play like an MMO, and it certainly doesn’t feel like an MMO. At E3, Bradford and I were able to immediately join a party together so we could see each other on the map, and then off we went on an adventure. We roamed through town, through the wildness, we fought some enemies, and we stared to look at how pretty it was. I even collected one of those sky shard things, and Bradford was jealous. But the big key is that even though we had some objectives and goals, it never felt like we were “questing.” I never felt like I was being told I had to clear out a certain area before moving on to the next one. The world was open to us, and it was inviting us into it.
The sense I got from this game is that, despite it sounding cliche, it really feels like The Elder Scrolls VI: With Friends. It doesn’t feel like World of Warcraft with an Elder Scrolls skin. It’s not a big IP like Star Wars that has been stripped down to a number-punching MMO. This is The Elder Scrolls. It just so happens you’ll have a little help in trying to solve the problems of the world this time.
During my playtime I remember feeling completely overwhelmed, not at the game necessarily, just at the fact that I was actually playing it. It was the very first thing we did on Tuesday of E3. We’d just finished watching a presentation that included some footage of The Evil Within and the new Wolfenstein, and Matt Firor himself was there to give us a brief message. And then all of a sudden I’m sitting down and playing this game I’ve been waiting what feels like a lifetime to play. I was so excited I didn’t know what to do. “Do I spend time crating an awesome character? Should I read carefully through all the text (because my headphones weren’t working) to know what the details of my quests are, or rush through so I can experience as much as possible in my limited playtime? Do I stay with Bradford and see what we encounter together, or should I run on ahead to see what kind of trouble I can stir up myself?” These were the questions I was faced with, and in the end I had to just relax, enjoy whatever I experienced, and take it all in.
Needless to say, I had a blast, and the great thing is, it never felt forced. We went from area to area, picking up quests naturally, finding hidden items and chests, exploring dark areas, and when we walked away from the game, I actually looked at Bradford and simply said, “That was Elder Scrolls.”
I stand by my statement that the biggest announcement at E3 had nothing to do with the major console war that is going on, but about a little game called Elder Scrolls Online. When you combine the greatness that is what I’ve seen of ESO so far, with the amazing news that anyone who owns a computer or a next generation console will be able to play it, ESO clearly was the winner of E3. The game I played at E3 will be perfect for a console. It won’t require any dumbing down, and you better believe it will look beautiful on whatever system you play.
If you’re one of those who still doubts this game I hope you’ll take away this: you have to approach this game with a different mindset. With an open mind, this game will appeal to hardcore MMO fans as well as die-hard single-player Elder Scrolls fans. Approach this game not as an Elder Scrolls MMO, but as something new, because that’s what it is. It isn’t your traditional MMO, and it isn’t your traditional Elder Scrolls game. But it IS Elder Scrolls, and it IS an MMO. It’s a beautiful new approach to the genre, and in time, I think it will revolutionize MMOs as we know them.
Congratulations to Bethesda and ZeniMax Online Studios for making the Elder Scrolls game we’ve been begging for.