I admit, even though I still have a few unaddressed issues with Elder Scrolls Online, I remain optimistic. As the weeks slowly tick by, I can’t help but think about this game’s potential. Zenimax Online Studios have stated in the past that this game can be played entirely solo. They’ve also managed to include true first person, a Skyrim-style compass, and the most minimalistic UI I have ever seen in an MMO to date (granted, I haven’t seen many MMOs). And so, to kill two birds with one stone (as I have received tweets over the past few weeks asking me this), allow me to discuss how I will play Elder Scrolls Online.
You all know my playstyle fairly well by now. I’m going to push Elder Scrolls Online as far as it can go. In other words, I’m going to play ESO the exact same way I play all my other Elder Scrolls games. Why? The reason is in the title of the game itself, this is the Elder Scrolls Online. So, what does this mean?
First and foremost, the Elder Scrolls games are single-player titles. Now, even though ESO has that online component (duh) allowing a player to play with/against others, I’m going to take the solo route. Indeed, many of you MMO vets will scream and curse at me in outrage as this may seem counter-intuitive to what ESO is meant to be…but is it really? Think about it. What is one of the defining features of any Elder Scrolls game? It could be argued that its single-player focus is a major feature.
Yes, ESO may encourage me to play with others, but that is completely optional. That choice is entirely in my hands. The reason I’m drawn to this game is NOT its multiplayer component. I want to play ESO because it contains all of Tamriel (more on that below). The fact that it’s online and contains multiplayer is entirely irrelevant to me. In various interviews, ZOS has stated that this whole game can be soloed. I know as soon as I pick up my Dualshock 4 controller, I will want to play this game solo for my classic Elder Scrolls feel. This is an Elder Scrolls game, after all.
Speaking of Dualshock 4, you can probably guess that I will be playing this game on PS4 – and only on PS4. Why? Other than the fact that the console and PC versions will be the exact same visually, there is one crucial reason. I need a controller to play Elder Scrolls games. I don’t care that a keyboard and mouse are more accurate and versatile – that’s not the point. My first Elder Scrolls experience was on Xbox 360. I have grown up playing console games. I love the haptic feedback a controller gives me. I love the fact that I don’t have to spread my hands apart to enjoy a game.
“But Shank,” you protest, “You can use third party button mapping software to use on PC”. This is true, but remember, the UI will not be optimized for a controller on the PC. Such a thing would just annoy me and take the fun out of the game. This is one of the major reasons that even though I have Oblivion for PC, I went back to play it on my Xbox. Think about it this way. You’re a hardcore PC gamer and dislike controllers. Then one day, a game you really want is announced, but only on consoles. You’re really excited for this game and so in order to enjoy it, you decide it’s worth tolerating the controller to play the game. Months later, you find out it’s coming to PC. Joy of joys, you can use your beloved keyboard and mouse. Now, would you ever play that game on a console using the dreaded controller? No. You wouldn’t.
A final note, should I buy the game on PC and PS4, my time and attention would be split between two characters. You all know me well by now. I don’t really play alts (alternative characters). Every time I start an Elder Scrolls game for the first time, I only play one character. Elder Scrolls games for me have always been played with a single focus – a single character to tell my story. I like focusing on a single storyline, taking care to craft my single character. There is a simple beauty in shaping a single character, molding her story into a strong, focused narrative. I know many of you want to play with me on the PC, and you want me to play with the ESOTR guys on that platform. You must understand however, that I choose not to play on PC not as a sleight to you guys nor my fellow podcast hosts. Rather, I choose not to play on PC for the reasons I outlined above. I think it is a fair and understandable explanation.
Let’s get into some more details, shall we? I favor the ranged-stealth play style regardless of what game I happen to be playing. Indeed, even in Call of Duty, I will always crouch everywhere and attempt to use ranged weapons. That’s just how I enjoy games. I like avoiding combat if I can. In fact, I will do absolutely everything in my power and exhaust all options to avoid combat.
That being established, I know I will be a Bosmer of the Aldmeri Dominion. The Bosmer are easily my favorite race. They’re highly regarded as the most skilled archers in the land and have awesome stealth abilities to boot. We also know there are four classes in ESO: Dragonknight, Templar, Sorceror, Nightblade. And, thanks to the QuakeCon livestream, we got a peek at just how extensive the skill system is. So, how will I spec my character?
Well, I’ll name her Doo (obviously) and select the Nightblade class as a base. From there, I’ll most likely invest in medium armor and bows as my primary weapon. As a backup, I’ll invest a few points into any sort of dual wield/dagger skill tree. On top of that, the skills I’ll slot into my hotbar will most likely be all ranged abilities to keep my foes far away from me as I quickly run away.
My final, and perhaps most important play choice is this: I will explore to my heart’s content. And why not? During QuakeCon, Paul Sage stated that they’re pushing for exploration based gameplay. And while I’m a little disappointed by the lack of true exploration shown at the livestream (a concession I’m willing to make because of the time constraint), I know that ZOS is really putting a ton of effort into this one feature.
For one, exploration is a major component of Elder Scrolls games. The ability to pick a direction and just walk is hugely enticing, even if you’re the type of player who likes to quest-hop. Tamriel is a massive place. There is just so much in it that is just begging to be explored. I know I’m going to avoid quests willingly and just wander aimlessly. It’s funny. I sometimes livestream Skyrim and usually title the stream “Shank Aimlessly Wanders”. It still surprises me that people show up and watch me accomplish nothing. They must love exploring just as much as I do.
. . .
And there you have it. By no means is this an exhaustive examination on my ESO play style, rather, it’s a more focused look on what I consider to be my most critical play choices for this game. I remain optimistic and only time will tell if it will live up to my standards. With each passing week and each new interview, we learn more and more about this game. I can’t wait to see what ZOS has in store for us.
Shadow hide you.