The Elder Scrolls Online offers three starting “zones”, and in this piece I will be focusing on what players will experience when starting in the Daggerfall zone.
I created a male Orc Templar for the purpose of this first impression piece. I chose to play a Templar because it is vastly different from the kind of playstyle I would normally use in the single player titles, in which I would typically play stealthy and “snipe” my enemies with a bow. According to the description for the Templar class, the Templar is a heavy armor wearing cleric type that utilizes fiery Sun magic and healing spells at its roots. But we all know the foundation for ESO is that you can customize your class and character into anything you want depending on the choices you make for skill allotment and the armor and weapons you choose to equip. The approach to combat for the Templar, as I chose to play it, was to tag an enemy at range with my Sun Fire spell which sets the opponent on fire for a short time adding a damage-over-time (DOT) to my two-handed weapon attacks delivered shortly there-after. I would begin the melee portion of the quickly over-and-done-with-combat by charging straight into the now burning unfortunate soul and smashing them in the face with a power attack followed, by one or two well-placed standard attacks that left them a crumpled, crispy, blackened heap on the floor.
The island of Stros M’Kai, where you will find yourself after exiting Coldharbour, has a Mediterranean island feel to it with ocean all around and palm trees and sand everywhere you look. As places I would most like to spend time getting to know my character in the early stages of leveling goes, I couldn’t think of a more picturesque place to be. The architectural styling of the buildings is reminiscent of Middle Eastern architecture with Mediterranean influences, and a little pirate-hideout for good measure – to be sure you don’t start feeling like a millionaire on an island vacation instead. The music is so perfectly appropriate that it is not really noticed at all, and believe it or not, this is a hallmark of perfectly executed scoring when it comes to films and video games. If you don’t notice the subtle ambiance created by the music, yet you feel it, then it was definitely done right, and the musical feel of Stros M’Kai was done right.
After escaping Coldharbour, you wake aboard a ship docked at Stros M’Kai and are tasked by the Prophet to speak to Captain Kaleen who fished you out of the water half-drowned when you returned to Tamriel. Kaleen asks you to recruit crew members for a heist she wishes to conduct on Headman Bhosek, the corrupt regent in charge of the small island. Captain Kaleen is a Redgaurd sailor who, at one time, made a living by attacking Breton galleons, but once the Daggerfall Covenant was formed, King Fahara’jad called an end to it as he would rather the Redgaurd raid the ships of their enemies and not their allies. Captain Kaleen respected the wisdom in the King’s orders, and as a result, her crew mutinied and abandoned her because she chose not to attack Breton ships anymore. Because of her loyalty to the King, she is now unable to sail from the island of Stros M’Kai as she no longer has a ship’s crew.
The potential members of the crew she wishes to recruit are; a womanizing thief who has managed to get himself caught for stealing, an Altmer sage who has a fixation with the Dwemer, and a fellow ship captain who is a master of disguise.
This forms the basis of the story involving your first experiences in the game in the Daggerfall Covenant and is presented in a vicious, cut-throat, dog-eat-dog version of Elder Scrolls with good old fashioned high seas piracy-like adventure and a Treasure Island feel to it. The characters you meet and recruit are all very unique and well defined and form the backbone of this character driven narrative that pulls you into the life of a brigand and a pirate. You are even presented with your first major moral choice to make during the course of events that will affect the future of your new life and takes its roots from the basic concepts of Elder Scrolls; play who you want, how you want!
The island of Stros M’Kai itself definitely fosters a desire to run around and explore. The island is relatively open and beautifully crafted with few natural landscape features that block your view of distant locations. Of course the navigation bar at the top of the screen comes in very handy with spotting places that are nearby and easily indicates those that have not been visited yet. Those two things alone provide that unmistakable feeling that this is indeed an Elder Scrolls game and that exploration is greatly encouraged. I gleefully ran around locating all of the skyshards and wayshrines the island had to offer and enjoyed every second of doing so.
Lastly, the leveling experience. I had a blast running around smashing foes with my two-hander in the face while locating the individuals Captain Kaleen wanted to recruit. Each of those future crew members has a bit of work they want done before they will join up with you and Captain Kaleen, and you definitely get the feeling you are becoming part of a gathering family of like minded pirates throughout this first set of quests. Before I knew it, I was gaining level after level and didn’t really notice it at times. The focus was so perfectly centered around the story and not on leveling by grinding quest after quest that it made the whole experience nothing short of perfection!
The Elder Scrolls Online will be here soon, and if the entire game works and plays as well as the starting zone for the Daggerfall Covenant does, we’re going to be in for a real treat. Stay tuned…