The Elder Scrolls Online
MMO fans have a lot to look forward to when Bethesda’s ‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ launches, as do RPG fans and casual gamers. Imagine a world bigger than the phenomenal Skyrim, which visits all of the famed locations from previous Elder Scrolls titles. Imagine a living, breathing world, full of dungeons, treasure, beasts and towns. Imagine rewarding gameplay that encompasses stealth, action, magic and exploration, and imagine being able to do all of that with your friends. That is the Elder Scrolls Online.
Combining the rich lore of the Elder Scrolls games with the community-driven experience from MMOs, Bethesda are on track with creating one of the greatest gaming experiences ever. Players will be able to create a character from nine different races and join one of three factions, but tht’s not all. In the Elder Scrolls franchise, there are multiple guilds to join, such as the Fighter’s Guild, the Mage’s Guild, The Thieve’s Guild and more, each with their own ranks and quests to undertake.
Whilst all the Elder Scrolls games take place at different timelines in Tamriel’s history, this is the first time in the series that the game has taken place during a time of great conflict. Set 1000 years before the events in Skyrim, TES Online sees three factions all fighting for control of the Ruby Throne. At the same time of this conflict, the daedric prince, Molag Bal, is attempting to merge his plane of Oblivion (basically, his region in the elder scrolls’ verion of Hell) with Nirn (the earthly realm in which the nine races reside), so there are two main conflicts taking place within TES Online.
In addition to the usual quests and MMO mechanics, Bethesda are also looking to integrate rewards for exploration, in a similar fashion to Guild Wars 2. As the Elder Scrolls games are always littered with various caves, ruins and various other mysterious locations ripe for exploration, it’s great to see Bethesda finding additional ways to reward the player’s wanderlust. Bethesda also stated that the player will be frequently confronted by choices, as with previous Elder Scrolls titles. Remember when you were meant to do something simple in Skyrim, such as deliver a letter, but you ended up at the top of a nearby mountain, or deep underground, searching for treasure and avoiding the perils of the creatures within? You will now have more incentive and more rewards for deviating off the path of a quest, should you choose, and as always, you can always come back to the quest later.
One of the most popular features of a modern MMO game is the PVP (player Vs player) mode. In addition to the normal game, where players join forces and combine their skills against monsters and enemies on quests, players can join forces against other players in a competitve atmosphere, usually vying for control of an area or stronghold. In other MMOs, players normally have to be a certain level to stand a chance or even gain access to PVP modes. With The Elder Scrolls Online, Bethesda have made PVP accessible from the start of the game, with measurements in place to ensure that the gae remains balanced between players of vastly different levels. Details have not been divulged, but it is a noble goal, and if pulled off, will certainly prove to be popular with players.
Also different to other MMOs, is the way Bethesda are designing the combat of the Elder Scrolls Online. In addition to the usual “quick skills” (where payers can customise their skills for easy access on the numerical pad of the player’s keyboard) all combat is live, with the left mouse button striking an enemy and the right mouse button being used to defend. It looks similar (albeit much more refined) to the popular Mount and Blade games, but with more strategy.
One of the more interesting features of the combat in the Elder Scrolls Online is the “Synergy System” which encourages and rewards co-operative combat amongst different character classes. A rogue can drop a bottle of oil, which a mage can then ignite with a flame spell, causing sustained damage against an enemy. There are many more examples of this, and I’m partcularly excited as the prospect of more direct teamwork in co-operative gameplay in MMOs. In games like World of Warcraft, you normally have one or two classes that can “buff” another player (a buff is a positive status effect, like extra defense for a short duration), but I haven’t seen something as fun as the synergy system before in an MMO or an RPG.
One of the problems that plagues MMOs is the lazy player. In other games, a player can cruise through quests with other players and not really ever need to help out because loot and experience is divided equally. The Elder Scrolls Online is no different, but it does have a new system to weed out lazy players and ensure the existence of teamwork. “Finesse” is rewarded after combat in TES Online, and is a measure of one’s skill in combat. The more finesse you show, the greater your rewards for combat will be (including extra experience!). Each class has different actions that will reward finesse for different actions, such as well-timed blocks and strikes, interrupting an enemy’s attack, etc.
It might sound like TES Online is complicated, but it looks to be rich in lore and highly accessible, and fairer to new players than other MMOs. It will launch with a subscription fee of $15 a month (with Bethesda hoping that Microsoft will allow Xbox silver members who subscribe to play the game too) and is coming to PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 some time in 2014 (a release date has not been confirmed as of yet). If you’re new to MMOs or the Elder Scrolls, there’ll be no better time to join in than with the Elder Scrolls Online. It might just be the biggest and best Elder Scrolls yet.