I’ve been a big fan of the Elder Scrolls series since about a year before Morrowindcame out. I remember gawping at every preview photo, downloading all the free samples of in-game music and realizing my computer wasn’t a high enough spec to run it when it came out, leading to my first ever tower upgrade – unscrewing the back of the magic box and plugging in some extra RAM.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I’ve gotten similarly excited about every Elder Scrolls game since, including their upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, The Elder Scrolls Online. And this comes as a shock to me, as I’ve always avoided MMORPGs. I somehow always managed to be stuck playing alongside douchebag players who only wanted the loot and would skip every cinematic cut-scene, rush ahead through every lush forest, and generally be obnoxious and selfish, which to me is not the point of community game-playing. I also got very frustrated with World of Warcraft’s “get 15 wolf furs” as a quest device. I didn’t get sucked into the world the way I did with, say, Morrowind and Oblivion and Skyrim.
So I signed myself up for the Beta for Elder Scrolls Online, hoping it could redeem MMOs in my eyes. Short answer, it did. Now for the long answer.
The world is beautiful. It’s not quite Skyrim beautiful, but it’s not far off, and it’s way above Oblivion beautiful; thoroughly impressive. You start off on a couple of smaller islands, so you can’t wander into any too dangerous from the get go, but have enough space to explore. I quickly started doing what I would always do in Skyrim and the like – I’d be scouting the map and planning my route based on which quests I had to resolve in which areas. In the process, I would explore, get lost, find a beautiful view, a hidden treasure chest, and stumble onto a new quest. Every quest I took was “Elder Scrolls” level of smart – you know the characters you’re working for, you choose how much you like them and trust them, and can work together with them or double-cross them… it was an immersive experience and the voice acting (including the voices of Michael Gambon and John Cleese) was very high quality.
Combat is a little more simplistic than previous Elder Scrolls games, but that makes sense. The previous ones were a solo affair, the point here is to work as a team and develop a strategy that plays to your combined strengths. Still, playing alone wasn’t impossible, just a little slower and you had to be a little more careful. Where the game was strong was in its application of levelling up, where skills being used grow more quickly than those that weren’t, so your character grows the way you play. I decided to make a carbon copy of my old Skyrim archer/conjurer, and it developed in a similar way – the main difference being that you don’t buy spellbooks, but use skill points to learn new spells and abilities as you go.
Crafting was a bloody pain, and filled with a series of confusing menus and tabs. You needed about 5 different things to make a good armor, and the difference between Styles, Traits and Enchantments was a struggle for me. For the MMO crafter who loves variety, this is a comprehensive system, but it’s a pain for a casual player who just wants a new hat.
Finally, the bit I worried most about – interacting with others. Maybe it’s that it’s still in Beta, and so everyone there just wants to get on with each other. Maybe it’s that the Elder Scrolls series attracts a more mature set of players, but I felt accepted and supported and helped as I explored the world my own way.
To conclude, the game is like playing any other Elder Scrolls game, which is a huge compliment, as the whole series is excellent. Want to explore the whole world of Tamriel? Now you can.
The game launches on the 4th of April on PC and Mac, and on an unspecified date in June for PS4 and XBone. If the above sounds like your kind of thing, you can head over to their websiteand pre-order now!