E3 2012: The Elder Scrolls Online Impressions

At one point or another, Elder Scrolls fans have asked the question. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could play this with friends? Well, I don’t think The Elder Scrolls Online is quite what most people had envisioned, but does that mean it’s not worth a shot? We got an inside look at it at E3, and we’ll pass our impressions on to you and let you decide for yourself.

First thing to get out of the way is the fact that The Elder Scrolls Online is not a traditional Elder Scrolls game. For one, it’s primarily a third person game, and secondarily it’s an MMO. It also takes place one thousand years before any of the previous Elder Scrolls games. The developer is different as well, being from Zenimax Online, formerly Mythic who created Dark Age of Camelot. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain a lot of the classic elements that we’ve become familiar with I the Elder Scrolls universe.

The obvious is of course the use of the Elder Scrolls world. This means all of the various nations of Tamriel will be making a return in one big game… Including some that have never been seen before. Of course, the Lore will also come over intact for the most part. Clearly, certain parts of the Lore won’t have occurred during the current games setting… The biggest being that the Septim Empire does not yet exist.

That said, all of its constituent parts are all there, from Hamerfell to Morrowind, to Skyrim, to Daggerfell and Cyrodiil. Each location will have major cities and settlements they are known for and are part of one of the major factions. These include the Dagerfell Covenant; composed of Bretons, Redguards and Orcs. The Ebonheart Pact; composed by theDunmer, Nords and Argonians. And the Aldmeri Dominion; composed of theAltmer, Bosmer and Khajiit. Cyrodiil will actually server as a separate faction of its own, that the other three are fighting for control of. They will not be a joinable faction.

You see, the story in this game revolves around a civil war among all these factions, each of which is vying for control of Cyrodiil and the Imperial Throne. So Cyrodiil will be a PvP area where your factions will go to fight and take over the major cities, such as Kvatch and Bravil, in order to use them as strongholds and hopefully win control of the imperial city art sme point.

However, things get even more complex, as Cyrodiil has allied themselves with Molag Bal, the Daedric Prince of Domination and Enslavement. He has unleashed his undead army onto the world, and is intent on conquering all of Tamriel. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s also stolen your soul… Which is your personal story in the game, as you try to get it back. The storytelling will be supplemented by the fact that all NPC’s will be voiced.

Visually the game is unfinished, so I wouldn’t put too much effort into judging it. It looks fine, but is not up to the level of visuals of Skyrim. Which is to be expected as the game world is significantly larger and more populous. Even so, we can tell there is definitely a change in the art direction. It has a slightly more cartoony look, with the characters looking more like something out of Fable than an Elder Scrolls game. The interface is at least minimal, with most of the menu items being hidden except for when you hover over them to use them.

Questing out with friends is of course one of the major portions of an MMO and the game will support instanced dungeons for just you and your friends. However, if you all decide you want to play in larger raids, there will be non-instanced public dungeons. These dungeons will also feature things like traps to disable and puzzles to solve, to add some variety to the gameplay.

Combat and gameplay also has its fair share of influence from the previous titles. For one, unlike most MMO’s, The Elder Scrolls Online will feature a real-time combat system. This will work along with your standard setup of Health, Magicka and Stamina that have been a staple of Elder Scrolls gameplay. Power attacks and other abilities will be making a return. However in a concession to MMO gameplay many will work with global cooldowns.

You’ll also be able to assist other players who are not in your party and even combine abilities, which will net you rewards including more loot. For instance you can heal them, however, you can also combine an attack with say a fire spell to enhance it and do more area of effect damage. You can of course do that with your own party members as well.

Combat is also interesting in that you’re also rewarded for how well you do it. They have implemented something called Finesse. Comboing, attacking at the right times, using the right abilities and fighting well overall will net you greater rewards at that end of combat, as you stack up finesse points. This will also be a necessity as NPC enemies are based on player builds, meaning enemies could potentially have any combination of abilities any player character could have.

Combat will also include PvP, which is sure to delight many MMO fans. With the PvP battles planned to allow for battlers with hundreds of players at once- As we mentioned this will largely serve to further the civil war story. More information will come on this later.

Aside from all this we were walked through a story quest. You can get all kinds of sidequests from NPC’s and in this case it was in regards to finding out how to defeat a werewolf army, and specifically their leader. In this case, you actually had to complete a second quest to get the answers, and this involved time travel to fight in a massive battle where had been defeated before. In the course of the quest, you’re presented with a choice of rescuing a friend or going on to fight the final boss. These kinds of decisions will actually allow for branching paths in your online narrative.

So there’s a lot to take in here. There should be, as this game has been a long time in the making. So take a minute, watch the trailer and let it all sink in. We’ll have plenty more details in the coming months, but I think with what we have you should have a good idea of what’s to come and whether you’ll be adventuring for the throne of Tamriel and your soul.


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