I'm not huge MMO guy. In fact, aside from a month floundering around in World of Warcraft two years ago, I’d say I’ve never really given one a fair shake. The Elder Scrolls Online is poised to change all of that, by taking my admiration for the Elder Scrolls franchise, and my love of exploring rich fantasy settings, and combining it into something epic.
For anyone coming into The Elder Scrolls Online off the back of 2011’s Skyrim, chances are you’ll feel right at home. The way the game feels and plays is remarkable similar to Elder Scrolls the fifth, but with changes to how you level up, not to mention the emphasis on MMO-related mechanics such as PvE, PvP and player guilds, the game feels like an entirely different, albeit familiar, experience.
Elder Scrolls Online begins as you’d expect, by creating a character from any one of the series’ different races; only this time they’re all separated into three distinct factions - The Aldmeri Dominion (High Elf, Wood Elf and Khajiit), The Daggerfall Covenant (Bretons, Redguards and Orcs) and The Ebonheart Pact (Nords, Dark Elf, Argonians). After selecting which race you’d like to be, you select one of the four specialised classes, before customising your character’s appearance. Online allows you to have up to eight different characters at one time, meaning you can trail-run other character builds if you so wish.
To properly gauge the scope of Elder Scrolls Online, think back to your first time playing Oblivion, and the amazing feeling of “go anywhere, do anything” you felt emerging from the sewers.
From here, the opening hours are structured like previous Elder Scrolls games, albeit in a far more scaled back fashion. Whereas Oblivion and Skyrim, allow its player to start exploring its vast world within the first hour, Online sees you follow a structured opening, before dropping you into but a small fraction of the world (which appears to alter depending on your race; I was shackled to some sort of island off the coast of Skyrim). The rest of Tamriel, I’m willing to assume, will be closed off to you until you progress a few hours more into the game.
Exploration is, as it always has been in Elder Scrolls games, still greatly encouraged. While the main story will strongly push you forward, loading screen messages and random quest markers that pop up on-screen will tempt you away from the forest trail, and into the wilderness. It’s during these moment of random exploration Online is at its strongest, and much like the games before, exploration will reward you with powerful new weapon, armour or fabled treasures. And thanks to Online’s MMO-nature, friends can explore the rugged lands of Tamriel together for the first time ever.
The Elder Scrolls Online is currently progressing through beta weekends, ahead of its PC and Mac release on April 4. It will launch on PS4 and Xbox One in June.
The basic interface is simpler than most games in the genre, you don't need to reply on other players as it suggests, and it has been designed to run, and run well, on a five-year-old MacBook.
- Ben Salter, last year.
Sadly, most of my first weekend with the beta was spent exploring alone; which resulted in quite a few deaths, including one embarrassing incident involving a mudcrab. At one point I decided to ignore all my active quests, and simply began just wandering around. It was wholly freeing and it made me feel like I was in total control of my game experience. Before long, I stumbled upon a Fighter’s Guild guildhall, and after introductions were made, and my Dark Elf was initiated into the guild, I soon embarked on my first real guild-related quest; warn two fellow members of impending danger.
So off I went, across the Ash Mountain of Stonefall towards my destination. Along the way I ventured off my path twice; once to investigate a cave that turned out to be a convenient place to craft new weapons and armour, far removed from the safety of the town Davon’s Watch; another to help a band of warriors block a series of scamp-ridden caves. To properly gauge the scope of Elder Scrolls Online, think back to your first time playing Oblivion, and the amazing feeling of “go anywhere, do anything” you felt emerging from the sewers; it’s not entirely the same, in that that feeling isn’t there as soon, but the further you dig into Online, the stronger its hold on you becomes.
Despite Online's sheer scope, and massive world, performance wise it ran remarkable smooth even in its current beta form. Aside from some niggling issues like control inputs becoming unresponsive, or audio dropping altogether, my ageing early-2011 Macbook Pro had no issues running Elder Scrolls Online (though I did set everything to ‘low’). This, I feel, is great news for anyone who owns a Mac, and thinks their machine won’t be capable of running the game, and isn’t willing to wait for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version coming after the PC/Mac April release.
Elder Scrolls Online does well to uphold the quality, and reputation of the franchise, and indeed should have no trouble capturing the attention of long-time fans. However I don’t think the question on people’s mind leading up to the game’s launch is about its overall quality, but instead the monthly subscription fee. From my short time with the game, I’d be prepared to drop $15 a month, providing I could find the time to drop into it, to explore the rich landscape of Tamriel.
What are you most looking forward to about The Elder Scrolls Online?