When I woke up this morning and found my Feedly overloaded with articles about Zenimax’s upcoming MMORPG, Elder Scrolls Online, I decided only one thing could be done: I would have to read them all and report my findings to you. Here are several choices quotes from the previews I read today that hold me a lot more about TESO than I knew before:
Rock, Paper, Shotgun What Happens If You Play Elder Scrolls Online Like Skyrim?
Unfortunately, my mighty Xenorc The Warrior Princess didn’t quite cover enough ground to really break out of her box, but apparently unique skill lines will come from all over: level-based progression, special quests, PVP, world events, etc.
There weren’t any crazy AI shenanigans or moments of utterly unexpected player interaction. For better or worse, everything functioned as expected. I felt like I was playing a competent – and in some places, even fairly impressive – MMO, but The Elder Scrolls’ trademark spark was dim, sometimes invisible against a backdrop of pre-scripted heroics and canned conversations.
I never felt like I was roaming this giant, continuous world so much as I was clomping through a series of rigidly defined zones.
Enemy AI, however, might just steal the show. In short, every single baddie is crafted with heightened battlefield awareness, making basic notions of aggro look downright archaic. Many of them are smart enough to work together, pooling both skills and resources to devise on-the-fly strategies to cope with whatever your party’s dishing out.
Unfortunately, however, when pressed further, lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle told me that player-centric racial recognition won’t really be present in TESO.
You also won’t be forced into Tank/Healer/DPS roles. Adhering to said roles will help players manage the game’s hardest enemies, according to the devs.
Your class determines three of the Skill Lines you have access to, while the others, universal across all characters, are based on weapon types, fighting styles, armor classes, and magic schools.
The models seemed proportioned correctly, and the textures, characters, and architecture struck just the right balance between fantasy and gritty realism we’ve seen in the series’ history.
In a particularly extreme example, a group of necromancers sacrificed one of their own in a ritual to summon a powerful, undead bruiser.
In ESO, you choose one of three alliances, each with different zones, quests, and stories to explore. Once you hit level 50, you can choose to journey to another alliance’s territory and experience a more difficult (and rewarding) version of those areas.
Small groups of friends can spend countless hours refining strategies and accruing rewards in the nearly 30 different dungeon experiences ESO will have at launch.
You can actually go into the adventure zones with a small group and accomplish some goals, but there are large areas in these maps dedicated to larger group experiences.
He did confirm that there will be gear progression at the endgame in ESO, stating, “The game is going to get more difficult, and the gear is going to get better to match that.”
There are no damage numbers or debuff indicators for enemies beyond what is visibly happening to them. At present, the game could do with better feedback – I can get behind the idea of toning down typical MMO on-hit fireworks, but they need to be replaced with something and at the moment it’s not quite there.
Its resemblance to a traditional MMO quickbar is deceptive, because skills in TESO are not cooldown based. Your ability to spam skills is entirely based on your available health, stamina or magicka, and as such combat is more about effective use of those resources than it is about settling into a set rhythm.
Active skills level up through use, and at rank five you can spend another skill point to ‘morph’ these spells and abilities into one of two variants. An example we were shown was a Daedric summoning skill that could be altered to conjure either an exploding scamp or a hulking clannfear.
Monsters also have special abilities. Spriggans will possess and enhance any woodland predators that stray nearby, and spiders will eat their slain allies to gain strength. Lovely.
Other players’ companions are rendered as anonymous mercenaries, preserving your immersion in a way that evades TOR-style companion clone syndrome.
Massively Hands-on with The Elder Scrolls Online
You can build your Sorcerer around using a mix of heavy and medium armor while wielding a greatsword.
While your class will determine some of the abilities you acquire, it doesn’t lock you into a particular playstyle or role.
Though ESO employs a traditional questing system — complete with speaking to NPCs, accepting tasks, and turning them in for rewards — you aren’t put on rails that lead you from quest hub to quest hub. There’s a main storyline that you can direct your attention to immediately, or you can put it on the back burner and occupy yourself with myriad side missions.
It’s become common to regard these projects with a healthy dose of skepticism, but I’m happy to say that for ESO, the proof is in the pudding.