A Closer Look at The Elder Scrolls Online

Friday, 9 November 2012 02:18 GMT By Mark Limburg

The development team on The Elder Scrolls Online have released a documentary-style introduction to their upcoming MMO, and it looks as excellent as we were both hoping and expecting. You have have already seen the video, but let’s take a closer look and give it some analysis.

So, what can we take from this visual feast? Let’s break it down into smaller servings to help us digest it all.

Visually, it looks excellent. If you’re running Skyrim on a mid to low end PC or perhaps console, I would say the MMO is looking to be identical to that in many ways. Of course, this early vision doesn’t provide any information on just how far we may be able to turn up the visuals but even so, the game does look very nice indeed. From sweeping vistas to the attention on minor details, the world you will be experiencing looks immersive and deep.

The lore of The Elder Scrolls is arguably one of the core features of the series, and that focus continues. Set some 1,000 years before the events of Skyrim, all that searching for tomes and reading of books will pay off with a deeper understanding of the realm you will find yourself in. This provides a great wealth of story and potential.

Exploration will be a key dynamic, giving those with wanderlust the rewards they seek through finding new lands and moments. With questing being interwoven with exploration, you have the opportunity to decide not just where but how you will face the world. With such a large environment, I think it’s wise to incorporate this as a core mechanic although the concern can be raised about “travel fatigue” that haunts many MMOs. Pacing will be key here, and I fully expect more details in this regard to arise soon.

Combat and interaction seems to be continue what we expect from an Elder Scroll game, with less attention to button bars and more on mouse controlled immediacy. Whilst this seems to be the norm for previous games and appears such here, other screens do give a different viewpoint. I would expect things to be a mixture of both, where basic interactivity is akin to previous Elder Scroll games, but that complexity of options be available for those who wish it. I just don’t see end game raiding to boil down to a few hours of mashing one mouse button or the other. The same applied to near all other MMOs, the basic stuff is just that – basic. But when you really need to get into it, when dealing with the challenge of complex game mechanics, it will require a different style of play.

In a similar vein of previous games, character creation and development begins with the choice of one of nice races and your starting class. Expansion from there will expand depending on how you play your game, as much as where you send your points. Can you reset your points if you don’t like the direction you’re heading in though, or to help fill a need in your guild? Perks will come back into the mix as well, including such significant concepts as being a Vampire or Werewolf.

Mega-Server! We know it’s possible, EVE Online has proven it and others have followed. Shifting your server technology from individual shards to a more “cloud” like dynamic is a challenge technically but the rewards are significant from a social aspect. From getting online with friends to building the guild you want, there is nothing else that makes as much sense. One of the critical aspects for any MMO to succeed is getting that social angle right, and it looks like they’ve been addressing that as well.

The end game sounds like typical fare, it must be said. It will come down to how it is implemented for it to shine. Raiding dungeons for loot, the staple diet for end game, seems to raise its all-too-familiar head but perhaps the focus on lore and experience can bring some change to that dynamic. The PvP side does sound exciting, if only for the three factions. Most of us MMO vetrans are pretty sick of the usual one side fighting another side, and it’s been well demonstrated that three factions battling on the same ground add a significant factor to both playing style and strategy. Not to mention siege weapons, taking towns and CROWNING YOURSELF AS AN EMPEROR.

Of course, PvP isn’t only for end game. It’s sounding like attention is being given to encouraging lower level characters to get in on that aspect of the game as well. I do wonder though, will they be fodder for other troops (CHARGE THE WALLS, BOYS!), in level specific areas, or perhaps they will embrace the temporary max level mechanic other MMOs have used successfully.

To sum up .. there is a lot to like so far, and things seem to be progressing very well. The video doesn’t so much as provide answers, as it does lead us to ask further questions and I’m quite sure that is the aim for the release. You can expect much more vision and discussion in this space, and I for one, am very much looking forward to it.

Thanks to AusGamers for the heads up.

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