E3 2012: The Elder Scrolls Online
After five years of work hidden behind closed doors, Bethesda and ZeniMax Online were ready to give a detailed demonstration of its upcoming MMO based on The Elder Scrolls series of games. These games were already compared to MMO’s to begin with, as each one provided a gigantic world to explore, many options for character choice and citizens who have little-to-no personality ready to offer quests galore. At first glance, it would seem as though this title doesn’t necessarily push boundaries towards the MMO in the same way that a typical Elder Scrolls sequel improves upon its predecessor. A closer look reveals details that seek to refine more than innovate, and there are some excellent ideas within it.
The most notable change that The Elder Scrolls brings to the genre comes in the form of its PVP. Not only is it seeking to one-up World of Warcraft by featuring not only three competing factions, but also massive battles with 100 players. And not only that, but the best player would become Emperor of the land. Nifty features, but at the moment the only playable version of its PVP gives off the appearance of a clustered mess of spells and slashing. Down the line, however, it’s expected that there will be more methods of PVP available, as opposed to giant team deathmatches.
One important thing to note is it’s combat is not a complete World of Warcraft clone. There is the hotbar with skills to be attached to, but on top of that is a real-time combat system that utilizes the base abilities of the standard Elder Scrolls games. For instance, there is the ability to block attacks at will, as opposed to relying on hidden systems to dictate when you’ve blocked or dodged. Blocking an attack uses up stamina, but it allows you to be able to fight an enemy more tactically than running up to your foe and watching your cooldowns expire.
Another vast helping is how the story is presented. Story in regards to MMO’s has always been a mixed bag. World of Warcraft features some of the worst storytelling of all video games, primarily because it doesn’t matter. The Elder Scrolls Online seeks to refine how even the minor quest is dealt with.
The example that was given features a quest line that leads towards an area populated by the undead. By completing the quest line the problem that caused the spirits unrest was dealt with, and thus there are no more undead walking around. Now, while World of Warcraft has used scenarios in which the environment changes due to storyline, these changes were very specific and small. Such as the beginning of the death knight classes storyline, or the majority of Cataclysm.
Having this kind of thing featured in the whole game allowing your choices and actions to actually matter and change the world around you makes for an excellent step in the right direction. And the ability to explore all of the worlds of The Elder Scrolls in one game is an interesting prospect. Even if it’s thousands of years prior to the storyline of the other Elder Scrolls games.