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The Elder Scrolls Online's Quest Storylines Impress

Back in June 2012 we announced Bethesda’s new MMORPG, The Elder Scrolls Online. Since then, we’ve been able to explore one of the starting zones extensively (read Adam’s preview for an in-depth look). During my recent hands-on time with the game, I chased down an intriguing sidequest that hooked me with more than just the promise of XP and better gear.

The playable section of the game starts me off with a level six character. A ZeniMax Online Studios developer fills in for the tutorial, and I begin crafting my character. I create a spellcaster, whose repertoire includes flinging fireballs, summoning an imp companion, and calling down lightning strikes from above. With my spell selection limited by my low level, I settle into a reliable routine. I put my fledgling skills to the test in a straightforward dungeon, which I clear out easily. My prize is an overpowered staff (the developer says it's being balanced), which makes the rest of the demonstration a cakewalk.

I wander along the main road, which stretches out from a nearby castle city. I accept a quest from a man with a ghost problem. This frightened individual has inherited an estate that lays mostly in ruin. Nevertheless, he’s interested in the land and wants me to drive out a malicious spirit. This sparks a chain of quests that sweetens my barebones combat options with an engaging story about love, betrayal, and revenge.

The local fauna has invaded the ruined estate. These winged pests are easily distracted by my imp helper, freeing me up to rifle through the rubble for clues about the ghost. Instead of collecting meaningless quest objectives, I uncover entries from a heart-breaking diary. Each page tells a unique section of the tale, complete with voice acting (which is a robotic placeholder voice at this point in development). I learn of an affair between a young noble and the family’s servant girl. The noble shows his love to the servant by giving her a family heirloom. The matriarch finds the prize in the servant girls’ quarters and accuses her of theft. The noble refuses to speak up in the servant’s defense, and she’s then locked away in a tower as punishment.

The rest of the quest involves tracking down a magic user with spectral experience, further investigation of the ruins, and a showdown with the enraged ghost. Without giving the twist away, I learn the servant girl was in possession of something precious and made a pact with dark forces to ensure its safety. In Elder Scrolls Online, characters you help may return to assist you later. I’m curious to see whether this tale continues down the road. 

As you can tell by my impressions here, Elder Scrolls Online’s storytelling has left an impact on me. I was more impressed with the tale told in this brief quest chain than I ever was in my hundreds of hours exploring World of Warcraft's barebones stories. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s waning community proves that players need more that good storylines to keep them engaged with an MMO, but I’m hopeful for Elder Scrolls Online. I walked away from my hands-on time eager to jump back in hunt down more fascinating stories when the game hits PC and Mac later this year.

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Comments
  • I'm really on the fence about this, I really think they should have just made another single player game, but who knows this might end up being really good.
  • hope this comes out before the ps4
  • I'm still excited for ESO. The questlines that I played through were easily a cut above standard MMO fare, and this sounds awesome too.
  • Mod
    Well, looky looky! If Star Wars and Runescape couldn't take down World of Bore--Warcraft (Ooh, look! A purple cloak! Zzz...), maybe Elder Scrolls and it's seemingly amazing story and combat can. It seems to be a very fresh breath of air than many MMORPGs are right now. Here's to hoping I can Dragonshout other players into the horizon.
  • I'm not that into MMOs generally, but I'm a sucker for good stories. I might actually give this one a chance.
  • I'm really hoping that this game turns out well.

  • Let's hope this has a very steep subscription model. I'm thinking maybe $20 a month? Please Bethesda, don't let us off with out paying you monthly. Sure there are people who would only buy it if there is no subscription, but those aren't people you want playing your game. See, you want rich, devoted people exclusively playing your game. Not some 17 year-old, beanie wearing, Guild Wars 2 punk acting like he doesn't have to pay a monthly fee to enjoy a game. Don't stop there, though. It would be great if you could include an in-game store that is extremely expensive. I'm talking $150 for a decent longsword. That way I can buy the best gear, while keep the exclusivity of the items. I wanna use the best of the best, but I don't got hundreds of hours to blow on some "game". I'm too important for that.
  • I'm on the fence. The concept is amazing... the execution is not what I would have wanted exactly. Looks more like Guild Wars 2 than an Elder Scrolls game. I guess the type of subscription or lack thereof will decide it for me.

  • As many have said, i'm not usually a fan of MMOs, but this one is capturing my attention more and more. I'm actually excited

  • Every piece of news I read about this game makes me excited to play it. Problem is MMOs always get me excited yet almost never pan out. I doubt I will ever be as captivated in one of these games as I was when I first played wow but a man can dream. This one is definitely looking good so far.
  • Isn't there a similar story like that in Oblivion? Anyways, I remember that leaked gameplay video of TES Online and it looked kind of bad. I'm not talking about the graphics either. Hopefully this is a better build or something.
  • I want to like this, but I need to see more, test it out for myself would be nicer yet: but Bethesda has a nasty habit of releasing games broken, so I hope this wont be the case for this MMO; but it will be :(
  • FWIW, that leaked gameplay video was hilariously terrible and not at all indicative of the experience I had when I played that preview build a few months ago. Imagine watching your older brother who had never played an action game trying to pick up DMC cold. And as a bonus you're watching it at crappy YouTube quality with no narration or explanation of what's going on. Don't judge ESO by that video.
  • Im hopeful later on down the line this will come to the PS4 or Xbox one, PS4 more. We know that Skyrim was not a great port to the current consoles. no where near as good as pc or mac, but I remain hopeful. Still, a great series and will definitely play it once I can get the cash to buy either one of those consoles if a good port is possible or a proper gaming pc for it.
  • Who actually pays attention to quest stories in Elder Scrolls games? I'm pretty sure most players just run around and press the button to scroll through the text so they can add another XP-producing quest to their list.
  • I listened to Global Communication's 76:14 today. My life will never be the same. Anyway the game looks awesome.

  • This game had me at Elder Scrolls and MMO.

    ZeniMax is keeping it as close to the core Elder Scrolls games as possible while morphing it into an MMO. I will finally be able to travel across Tamriel with my friends. Thank you ZeniMax.

  • Just applied for the beta.

    I'm not sure if the gameplay will be as awesome and open (and buggy) as any BGS Elder Scrolls title, but Elder Scrolls lore is awesome and this is a must for me.

  • Quests are all well and good for some, personally i never cared about it. If the Gameplay is boring I won't buy it.

  • I would appreciate it if Bethesda put a new spin on this genre. I mean I love the ES universe, but MMORPGs haven't really appealed to me.

    Asking for an MMO to play like Skyrim/Assassins Creed may be asking too much... but maybe not for next gen.

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