The lights are on
An extended session of hands-on time with the hotly
anticipated MMO brought us to the familiar city from Elder Scrolls II, and we
got a taste of combat and questing.
Hot on the heels of the announced console versions of Elder
Scrolls Online, we've had a chance to once again sit down with an early build
of the game here at E3. A few weeks back, Tim Turi explored one approach to the
large demo space, so I took a different route this time around, and spent some extra time exploring the character creator, abilities, and a separate quest line.
First, I dug into the detailed options for the character
creator. In addition to choosing a race, face and body morphing options help to
assure that each character should look distinct within the game world; these options are significantly more detailed than many MMOs. I opted
for the Dragon Knight class, which appears to be a multi-purpose fighter class
with a wide variety of ability options.
The demo popped me a little past the starter area of the
game, right into the heart of Daggerfall, though the game's setting several thousand
years before the other Elder Scrolls games means that the city looks decidedly different
than it does in later years (in Elder Scrols II: Daggerfall). My character
begins at level six, so I immediately hop in and explore the game's level-up
and ability screen. Here, I'm greeted by abilities spread across three distinct
trees. For my dragon knight, I can select abilities in the Ardent Flame,
Draconic Power, and Earthen Heart groups -- each of which has multiple abilities
that can be leveled up. Powers map to a small action bar at the bottom of the
screen, keeping your options limited to a small number of five or six special
moves in each battle, in addition to a standard left-mouse click melee swing. As I move
through the city and begin a series of quests, enemy combatants regularly
arrive, and help show off the fast-moving combat. Battles are highly
focused on movement, blocking, positioning, and smart power use; the whole
affair feels more action-oriented than most MMOs.
During my hour of playtime, I make my way through a number
of small sidequests, as well as an extensive mission chain that sees my
character thwarting an assassination attempt on the local king. Questing feels
more directed and story-driven than many MMOs, and less focused on "kill this
many foes" or "collect this many objects." Even so, in the balance between
traditional MMOs and the familiar Elder Scrolls games, the game undeniably
feels closer to an MMO than its single-player RPG forebears.
As my demo ends, the king has been saved, and I head out of
Daggerfall to help save a nearby hamlet from attack. The Elder Scrolls Online
is an undeniably pretty MMO, with great looking characters, monsters, and
environments, and the established world of Tamriel should be an exciting place
to explore. After finally getting some hands-on time with the game, I'm most
enthusiastic about the combat mechanics, and the way they combine strategic use
of powers with a decidedly action game feel. Like any MMO, even an extended demo only scratches the surface of The Elder Scrolls Online's feature set. Nonetheless, I came away excited about what I played, and eager to see how Zenimax Online continues to build out the ancient history of one of my favorite fantasy worlds.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
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