The Elder Scrolls Online
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 Scrolls 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.