We’ve scoured through the full story in Game Informer and come up with all kinds of juicy details that might have you re-evaluating your initial impressions, whatever they were.
People And Places
As previously known, there are three factions in the game, each of them counting three of Tamriel’s nine races:
- The Ebonheart Pact includes the Dunmer (Dark Elves), Argonians, and Nords.
- The Aldmeri Dominion is comprised of the Altmer (High Elves), Bosmer (Wood Elves), and Khajiit.
- The Daggerfall Covenant is made up of the Bretons, Orcs, and Redguard.
While every province of Tamriel will be available for exploration, some will only be partially represented, to leave room for expansions.
Players will also be able to interact with the game’s iconic guilds, such as the Mages’, Fighters’, and Thieves Guilds, as well as the Dark Brotherhood.
How about public, open-air dungeons and dynamic events? TES Online will have both, with the dynamic events coming in the form of Dark Anchors, which plunge down from the sky, causing all sorts of trouble wherever they land. At the very least ZeniMax seems to understand the current MMO climate insofar as grouping dynamics are involved.
As for quests themselves, the game will be “hubless,” meaning that you won’t collect quests from a central area, go out, kill things, and come back for rewards ad infinitum.
Instead, each area will be a kind of “self-contained adventure zone” that you can explore — or not — as you please, and when you finish, sa,y by killing a boss at the end of a tough dungeon, an NPC at the end of the line gives you your reward. You’ll be given some suggestions by NPCs on where to go, but it looks like the game will reward freeform exploration more than strict theme-park station-to-station gameplay.
Finally, there wasn’t much said about classes, except that they’ll be more strict than they were in Skyrim. Perhaps something more like Oblivion‘s or Morrowind‘s class system will be implemented.
Then there’s combat, which I really like in TES games and was really hoping wouldn’t be too heavily “MMO-fied” for TES Online. Then I read this:
The reality of network latency and massively multiplayer games prevents The Elder Scrolls Online from following the real-time combat model that has driven the series since its inception.
When I saw that, my heart sank. When I later saw references to a “hotbar” and “third-person combat,” and a page full of things that won’t be in the game — you can’t become a werewolf of vampire or collect daedric artifacts, for instance — it fell even further.
Then, when they started to describe the combat system in detail, I felt a little more hopeful… or at least not like the game would be a complete clone of other MMOs.
A new innovation, stamina, is key. You’ll use it to block, sprint, interrupt, and break crowd control abilities — and that last one is what makes all the difference. As mentioned later,
Imagine a PvP battle where a line of fighters charges… they’d be slowed, stunned, and torn apart by enemy mages en route. Here, they may be out of stamina… but a full-health melee specialist in the middle of archers and wizards is going to cause trouble.
That, my friends, doesn’t suck.
As for the hotbar and the notion of “click-to-target” combat, it’s said that TES Online will have a “small standard MMO hotbar” with a “handful” of skills, so that each can be “awesome,” including an “ultimate” ability. Sounds more like League of Legends than World of Warcraft to me.
Oh, and one character can drop an oil slick while another lights it on fire. Nifty!
The three factions will fight over the Imperial province of Cyrodiil, with each striving to crown one of its players emperor.
Yes, you can become emperor.
No, it doesn’t give you any exceptional power.
For the most part, the “emperor” will just be the player who contributed the most to his faction taking the Imperial City. ZeniMax compares it to sitting atop a leaderboard more than anything else.
The actual battle for the throne over the central province sounds not unlike other games’ realm vs. realm battles — no surprise considering that former Dark Age of Camelot dev Matt Firor is TES Online‘s game director.
In addition to the big objectives and keeps, players will also be able to take smaller farms and mines to further their faction’s control and score. Toss in siege weapons and PvP arenas, and there should be plenty to keep PvP-ers coming back for more.
So Far, Sort Of Good
The community seems to be split on its opinion of the game. There’s a lot of “It’s just going to be World of Warcraft with an Elder Scrolls skin” sentiment going around.
I’ll admit, I thought the same going in.
While most people can understand the need for balancing elements — sorry, but you just can’t make this in an online game — stripping away other hallmarks of the Elder Scrolls franchise for the sake of making an MMO just doesn’t sit well with veteran fans of the series — like me.
But it seems like ZeniMax is aware of the issues people have with cookie-cutter MMOs and are at least trying to address them with some interesting combat dynamics. We’re still a long ways from seeing how they work in practice, but at least one long-time Elder Scrolls fan is cautiously optimistic.
If you’re still on the fence, I heartily suggest reading the original Game Informer article and judging for yourself. We’ve still got a long ways to go, but the road seems a little less bumpier.