There’s a healthy amount of skepticism that comes with any MMO announcement. Rightfully so, considering so many companies take the plunge and few come out on top. So it was only natural that when Elder Scrolls Online was first announced that the biggest reaction I could muster was a light shrug and went on with my day. On the other hand, if anyone has the resources to make a grand MMO experience in this day and age, it would be Bethesda. It was time to settle this by seeing the demonstration up close and personal.
The first thing that was shown were the various landscapes that make up the Elder Scrolls Online universe. This facet of the game certainly looks fantastic, with some impressive water effects and areas that come to life. While the game was panning over these nice looking locales, it was confirmed that the game takes place 1000 years before Skyrim, though you will be visiting areas from all the games in the series. Once all of the graphical posturing was over with, the actual gameplay began, and the part of the game that was a little less impressive.
The interface looks strikingly similar to World of Warcraft and other games like it, though it appeared the abilities at your disposal were limited to six (I’m hoping this is only for the purposes of the demonstration). Also, the entirety of the gameplay was done from a third person perspective; it didn’t appear as though you are able to switch to a first person mode. Which is a shame, because that has become a staple and the character models aren’t all that impressive to look at.
The combat looked a little generic to me, though the ability to block attacks and hold down the attack button for a power attack will seemingly add some much needed variety to the battle system. As you might expect, there is PVP planned for the game, including areas where it appeared as though there was a massive brawl going. If getting ganked by other players isn’t your style, you’ll be able to participate in public dungeons as well as group instances, heroic instances, and raid dungeons for large groups.
One thing I did find interesting about the quest chains is the example they showed about a werewolf boss that must be dealt with either by going back into the past and learning his weakness, or confronting him outright and winging it. Depending on how you choose to tackle this quest, you may end up meeting or saving NPC’s that you would not have otherwise encountered had you done things the other way, thus leading to different quests. MMORPG’s generally don’t need “replay value” added in this way, though it was an interesting approach to quest design.
I’ll be blunt, despite some cool things they are doing with the quests, this game sounds just like every other MMO on the market. Which is a shame, because five years is a long time to sink into a project like this and I would like to see them succeed. There’s still some time between now and when it releases so hopefully ZeniMax will have something more innovative to show off when additional details get released. Elder Scrolls Online will be launched in 2013 for the PC and Mac OS.