I am a big Skyrim fan. Out of all the games I have ever played, I have probably spent the most total gameplay hours playing Skyrim. It is the kind of game that has immense replay value, I have started new characters multiple times and I’m sure I will create another one in the future. So it’s safe to say I was very excited to receive an invite to the beta of The Elder Scrolls Online. I spent a few hours over the weekend playing through the beta and here is a summary of the game and some of my thoughts.
The Elder Scrolls Online takes place roughly 1,000 years before the events of Skyrim. Tamriel is in a period of instability and Molag Bal, the Daedric Prince of corruption and domination, has taken the opportunity to try and drag all of Tamriel into his realm of Coldharbour with the use of devices called Dark Anchors. You begin the game in one of the realms of Oblivion, locked in a cell. You have been captured and Molag Bal has stripped you of your soul as a sacrifice. Your task (along with every other player) is to escape from Oblivion and reach Tamriel, where the game truly begins. And from here you, the Soulless One, can choose to take on the main quest line or meet up with a bunch of friends and take on quests together. Every decision you make affects the fate of Tamriel.
There are three major factions in The Elder Scrolls Online. Those factions, made up of the different races found throughout Tamriel, are the Aldmeri Dominion, the Daggerfall Covenant, and the Ebonheart Pact. The race you choose effects which faction you will be a part of. Altmer (High Elves), Bolmer (Wood Elves) and Khajiit are make up the Aldmeri Dominion, Orsimer (Orcs), Bretons and Redguard are the Daggerfall Covenant and the Ebonheart Pact consists of Dunmer (Dark Elves), Argonians and Nords. Other factions, some of which will only be available after launch, include the Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood. I spent my time playing as a Wood Elf. Thankfully, your choice of race and (lack of choice of) faction doesn’t affect your choice of class. Templar, Sorcerer, Nightblade or DragonKnight are the choices at hand. My Wood Elf was a Nightblade because I enjoy playing stealth with a bow. Feedback from the in game chat described the Templar as a very powerful class. Templar is without a doubt the most diverse class, with the ability to tank, partake in crowd control or act as a healer. If you enjoy the role of a mage in other MMOs, then Sorcerer is the choice for you. Dragon Knight can dish out some serious damage, so that class would be your first choice if you enjoy being in the middle of the action. Each have benefits for different purposes and different players.
TESO feels very familiar to anyone who played Skyrim or Oblivion. You still have your stamina, health and magicka bars along the lower section of the screen and the compass along the upper section. The screen isn’t cluttered with a bunch of another windows or boxes like in other MMOs. Bethesda did this on purpose, to simplify the experience and replicate the look of the previous games. Another thing that makes TESO feel more like an RPG than an MMO is that the player feels like the chosen one, not just another citizen with nothing special going for them. The only downfall is that every player is the protagonist, the Soulless One destined to stop Molag Bal, so when you think about that the entire story has a big hole in it. Molag Bal is screwed! But if you overlook that, you can carry one happily and keep on questing. None of the early quests feel like simple, mindless quests, straight away what you are doing has some form of importance. You’re stopping a bunch of crazy guys from summoning a typhoon and investigating some skooma dealers. Unfortunately the third quest I attempted had a bug that stopped me from deactivating some traps so I was never able to complete it.
My time with The Elder Scrolls Online was fairly limited, due to only having access to the Beta over one short weekend. I certainly had a lot of fun, but I didn’t get to explore as deeply into the game as I would have liked so it’s difficult to pass judgement on more in depth aspects of the game, like skills and levelling. But for the most part, The Elder Scrolls Online just made me miss Skyrim. I think at this point in time, I would rather replay Skyrim again than play $15 a month to play The Elder Scrolls Online. There is a possibility that I may warm up to The Elder Scrolls Online, but I don’t think I’ll be pre-ordering it. I would really like to give it a try on the PS4 and I’d love to play it with friends, but only time will tell.
Bethesda Softworks and Zenimax Online Studios bring us the next chapter in the Elder Scrolls saga in April on the PC and Mac and later on in June on PS4 and Xbox One. Will you be picking up a copy?