The skeptics of the Elder Scrolls Online have made their voices heard, but now it’s time to argue why the Elder Scrolls Online will in fact live up to the Elder Scrolls name. Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. No matter which one of these games you played first, it was unlike anything that had come before it. You might have played RPGs in the past, but none of them as rich and rewarding as the Elder Scrolls series. Without sounding like a fan boy I freely admit it is my most favorite gaming series to date. Our single player experiences have been unforgettable up to this point and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. The Elder Scrolls series has been and will continue to hold it’s own in the single-player arena, I’m sure of it. My friends and I loved Tamriel with all it’s quirks and adventure. This was the only series where each of our experiences and adventures were so vastly different from player to player, yet the end result was always the same. One hell of a fantasy experience, but a lonely one. We would talk about our experiences with a tone of excitement, but that’s all we could do. Talk about them. Sure, soloing a dark dungeon full of vampires is great. And my dark brothers and sisters know that assassinations are best carried out alone. But I also want to go on epic fantasy adventures with other TES fans. I want to explore with them, spare with them, and frolic through the planes of Oblivion with them.
Now enters the Elder Scrolls Online with a development team that swears by the Nine they aren’t just making Elder Scrolls the WoW game. They promise us epic large scale battles we’ve only read about in those dusty old books. The Elder Scrolls Online promises to challenge the tired MMO formula that tells you that your character is skilled at putting on plate armor, yet try putting him in a cloth robe and he doesn’t understand which arm goes in first or something? Zenimax Online Studios is doing us the enormous favor of bringing Skyrim style combat to MMOs, freeing us from cooldown bars and opening the doors to an endless variety of combat styles. Taking what we love about our TES games and injecting in into the arm of the traditional MMO. All this and you know what the best part is? We have nothing to loose! Bethesda is still working on the single-player experiences we know and love while Zenimax Online Studios might just bring us the next MMO we divorce our lives for. So yes, as Elder Scrolls fans we should be nothing short of hopeful for the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online. There’s plenty of reasons it will make for an awesome MMORPG, with emphasis on the RPG. How do I know this? Back in October a group of MMO and Elder Scrolls vets were invited to Zenimax to have a meet and greet with the developers of ESO. These vets were podcasters, bloggers, YouTubers, and members of the top guilds. They all knew MMOs, but more importantly, they all knew why they loved Elder Scrolls games. Upon arrival at Zenimax Online Studios these vets were taken into a room lined with computers, and what was on the screen? The Elder Scrolls Online log in screen. They were all given the chance to play a hands on pre-Alpha version of the Elder Scrolls Online. Can you sense the tone of jealously I’m emitting right now? Although I wasn’t one of the lucky few, I have watched and listened to all the commentary that came out of that pre-Alpha test group. So, when I talk about the Elder Scrolls Online here, you know it’s coming from a reliable source. Real gamers that aren’t on Zenimax’s payroll.
Enough talk, here are 20 reasons why the Elder Scrolls Online will be the Elder Scrolls MMO the series deserves.
First and Foremost an Elder Scrolls Game
#1 – First-person done right
If you’re reading this article chances are you’re a TES fan. Disclaimer: no matter which installment of the series was your first I’ll be referring to Skyrim in this article since it is in most recent memory and will relate to the largest audience. As fans I think our biggest concern is if this MMO will play first and foremost like an Elder Scrolls game. Put your mind at ease sera, because it does. All the pre-Alpha reviewers were in universal agreement. This game looks and more importantly feels like you are playing Skyrim. One of the reasons- first-person. On one hand you can go for an over-the-shoulder view, but scroll in with your mouse and you are in a first person perspective. I don’t know about you but this was a deal breaker for me. For me putting myself in the shoes of my character means a first person perspective where I can see my hands. In MMOs were are use to the impersonal dungeon crawler perceptive where you are hovering over your character and controlling him or her with your mouse like a puppet master. ESO does what an Elder Scrolls game should, it puts you in the shoes of your character with the radical view, just like Skyrim.
#2 – Controls like an RPG
As for the controls, again it’s exactly like Skyrim right down to the key biddings. WASD moves your character’s legs and the mouse makes him look around. An MMO that gets first-person right! I can go on and on describing it, but the best way to picture it is Skyrim’s look and feel, because it’s exactly like it. Why, aren’t we seeing that in the dev videos. These guys need to learn how to sell their genius.
#3 – Stealing and moving crap around
Another deal breaker- interacting with the objects around you. This is also important in an Elder Scrolls title. It’s what lets you stack cheese wheels, steal sweet rolls, and play with dead bodies. Zenimax wishes to uphold your right to steal from the honest and hardworking citizens of Tamriel. That’s right, you can in fact manipulate the items in your environment. See a crafting ingredient you really need? Snatch it right off the shelf just like in Skyrim. The Elder Scrolls Online is bringing the TES formula of player/world interaction to MMOs which will make it the first MMO where you can meaningfully or unmeaning-fully move the objects in your environment at will. If you read my previous article you’ll remember the skeptic argument that talked about the static nature of MMOs. In traditional MMOs if you jump on a table and run around objects will stick stubbornly in place like they are glued down. ESO responds by applying the good old TES logic which will take you from being tourist in a virtual space, to an inhabitant in a fantasy world. An inhabitant that can swipe a health potion off the table and use it later in a fight; that to me is beautiful. Skyrim beautiful.
#4 – Voice acted dialogue
It doesn’t stop there my fellow Elder Scrolls acolytes- dialogue. Lots and lots of dialogue. Unlike traditional MMOs Skyrim puts their NPC interaction to shame with fully voice acted characters. None of this reading bull crap like you see in WoW. I’m here to tell you that from the pre-alpha gameplay the Elder Scrolls Online is fully voice acted. But wait there’s more- there’s also kill cams. But wait there’s more- any character can wear any armor and use any weapon type. But wait there’s more- you can pick up books off shelves and read them. But wait there’s more- no cooldowns, you are only limited by health, magicka and stamina. But wait there’s more- you fight intelligent enemies that work together to defeat you making every combat situation unique and engaging. Are you horny for the Elder Scrolls Online yet? You should be. Welcome to Skyrim the MMO.
Combat and the Stealth Approach
#5 – No cooldowns
Combat is an important thing to talk about in an Elder Scrolls game where huge emphasis is placed on role-playing and exploration, you’ll still find yourself fighting bad guys often. Here’s a trivia question for you; MMO players spend a majority of their time looking at [blank]. It’s certainly not the onscreen action. It’s those little obnoxious squares that tell us when we can swing our sword. Apparently MMO logic says that after swinging a sword one way, you temporarily forget how to perform that action for a few seconds. Developers do this to us so that we can’t spam the same high damaging ability for 8 hours straight. There has to be something limiting your power or everything becomes a face roll, but could you imagine an Elder Scrolls game where you cast a fireball then have to wait for a cooldown? Apparently Zenimax can’t imagine it either, so they’ve done away with cooldowns completely. If you’ve played MMOs before you know what an extreme change this is. It’s never been done before. Talos bless them. Instead the only limitation adventurers will have to worry about is their Stamina bar, Magicka bar, and Health bar. Sound familiar?
#6 – Stealth for one stealth for all
Okay, so no cooldown bars that’s cool, but what else is Zenimax doing to bring Elder Scrolls style combat to their MMO? After all, there is a lot separating traditional MMO combat from a game like Skyrim; stealth being one of them. Is there an Elder Scrolls player out there that does not like to level their stealth? Crouching my way to slit throats has always been a signature of TES for me. How about pairing stealth with pickpocketing, guys you know what I’m talking about, why imagine a girl naked when you can remove her bra without her even noticing? If only real li- never mind. Suffice it to say stealth is very important to us and the Elder Scrolls Online understands that.
Every player in ESO will have the ability to crouch and become one with Nocturnal. Where traditional MMOs reserve the privilege of invisibility to a single class, every playstyle will be able to incorporate an assassin’s touch in ESO. This will make setting up an ambush in player versus player that much more exciting. Just imagine the extra strategic value this will bring to combat! TES fans who like the decision making that comes with placing the first blow will thrive on this. Careful though. Just like in Skyrim you’ll find it harder to stay quiet in heavy armor. In any case, a stealth approach will be highly valued in the Elder Scrolls Online. Lucien Lachance would be proud.
#7 – Combos
Another exciting feature Zenimax brings to ESO combat is combo attacks. If you’ve played Guild Wars 2 you know exactly how this works. Imagine you’re a warrior-like character questing with a friendly mage-like character. The mage might decided to use a power aura that helps the warrior by charging his attacks to do additional frost damage. I could picture this again bringing massive strategic planning to PvP. Just picture spell casters supporting friendly archers by adding fire to their arrows. Now there’s something Skyrim doesn’t have.
All of Tamriel & All Out Warfare
#8 – Gorgeous graphics
The gamers that had a go at the pre-alpha are all in agreement. The screenshots we are seeing for the Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t do the game justice. The character models are still under construction, but everything from the landscape to the items sitting on tables looks stunning. These aren’t, and I quote, “the watered down MMO graphics we are used to”. It’s clear Zenimax has an art team that has been very hard at work taking special care with the small details we are used to seeing in a TES game. Not to mention bringing back old art assets from past TES installments including familiar enemies like the dwemer mechanical spheres and imps from Oblivion.
#9 – Tamriel as a whole
It’s a TES fan’s wet dream. Black Marsh, Elsweyr, Valenwood, the Summerset Isles, Hammerfell, High Rock, Cyrodiil, Skyrim, and Morrowind; all in the same game for the first time ever. We’re told these won’t be just rough watered down MMO representations either. The game’s designers have hard at work mapping the old points of interest that will take us back to the days of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. Remember those Daedric temples you visited in Morrowind? Confirmed- they are in ESO. Healthy dose of nostalgia anyone? Tamriel becomes a fully actualized world where we can run from one end to the other. Not matter which TES game it happened in, when you hit that invisible wall for the first time it was nothing short of a traumatic experience. The Elder Scrolls Online will have these walls too only they will be 9 nations wide. Just saying that gave me a semi.
#10 – Faction Warfare
Oh, and those 9 nations are at war. The Elder Scrolls Online will see three factions vying for control of Cyrodiil. Cyrodiil, the entire setting of Oblivion will be a war torn land where the Daggerfall Covenant (Bretons, Orcs, Redguards), The Ebonheart Pact (Nords, Dunmer, Argonians), and The Aldmeri Dominion (Elf supremacists) fight around the clock to crown an Emperor. In the Elder Scrolls we like to talk about choice, but in every Elder Scrolls game the emperor is not one of those choices. I want to be the freaking emperor! We’ve never had that choice in the past, but in the Elder Scrolls Online we will. The faction controlling Cyrodiil will be able to crown one of their players as Emperor. So what do you say, person reading this article, can I have the job? Come on! I’d make a great Emperor. My campaign slogan, “Let them eat sweet rolls”.
Exploration and Fleshed Out Lore
#11 – Sweet freedom
It’s something you can’t even do in real life. The ability to run in any random direction and find adventure, unravel mysteries, and making a massive amount of gold doing so; only in an Elder Scrolls game and only in the Elder Scrolls Online. When those gamers sat down to demo ESO what do you think 90% of them did right off them bat? One ran into the forest, the other into a cave, the other into a bandit camp, the other to into a crypt, and one or two of them might have actually followed the main quest line. I don’t shed a tear looking at an American flag, but I do shed a tear for that. That freedom of exploration is paramount in the Elder Scrolls Online. Some players will want to walk around town talking to NPCs and come across a quest that way. One gamer ran into a cave and found a rather annoying mage who proceeded to taught him throughout the entire dungeon until he finally put his hammer in his skull. Stumbling across quests organically happens all the time in Skyrim, and it will happen all the time in the Elder Scrolls Online. One quest leading to another, which leads to another, which leads to another.
#12 – Books
Books are rarely cited as a reason to be excited for anything, but I am a lore nerd. Here’s a fun fact. There are over 820 books, journals, letters and recipes in Skyrim. The thought of that wrinkles my brain. In the Elder Scrolls Online you’ll be picking up books and reading them, but did you know these books also contribute to achievements and your mage’s guild reputation? Collect enough books in ESO and you’ll trigger a mage’s guild quest line. I’m gotta catch em all!
Intelligent AI & Reduced UI
#13 – The compass
Nothing takes you out of a game like having to bring up a full-screen map. When then it usually is only good for pointing you to cities. The TES compass is a staple of the series. Your trusty compass always points you to point of interest whether it be a cave full of trolls or a Daedric shrine. You’ll follow your trusty compass again in the Elder Scrolls Online.
#14 – Lean UI
Speaking of not taking you out of the game, Skyrim is praised for it’s lean and uncluttered user interface and in the ESO you are treated the same. Where the sheer amount of UI in other MMOs can be downright ridiculous (I’m looking at you EVE) here we are only getting the essentials; six abilities, health, stamina, magicka, compass, and chat box. All of which you can move around at will. A lean UI is key to healthy immersion.
#15 – Intelligent AI
The enemy AI in MMOs can be downright pitiful. Questing in MMOs is made a grind because, let’s face it, enemy mobs are a face-roll. Aside from the occasional elite monster you don’t find yourself using much brainpower when approaching a fight. At the moment leveling in an MMO has me doing other things like watching Game of Thrones on my other monitor, but I’d love to see that change. Aside from what most game developers think now-a-days we do want challenge in our games. It’s what keeps us engaged from start to finish. In real RPGs like Skyrim you are usually forced to strategize.
Normally in an MMO the same enemy mobs will always attack you in the same way, Zenimax Online studios has made it their mission to spice things up considerably by scripting the enemy AI in such a way that will make it present itself as a different challenge when facing different situations. For example an enemy will approach combat with a thief-like chracter differently than it would if it would fighting a mage-like character. On top of that, if the enemy has friends nearby they will team up for combo attacks just like players would. I see this as adding a much needed layer of authenticity to combat. It is most welcome and I can’t wait to see it in action. Dynamic and engaging combat with NPCs is what separates the epic adventure from the tedious grind.
Unique and Highly Customizable Characters
#16 – Self-defined classes
You can be a totally different character from what you start out as. It’s something Skyrim did best and it’s something the Elder Scrolls Online will thrive on. I was super depressed when Zenimax said they would have classes in ESO. Classes are restrictive. We don’t want them. Deep down nobody has ever wanted them. We want to do it all if we try hard enough. Luckily classes in the Elder Scrolls Online aren’t really classes at all. They are just a base to build off of. They give you a couple special abilities, but you are free to be whatever you want. So go be the claymore-wielding fireball throwing healer assassin you were always meant to be!
#17 – Any armor, any weapon, any time
Feel like wearing a cloth robe one day and a steel breastplate the next. Every MMO to date says ‘no’, but the Elder Scrolls Online not only says yes; they encourage mixing and match armor sets. Finally be the battlemage with full plate and a cloth hood.
The MEGA Server
#18 -One server to rule them all
Any MMO vet would agree the mega server is a gift from Mara. Having friends you want to play with scattered on different servers will no longer be an issue. Paid server transfers, free server transfers, how about just one freaking server that divides everyone up on it’s own. It will automatically put you with friends and guild mates, and if that isn’t good enough you can control which phase you want to be in yourself. Either way, we vote yes to the one server to rule them all.
#19 -Playing w/ like-minded gamers
Birds of a feather flock together. That’s what the mega server says. Don’t like playing your Elder Scrolls game with 12-year-old kids? Maybe you’re a 12 year old kid yourself and only want to play with 12-year-olds. Are you a hardcore raider? PvPer? When you log into the Elder Scrolls Online for the first time it will provide you with a questionnaire. By answering the questionnaire the server will automatically pair you will like-minded gamers. So say you’re a 20-year-old gamer who likes PvP and role-playing; you get paired with people who have similar interests. I guess the best thing to compare it to would be internet dating, but in this case everyone is getting married to the game and the mega server is organizing people into groups to have a massive orgy of like-minds. Gross. No, but seriously it’s beautiful. If you live to raid, you will be surrounded by people who like slaying things. If the only thing that gets you out of bed in the morning is the thrill of killing other players, you’ll be matched with other PvP junkies. This is a massive leap for the MMO in general. Where it used to be you picked a server based on the name, the Elder Scrolls Online makes it a more social experience by placing you in a phase with people you can actually relate to. Say hey, to all you PvP loving lore nerds out there, keep an eye out for me.
#20 – EPIC Large Scale Battle
Remember the battle at Whiterun? The epic siege you were participating in as a Stormcloak savage or deterring as a loyal Imperial. Sure, it was pretty epic, but the high taxing game engine left Skyrim wanting when it came to large scale battles. That game engine can only handle a few dozen actors fighting on screen at a time. Otherwise the game crashes. The Elder Scrolls Online has specifically designed their mega server to have over 200 players on screen at any given time. 200! Imagine Lord of the Rings sized fights taking place in the Elder Scrolls universe. Catapults knocking down walls. Soldiers scaling walls. Fighting under the banner of your faction. That’s something I want to be a part of.
#21 – Kill Cams
The more I read and listen to the verdicts coming back from the lucky few who got to play the pre-alpha, the more I am convinced of what they are saying is true; that this isn’t an MMO, but a Skyrim multiplayer. And that excites me as I’m sure it excites you. Everything in the pre-alpha version is subject to change of course, but what the game seems to be so far is nothing short of a promising MMORPG. If you started this video as an ESO skeptic I hope I was able to offer you some hope. Rest assured the ShoddyCast will be keeping a close eye on the Elder Scrolls Online with crossed fingers, hoping and praying to the Nine (yes the Nine, I am no damned elf) that it will hold true to the Elder Scrolls experience.