Customizable character classes are the lifeblood of the RPG experience. Without them, we’d simply be role-playing the same tired tropes over and over again – from the sullen-faced space marine, to the noble, nature-loving Elf. Thankfully, many modern titles treat linearity like a dirty word, encouraging gamers to adopt unique and eccentric avatars on their admittedly clichéd quests to save the world. The Elder Scrolls Online is one such title, allowing players to create dynamic and evolving personas throughout their time with the game.
At least, that’s the impression developer ZeniMax Online Studios is aiming to create with its latest dev diary-come-walkthrough video, titled ‘Be Who You Want to Be.’ Centered on the subject of character progression, this near-5-minute vid takes players on a whirlwind tour of Tamriel’s latest, and hopefully greatest upgrade mechanic.
Presented by Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konkle, ‘Be Who You Want to Be’ sets out some of the ground rules for personal advancement in The Elder Scrolls Online, a game in which class selection and levelling up are just the tip of the iceberg where customization is concerned.
As Konkle demonstrates in the video above, every new level gained grants players a point, one for attributes and another for skills. The former deals in broad strokes, buffing base stats including Health, Stamina and Magicka, while the latter extends to player abilities and spells. These are further divided by type, either as passive traits (e.g permanent resistance to fire spells) or active variants i.e. commonly cast spells and incantations.
In addition, each skill forms part of a branching level tree, meaning points spent in one area will eventually open up more and more powerful variants. Frequently used skills are also liable to ‘morph,’ meaning the spell in question will receive a further set of variables, adding, for example, a group dynamic to a healing spell, or a simultaneous magicka boost, depending on the player.
ZeniMax wants to encourage players to feel a part of their chosen race and class, extending certain skills and abilities to some groups while depriving others. Those who seek out particular guilds or fall in with a group of mythical monsters, be they vampires or werewolves will also unlock further, specialized ability options. The game also includes plenty of all-purpose general abilities, such as the use of weapons and armor, though it remains unclear how their use will affect otherwise “specialist” characters. In theory a mage-type player should be able to armor up and operate as half “tank,” though Konkle’s commentary does suggest some sort of advantage to donning the wizard’s more typical light armor.
Another noteworthy addition are the game’s so-called ‘Ultimate Abilities – powerful attacks requiring some sort of charge – unrelated to typical Health, Stamina or Magicka use. The method to earning these perks isn’t actually stated, with the video only hinting that combat yields up the opportunity. It’s possible these mega-strikes will be doled out via timer, or perhaps as part of some sort of Final Fantasy-like Limit Break/ Overdrive functionality, requiring players to dish out, endure, or observe a certain amount of damage around them.
While TESO‘s character progression system doesn’t appear to be breaking any new ground, it does at least take those elements that have worked elsewhere and include them in its genetic makeup. The result is a game in which players appear to be rewarded no matter how they decide to drop points, with even the most ludicrously awkward of character builds able to produce promising results thanks to mechanics such as the new morphing system.
How do you like to kick off a new RPG experience, by testing out a favored class type or experimenting with fresh and unusual options? Can The Elder Scrolls Online live up to the legacy of its single-player predecessors? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check in with all of the latest Elder Scrolls news, right here on Game Rant.
The Elder Scrolls Online will arrive on Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4 and Mac platforms in spring 2014.
Follow Sam on Twitter @GamingGoo