While the video game industry has never seen as many role-playing experiences and free-to-play MMOs as it currently enjoys, there’s no denying that The Elder Scrolls is still among the most respected and polished – a fact proven by the release of Skyrim. That unwavering momentum is what Zenimax Online Studios hopes to capitalize on with The Elder Scrolls Online, their MMO set within the fiction of the franchise.
Our hands-on experience with TESO convinced us that it’s still too early to tell if the game will merely succeed in adapting the franchise to the MMO sphere, or offer something genuinely new. For those who would like a bit more information with which to judge for themselves, the developers showed off over twenty minutes of gameplay at Quakecon 2013, available now for your viewing pleasure.
Beginning with the character customization (packed with enough fine-tuning to keep most fans content), the video reveals that combat and conversation operates much the same way as they have in the series’ past. And while the environments and characters may be familiar to any Elder Scrolls fan, it doesn’t take long to see how the shift to an MMO has resulted in a few changes in design and graphics.
There’s no question that one of the more unwelcome aspects of the MMO grind is covering large distances – specifically, when seeking out a party of players, or merely trying to complete lengthy quests. While one might argue that a massive game world is a bonus, not a hassle, exploring the environment and gathering resources isn’t a full-time occupation. As such, the developers of TESO have implemented both a fast travel system (to previously discovered locations) and the ability to travel to a fellow player in your group.
Once the video shows off the similarities of TESO to any previous Elder Scrolls title – with user interface and HUD elements mimicking those of Skyrim, in particular – it’s time to focus on the true heart of any fantasy MMO: the dungeons. The group mission allows the developers to show off their AI ‘pack behavior,’ which forces players to approach combat encounters with at least some sense of strategy, if they hope to not be simply overwhelmed by enemies. The ability to turn enemy forces to your own side is clearly an isolated twist, but a promising one nonetheless.
Given Bethesda’s mantra that restricting class abilities and perks is only taking potential away from players, it’s nice to hear that the same tenets are being upheld by Zenimax. Any class can wear any kind of armor, use any kind of weapon, and truly tailor their very own character to adapt to any number of situations.
There’s no question that the game’s name will attract attention upon release – as will its launch on both the Xbox One and PS4 – but it’s still hard to tell if a standard MMO styled after the world and races of The Elder Scrolls will succeed in one of the most highly-competitive genres today. Regardless, be sure to share your thoughts on this footage, and TESO in general, in the comments.
The Elder Scrolls Online comes to PC, Mac, Xbox One and PS4 in spring 2014.
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