As gaming clichÃ©s go, the ‘heroic hobbyist’ is certainly amongst the silliest, and therefore the most common. For no matter how dire an emergency may seem, this virtuous vagabond continues to chop wood, brew ales and corral cattle even as the world around them fizzles to a cinder. Enemy at the gates? – no matter, there’s baking points to bolster. Goblins eating the township? – add it to the to-do-list.
With the latest in the acclaimed series of Elder Scrolls games heading online later this year, the developers at ZeniMax Studios are hard at work divvying up Dovakhin’s duties amongst millions of potential players for The Elder Scrolls Online.
Set some thousand years before the events of Skyrim (read our review), the story behind The Elder Scrolls Online finds Daedric lord Molag Bal stirring up a tri-party tussle for the crown of Cyrodiil. Cast in the role of the ‘Soulless,’ players must venture through Bal’s nightmare world of Coldharbour to retrieve said spirit and defeat the malevolent miser. At least that’s the plan.
Where content is king, fetch quests, skill trees and level grinding are never far behind, and in their latest development diary, titled ‘Gathering and Exploration’, ZeniMax employees discuss just that.
No doubt a dab hand at swiping some virtual swag of his own, Creative Director Paul Sage enthuses about The Elder Scrolls Online’s opportunities for interaction, including the many unguarded foodstuffs on offer for light-fingered thieves. However, unlike much of the worthless clutter found in previous titles, Sage assures players that this time around “it’s not just useless stuff… it’s going to be part of a recipe… part of our crafting system.”
This system, typically off-limits to fresh-faced players in other games, includes all manner of items, from food to potions, meaning that even novices will get to try their hand at stewing up delicious and deadly treats.
Beyond simple health and magic boosts, crafting also extends to mini-game elements, including a competitive fishing mode. Choosing which rod to cast and which bait to hook will likely mean the difference between bagging a demonic marlin and frying up Elven trout, so exploration is key.
This theme of discovery runs throughout the entire game, extending far beyond the alchemist’s lab, and out into the vast vistas of Tamriel itself. Connecting the dots between the mammoth realms of Morrowind, Hammerfell, Cyrodiil and so forth are the multitudes of hidden treasure the game offers, from stat-boosting Sky Shards to chain-locked chests. Read our preview of The Elder Scrolls Online for more details.
With such a strong emphasis on exploration, it remains to be seen how much freedom ZeniMax will allows players in utilizing their timesaving quick-travel mechanic. Though inherently useful, many Skyrim users felt that the feature proved antithetic to the RPG’s exploratory impulse.
Sage also touts an early example of the game’s myriad fetch-quests, including a task to track down dusty tomes for the mages guild – a prospect that’s certain to excite more in practice than proposition.
The Elder Scrolls Online enters open beta testing later this year, with a prospective 2013 release date.