Before Bethesda officially revealed The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, some suspected that it could be the first ever online multiplayer game in the franchise. That wasn’t the case, but only a few months later Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax announced that The Elder Scrolls Online was a game their own studio had been developing for several years.

In response to The Elder Scrolls Online announcement trailer however, fans expressed quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the game’s art style, which seems to have been inspired more by other MMOs including Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft as opposed to the brand it represents, The Elder Scrolls. ZeniMax aims to rectify that with a proper introduction to TESO.

To begin (restart?) the marketing campaign for The Elder Scrolls Online, the team from ZeniMax Online Studios have put together a nine-and-a-half minute video, documentary style, that features many of the dev team speaking of the game’s basic features. All of it is inter-spliced with the first gameplay footage revealed to the public (we saw early footage behind-closed doors at E3).

The Elder Scrolls Online Logo

The video can be viewed up top and below are the highlights (some of which have already been announced):

  • Set 1000 years before Skyrim
  • Draws upon 20 years of lore and stories told in the series
  • Art style from The Elder Scrolls 3-5
  • Includes basic real-time action system with blocking and power attacks
  • Hundreds of characters can be on screen at a given time
  • Includes all the customization options and armors from series
  • All players are one server (dubbed the ‘Megaserver’)
  • Pick from one of nine races and pick one class to start
  • Become a werewolf/vampire
  • Own pets
  • Designed to encourage players to explore
  • Loads of end game content at level 50 (PvP & Heroic quests)

The game features a storyline that can be experienced solo, taking place in the entire continent of Tamriel. ZeniMax is promoting the idea that TESO will be one of the most social MMOs to date and will feature open-warfare PvP with higher player counts.

Strangely, ZeniMax has disabled the comments on the YouTube video, likely to avoid trolling, but the likes vs. dislikes ratio is very positive. The video was very well done and should quell some of the early skepticism of the game, especially with statements including the game embracing the art styles of Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim – although it’s evident from the trailer that while the visuals are certainly more detailed, darkened and slightly more realistic, the designs of some environmental, from buildings to water wells, still look MMOish.

Will a story based 1000 years before Skyrim about a three-faction war serve as a good setting for The Elder Scrolls to enter the MMO realm? Will the game offer a subscription service or launch with free-to-play/play-for-free model from the outset?

The Elder Scrolls Online is expected to release in 2013.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.