A Tale of Two Worlds: ArcheAge and The Elder Scrolls Online

ArcheAge and The Elder Scrolls Online are cut from very different cloths. Which of these two MMOGs featured at E3 2013 has the most potential to stand apart?

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There came one of those rare moments during E3 2013 when I wasn't having fun. That moment came when I was playing The Elder Scrolls Online.

It's unfair to judge a large-scale game meant to be played for hundreds of hours in the space of 40 minutes, of course. But even a massively multiplayer online role-playing game can reveal a lot in a short time. Is the basic combat enjoyable? Is the setting inviting? Is it fun to move about the world? The Elder Scrolls Online had a chance to make an impression this week, but it failed to do so. The demo felt old, uninspired, and clumsy, and most damningly, it was boring. So boring, in fact, that I struggle to find much to say about it and am not particularly inspired to know any more.

On the other hand, what I saw of ArcheAge at E3 left me with loads of questions and an eagerness to know more. In case you've never heard of ArcheAge, it's a sandbox massively multiplayer online game developed by XL Games, with Lineage designer Jake Song at the helm. My first impression of my ArcheAge demo (shown by publisher Trion Worlds, the folks behind Rift and Defiance) was that it is gorgeous. The game is powered by CryEngine 3, though a powerful graphics engine means little without an art style worth rendering. Luckily, what I saw of ArcheAge was unusual and beautiful, with exquisitely detailed airships crossing the skies and massive sea vessels parting the waters. I watched the player ride a cow and a donkey before he took to the skies on a colorful glider, looking like a human-size butterfly. I want to know more about this place, its people, and its purpose.

I also want to know more about the sandbox itself. Trion told us the game is designed to be player-driven, with a complex economy and crafting system in which individuals and guilds must transport goods across land and ocean. For instance, when constructing a giant ship, you must move the goods to the construction zone. Guilds could create caravans in which members do their part to contribute to the process, carrying resources on foot or on a mount. If you are building housing, your residence exists right in the persistent world rather than in its own instance. ArcheAge is designed to be a world manipulated by its players, for better or for worse.

The player-driven adventure Trion Worlds described that had me most excited to play ArcheAge for myself, however, was a pirate tale. You might be accused of being a pirate by other players, which could lead to a player-run trial and a verdict. Should you be found guilty, you could be exiled and become a full-fledged pirate, which makes you an enemy of any upstanding citizen--which in turn means that non-player characters will no longer talk to you. I don't know much more about this system, but the possibilities and logistical hurdles that penetrate my mind when thinking about piracy in ArcheAge make me giddy. Oceanic ship combat, with players fighting over goods and resources? Complex supply lines built for the creation of imposing structures and transport methods? I'm so in.

It might be unfair, then, to compare a player-run persistent world like ArcheAge with a theme-park MMOG like The Elder Scrolls Online. The Elder Scrolls demo was an immediately familiar experience even within its own subgenre, however. I took quests, I went and killed assassins with swords, I interacted with boxes, and I got gold and new weapons for my trouble. The good old chase-the-quest template works just fine, of course, but there just wasn't any excitement to the adventuring, or precision to the combat. By its release, The Elder Scrolls Online will feature a first-person view that shows your hands and weapons onscreen, as in the single-player Elder Scrolls games. For now, however, the game is played in an MMOG-typical third-person view, with swordplay that sort of, kind of, tries to emulate a real-time action game.

But based on the demo, The Elder Scrolls Online doesn't do a very good job of it. There's no sensation that your blade is meeting steel and flesh, in contrast to Tera and Neverwinter, which feel much more immediate and precise. Every combat scenario in the demo was characterized by the awkward, sometimes broken animations. Of course, there's still plenty of time to refine the clumsiness, but even outside of combat, there was nothing to hold my attention. Well, aside from the fact that I was in Daggerfall. It's too bad all I had to do there was perform cookie-cutter MMOG errands. Even the final act I performed--saving the king from assassination--lacked oomph, the ultra-scripted AI damaging any chance the quest might have had of making me think the royal ruler was actually in any danger.

Of course, this is Elder Scrolls, and the chance to visit old haunts in an online setting might be enough to keep the game compelling. But there's nothing about what I played of The Elder Scrolls Online, or about what Bethesda has told us, to make me want to know even more. And I suspect the reason is that we already know exactly what it is: a bog-standard online RPG with a setting beloved enough to spark interest. ArcheAge, on the other hand, inspires a spirit of discovery. After these MMOGs are released, these impressions might be proven vastly incorrect by the games themselves. But for now, ArcheAge prompts in me an adventurous itch I look forward to scratching. The Elder Scrolls Online seems content to follow the old recipe book.

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Discussion

36 comments
Seifer24
Seifer24

I played both games.

Archeage is by far more superior tha eso.

Eso is just a swtor with a different skin and worse combat.

Archeage has the potential to change the mmo industry

While eso is just a console game that will just exist because of it's name.

My vote goes for archeage.

WillOfTheD
WillOfTheD

is archeage coming to ps4 and xbox one?

yazukiwolf
yazukiwolf

"The Elder Scrolls demo was an immediately familiar experience even within its own subgenre, however. I took quests, I went and killed assassins with swords, I interacted with boxes, and I got gold and new weapons for my trouble. The good old chase-the-quest template works just fine, of course, but there just wasn't any excitement to the adventuring, or precision to the combat"


I played Archage up to level 20 and I can say the exact same thing about it. 
The quests consist of nothing more than chasing markers on your UI, so much in fact that I didn`t even notice when the desert backdrop had changed into a forest because I spent so much time staring at the map in the top right corner. 
And before you can do any of the sandbox stuff in the game you have to spend tens of hours grinding, whether that be through boring quests and or gathering crafting supplies. 

The combat gives you a great deal of great skills, so I give them credit for that, but at level 20 I can still kill virtually any mob by running in circles and spamming the number 3 key (a skill I`ve had since the beginning of the game)

So far, I feel like Archeage was a huge missed opportunity. 
If you don`t mind grinding and have a TON of time your willing to sink into a game before you get any real reward  than check this game out. If you want an engaging world with freedom and exploration that you can participate in on your own terms, however, you may be dissapointed.

adupuis
adupuis

game looks. great. Does mean they wont be making offline versions anymore ? i much rather play offline i can do what i want

Daemoroth
Daemoroth

The problem is that TES is exactly the kind of game that DOESN'T translate to an MMO. Everything you do in the game is impossible in an MMO setting.

Go bandit and kill off an entire town? Nope... Other people need those NPCs (Same with bandit camps - where the stay dead in TES, they'll have to respawn, rendering your effect on the world a big fat zero). Run around exploring at random? Nope... Have to follow the script/levelling curve.

Create some random assortment of skills in an effort to create your ultimate 2-handed axe-wielding battle-assassin? Nope... MMOs have "optimal" builds, a requirement to take part in group activities. Do something stupid deliberately to see what happens, then LOAD afterwards? Nada... Because MMO.

Be the centre of the story, and actually BE the centre of the story? lol... So many MMOs paint you as the "only person" when everyone else is handing in the same quest, getting the same drivel.

And the big one - mods? Yeah...

I'm not interested in TESO, would have wanted a "normal" TES, hopefully they're busy with Fallout 4 somewhere... :)

PureJagin
PureJagin

Guys, I'm sorry, but Im gonna have to side with ArcheAge. As much as I wish Bethesda could pull this off, I highly doubt they can. After seeing game footage of both, I have to admit, ArcheAge is a lot more impressive. From what the official website explained, its an open world MMO (Obviously) with so far, four races, each with distinct backgrounds and skills. Along with an awesome crafting system and some stuff you can do in your spare time such as crafting a house with furniture, or tending to your garden. You also have the ability to fly on these wing suit looking things (Very interesting for game play) that have their own aerial  combat. And, the normal combat system looks excellent as well. From what I gathered you can also build massive forts, or you can form an army and attack other players forts. I don't feel the need to mention the unique court aspect of the game, as this review already accomplishes that. Im very excited for this game. And while I don't believe Bethesda can pull off The Elder Scrolls Online, I still hope they can. But I guess we wont see til the release.

MrStygian
MrStygian

Thanks for the good read Kevin. I have been eyeing ArcheAge since it was released in Korea and I was extremely envious of them. Then news started popping up that the creators were looking for Publishers here in North America, Trion picked it up, and hope was restored. Both look like great MMOs and I can't wait to try them both.


As for the negative feedback of the ESO, it makes me glad they pushed it to 2014.

Atheosis
Atheosis

Yet I bet Elder Scrolls Online sells way more copies. 

Kirintar
Kirintar

One is a copy-paste mmo that only has the name to separate it from the others, the other is a familiar fantasy setting sandbox mmo with multiple career paths.

chieflion
chieflion

Im totes predicting 7.5 fo ESO, dont know bout archage or whaterver

StoneDrew
StoneDrew

This guy is just being negative about ESO. Honestly he claims that it's generic but what else do you want them to do? Almost every MMO has objective's that the player must complete and gain items from said quest. No matter which way you label it, all games have quests, objectives, goals, etc. And most games require to you to do something to reach said goal, like killing this many creatures or obtain this many items. This guys just has a stick up his ass and as interesting as that other game sounds, I guarantee it's the same shit. Haters gonna hate. Although I'm not saying that ESO will be a success I most definitely want it to be but I do see how it could flop.

HckyTwn
HckyTwn

Two comments here: 1) This is the first outright negative TESO E3 review I've read so far. 2) ArcheAge went free to play in Korea inside 5 months; you don't change your business model that quick unless something is wrong (Kevin VanO should know this.)


I'll try out both, but if either has a chance in the US MMO market my guess is it'll be TESO. I am thinking AA is more fluff than fulfillment.

kouji03
kouji03

in my opinion both games are underwhelming 

alpha_unit97
alpha_unit97

I don't want ESO to fail, I really don't, but if it ends up being a "bog standard mmo" then i guess Zenimax gets what they deserve. On the other hand, the one shown at e3 was still a very early build and the devs said themselves, nothing in the game is concrete, so I'm still keeping my hopes up!

MateykoSlam
MateykoSlam

i knew it, Kevin VanGod is always right ESO is shit. i knew since the day they announced it. ill just wait for the next Todd Howard game

edgecrusherO0
edgecrusherO0

I've been skeptical of ESO since the initial announcement (the one that got nobody excited) and still am. I'll see how it pans out, but I'm definitely not expecting anything spectacular.

jessie82
jessie82

ive seen some gameplay of the um korean? version of archeage on a youtube vid and it looked quite promising but i vaguely remember it being very pvp oriented which puts me right off

mink1171
mink1171

Normally I would disagree with everything you said and I still do but because of the cross platform Port that will be the most damning reason not to play this game.  If you thought it was uninspiring and boring at the show wait until you realize everything must work similarly across 3 platforms.  Huge mistake IMO.

Infinite_Access
Infinite_Access

Still getting ESO.. I'm way to excited to not dedicate a bunch of time to it.  


I hadn't even heard of this other.. 

Squirrelatwar
Squirrelatwar

Thanks for the thoughts. I was getting bad vibes from TES Online just based from the news, and now my suspicions are semi-confirmed. I really am sad that they are doing such a muck-up job with such a beloved franchise.

oflow
oflow

My thoughts are also confirmed by Mr VanOrd. The early gameplay vids of elder scrolls online looked terrible.  I'm still probably holding out for Camelot Unchained though since I havent got into the Wild Star beta yet.  I've been waiting for another game to get RvR right for a long time now the dev vids from Camelot Unchained look promising.

MasterTheHero
MasterTheHero

I knew Elder Scrolls was going to feel dated. From when they first showed any form of gameplay, I saw that it had the same old boring tropes that were long made by WoW. Archage however, definitely has piqued my interest. My friend told me about it before, but I had no idea it was that in-depth. Very curious!

jazilla
jazilla

Nice stuff Kevin. ESO is definitely a game I will play during the obligatory, "First 30 days free with purchase" just so I can go and see places in Tamriel that we have never been able to go to like Orsinium, Elsweyr, and Highrock etc. I will be hopeful that it does more to reel me in after that, but I am skeptical that it will do any more than what SW:ToR did and offer me a fun place to play with pals in a familiar setting for a few months. There is nothing wrong with that. ArcheAge sounds like it is offering more than that though and I agree, that is intriguing.

hastati4
hastati4

A very worrying preview, but one I'm happy you made, Kevin. I find that I almost always agree with your opinions on games, and I can honestly say that I could see a lot of the complaints made about Elder Scrolls Online just from watching gameplay. The combat reminds me more of the look of Morrowind than Skyrim, due to the clunkiness and awkward animations. Beyond that, it doesn't seem to be doing all that much to be innovative. I'm fearing they're simply hoping to cash in on people's love for the Elder Scrolls universe.


Thanks for the report.

Mistadak
Mistadak

@yazukiwolf I haven't played the game myself but I've heard that with the collecting and killing quests you can just kill one mob, get one item then hand in the quest. So you can probably blitz through the starting tutorial zones and get on with the sandbox side fairly quickly. Also this seems to be the kind of game that you play with a 500 members guild or you better prepare for a lot of grinding.

Denngar
Denngar

@StoneDrew As someone who's played both, I have to agree with VanOrd to a degree. ESO is NOT generic for an MMO in that I felt like the combat was more interesting than certain other titles that are receiving far too much hype, had a town that felt alive (probably why it was chosen for the demo), and the quests that I received didn't have a symbol obviously hanging over the NPC's head telling me I'd get a quest- I had to explore and talk to NPCs to find out if they were just part of the scene or a quest giver. However, compare all this to a normal Elder Scrolls game and it's pretty watered down. No robbing NPCs blind, taking out a town full of guards, etc. In that sense, I totally understand where VanOrd is coming from. Much like with TOR, look at this game more like a multiplayer RPG than an MMO or RPG. 

Now, ArcheAge is old hat in terms of basic combat (tab targetting, dice roll dodging, hotbar stuff), but... well, it just lets you impact the world a lot more. When I played the Korean beta, I had a boat, multi-person combat mount, glider, and built my own NON-INSTANCED forest within the first 13 or so levels (the forest took a few days though). 

Goriom
Goriom

@HckyTwn AA has been in the top 10 since its release but hasn't been high on that chart.  This F2P is a scheme to go up against Blade and Soul and Aion, which both seem to be F2P in Korea.  This is nothing more than a plan to make more money and the cultural differences in South Korea, not a reflection of the game failing

KAhjnasna
KAhjnasna

@MateykoSlam Anyone who refers to a reviewer as a god cannot have their opinion taken seriously. And you knew a game was terrible on the day it was announced? Either you're a psychic, or just plain retarded. I'm gonna go with retarded ;)

123whatever
123whatever

It's actually pvp oriented over pve. Players build castles which rule over the land, and every so many days they can be invaded, by hundreds. It stretches from air to see to land to even underwater, you may even player kill your own faction, because they can steal from you, and someone's going to. :P open beta was awesome, I challenge You to keep tracking this one - you won't regret it

Infinite_Access
Infinite_Access

I'm looking forward to playing Elder Scrolls with friends.. not some big exciting new different mom. 

123whatever
123whatever

I still play daoc to date, and having tried this game during beta, it will finally get me to close my subscription. The combat and sense of adrenaline l, as well as the faction based warfare on a massive scale is what daoc was. Makes sense considering it was inspired by daoc and lineage