The Elder Scrolls Online: Keeping It Familiar

E3 2012: The Elder Scrolls Online looks big and beautiful. It also looks like games we've seen countless times already.

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GameSpot editors Kevin VanOrd and Jonathan Toyad both got to enjoy an E3 2012 presentation of Zenimax Online's upcoming online role-playing game, The Elder Scrolls Online. And they came away with many of the same impressions. Here, they share their thoughts on the first online game in the renowned fantasy series.

Kevin: Zenimax Online might be a new studio, but the creative minds in that studio aren't newcomers. The development team is made up of talents from Mythic Entertainment, NetDevil, and Sony Online Entertainment--this is a studio that knows what it's doing. We've played their games, and enjoyed them. Which may explain why their upcoming game--The Elder Scrolls Online--is a whole lot like those games that came before.

Studio president Matt Firor presented the upcoming MMOG behind closed doors at E3 2012. He impressed upon us part of the team's vision for The Elder Scrolls Online. Social systems are important, for instance: MMOGs are meant to be played with others. Game systems, varied races, and interesting environments are important too, and to prove the point, he presented a reel of the game's regions and monsters.

Jonathan: The developers seem to know what to give to the Elder Scrolls lore buffs. The vast deserts of Hammerfell? They're there. The land of the cat race Khajiit? It's in there too. The art direction of the game, while just as bright and saturated like a certain juggernaut MMO game from Blizzard, has that distinct "serious Elder Scrolls" feel, only without the deformed facial features from Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

The development team also focused on making sure any gamer can jump into the game without having too much information being dumped onto their monitors. The health, stamina, and magicka bars pop up only when they need to (that is, when you're getting hit or casting a spell), and the hotkey tabs show up only when your cursor hovers around it. Zenimax Online sure hates this interface clutter and definitely nailed this aspect so that the main focus is on the steel-on-flesh action and pretty fantasy fireworks.

Kevin: Speaking of steel on flesh, the studio spent much of its time talking about real-time combat. You can block at any time and can charge up standard attacks to make them land more powerfully. In addition, your main combat limitations are your stamina and magicka reserves, as opposed to arbitrary spell cooldowns.

Another nice touch is that if you join another player, your skills might complement each other so that you can do more damage by combining your attacks. You don't even need to be teamed up to land that extra damage, or to reap the rewards. That said, what we saw onscreen didn't look much more energetic than standard MMOG action. Some of the details may have changed, but the overall effect wasn't much different from the combat of the typical fantasy MMOG.

Jonathan: I do hope the team attacks Kevin mentioned become more than just damage-dealing tools. Imagine a Bretonian spellcaster using Healing Hands and a Nord swordwielder performing a ground pound sword attack that results in an area-of-effect aura blast that heals party members and destroys the undead within the vicinity.

Firor also gave us a tour of one of the quests one can partake in. The way it was handled, however, seemed by-the-numbers. Yes, we were told that the decisions we make would have future ramifications, but the result of the demo's quest was just an extra mission at best.

To sum it up, the warrior in the demo had to go back in time to kill a rogue traitor general who turned out to be a werewolf. Halfway through, you have the choice to rescue a friend of the quest giver; saving her will make her pop up at the present time to give you an additional special quest for more loot and more fauna-killing. It is still a nice incentive to keep players busier than usual, but it doesn't seem like the revelation Firor is making it out to be.

Kevin: And that was the presentation's weak spot: the discrepancies between the promises and the examples. Firor impressed upon us that The Elder Scrolls Online will feature the same kind of free-form adventuring we've seen in the single-player games. His example: when heading toward your quest destination, you might choose to go off and explore, and perhaps bump into another character with another quest to give. Yet that's not a particularly compelling argument that The Elder Scrolls Online brings that giddy Elder Scrolls adventuring into the MMOG space: what Firor described is a basic feature of almost every similar game.

Don't take that to mean that we came away feeling overly negative toward The Elder Scrolls Online. The game looks huge and attractive. It features the races you'd expect, and the regions you want to explore in an Elder Scrolls game. A vast array of features is planned: large-scale PVP battles, puzzle rooms, and public dungeons. Yet at this stage, it's hard to see what sets this upcoming MMOG apart in a big way, apart from "it's an online RPG in the Elder Scrolls universe." Of course, that might be enough, and with a game this big, and at a stage this early, the sparks of creativity may not yet be bright enough to notice at first glance. Here's hoping that The Elder Scrolls Online isn't just checking off the boxes, but shines brightly as a unique entry in a crowded genre.

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19 comments
JamesCDenton980
JamesCDenton980

The development team is made up of talents from Mythic Entertainment, NetDevil, and Sony Online Entertainment--this is a studio that knows what it's doing. We've played their games, and enjoyed them. Which may explain why their upcoming game--The Elder Scrolls Online--is a whole lot like those games that came before.

 

I stopped caring about TES:Online at this exact paragraph. I want the single player experience, just online. If it's going to be a stiff, "press A to kill enemy" or "Press 1 to use KICK". then it's going to fail miserably. I'll accept it, if it plays like Morrowind or better, anything else and it's going to flop harder than any flop has flopped before.

MasterOfSprites
MasterOfSprites

This doesn't look or feel like Elder Scrolls, I am disappointed, but not shocked.

hinkwokching
hinkwokching

I would think that this will be a big challenge for the developers, I personally find it difficult to imagine how the single-player based system of all previous elder scrolls can turn into a MMO game system. Most MMORPG upgrades characters by providing improvements to defense, damage, special abilities and hit/miss chance (not exhaustive list). But in an action style game like the elder scrolls, player control plays a huge part, so maybe upgrades in this game will feel more like BF upgrades than WOW upgrades?

 

Fingers crossed on this one, but however the game is eventually made, I think gamer reactions will be hugely polarised.

esoteryk
esoteryk

It will be tough as the genre has reached it's saturation point already. I'm not one to write off a title from a reputable brand before it's released. That being said; There isn't anything that really stands out as ground-breaking yet. That isn't necessary though.  Who knows, if it's a solid game, it will succeed with the fanbase it already has. 

moriachik
moriachik

Here's a suggestion- they could take some tips from the old Horizons (now just Istaria Online) or maybe even SWG before the combat upgrade. 

Of all the MMO's I've devoted my years to, these two have stood out the most. I've always hoped to see more like them but none of these developers seem to have the same ideas... Though I think an Elder Scrolls MMO is just too good of an idea not to try.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

Looking really pretty doesn't cut it these days.  Everyone is bored to death with the same MMO wrapped up in a new dress.

OldSchoolPlaya
OldSchoolPlaya

There is only so many ways to swing a sword, cast a spell, explore a dungeon, etc.

xxYetterxx
xxYetterxx

This could of had a shot had they tried something different but it looks like they are sticking with the same template as almost every other MMOG on the market.  Had they brought some really innovation to the genre it could have been an extremely successful game that would of rivaled WoW but as it looks now it is a pass for even the biggest elder scroll fans (like myself).

alpha_unit97
alpha_unit97

"The Elder Scrolls: Online- keeping it familiar"- yeah, familiar to WoW players..

TrueGB
TrueGB

I still plan on getting this just to explore all regions of Tamriel, but I don't see myself committing to it in the long term.

DurdenBR
DurdenBR

I would like to see this MMO with an action fight system, but of course with Complex leveling up and ability picking.

Foppe
Foppe

Have to wait and see how it turns out.

mergulho456
mergulho456

As long as combat isn't like most MMO games nowadays, I'm expectant about this game. Looks very good.

MidnightMeteor
MidnightMeteor

As Kevin has said, most the things Jon talks about aren't very compelling. To also have the combat compared to Skyrim's is disappointing, if not a huge let down. Without rehashing what Kevin or others have stated, Bethesda has a franchise to protect and I don't think they'd let this MMO drown it.

 

We will just have to wait and see. I'm hoping this holds true to Elder Scrolls lore and actually delivers combat, and by that I mean nothing like the Elder Scrolls.

moriachik
moriachik

@JamesCDenton980 

You arrive by ship to the land of Morrowind- as you wake you're greeted by a Dark Elf by the name of Jiub, who offers words of reassurance and tells you that you're docked. A guard enters the hold and beckons you forward, walking behind you as you ascend to the upper deck. You marvel at the greenish waters and wood/stone buildings- the textures have never been this high definition! You can practically smell the sea as you pass the dingy wooden bridge overhead.


As you're guided into the Census and Excise office, you hear the condescending voice of Socucious Ergalla, "Ah yes... Blah blah blah". Ignore most of what he says as you choose your race, sign and class and name yourself. You're let loose into the back portion of the office; another soldier greets you in a room and suggests you head to Balmora for your next quest. (By the way you can rob this place blind and not get in much trouble, plus you get to keep everything. Though there's not much more than a few Kwama Eggs and some Silverware...) You pick up Fargoth's Ring from a barrel on your way out and ponder whether or not you should return it... 

FINALLY the moment has arrived when you're unleashed unto the land of Morrowind- the door between you and Seyda Neen and the lands beyond is the only obstacle in your way...

You step outside into the sunshine aaaaaannnd...


BAM! PLAYERS EVERYWHERE!!!! GIB ME MONI PLS HEUHEUHEUHEUHE!!11!1

Eraldus
Eraldus

 @sneric Have you played it before? No? let me guess... because the game wasn't released yet, right? Then I guess we can annul this comment..

ggregd
ggregd

 @xxYetterxx

 Except you can click the "block" button or hotkey and if your timing is right, you can reduce some incoming damage.  They claim that makes it more like TES because it's somehow quasi real-time.  In reality it's just a super short term version of the typical MMO buff.  But people who know have seen REAL real-time in Tera, and even Age of Conan has more action based combat than this seems to.