Somewhere between getting lost several times in the environment, swinging my sword at exploding ghouls and checking every freaking jar, chest, pot and corpse I forgot that I was playing an MMO. Sure, there were other people around me fighting off the baddies, exploring environments and chatting it up with NPCs, but it all felt so natural. Even when it got cluttered, it never really registered that I was playing a multiplayer specific genre. And why? Because the developers went out of their way to create an experience that was independent of the MMO mindset. Let me explain: The reason The Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t feel like an MMO is because it doesn’t play like an MMO.
In many ways it feels like Elder Scrolls VI. Bethesda kept their promise and Elder Scrolls Online feels like their past IPs. They didn’t sacrifice much in the gameplay department while developing the game. You swing your sword just like you did in Skyrim, you raise your shield just like you did in Oblivion, you sprint, you search, you quest… have I made my point? The reason games like The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 can’t seem to find the fan base they need to overcome World of Warcraft is because they base their games off the formula of World of Warcraft. The Elder Scrolls Online is one of the first games that seems to truly break the gameplay mold for MMOs.
The game is not a clone of the past IPs however. There are style choices and combat choices that aim to make the game run more smoothly. Here’s an example: Let’s say it’s time to choose your weapon and you have a choice between a bow, a sword or a staff. It seems obvious that the sword and staff have an advantage over the bow wielder at the start of the game, as they don’t need ammo. So the developers made a choice to give the bow wielders among us unlimited ammo. For those of you who are familiar with the IP, you’ll feel a little envious. If I’d had unlimited arrows in Skyrim – well, let’s just say a lot of NPCs would have taken A LOT of arrows to the knee.
Many folks worry that including other players in an Elder Scrolls IP would ruin the atmosphere. To be honest with you, I really didn’t notice anyone there. Not that there wasn’t anyone present, but rather they never got in my way and, most importantly, they never seemed out-of-place. These players felt like they were a part of the world, not some “outsider” who didn’t belong. They almost ALL feel like NPCs that just won’t talk to you. Whether or not the community will be a respectable one, and the players sensible and community driven, only time will tell.
The largest obstacle Bethesda will have to overcome is the following: People aren’t playing it because it doesn’t feel like an MMO. As I said earlier, this is a great thing. But, some aren’t convinced. However, Bethesda’s studies are showing that the more people play it, the longer they stay on. It seems that the more familiar people are with the game mechanics and the more they understand the game’s atmosphere and feel, they actually start to enjoy it. It’s going to take some time, but the truth is that The Elder Scrolls Online is breaking the mold in a positive way.
The music was beautiful, the environment immersive, the NPCs wonderfully voiced, the quests were everything you’d expect and overall the experience was wonderful. Bethesda still has some bugs to work on and they have a few hurdles to overcome, but trust me, The Elder Scrolls Online is well worth it. With the game having launched on the 4th, PC and Mac and expected June, 2014 release for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, that game has cast an incredibly large net. The subscription cost will be $14.99/month (€12.99 / £8.99), but two and a half hours is all it took to convince me that it was worth it.
This game feels, smells, sounds and plays like every other Elder Scrolls game you’ve experienced. So if you’re a fan of the IP, saddle up, because I think you’ll spend way more than two hours on this game.
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:
- An MMO made to play like an Elder Scrolls IP
- An Immersive World, Fantastic Voice Acting and Fighting
- A Lot of Looting
WHAT NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:
- The Bugs Bethesda Hasn’t Worked Out
- A Possibly Despondant Community of Players