The Elder Scrolls Online impressions
You might have noticed we've been flinging up video interviews with the key designers behind the MMORPGification of the Elder Scrolls series. That's because I went out to their studio in Baltimore to see it. We've got an in-depth preview in the issue out in the UK on the 6th, but I'll give you a quick breakdown of what I thought, in various areas.
It immediately looks like an MMO - you've got a hotbar of skills, and you hit the number keys to perform different attacks. There's a lot of sparkly effects for these, but the blows don't really look like they connect. That's fairly normal for an MMORPG, but obviously very different from the previous TES games, particularly Skyrim.
I got to see a few special enemy abilities in action: Necromancers raising skeletons from their dead allies, and guys who chuck oil to slow you then set it alight. But the stuff Nick Konkle talks about in our video interview is much more interesting, particularly with regards to how players of different classes can combine their abilities.
TESO is all of Tamriel. That's an exciting prospect. Some of these places haven't been in a game before, and most of them haven't been explorable since the blocky days of Daggerfall. It's cool to be able to go Black Marsh and see how the Argonians live in their homeland (mud huts), and plenty of the other places I saw were appealingly exotic.
Again, though, don't expect multiplayer Skyrim. Graphically, TESO is not noticably prettier than other modern MMOs, and the buildings are proportioned in the chunky, spacious style of World of Warcraft.
You can stumble into quests just by wandering about: nearby ones are highlighted on your minimap, the way points of interest pop up on your compass in Skyrim. Neatly, you don't need to 'have' the quest: wherever the action takes place, there's a corpse or a note at the entrance that'll jump you into the relevant story.
The biggest quest I saw was a long, complicated story-driven one that involved going back in time, inhabiting someone else's body, and a branching choice. It was in a pretty rough state, but it did suggest they're putting a lot of effort into making these more intricate than fetch-and-kill.
The three player factions can only fight each other in one zone: Cyrodiil. It's the whole country Oblivion took place in, and the bits we saw were sunny and rural. We saw a small team of players take a village, then a guard tower, then assault a castle.
That's where it gets interesting. A bigger team of players manned catapaults, focusing their fire on battlements lined with players. The walls eventually buckled, the players fell down, and the invaders stormed in.
Combat with this many players is chaos - a sea of swirling spells and twirling blades - but in a good way. It'll be fun to be part of these mega events, even if you're not carefully co-ordinating assaults.
TESO looks like an interesting MMO. But it certainly looks like an MMO - this doesn't feel or function like Bethesda's Elder Scrolls games. You can read a lot more about how the two relate, and what I saw of TESO, in the next issue of PC Gamer.