The Elder Scrolls Online – First Impressions (Part One)

The Elder Scrolls Online Screen 1

Adam has been exploring Tamriel in The Elder Scrolls Online beta, and he’s here to give you his first impressions.

For Elder Scrolls fans this game is a must have; it has the lore, expansive locations, quests, crafting, loot and character customization that will satisfy the needs of any fan. For people who have never played an Elder Scrolls game, you’re not going to be wowed, but you’ll feel at home with the MMO mechanics. That being said, the freedom you encounter in Elder Scrolls games is here, but it’s a little watered-down – I mean, you won’t be able to stealthily steal items from shops, houses, or NPCs to gain a massive advantage, like in other Elder Scrolls games, simply because putting something like that in an MMO would be outright chaos.

It’s got all of the familiar features of an MMO – quest lines, looting enemies’ corpses, crafting your own items, customizing your character’s appearance and skills etc. It feels familiar, which is no bad thing, but I’m yet to find anything that really sets this game apart from all the other MMOs out there.

The Elder Scrolls Online Screen 4One thing is certain about The Elder Scrolls Online - it's gorgeous! And also... monkeys!

The quests and the quest log are in the style of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which is great – they’re easy to pick up and know where you’re going, and who you need to speak to. Unfortunately I have had a couple of instances of bugged NPCS, where I’d listen to them speak, select my response, then the speech box would disappear and I’d be left awkwardly staring at an NPC who clearly felt the tension by their glassy-eyed stare back towards me. I’d then have to logout of the game and sign back in. But this is a beta, and bugs like this should be cleared up before release.

The Elder Scrolls Online Screen 2This is one of the awkwardly bugged NPC moments... notice her disapproval.

There is enough character customization in here to make your character unique to you, and with nine races to choose from (ten if you’ve ordered the Imperial Edition), it’s unlikely you’ll bump into your doppelganger any time soon. You can tweak everything you’d expect in an Elder Scrolls game – your body, face, hair, tattoos, piercings, scars, face-paint, and body-markings.

The combat isn’t as visceral as I’d like, with this being an action-MMO, but there’s still a certain weight to the swings of your axe and the casting of your spells. It’s a welcome break from MMOs that want you to cooldown-bash your enemies to death, as you have to click, dodge and move during combat. Especially with some of the later enemies that actually do pose a threat; you will have to think on your feet to defeat them, judging which of your abilities are best used and when – which can be fun, and challenging!

The Elder Scrolls Online Screen 3You can play from a third-person, or a first-person perspective. Personally I prefer third-person, purely for the spatial awareness, especially during combat.

You gain experience the more you use abilities and items, so if you keep shanking people with your daggers eventually you’re going to gain in skill with that weapon. The same goes for your abilities, for example my character is a Dragonknight, one of his abilities is Stonefist – I’ve use that ability enough times that I have been able to ‘morph’ it, meaning I can choose one of two new enhanced versions of that ability to gain experience in. This leaves the classes wide open, meaning that there can, and hopefully will be, all manner of experimentation with skills and weapons. Want to be a magic-wielding archer? Go ahead, it’s your choice! Want to be a heavily armoured juggernaut that uses nothing but heavy two-handed mauls, go for it!

Skyshards are dotted about the world; when you find and use 3 of these you gain a skill point to spend on your abilities, so you’re going to be at a disadvantage against someone who’s found them all, no doubt.

So, I’ve enjoyed playing The Elder Scrolls Online up to now, but it’s not showing me anything I haven’t seen before. Although, from what I’ve read and heard lately, it’s the PVP that has really swayed peoples’ opinions on the game. And with that, I’m off to hit level 10 and see what all the fuss is about!

UPDATE - check out part two of my beta experience here!

image: © ZeniMax Media Inc

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