Earlier this month the news of The Elder Scrolls Online – A Massively Multiplayer Online game being in development at Zenimax Online studios caused a rift amongst many fans of The Elder Scrolls franchise.
However recent news gives gamers dreading an MMO some hope for a game that holds at its’ core an engine specifically designed from scratch to remain true to the Elder scrolls whilst being an MMO.
Through careful research, and discussions with Bethesda Game Studios and vast creative brainstorming Zenimax Online must create thousands of quests that will hook players and share similarities with the Elder Scrolls games of the past. Zenimax Online are sticking to the lore forged in the five existing games and implementing an exploration-focused quest structure that will bring in fan favourite quest-lines such as the thieves guild, the creative director Paul Sage and lead content designer Rich Lambert hope to give fans of the series a thorough look at a period of unrest in Tamriel’s history that makes fans of the series feel right at home.
The Elder Scrolls online takes place 1000 years before the events of Skyrim, before the ascendancy of the Septim dynasty in the third era which means the throne is ready for the taking.
The noble Tharn family has hatched a plot to bring Tamriel back to Imperial control, the family have made a diabolical deal with the King of Worms Mannimarco (who some might remember) an Altmer Necromancer to bring the dead imperial soldiers from the grave to take back all of Tamriel.
Mannimarco however unbeknownst to the imperials has made his own deal with Molag Bal to bring the whole of Tamriel into Molag Bal’s dominion. The story unfolds before the player,an adventurer whose soul has been taken by the Daedric Prince of domination.
In response to the empty throne three factions have arisen, each waring to claim the throne.
The three factions each hold three playable races within them.
The Ebonheart Pact includes- The Dunmer the natives of Morrowind, the Nords the natives of Skyrim,and the Argonians the natives of Blackmarsh.
The Daggerfall Covenant includes- Bretons the humans who settled High Rock, Orcs (Orsimer) natives of Orsinium a land within High Rock between the kingdoms of Menevia and Wayrest, and the Red Guard natives of Hammerfell.
The Aldmeri Dominion includes- The Altmer (High Elves) natives of the Summerset Isles,the Bosmer (wood Elves)from Valenwood and the Khajiit natives of Elsweyr.
Alas the real time combat that fans of The Elder Scrolls have long been accustomed to will not be featured in the online game due to global network latency. However to make up for it the developers wish to bring over many features from the combat we know and love into The Elder Scrolls Online, the most prominent being the stamina bar. The ability to sprint, block and interrupt and break enemy combat effects by using stamina should ensure a significant variance to the usual MMO combat .
The stamina bar is going to be as important as the health bar, if an enemy depletes your stamina you cannot flee or block until you have recovered enough and as such will be at a disadvantage, it all works vice versa and depleting the enemies’ stamina will ensure you have the best chance to inflict massive criticals.
A player blocking a special attack may not stop all the damage getting through but it may stop secondary effects like the movement impairment inflicted by ice bolts which will allow the player to retaliate as opposed to being obliterated while you can’t move. Many gamers will need to do more than hack and slash if they wish to survive an onslaught of enemies, and it should make for exciting gameplay.
According to the gameplay designer Maria Aliprando
“The first and foremost thing about creatures is they are not speed bumps, you will encounter the same mechanics from monsters that you will from players.”
Enemies will work together to defeat players and will behave in a believable way unlike the usual MMO enemy that stands there and watches an ally get annihilated. Enemy fighters will try and distract melee opponents whilst their fellow NPC mages attack the players with magic from afar. Enemies will form combo attacks when it is possible, an NPC rogue may throw some oil at the feet of a party and the NPC mage will assist his rogue friend by launching fire at the oil thus igniting the players. Although many MMO gamers and developers alike may feel sceptical, Zenimax believe they can do it.
The radiant AI featured in Oblivion and Skyrim will unfortunately not be part of the game as many players will be playing according to their real life schedule and if the radiant AI was featured they may log in and find towns where NPC ‘s are all sleeping. Therefore a new AI system will be used, hopefully it will share similarities with the system we know and love.
According to Game Informer, Zenimax stated that like Skyrim all of Tamriel’s inhabitants will be voiced making for more immersive gameplay.
The currently equipped weapons determine the light and heavy attacks that take up the first two slots within the hotbar, players are able to choose various class abilities they have unlocked to fill most of the remaining bar, and the final slot is taken by the players ultimate ability which is available for activation once the finesse bar is filled. The Finesse bar is filled by performing well in battles.
According to Game Informer Zenimax declined to give in depth detail on the classes featured in The Elder Scrolls Online, however it was confirmed that the game is going to be class based unlike all the previous Elder Scrolls games.
The Elder Scrolls Online is reviving a feature that had been lost in the realm of MMO’s: public dungeons. These dungeons will be designed similar to the private instances in games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars The Old Republic but they will not be separated from the world and will be places that encourage players to work together. For gamers who prefer not to have other players interfering there will be standard instance dungeons as well.
Guilds have been an important part of The Elder Scrolls games and The Elder Scrolls Online will be no different. The Fighters Guild, The Mages Guild, The Thieves Guild and The Dark Brotherhood will all be in existence in some form or another.
Players will be able to increase their reputation with The Fighters Guild by destroying Dark Anchors.
Dark Anchors are daedric hook like devices sent by Molag Bal which he wishes to use to drag Tamriel into his daedric domain named Coldharbour. Defeating the Dark Anchor guardians and destroying the Dark Anchors will be difficult for solo players so help may be needed but in destroying a Dark Anchor and sending it back to Coldharbour everyone who contributed will receive increased reputation with The Fighters Guild which in the long run will provide players with new skills and abilities.
To join The Mages Guild players will have to search throughout all of Tamriel for ancient lore books hidden in lively cities, ancient ruins and the dark depths of the most treacherous caves. It is unknown as to wether the lore books will be placed randomly or will be hand placed by developers but it certain that discovering these ancient tomes of knowledge will be exciting to fans of the Elder Scrolls Lore and explorers. Finding lore books will build your reputation with The Mages Guild which will in turn provide you with new perks, skills and abilities once the Guild view you as worthy.
Possibly the most enjoyable Guilds to be a part of are The Thieves Guild and of course The Dark Brotherhood. They will most definitely be in the game, however it is going to be a challenge for Zenimax Online as both of the questlines usually rely heavily on complex scripted and meticulously crafted set pieces which are difficult to construct successfully within an MMO. The studio hasn’t provided any detail regarding these two factions but Zenimax is very aware that fans expect these guilds to be in the game , hopefully they put in a lot of hard work and pull it off.
Player VS player battles operate in much the same manner as NPC battles and look to be very exciting.
Instanced balanced PVP arenas exist within the game for players who prefer the e-sport side of MMO’s and will surely be very competitive.
The most unique feature within The Elder Scrolls Online PVP content is waht Zenimax Online are calling the open world free form faction VS faction area, this area encompasses most of Cyrodiil which unfortunately means the playable area had to be decreased within Cyrodiil to fit the PVP requirements. The overall goal within Cyrodiil is for you to defeat the two other factions vying for power and place the best player of your faction upon the throne. PVP content will surely be a strong part of The Elder Scrolls Online, and apart from the decreased player area of Cyrodiil it will not take away from the players’ freedom to enjoy the diverse expansive lands of Tamriel solo.
The flow of news coming from the Game Informer Hub ,and The Bethesda Blog brings hope to the many fans who may have simply dismissed The Elder Scrolls Online as a game that will simply not meet the standard of The Elder scrolls franchise.
In the coming months it will certainly be interesting to see how Zenimax Online will integrate the many ‘touchstones’ as they have been called into the online game. Touchstones like the Crafting and Alchemy systems, stealth or sneaking,mounts, and of course in what way will the other Daedric Princes come into the game.
The Elder Scrolls Online is definitely going to shake the MMO world, we’ll have to wait and see just how much.