Posted Tue, Mar 19, 2013 by Sardu
Stepping onto the rocky beaches of Stros M’Kai, I could immediately tell I was in for a vastly different experience than my previous excursion into the great wide open of The Elder Scrolls Online last fall. In that original play session, I left generally optimistic about the game, but felt that it was still a bit too rough around the edges in some areas to really get a feel for how it would play as a finished release title.
This time around, however, any moments of pause I might have formerly had were washed out to sea, right along with the corpses of my enemies as I crept along the shoreline of Stros M’Kai. The map itself is a sizable island that’s part of the Daggerfall Covenant, and will initially be a low level stomping ground for Bretons, Orcs, and Redguards.
I chose to play as an orc which ended up feeling very much at home in the area. His weathered skin was a perfect reflection of the arid landscape of the island which was rife with pirates, smugglers, and other shady types. Among them, I eventually helped Captain Kaleen pull off an interesting heist that went even better than I had originally expected thanks to the opt-in nature of certain quest line elements.
Without drilling down into storyline spoilers, much like my experience last fall, the main quest on the island gave me a certain amount of freedom to decide when I was ready to begin the heist and ultimately set sail for the orc-controlled island of Betnikh. Captain Kaleen pointed me in the direction of three individuals who would bring unique talents to the heist, and it was up to me to decide which of them I wanted to track down.
While I could have simply located and recruited any one of the three and been done with it, I opted to find all three. This choice ended up being somewhat impactful as all three would prove to play interesting roles in future quests. In many ways, these choices are somewhat like choosing which NPCs you want to be part of the bigger story of your character’s life.
And choice is a huge part of any Elder Scrolls experience. That, and exploration.
On the exploration front, I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of interesting content while out scampering around the island a bit off the beaten path. In one case I stumbled across the corpse of a dead pirate that had washed up along the shoreline. Emptying its pockets I found a note that sparked a new quest in the area. A bit further up the beach I came across a message stuffed into a bottle that was half-buried in the sand. At first the message seemed to be little more than a riddle to me; it was only later on that I realized it was actually a clue that would help me decipher an altogether different quest.
So while The Elder Scrolls Online does have a very distinct narrative that helps point your character in the direction of level-appropriate content, the game definitely offers a sizable slice of the freedom of exploration you’d come to expect from a game in the series.
As noted above, Stros M’Kai is a lower level area for any characters of the Dagerfall Covenant, but as we learned last week, all players will eventually be able to explore all parts of the world. So say you choose to play one of the other available races but would still like to explore areas like Stros M’Kai or Betnikh. In most MMOs that would mean having to roll an alt character just to see the additional content.
The way it will work in The Elder Scrolls Online is that once you reach the level cap, you’ll have the option to play through the content for one of the other two factions on that same character. If you do, all the content will actually scale to match your level, and can lead to even better rewards as you progress through the second and third faction’s content.
Again, this kind of thing is all about giving players choices, and trust me when I say TESO offers players an unprecedented amount of choice depending on how you choose to play the game. One major example here is the progression system; a topic worthy of its own article which is exactly what it will be getting later this week.