The Elder Scrolls Online: In the Beginning
The last time I got my grubby little hands on The Elder Scrolls Online was during a press event Bethesda hosted a few weeks ago in Santa Monica. This time, they were showing off the game at E3 and rather than play the same areas I had at the previous event, the team was kind enough to let me break the rules and start a brand new character to see the beginning of the game. I cant thank them enough for the opportunity because it was, in a word, awesome.
The Elder Scrolls Online starts off in a similar manner to the other games in the series, in which youve had something happen to your character and need to make your way to civilization to begin the completion of an epic destiny. Being the eternal RPG player that I am, I immediately hopped on that rail and followed it through to completion. Oh, Im sorry. Actually I meant to say, Hell no! Im going my own damned way and theres not a thing you can do to stop me. And that, my friends, is exactly why I love The Elder Scrolls series of games so much. After you complete a very short period of mandatory gameplay, you are completely free to pick whatever direction you want and just go. In my most recent play through, I even took this to the extreme by jumping off the dock walkway rather than even go into the first town the moment I got off the boat the game starts on.
Splashing my way through the water, swimming around the island and hopping up onto a mound of rocks, I was immediately set upon by a starving wolf. Easily enough (thanks to the combat lessons given to me by Combat Designer, Maria Aliprando, during my first play through), I made short work of him and was quickly on my way. Whether it was bandits, assassin beetles, wolves, or any number of other manner of death dealers, I was able to handle the situation with my character. As a quick hint, I advise always choosing at least one skill that allows you a bit of crowd control capability, no matter which class you choose to play. It will make all the difference in the world when you find yourself taking on more than one opponent at a time.
Quests are scattered throughout the land and easily found by checking the mini-map and heading to any gold dots. Those dots on the map correspond to people or items that will begin a quest line for your character. As you may have already guessed, you are free to accept them or not, all depending on your particular whim of the day. Even though Im a huge fanatic for free roaming in any game, I went ahead and did a few of the quests I came across just to check out the writing to see if it lives up to the excellent lore-filled tales and exploits that weve become so accustomed to over the years. Im happy to report that you wont be disappointed.
Within the first 30 minutes of following one quest, I had donned a costume to pass unscathed through a town of bandits, poisoned a maid and let her die (there was an option to save her), stolen a gem for one quest giver, and then betrayed them by giving that same gem to a completely different NPC that asked for it. After that, I spent another 30 minutes assisting a mage gain entrance to an ancient ruin that had been sealed for an untold number of years, battling machines of ancient power, bypassing traps, and unlocking puzzles to reveal magic knowledge not seen in centuries. These were only two quest lines out of nearly a dozen I saw within the very beginning areas of the game. Considering the fact that The Elder Scrolls Online is bigger than any other game in The Elder Scrolls series, I cant imagine just how many quests are actually in the game.
The most amazing thing to me during my play time was the fact that I not only didnt notice how long it took to get from level 4 to level 5, I also didnt care. It probably took almost an hour to gain that level. The entire time I was playing, I wasnt paying attention at all to what level I was, whether I was gaining experience at an efficient rate, or anything of the like. I was just out there playing, having a good time, and getting into all the trouble I could manage. And dear gods, is their more than enough trouble one can find themselves buried neck deep in.
So whats my verdict after getting my hands on The Elder Scrolls Online for only the second time (once again, playing for nearly two hours thanks to the kindness of the Bethesda team)? Plain and simple - I cant wait for the game to come out. Between the complete freedom to engage in or ignore any quest I choose, the return of open dungeons (see more about them in my previous ESO article here), and the amount of just plain fun Ive had while playing, its impossible to state just how good the game is looking so far. At the end of the day, I know everyone wants to know if The Elder Scrolls Online genuinely feels like an Elder Scrolls game, and the answer to that is a resounding, YES! The game certainly isnt perfect right now, and there are some issues the team continues to work on, but it is incredibly fun and in the end should prove well worth the wait!