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The Elder Scrolls Online: A Beta Discussion

Posted Fri, Feb 07, 2014 by Lewis B

Lee B: When I first got onto The Elder Scrolls Online I wasn't sure what to expect, to be honest. I had heard all sorts of tales about how this was going to be everything anyone ever wanted from a MMOG experience set in The Elder Scrolls. It would have all the fine points of the games, and solidly deliver it to those who have been shouting for a multiplayer environment for years (I was one of them!).

The game was exactly what I had been waiting for: an MMO Elder Scrolls Game. Now I'm not claiming it's THE MMORPG of ALL MMORPGs. The important thing is that it feels like an Elder Scrolls game set in a MMO-style of gameplay. To me that is it how it should be advertised, too. "The Online Elder Scrolls Experience you have been waiting for!" It's no more or no less than just that. Bethesda and Zenimax have done a good job of sticking to the roots here.

TESO Dunmer Stonefalls

Combat feels about par for the course, too. They've had to make some changes to how magic works, and add the addition of specific combat skills, but it is a necessary change to make a progression-based MMO that rewards dedication to fighting styles. A necessity I am willing to take to make an awesome Nord in heavy armor who runs into melee combat flailing a two-handed weapon about while chucking lightning bolts or turning himself into some crazy avatar of storms. It's incredibly satisfying to blast one guy to ash while laying a heavy attack on another.

The issue I have with the game is the class system. You are limited to four over-arching themes to a character and you have to pick one at character creation. While you are allowed any weapon and armor you are still limited in certain skills that, I suppose, encourages better team play and aims for more balance. I just find it very unsatisfying when trying to do some crazy ideas that you really have to plan around certain aspects of class. When making my Nord Thundercaller (which is what I am dubbing it now) I had to specifically choose Sorcerer in order to get that path, otherwise I would have stuck to range using the Staves.

Lewis B: It's funny you should bring up classes because it's one of the first things that caught my eye in character creation. Admitedly it is using the original Elder Scrolls class set, but it's a very linear variant. Perhaps linear is a strong word here as there is a great deal of customization but it's much more narrow than many Elder Scrolls fans will be used to. I must admit, your avatar is pretty awesome and I think that shows the depth of the class system that The Elder Scrolls Online has. Who doesn't want to smash someone in the face with an electric greatsword? 

Going back to your first point about The Elder Scrolls feeling exactly like an MMOG variant, it absolutely does. For me, that's both a positive and negative as while Elder Scrolls (offline) has a wonderful game world to explore and a reasonably good quest system, I think it's fair to say that ESO has inherited some of the flaws of its predecessors because it so closely resembles them. The lack of combat feedback (numerical) or a user interface that's clumsy are the two things that spring to mind. Animations are still ropy (as they have been in every single Elder Scrolls game) and although wonderfully voice acted, the NPC's are lifeless and jawless (it's a shame ESO hasn't taken a leaf out of Guild Wars 2's speech technology on NPC's). All that being said, there really is something inherently exciting about this product. Whether it's the beautiful game world, the fact it's stepped away from the exclamation quest givers typical to the genre or just the fact that exploration feels heavy and somewhat worthwhile. If there's one thing I really did want, it was a staff. Not a magical one, but a combat staff. I cried for a good half an hour when I realised I couldn't use that weapon. 

What's your thoughts on the opening section?

Lee B: First I want to say that if you want to use the Thundercaller you just make sure that you use the attack names appropriately. You don't "smash someone in the face with an electric greatsword", you "call for the Divines' Will and bring down righteous justice in electricity-filled glory"!

Well I'd say that after doing Coldharbour about ten times now that I like it well enough. Truth be told I probably spent too much time in Coldharbour. Heck, I spent two hours hunting out all the chests just to see what could be obtained and gear out my guy appropriately; and for the record it's one of the best early game sources for Natural Water and beginner recipes. The area does well to introduce the epic quest you are initiating on and make you feel like a key structure to the plot. The tutorial aspect of it does a decent job of making certain that you learn enough to get into the game and doesn't patronize you about it. Without a doubt it envelopes you into the game's atmosphere to get you in the mindset of exploring Tamriel.

Argonian Group

The problem for me however is that there is nothing to ensure that you have actually learned what to do. I never had to figure out how to properly sneak up on someone when the prompt came up and just went in swinging at the back of the guy's head without mercy. Later on I remember when I pitted up against the Anchor Guardian that I wished you weren't being constantly healed as you tried to take it out. I wanted more of a skill gate rather than another introduction to bigger baddies that will challenge you further. When I first left Coldharbour and took on some spiders I got wiped out because I wasn't prepared for different attack cycles that had a tiny window of avoidance. 

Lewis B: Although I'll probably write about this issue seperately, I did encounter some serious bugs during the opening section. I couldn't get out my cell, enemies ignored me completely and I got stuck on far too many objects. It ate up a huge chunk of my hands on time as it didn't get fixed until very late. That aside and something I've really learned to love is the atmosphere of the game. It's really great to login and not be greated by a million exclamation marks and to be welcomed into what feels like an epic quest chain right from the word go. 

I think you're right about the tutorial though, it doesn't teach you anything. There's no information on tooltips or telegraphs or even what sneaking is. I'm not suggesting the game needs serious hand holding, but for players who are new to the genre (unlike you and I) it must be a bit intimidating. On the topic of combat and you getting your ass kicked by spiders, it's a bit of a different scenario if you pick a bow. I wish there was more feedback in it and the ability to skewer multiple enemies but overal it's easy enough, the animations desperately need tightening up.

Actually, before we continue this chat into those realms can we reconvene after this weekends Beta once I push out an article on the animations and combat in game?

Lee B: Let's do it. I'll look forward to a strong reply! ;)

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