The Elder Scrolls Online is set to launch April 4 on PC, with pre-order customers gaining 5 glorious days of early access. It's a big, meaty game with a lot of history behind it - in fact, it serves as something of a prequel to all the other Elder Scrolls games, being set hundreds of years prior to them. But with the exception of one additional god added to the pantheon between TESO and the later games, a lot of stuff remains the same, and you might want to know what's what before you dive in.
To help with that, here's a list of 5 ways to fully immerse yourself in the world of the Elder Scrolls, or to bide your time until the game finally launches.
1. Play TES III: Morrowind
To my mind, this seems like the best starting point. It's the game that got me hooked on the series, and I've probably spent more time in Morrowind than I have in all the other Elder Scrolls games combined. And this was back before I knew about mods.
I feel that Morrowind is a slightly closer experience to the Elder Scrolls Online than the later, more advanced games. It's a bit more "primitive" in terms of movement and combat, which will give you a better feel for TESO than Oblivion or Skyrim would (though the "left-click attack, right-click block" are more Oblivion-style; right-clicking in Morrowind opens the character menu screen). It will also give you a good feel for the Ebonheart Pact - or the early parts of it, at least. Additionally, there are libraries everywhere chock-full of books containing lore and stories about the Second Era setting of TESO.
The Morrowind Game Of The Year edition is available through Steam for $19.99, and includes the Bloodmoon and Tribunal expansions. You'll probably want to do something about the 12-year-old graphics. They haven't aged particularly well, so I heartily recommend the Morrowind Overhaul by Ornicopter.
2. Play Dark Age of Camelot
The Elder Scrolls Online's PvP is often described as Realm vs Realm, a term which comes from Dark Age of Camelot. DAoC is even older than TES III: Morrowind, but is evidently still going strong thanks to its outstanding PvP.
The Elder Scrolls Online's PvP all takes place in the central region of Cyrodiil, and pits players from the three opposing factions against one another. The three warring factions vie for control of keeps and outposts. Capturing an outpost in just the right location can interrupt enemy supply lines and quick-travel routes. These are also core elements of Dark Age of Camelot's RvR also.
There are a few differences, though. A major emphasis in the Elder Scrolls Online is placed on operating large siege weaponry - catapults, ballistae, trebuchets and such, each of which can be loaded with different kinds of armaments, from simple rocks to flaming jars of pitch to bundles of rotten meat.
To be perfectly honest, I've never played DAoC myself, so I can't personally vouch for its similarities. But it's a sensible comparison to make: Matt Firor, the top guy at ESO, got his start at Mythic, and has used DAoC as the basis for his new game's PvP.
The closest I've personally seen to TESO's PvP is the Ettenmoors in the Lord of the Rings Online, playing as the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. The Ettenmoors is also open PvP, but instead of fighting other super-geared players of the same class, the Freeps fight the Creeps - jacked-up monster characters from a limited palette with no gear. And while there is some focus on capturing enemy-controlled keeps and outposts, the really fun PvP in LotRO is the giant open-field battles, and LotRO has no catapults and trebuchets. In that sense, it's kind of the opposite of the Elder Scrolls Online's PvP game.
3. Watch The Teaser Trailers
If there's one thing that will get anyone amped up for some exciting gameplay, it's the amazeballs teaser videos. It's kind of a running serial, starting off by introducing the three warring factions by way of representative characters: a giant, burly Nord representing the Ebonheart Pact, a cool red-haired elf (I'm guessing Altmer) Sorceress representing the Aldmeri Dominion, and a hooded super-ninja, probably Breton, representing the Daggerfall Covenant.
The second video picks up where the first one leaves off, but jumps the tracks on the story: the big showdown is interrupted by one of Molag Bal's anchors, and the three foes end up squaring off against deadly Daedra and a giant, nasty Flesh Atronach.
Hot damn. I get jazzed every time.
4. Read A Book Or Two
A writer named Greg Keyes wrote a couple of Elder Scrolls novels, set 40 years after the Oblivion Crisis. The first one, The Infernal City, tells the tale of the appearance of a floating city called Umbriel. The shadow of this floating city is particularly dangerous - wherever it falls, people die and rise as undead. The second book, Lord of Souls, is a sequel. Umbriel is still floating around, and all of Tamriel is at stake. It pretty much always is.
While there is loads of lore to be gleaned from the books scattered around the game worlds, those books are only a few pages long at most. That's not what anyone would call heavy reading. These are 300-page novels, soaked with lore and history and all that good stuff. The books got decent reviews, and if reading isn't your thing, they're also available as audiobooks.
5. Play TES V: Skyrim
No point in denying the obvious. Skyrim was the gateway into the Elder Scrolls universe for a lot of people. It's big and pretty and weird and fun, and is arguably one of the most successful RPGs ever made. If you haven't played it.... aw, who am I kidding? Everyone has played it. Go play it some more. Better yet, get some mods off of the Skyrim Nexus first and then play it some more. You can get some real game-changers there; some mods can completely change the whole game experience.
Just be aware that TESO is not a continuation of the numbered series of single-player Elder Scrolls games. It will feel familiar after playing through one of the single-player games, but it's not an increment of the single-player game systems. It's a different game engine with MMO mechanics.
How will you be gearing up for The Elder Scrolls Online's April launch? Let us know in our comments!