Hands-On with the Orc Sorcerer in The Elder Scrolls Online
Stepping onto the rocky beaches of Stros MÂKai, 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 MÂKai. The map itself is a sizable island thatÂs 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 characterÂs 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 youÂd come to expect from a game in the series.
As noted above, Stros MÂKai 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 MÂKai 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, youÂll 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 factionÂs 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.
Burn it! With Fire!
Since the sorcerer was a playable option this time (not to mention the fact that I prefer playing casters in MMOs) I opted to choose that for my base class, and stuck with using a Destruction Staff as my primary weapon. As with all weapons, the staff has both a quick and a charged attack, based on either tapping or holding down the left mouse button. Basic usage fired off short, single bursts of doom, while the charged attack would send out three in one go.
It's worth noting that I only ended up getting to around level 7 during my hands-on time, so I wasn't able to progress any of my skills quite far enough to hit their morph points. Once you level a skill up a fifth time, you'll reach one of these morph points that allows you to choose between two different branching paths. So two players might end up focusing on the same class, weapons, and armor, but can still end up with fairly different characters based on how they choose to advance their individual skills.
As for my sorcerer skills, I opted to use a combination of skills from the Storm Calling and Daedric Summoning lines (a third line, Dark Magic, was also available):
MageÂs Fury (Storm Calling)
This is a high damage skill that you can use to call down kickass lightning strikes on the doomed heads of your doomed enemies. Since the skill itself had no cooldown - instead only being limited to my available Magika Â a basic combat rotation involved pulling mobs with a charged staff attack, and then zapping them to death with MageÂs Fury as they closed to melee range.
While this was highly effective against single targets, my choice of sticking to light armor made things a bit more challenging against groups of 2 or 3 at a time. In those situations, it helped that I also chose to begin leveling upÂ
Unstable Familiar (Daedric Summoning)
This is basically a dumbfire pet that lasts for one minute each time itÂs summoned. It doesnÂt dish out huge damage on its own, but instead functioned a bit like a mobile DoT that would join in combat any time I was attacked. This allowed me to play Â albeit very slightly Â like more of a pet-based caster which tends to be my main MMO preference.
In fact, I typically play necromancers in just about any MMO cool enough to have them as a playable option. Just ask Lewis over on our Guild Wars 2 site sometime if you want to get an idea of just how much I love the class in that game.
This is an Elder Scrolls game, however, so as you might expect necromancers are considered the bad kids on the playground who have to stay indoors during recess to write, ÂI will not practice necromancyÂ on the chalkboard until the bell rings. One of my absolute favorite quotes (spoken by one of the three NPCs I brought along to the main storyline heist) from my hands-on time was, ÂThese necromancers may be disgusting, but they do dress well.Â
Necromancy is actually one of the key plot points in the life of your character which, for all intents and purposes, is based on the very simple notion that ÂMolag Bal stole my soul!Â This soul stealing business will apparently be bundled into the tutorial experience for TESO, and where I started at represented the beginning of a very long journey to reclaim my characterÂs soul.
Stay Tuned for More Exclusive Elder Scrolls Online Coverage
Even though PAX East and GDC are breathing directly in our face like a drunk hobo asking for a dollar to buy some "food", weÂll be bringing you a lot more coverage from our recent hands-on time with The Elder Scrolls Online throughout this week and next. WeÂve got some exclusive interviews, a closer look at the progression system, and loads more headed your way, so be sure to check back throughout the week for more awesome Elder Scrolls Online previews!