Beta tasting: The Elder Scrolls Online preview
Worlds away from Warcraft
In The Elder Scrolls Online, each quest definitely had a purpose and was part of the narrative rather than a grind. So maybe it’s a good thing to let the complex interweaving narrative consume me, rather than worry about what level I'm at. I particularly enjoyed picking locks of the many chests and massive vases littered about each cave, dungeon and sea shore. Becoming talented at lock picking requires all the dexterity of getting at least 20 on Flappy Bird.
I really liked the thrust and block of the combat which, again, is familiar from Skyrim . The combat felt really intense and miles away from the rapid-fire clicks of most MMOs. Admittedly, it’s not quite up to the standard of Chivalry Medieval Warfare, which I’d say is the standard Bethesda should be aiming for.
Another thing you won’t see in combat in most other MMOs is the blocking option: being familiar with dodging and blocking have saved my life on several occasions but it does take heaps of stamina. The FPV helped with the immersion of the game but wasn't that great in combat due to collision issues and the lack of depth predictable for a beta.
Van der Graaf generator, anyone?
I spent a lot of my very limited time in The Elder Scrolls Online busily crafting, as it's an essential part of any MMO. Indeed, making dark meat beer is an indispensable speciality, as far as I'm concerned.
PvP combat across Cyrodiil
So, not at all pretending I’m like your every-day dictator (rather that I enjoy acting like one), I’m always up for some mass war. Naturally I’m talking about how I had the chance to PvP again very recently and spent a few hours bashing my way to level 10 to get there. It was worth it though as it has given me a glimpse of what might be the light at the end of The Elder Scrolls Online's tunnel. Here, I finally experienced the sense of community that might make this game worth a monthly fee.
The PvP map covers a lot of ground
Cyrodiil, the PvP map, looks a lot like I imagine the Crimea must be like, pretty dull and full of bored wolves. In this environment, I am caught up in a battle between the game’s three major factions: the Daggerfall Covenant; Ebonheart Pact and the Aldmeri Dominion. All of them are waging war for control of The Elder Scrolls themselves.
The Scrolls – and the dominance of the keeps and forts the scrolls are held in – are the reason I'm here. To endlessly fight as they switch hands is my personal PvP purgatory.
"Have you got the scrolls?" "No, I always walk like this."
After entering Cyrodiil, I had no time for the tutorial on understanding the art of deploying the machines of war, including ballistas, catapults and trebuchets. I mean, after the hours I put into playing Medieval: Total War there isn't a castle safe anywhere.
The PvP map is huge, I can use the Transitus network to fast-travel between areas, but only those claimed by my alliance. Luckily, I redeemed my Imperial Pack press code and acquired a heavenly ashen steed, so I didn't have to jog for miles with level 50 wolves biting my arse or try to save up a zillion gold in game.
I’d also received an Explorer Pack code which gave me a mini squig that I’m rather taken with. Incidentally, if you pre-order you get this code automatically. Setting up my siege machine in front of Farragut Keep was a bit of a faff but the thrill of watching my allies pour into the breach to slaughter the players inside made any moaning about UI interface issues just pedantic.
My Dragonknight is still only level 10 though, which meant I died A LOT. Still, playing with a group, capturing the keep by slaughtering everyone in the area to secure another territory on the Cyrodiil map was, despite my initial trepidation, a rewarding couple of hours. The Battle felt very chaotic but fortunately I was grouped with much higher level players who did most of the work and resurrected me on more than one occasion.
At times I felt like I was a mounted samurai in the castle attack scene from Akira Kurosawa's film Ran, an experience that makes me suspect that PvP will play a pivotal role in the initial success, if not the prolonged survival of The Elder Scrolls Online.
The Reg verdict
I'll admit that I'm bored to death of traditional massively multiplayer online games and my one wish for The Elder Scrolls Online was to give me something different. Is this a victorious transition of The Elder Scrolls into MMO territory? Does the combination of classic RPG franchise and MMO work? Will the end product convince me to spend another £10 a month or switch my austerity-lightened direct debit from Blizzard to Bethesda?
For now, these questions will remain unanswered while The Elder Scrolls Online is still in beta. Needless to say, what will make or break The Elder Scrolls Online will relate to its community and how long groups of players will stick around.
From what I have seen so far, I think fans of the franchise will find plenty to enjoy and there’s a lot I saw that looks extremely promising. Don't consign The Elder Scrolls Online to free to play just yet. ®