I have to admit a dirty little secret: I have never played even a minute of Skyrim. I’ve watched my bestie play, but never partaken of the wildly popular title myself. So how on Earth did Elder Scrolls Online end up on my personal “most anticipated games of 2014” list. The long and short of it is that Zenimax grabbed my attention by making a game that I believe is largely missing in the often too cartoony genre these days: In short, a more “realistic” looking MMO.
Coming into Elder Scrolls Online has been a revelation for me. Playing the game essentially "cold" from a lore and mechanic viewpoint brought back the excitement of why I love to play games in the first place. I'm the sort who, quite frankly, loves to not know every minute detail of the games that have piqued my interest in one way or another. To that end, Bill asked me to write a bit from that particular perspective.
Many games pay lip service to allowing players to participate in a game in any way that suits them. Most fail abysmally and we all end up running around with the same generic "flavor the week" build and skill rotation. Sure, there are twinks and playing nekkid to try to spice things up, but, generally speaking, most MMOs these days favor class / skill / equipment locks for their players.
Enter Elder Scrolls Online. If you can pick it up, you can use it. That in and of itself is a complete revelation to me, though I think some part of me knew this from the vague references to Skyrim my friend would make. But to be able to be a Breton Nightblade with heavy armor and a two handed broadsword? I think I've died and gone to heaven. Not only can she skulk around the edges of the battlefield and jet in at light speed, she can also clock the enemy pretty hard once she's there thanks to her two-handed sword skill and stay safe and snug inside that heavy armor.
The freedom train continues in questing. Sure, there is a main story but, while it is worth progressing along from a lore perspective, players have the freedom and ability (if not the actual skills) to run around the world at will. And it's worth it to do so. Developers have sprinkled quests and interesting locations to visit throughout every zone so there is always something to look at, something to see, some hidden quest to complete. It's almost as if you'll never be entirely finished with the game.
That kind of freedom is amazing.
The lore behind the Elder Scrolls IP is extensive, going back many years. There is a rich and complicated story behind every location that I experienced that is drawn out in so many interesting ways. Read a book, learn something about Tamriel and, if you're lucky, boost a skill while you're at it.
Every quest seems to have a nugget of the overarching story to it and it's worth picking up even the side quests to flesh out even more of what's happening in and around the locations to be explored. I honestly never felt like I was given any "kill 10 rats" quests, though I did find it a bit odd when there were four bodies on the ground my "partner" and I were to investigate and I had to check out three of the corpses and got yelled at for even approaching hers. *g*
Even given that, each quest, side or main, hints at bigger and more important things to come. As much of a youngster as my character is at this point, she still feels a sense of urgency in the tasks given and the desire to "keep moving".
In fact, that is probably the one thing that Elder Scrolls Online has given to me more than any other MMO in recent memory: Immersion. The hours that I played ESO flew by, often with being startled by the amount of time that passed. You see, ESO doesn't feel like a game. With its minimalist UI and small active skills bar, Elder Scrolls makes players feel like they are part of the game. The story is interesting and detailed with stellar voice acting that makes you want to sit down and listen.
I love the combat too. I like being able to combine skills based on what it is that I'm wearing and utilize them in fresh and different ways. I love the fact that I have to think about what I'm doing rather than facerolling the keyboard and coming out with a win anyway. I love the animations and the fluidity of the fight.
Is it a perfect game? Not by any stretch but name any game that is. Right, that's what I thought.
I don't care for the "oily" sheen that seems to cover every surface in the game including, I might add, my character's hair. Makes me want to send her to the local bathhouse for a thorough delousing.
Then there's the early level armor that is, quite honestly, ugly. It looks painted on rather that made up of individual pieces. For this day and age, that's pretty inexcusable. While I'm at it, someone please tell me how to get my character to stop equipping that danged pirate outfit! That whole quest thing was eons ago.
My journey into Tamriel is in its infancy and, quite honestly, before I was allowed to participate in the beta, I was pretty "meh" about whether or not I'd get Elder Scrolls Online. After playing these past several days, I am convinced that this game, above WildStar in fact, is one that I dearly want to play and experience. Whether that drive will last past the first thirty days' subscription time will remain to be seen. Even going in knowing that ESO is far from perfect, these guys have my money for a download and at least and extra month's subscription.
What about you. Will you be playing Elder Scrolls Online? Has any of this week's coverage of the game changed your mind one way or the other? What weird class / weapon / armor combination are you planning to play? Let us know in the comments!
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twiiter @MMORPGMom.