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Elder Scrolls Online Column: I’m OK with ESO Faction Turncoats

By William Murphy on February 14, 2014

There’s been a lot of controversy lately about “faction turncoats” now that it’s known pre-ordering any version of Elder Scrolls Online will allow you to play any race in any faction of the game. What’s funny to me is that this is the kind of thing players have been dying for Zenimax to allow. But now that we have it (even if it’s tied to pre-orders), the folks who wanted factions to remain race-locked are now speaking out about how they think this move is a.) A cash grab or b.) Somehow wronging the lore or c.) Breaking the game’s PVP. I wanted to ramble a bit today about why I think all three upset parties are crying over a bit of spilt milk, and why this is all better for the game in my eyes.

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Cash Grab Status

I won’t go too much into the Imperial Race being included in the CE (that’s one part of the ire I can understand, locking a class behind a paywall). But I will say that there’s no heft to the argument that giving pre-orders the ability to choose any race and class is a “cash grab”. If it matters that much to a player to get in on that perk, it’s likely they’re the sort who would want to pre-order.  Those who don’t like the idea, are the folks who don’t want to pre-order for the perk.  But I’m fairly certain of something: you can pre-order the game now, wait until you get your code, apply it… and then cancel the pre-order if you want.  You’ll get the ability to go any race and any faction, and can still wait to buy the game until later.  Added bonus? You get the free five days head-start with the pre-order code. I’m not condoning this sort of mentality, but as with most things in life there is a workaround. 

Against the Lore, Gosh Darnit!

It’s not, folks. I mean, really… it’s not. We’re talking about The Elder Scrolls Online. Before its inception down at Zenimax Online, there were no mish-mashing of races into three factions. This was something the lore masters at ZOS came up with to geographically and fundamentally make it possible for ESO’s Alliance Warfare to exist. Matt Firor, Brian Wheeler, Paul Sage, and many others all had a vision for an Elder Scrolls MMO that played as one part story-based TES game, one part traditional MMO, and one big part Dark Age of Camelot throwback.  The factions of Ebonheart Pact, Aldmeri Dominion, and Daggerfall Covenant all exist simply because Zenimax wanted the AVA set up as a three-faction war.

But then why “break” the factions by letting people play with any race in them? Quite simply, it’s something a lot of fans had been wanting for some time, and as I said above, it was a good way to ensure their pre-orders (no matter what they do with them).  On top of that, as you play ESO you’ll notice quite a many NPCs and quests that deal with issues of racism. The Dunmer (dark elves) have traditionally enslaved the Argonians, and you can imagine that’s a bit of a sketchy alliance then.

You’ll come across many instances of this in the game’s many stories. In the Aldmeri level 5-15 zone (Auridon), you’ll even do a whole series of quests that involve one Argonian working with you to break free of the bad Aldmer (High Elves) she’s working with because they helped her get out of the Ebonheart Pact. Issues of race and who should ally with whom are all over the game’s lore. In my eyes it only makes sense that there would be defectors who ally with one faction when they should be aligned with another traditionally.  For instance, I plan on taking my Orsimer (orc) to the Ebonheart, because I intend that he’s from one of the many strongholds in and around Skyrim and has strong ties to the Nords. 

Frankly, the “ties” of each faction are so loose, you’re bound to find a reason why each and every defector has turned coat to another faction.

The PVP Will Break!

Just as in any and all TES games, while racial skill lines will be beneficial to certain builds, nothing you’ll get by being an Argonian with the Aldmeri Dominion will make you any more powerful than sticking with Ebonheart or defected to Daggerfall. Racial skills on the opposite sides are the least of player’s worries.  Instead, I’d be more interested in what Alliance Warfare skill lines your opponent has focused on, and what you can do to counteract those bonuses, and the bonuses obtained by taking and keeping control points in Cyrodiil.  The only race’s skills we don’t know for sure yet are the Imperial, and I’m betting they’ll be things like bonuses to heavy armor, maybe restoration magic or magic in general. But a Voice of the Emperor or Imperial Luck skill might be more likely.   

That’s my stance on the “Any Race, Any Faction” brouhaha floating around right now. The Imperials? Well, that’s another story. But for my own piece of mind, I’d say that letting all pre-orders have access to the Imperials would have been a better call. 

Bill Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and all around goofy dork. He likes his peanut butter chunky and his coffee from Dunkin Donuts. You can follow him on Twitter and shake your head at all of his inanity @TheBillMurphy.

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Bill Murphy
Bill Murphy came on as a full time writer with MMORPG.com in 2010, his extensive knowledge of the genre and ability to turn a phrase have been a welcome addition to the MMORPG.com team.
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