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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Will Darkness Fall on the Imperial City?

By Michael Bitton on February 20, 2014

If you tried to enter the Imperial City in Cyrodiil during any of the recent Elder Scrolls Online beta tests, you were probably disappointed to find out that it wasn’t actually possible to do so.  While you get to fight a dramatic looking Daedric Titan at the entrance, defeating said Titan will only lead you to a passage blocked off by a (lethal) magical barrier. It’s clear that Zenimax Online is reserving this space for something significant, but what?

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In the game’s story, the Imperial City is central to the conflict between the three alliances. With the capital sacked by the forces of Molag Bal, the three alliances seek to fill the power vacuum by conquering Cyrodiil and crowning an emperor. In the game, this plays out via the Alliance War conflict in Cyrodiil, where players must capture six keeps surrounding the Imperial City in order to crown an emperor. Becoming emperor is awesome for the one guy that gets to wear the crown and wield the power and this player is likely to be a force multiplier in the continued conflict, but there are many players who know that they aren’t ever likely to ascend the throne.

Let’s face it, many of us enjoy RvR, but we also have busy lives, so this honor is likely to be reserved for only the most dedicated players.  For everyone else, they may be asking, “Well, what’s in it for me?” Controlling the six keeps and crowning an emperor is great and all, but how do the rest of us lowly soldiers benefit from it? Yes, there are bonuses for controlling the territory and having an emperor in your faction, but there could be even more compelling ways to get players to care. I feel Zenimax Online knows this and has the right answer in mind. It’s also not incredibly hard to connect the dots at this point.

As many of you know, the Elder Scrolls Online team is comprised of many of the same people that developed the gold standard for RvR – Dark Age of Camelot.  If you ask most DAoC fans what their favorite feature was they are likely to respond with “DF” or Darkness Falls, and for good reason.

Darkness Falls was a PvE space in Dark Age of Camelot that could only be entered by members of the faction who gained control of it. At the same time, anyone who was in Darkness Falls when control flipped would not actually be kicked out. This made for some interesting hunting opportunities for anyone still inside. There’s more to it, of course, but this covers the basics. Years later, Mythic attempted to recreate this experience in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning with the introduction of the Land of the Dead. Unfortunately, it was a buggy mess (along with the rest of WAR) and RvR fans looking for the next ‘Darkness Falls’ experience would have to continue to wait for a different game to give it a whack. This game, it seems, may be Elder Scrolls Online.

We recently had an opportunity to interview ESO’s lead PvP designer Brian Wheeler and we asked him about the idea of recreating Darkness Falls in ESO. This is what he had to say:

“Everybody always asks me that and all I can say is that, if we’ve given you everything you want so far for PvP massive scale feedback, just, you know, stay tuned.  We’ll have more information on something that people have been asking for for a long time and I’m working on things that will try to give that same sense. Right now we have the caves, where you can go into them and kill people, but obviously people want things that are a lot more involved, like you guys said, like Darkness Falls.

In case anyone doesn’t understand what Darkness Falls is, the easiest way to describe it to people is a single PvE space that only one alliance has access to at a time. People have been asking for that for a long time. It’s stuff that’s on the radar, but I can’t go too much into when or how it will come into the game.”

ZOS isn’t even playing coy with this one. It’s pretty clear that they want to recreate this experience in some form in ESO, and it’s my thinking that the Imperial City will serve as the location for ESO’s version of ‘DF’ whenever that comes about. This doesn’t make me a genius or anything. Just about anyone who read Brian’s response earlier this week put two and two together here. It just makes a whole lot of sense.

ZOS has reserved this very important space in Cyrodiil and controlling the crown requires capturing territory directly surrounding this space, so the only logical conclusion is to tie control of the crown to the ability for players to enter the Imperial City. If things work out the way I just described, this would give a pretty clear answer to anyone asking ‘What’s in it for me?” or “What now?” when it comes to helping capture Cyrodiil for their alliance and crowning an emperor.

There are sure to be many players that will chase the carrot of becoming emperor and this will help fuel the AvA conflict for some time, but understandably, there are those who know the crown will always be out of reach for them, and a ‘Darkness Falls’ experience in the Imperial City would give these players a lot more reason to care about whether or not their faction controls the crown. If Zenimax Online can get this experience online sooner rather than later, the health of the game’s Alliance War will benefit greatly from it.

What do you think of the Imperial City serving as ESO’s ‘Darkness Falls’? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB

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Michael Bitton
MMORPG.com's Community Manager Michael Bitton gives us his thoughts and opinions on the happenings in and around the world of MMORPGs.
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