One of the few things left on the Elder Scrolls Online feature list that hasn’t been talked about too much by Zenimax Online is the “Perk System” that will allow players to become Vampires or Werewolves a la the single-player TES games. It’s been mentioned quickly, almost in an offhand nature, at trade shows, during QuakeCon, and even on Twitter by the @TESOnline community folks... and yet we know very little about what it will entail in an online Tamriel. Today, I thought it might be fun to ponder how it could be achieved in an MMO without making the world into an exercise in medieval Edward vs. Jacob festival.
The key to being either a werewolf or a vampire in ESO is making both modes of play feel extraordinary. I'll never forget when I first turned into a werewolf in Morrowind's Bloodmoon expansion. The jumping, the speed of running, and the power behind every claw swipe were something out of a superhero videogame, not my Elder Scrolls. And it was the kind of addition that made just enough impact in the game to shake things up from the usual running, sword-swiping, and spell-casting. If ESO is going to add these two "powers" into the game, the studio needs to make sure they feel truly special and powerful. But not without a cost, or limitations.
Not only should these powers be exceptional, they need to be limited in scope too. I know it's typical for werewolves and vampires to come out at night, so that's something to keep in mind. I'd also like to see the use of each ability limited to one to three minutes at the most, and when the user comes out of the buff they should have some sort of debuff in effect too. Werewolves should be forcibly stripped of their armor and weapons for time. Vampires don't "change" in and out of their vampire-dom like a werewolf, so perhaps their negative effect could be weakness in daylight, or even shunning from most towns and villages. I'm curious to see how Zenimax handles this. Being either a wolf or a bloodsucker should have serious repercussions in your gameplay, not just act as some "additional skill" you want to obtain.
Silver Bolts and Other Defenses
The Alliance War is ESO's big PvP selling point, and having werewolves and vampires will undoubtedly shake things up in the big battles. But this also means that Zenimax needs to give players a way to fight back against these other-worldly menaces. We know that members of the Fighters Guild will have access to a skill called "Silver Bolts" which likely foretells of a way combat werewolves. Will we see a "holy water" or "stake through the heart" skill too (or you know, lore-appropriate versions of such)? I think it'd be great if the devs let crafters make items which can be used against the lycanthropes and children of the night.
Make it Uncommon
If everyone is going to be a vampire or a werewolf, what's the point? Now, we don't know exactly what it will take to become tainted with either curse, but I'm worried that everyone will be one or the other because... well, why wouldn't you want the bonuses offered at your disposal in AvA or PvE? But I'm hoping that Zenimax has some forethought to make sure that becoming a werewolf or vampire isn't simply a walk in the park. I'd like to see the quest to become either as something of a trial of a player's skill and also something that's only able to be done late in the game's progression. If I had to make a comparison, I'd love to see becoming either be something difficult to obtain like the original quest for your epic bow as a Hunter in WoW, or even better... the quest to become a Jedi in SWG. And similarly, you should be able to redeem yourself and turn the curse around on another quest as well.
If all of these things are in the equation, being a werewolf or a vampire in Elder Scrolls Online may just be icing on the cake of RPG in Zenimax' MMO. What about you? Would you want to be either? Why or why not? Let your voice be heard in the comments! Who knows, maybe one of the ESO community team will drop by and give us some hints.
Bill Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and all around dork-burger. You can hound him on Twitter @TheBillMurphy, and let him know you hate his new beard.