Elder Scrolls Online’s E3 was a mixed bag of sorts: on one hand, they announced their plans to bring the game to the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (great news for their parent company’s earnings no doubt). But they also announced plans to delay the launch of all three platforms (including PC) into Spring of 2014. The reason cited by everyone at Zenimax Online is fervently that the decision is not tied to the console development and rather than beta feedback has proven to the team that they need to spend time honing everything up to make sure ESO is the best possible Elder Scrolls game it can be. Our interviews with Paul Sage and Brian Wheeler echo this sentiment, as it seems the game is still focusing on nailing down some of its core systems, and that a fall/winter release for this year simply was off the table. Some folks might balk at the idea of ESO porting to the major consoles, but I for one am just glad the PC UI was in place before the decision was made. We did get the chance to play ESO while on the show floor, and as it’s been awhile since I had my playtest back in October of 2012, here’s how I think the game’s coming along.
Something I was really happy to see in this build (not the 1st-person view sadly as it wasn’t in this build) was the bow as a playable weapon. While I can’t say how well it’ll play when in that iconic TES vantage, I can see it felt just like firing the bow in Skyrim from the 3rd-person. Right click gives you a weak, but still necessary block. Left click in rapid succession will fire arrow after arrow, and clicking and holding will fire a more powerful shot. I didn’t get to level my bow up all that much, but there are skills tied to the bow as you progress down its path, with AOEs, DOTs, the whole nine yards. I can imagine the un-revealed and yet still talked about fourth class (Nightblade) would use the bow quite well, really.
One thing I miss from other TES games is that you don’t have limited ammo. I can understand why this is the case in the MMO version of Elder Scrolls, especially if someone wants to exclusively use the bow as their weapon of choice. But I still feel that some sort of ammunition management would make the bow feel more authentically Elder Scrolls.
My time was short with the game at the show, but I also wanted to make note of something else. Since the October play-session at the studio, Zenimax has very clearly tried to add more and more stuff for players to pick up in the world to use in the newly revealed professions. Boxes, crates, bags, barrels, tables... they all have stuff to nab and use in crafting. But it’s not quite there yet. One of the most addicting things for me about any TES games is that I can pick mushrooms, plants, flowers, and everything pretty much anywhere I go.
As a fan of Alchemy, I found the flora and fauna of ESO lacking. Off to the side, Paul told me this is one of the many tiny reasons for the delay: to make ESO feel as Elder Scrolls as possible they need to keep adding these details (alongside things like lore books, et cetera). I know it could potentially create an inventory space issue, but I’d rather be able to pick up too many ghostcaps than not enough. Just make sure that gathering nodes are handled like GW2 and not WoW, please.
Overall, I was feeling pretty optimistic about the direction of ESO after my play-session at E3. Fifteen minutes is hardly anything to go by though in MMO terms, and the real test of the game will come when we all get into beta and see how the whole package fits together: first-person, exploration, dungeons, and of course... PVP. But every time I’ve seen ESO, it looks better and better. That’s a good thing, right?
One final thing to note: While Final Fantasy XIV may very well have a subscription on the Playstation, I for one believe that Elder Scrolls Online’s coming to the Xbox and Playstation is a strong sign that the game will likely be Buy-to-Play in the vein of Guild Wars 2 without a subscription and funded by additional micro-transactions after you buy the box. I’m taking bets now, any takers? What’d you think of all the news that came from E3 on the Elder Scrolls front? Let us know in the comments below.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.