The MMORPG market is a notoriously difficult market to break in to, the reasons for this are two fold. Firstly, MMORPG players are picky as sin. The majorities of these people don’t enjoy their real life and want to be able to escape to a virtual reality that they act out online. If they can’t make one single hair on their virtual moustache stand at a 90-degree angle in the character customization screen, then they will most likely pitch a fit. The second reason is quite simply World of Warcraft. Every time a game in the MMO market is released the first thing anyone asks is “Will it a WoW beater?”. More often than not the answer is a resounding no. Bearing all this in mind it’s time to look at Bethesda’s offering to the cause with Elder Scrolls Online.
This game is something I’ve personally been looking forward to for a long time. I played WoW from vanilla and all the way up to those damned pandas, but since then I have stopped playing. It was all a bit too much “same shit different day” for me, and although I had filled that void with Star Wars: The Old Republic, I have always enjoyed the Elder Scrolls franchise and have often wondered how this would play if it was an online game. It’s probably something many of you have thought too. If we take Skyrim – the last game in the franchise – for example, this was a classic ‘water-cooler game’, where people would go to work on a Monday morning after spending the entire weekend running around Skyrim and would tell their heroic tales to everyone else at work. Unlike other games though, you could be talking to someone who plays the same game but have a completely different adventure which made it feel unique and personal, but we’ve all wondered how it would be if we could have joined Fred from the office on his epic adventure to slay an evil goat who kept looking at him the wrong way.
Luckily enough I managed to get my hands on Elder Scrolls Online whilst I was at Eurogamer 2013. My opinion? Wel, I was impressed. The game itself is still in the beta stages and I only got 10 minutes on the game, but what I did play I enjoyed. I started off by creating my character, there was some degree of customization but only having a short time I didn’t want to do what I usually do and spend an age on making my guy look hilarious, so after one or two changes “Balzsack the Templar Nord” was born. I started the game in a wooden hut next to a random person who was obviously eager to give me my first quest, however I wanted to get out into the wide world and test out the gameplay rather than read all the quest dialog, so I skipped through everything that was said, accepted a quest I knew nothing about and was on my merry way out the door.
When I walked through the door my eyes were assaulted with beauty. The graphics look gorgeous and from the starting area I was in I knew right away I was in an Elder Scrolls gam. The scenery was just beautiful and if it weren’t for the fact that I only had 10 minutes I would have stopped to enjoy the view. I almost felt the need to take a deep breath and inhale the fresh air, but then I snapped back to reality and realized that not only would I have looked odd doing this, but being in an exhibition center crammed full of people who legitimately thinks wearing Lynx will get them “well fine birds”, then I probably would have ended up vomiting all over the screen and blocking said scenery.
Wanting to test the gameplay, the very first thing I did when I got out of the hut was to go and kill a pig. Then a sheep. Then a cow. Now I can imagine that the farmer who was quietly tending to his crop was a bit annoyed with me when I indiscriminately slaughtered his livestock, but then I felt even more sorry for him when I saw someone leave the starting hut I just had, then do exactly the same as I had just done. At this point I thought I’d venture forth into the unknown and away from the starting village. Once I had found something that was a bit more of a challenge, in this case a polar bear, I got to really try the combat system out and again I was impressed, it felt fluid and easy to use and unlike some combat systems in MMO’s it made sense.
Skyrim lends itself well to an MMORPG. Although you are not actually “grinding” in the single player game, it can feel like that at times, so a jump to the world of grinding in MMO’s isn’t going to be to much of a change. Alongside that the Elder Scrolls franchise already has a massive following and these are the hardcore type of fans so you can expect them to buy this game from day one and that a massive plus for the game.
With all this said it looks like Elder Scrolls Online has all the bases covered, but it has a long way to go yet. As said before the game is still in the Beta stages and as we all know things can change so much between now and release date. Bethesda will also have all the usual problems of launching an MMO and maybe even some problems that no one would even think of, but if they can keep on top of these and carry on how they are so far then – personally – I think this MIGHT be the WoW beater we’ve all been waiting for. Please Bethesda, don’t screw this up, and don’t destroy the dreams of millions.