OpinionPreviewVideo Games

The Elder Scrolls Online: The Next World of Warcraft?

Ashley Crocker ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

Skyrim, from The Elder Scrolls Online. Photo courtesy of ZeniMax Media Inc., elderscrollsonline.com
Skyrim, from The Elder Scrolls Online. Photo courtesy of ZeniMax Media Inc., elderscrollsonline.com

Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim: To the video game community, these five titles represent one of the most popular and successful game franchises of the past twenty years. To those who are not familiar with Bestheda’s Elder Scrolls series, they are fantasy action role-playing games, set in an open world, that allow players to travel the world of Tamriel completing quests, fighting a host of magical beasts, and becoming a hero. The series has garnered critical and economic success: the last three Elder Scrolls games averaged a 91.8 as a combined metacritic score and the past two games alone have sold more than twenty one million units on the PC, Xbox, and Playstation platforms.

But in late 2013, the Elder Scrolls games will step into an ever-bigger world: the Internet. With the release of The Elder Scrolls Online (aka TESO), the popular game franchise will transfer its world, its lore, and its legacy onto the MMORPG platform – or Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.

Recently, at Boston’s gaming convention PAX East, I got the opportunity to play test the BETA version of TESO. After waiting in line for three hours, watching the trailers endlessly, and getting a free t-shirt, four other players and I sat down in front of state of the art computers and finally got to enter the redefined world of Tamriel, together.

The Pros and Cons :

What the Elder Scrolls Online will deliver is stunning graphics, a rich story, and an immersive, expansive world. The graphics were absolutely stunning, staying true to the Elder Scrolls style. While the name of the game engine for the MMO has not been released yet, Bestheda and ZeniMax Online promise that the game will be “high quality”, “stable”, “beautiful,” and “interesting.” They weren’t wrong, at least in MMO standards.

The story takes place in the 2nd Era of Tamriel, setting up the events for the previous Elder Scrolls games. I learned while waiting in line that players will be able to immerse themselves in this storyline, perhaps changing the fate of Tamriel forever. TESO also allows players to explore all of Tamriel, or at least more than the previous games allowed. Cyrodil, Morrowind, Hammerfell and Skyrim are all included in TESO, as well as a whole new land: Elsweyr.

The gameplay itself was easy enough, using the WSAD keys for movement, the mouse for attacks, and the number keys for skills and powers. Players will spend their time in TESO completing quests with friends or factions (Daggerfall Covenant, Ebonheart Pact, and Aldmeri Dominion), fighting a myriad of creatures and humans alike, and participating in an all out war for the control of the Imperial City and the White Gold Tower.

While it’s hard to analyze the cons of the game in the first twenty minutes of play, there are some things that raise red flags. First of all, the game is missing one big element that is important to the Elder Scrolls series: unnecessary things. Yes, having your house filled with shears that have no use is a detail that makes the Elder Scrolls fun to play. And though it may not be TESO’s biggest problem, it’s the first thing I noticed. The only things that can be interacted with are flashing or dead. Another thing I noticed was the satisfactory fighting animations. The movements were flat, and reminded me somewhat of Morrowind (nostalgic but bad). I’m sure with more time in the game more problems will arise; no new game is without its flaws.

In short, this game can really go either way. It impressed me but there is still a lot that can go wrong. It should be noted though that this is just a BETA testing, its purpose to wheedle out the impurities. Elder Scrolls fans and MMO fans seem to be highly critical of the game and are expecting it to represent both the original Elder Scrolls games and the MMO world perfectly. I think what the gaming community needs to accept is, The Elder Scrolls Online will not be able to meet all the expectations of both gaming communities. At this point I think it has the potential to be a success but it needs to take the extra steps to get there, otherwise the game will fall into oblivion, becoming just another installment in the Elder Scrolls series.

The Elder Scrolls Online will release later this year on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.

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