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Elder Scrolls Online, I Want To Like You!

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard of the new MMO being developed by >>ZENIMAX ONLINE STUDIOS<< (not Bethesda Studios), taking place in Tamriel 1000 years before Skyrim over the throne in Cyrodiil but other than that, not much is really known about the title apart from the use of a multiple faction system. I don’t fully understand it, but I imagine it will be somewhat similar to the factions in Fallout New Vegas, or at the very least the factions in Mercenaries.

Anyway, most of you were probably just as shocked (or at least surprised) as I was when this title was announced.  The Elder Scrolls is a series that has always been far from the “multiplayer cop-out” era of this gaming generation, but it seems to have taken a drastic turn to the other direction.

Many long-time fans, such as I, were immediately disappointed at this news. Even being an MMO player of 5-6 years (and frankly just an old cranky man when it came to that genre) I still found no solace in seeing my beloved franchise go towards a black hole. Don’t get me wrong, The Elder Scrolls universe is indeed a rich one. One that would translate very well to an MMO in my opinion. But I think that it should be kept as a single player game, with the MMO being branded something else entirely.

But now assuredly, with news of different developer paths (i.e. Bethesda Studios, which develops the true Elder Scrolls games having little to nothing to do with the project other than the occasional drop-in to see what’s up), new “innovations” and rather optimistic features seem to be making Elder Scrolls Online look not that bad… hell, maybe even a little good.

But on the one hand, there are a lot of things that make me expect to hate it even though I know little about it: I haven’t ever played an MMO that I felt was improved by the presence of other players, the lack of legitimate team work was always a downer for me because I don’t consider a loot run in a dungeon with strangers actual team work.  They’re planning on using the uninspired Medieval Europe version of Cyrodiil from Oblivion rather than the relatively interesting-sounding jungle it was supposed to be at this point in history, and it will most likely have a subscription fee. And there are few things in the games industry that I hate as much as Sub Fees.  I’m fine with online passes, on disc DLC doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but Sub Fees are just awful.

On the other hand, the third-person perspective means it might actually be the first TES game with melee combat that doesn’t feel like a slap fight, but have you ever played an MMO that actually makes you think “Oh jeez, I just hit that guy in the mouth with a golf club”? Because when I mouse over an opponent and cast a fireball, a healing and speed buff and then hit him with my sword, it just seems like I’m watching a light show with no weight behind it. And even if it contains all the flaws I expect and more, I love Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim , I’d go so far as to say I consider them generation changers.

Really, the whole franchise (starting with Morrowind, at least) seems to exist in some bizarre paradox-space in which quality and the ability to enjoy have no connection whatsoever, remember that bug in Skyrim that allowed a Giant to “sky” you? Remember that annoying Daedra heart that kept vanishing from your inventory? Or how about the flying horse, you remember those right? Quality control on games this big is indeed a challenge that I’m sure is a hard standard to rise to, let alone beat. But the last thing we need, and the last thing I want to see is someone hover walk across a field towards me with a sword drawn before slapping me upside the head in another weight free fight. What I want to see is epic rolling plains of grass and tundra. I want to see a game where you need to work together to win, and by this I mean teaming up is essential. A group of friends doing raids is ok, but imagine being able to start clans inside of factions. For example a clan of warlocks who specialise in assassination or a party of soldiers out in the wilderness claiming a piece of forested area for themselves, owning it for months, maybe even years and then being over thrown from a spy within like in EVE Online’s massively famous real life rebellion.

I guess I don’t really know what to expect in the end. I’m probably going to give the game a go, but time will tell whether or not it will be a success or not.

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Martin Toney is a long time Video Game Journalist from Ireland.