If there’s one thing that the next generation consoles have me excited for, it’s Elder Scrolls Online. For hardcore fans of the Elder Scroll series (Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, for those of you unfamiliar with the full name of this Bethesda franchise), it’s much anticipated. But why, do you ask, does it have such a bizarre name? Well, fanboys, (or fangirls, like me) hold your breath, because Elder Scrolls online is slated to be Bethesda’s first MMO (massively multiplayer online game). Popular examples of MMOs are Runescape, and World of Warcraft. However, not only is ESO an MMO, but it’s going to be the one of the few MMOs to ever hit a console, being available on PC, as well as PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Fans are pretty divided over Online, however. Some have wanted multiplayer in Elder Scrolls long before Skyrim was around, but others feel that, since Elder Scrolls has always been a singleplayer RPG, it needs to stay that way. That, and there will be a subscription fee, but we’ll get more into that later.
This article is just going to talk about some things we know about the game, as well as my opinion about the more controversial issues.
In the aftermath of some arcane explosion, magical rifts have scattered across the empire of Tamriel. Mages have died and lost their minds in record numbers, and the Daedra, supernatural demons from the planes of Oblivion (hell, for those of you new to this series), are entering the mortal world in greater numbers than ever before. In this time of unrest, the Daedric prince of enslavement and domination, Molag Bal, puts in place his plan to combine Oblivion with Tamriel, forming one nightmarish hell of a universe. Meanwhile, three alliances have formed, all vying for control of Cyrodill, the center of the empire.
The Playable Races: *Bios are taken from the official website*
For the first time ever, Imperials will not be a playable race, and this is largely due to the fact that you must ally with one of the factions fighting against Cyrodill, the Imperial homeland. However, all the other races will still remain available.
Nords – The Nords once conquered most of Tamriel, and as a result, feel a certain entitlement to rule. They broke the power of the Ayleids, nearly drove the High Elves out of High Rock, and conquered much of Resdayn, the precursor to Morrowind. The Nords are excellent with arms. They are quick to anger, boisterous, and strong. They are natural-born warriors who fight with an ecstatic ferocity that terrifies their enemies.
Redguards – The Redguards of Hammerfell are talented and athletic warriors, born to battle. A desert people, their ancestors migrated to Tamriel from the lost continent of Yokuda. Their culture is based on preserving ancient traditions and defying their harsh environment. They prize honor and dignity above all else, combining a deep reverence for the divine with a suspicion of all things magical. Their capital is the merchant port of Sentinel, but their roots are deep in the sands of the Alik’r Desert. In their youth, Redguards endure a rite of passage in the desolate wastes of Alik’r as a test of endurance and discipline. Only the strongest survive.
Orcs – Though other races often regard the Orcs as barbarians and even beasts, these noble warriors have an ancient culture forged from endless warfare in their harsh mountain homelands. Orcs live under a simple code of honor by which the strong survive and the strongest rule. As the greatest smiths in Tamriel, their weapons and armor are prized by warriors everywhere. During the reign of the Second Empire, when their kingdom of Orsinium was finally granted provincial status, its restoration helped solidify their devotion to the new Daggerfall Covenant.
Altmer – The High Elves, or Altmer, arrived in Tamriel thousands of years ago from Old Aldmeris. They see themselves, perhaps justifiably, as the ruling race of Tamriel. They are a highly cultured people, known for their breathtaking architecture and massive libraries of histories and creative works. They tend to be isolationists, largely remaining on Summerset Isle, and only emerge when they perceive a great threat to their homeland. They are powerful mages and warriors, and the de facto leaders of the Aldmeri Dominion.
Dunmer – The Dark Elf homeland of Morrowind has been invaded many times by the Akaviri and the Nords. This history of conflict has transformed the Dunmer into hardened warriors. They also have a natural affinity for magic and great intellect, making them skillful sorcerers.
Bosmer – The Wood Elves, or Bosmer, are mischievous, curious and nimble. Because their homeland of Valenwood is often attacked by the Colovian Imperials, Wood Elves are experts at the art of defense. They are also gifted archers, perhaps the best in all of Tamriel. The capital of the Aldmeri Dominion, Elden Root, lies in the heart of their homeland. It has evolved into a center of political and cultural importance and is of vital strategic importance in the battle to control Tamriel.
Khajiit – The population of the proud feline Khajiit has dwindled in recent years following a devastating outbreak of Knahaten Flu. They owe a great debt to Ayrenn, Queen of the High Elves, for her help in restoring order from the chaos that followed the plague. They have a wry wit and a hedonistic outlook, but they are fearsome on the field of battle. They are the strong arm of the Aldmeri Dominion.
Argonian – The reptilian Argonians are possessed of a cool intellect, and are well-versed in the magical arts, stealth, and the use of blades. They are also guerilla warfare experts, long accustomed to defending their borders from invaders. They often serve as the scouts and skirmishers for the forces of the Pact.
Breton – The men and women of High Rock were once ruled by High Elf overlords. Some Elven blood still runs in their veins, giving Bretons an innate grasp of magic that distinguishes them from the other human races. Passionate and flamboyant, intelligent and resourceful, the Bretons are renowned and talented craftsmen, shrewd merchants, gallant cavaliers, and inventive wizards. They can also be proud and quarrelsome. Tales of warfare between the kingdoms of High Rock account for much of their history, but most revere the Eight Divines and value prosperity over glory.
In ESO, three alliances are fighting for control of the empire: The Aldmeri Dominion, The Daggerfall Covenant, and The Ebonheart Pact. Now, in a way, the characters you play with are limited in that sense. I’ll explain, but first, I’ll describe the three alliances.
Aldmeri Dominion: The High Elves, Wood Elves, and Khaijit form the Aldmeri Dominion. From what I’ve read it seems that Khajiit might be abandoning their stealth-based gameplay in other Elder Scrolls titles, in favor of being the “heavy hitters” of this alliance. All elves, especially the Altmer, are obviously gifted in magic, and it seems that the Bosmer will still be archers, though they’ll be more stealthy. So, basically we’ve got the High Elf as the mage, the Wood Elf as the assassin, and Khajiit as the warrior. The Aldmeri Dominion, led by Queen Ayrenn, are simply motivated by lack of faith in humans to rule and protect the kingdom from Molag Bal.
The Daggerfall Covenant: The Redguards, Bretons and Orcs have formed an alliance, bound by marriage and treaties, called the Daggerfall Covenant. The character builds of the Daggerfall Covenant isn’t as clear as Aldmeri Dominions. Bretons are obviously going to be the mages. According to the website, “the Orcs are stalwart soldiers and talented armorers who manufacture the finest weapons and armor in all of Tamriel. The Redguards are supremely athletic, and raised to be outstanding warriors from the moment they’re born.” It seems that The Daggerfall Covenant is going to have two races that have potential to be warriors, though all it really tells us about Orcs is that they’re good smiths, which leaves their combat advantages a bit unrevealed. One can assume Orcs make a good tank-based character, but it hasn’t been confirmed. They are led by High King Emeric.
The Ebonheart Pact: After years of racial prejudice, hatred and wars, the Nords, Argonians and Dunmer have formed a temporary peace treaty called The Ebonheart Pact. This is a very tense forming, due to the fact that Nords and Dark Elves have a long history of fighting, and Argonians were enslaved by the Dunmer for years. The Nords, as one can expect, are going to be on the front lines, as warriors, the Dark Elves will be the mages, and Argonians are the stealth-based assassins, guerrilla warfare experts. High King of Skyrim, Jorunn, acts as the leader, but all decisions must be made via democracy in a type of meeting that involves all three races called The Great Moot.
These are the alliances, and, based on what race your character is, you will automatically be placed into the corresponding faction. This, in a way, limits who you can play with. For instance, if you chose to be a Khaiijt and want to play with a friend, your friend must be Khaiijt, High Elf, or Wood Elf. The same goes with all three alliances – there is no mixing them. This feature, while restricting, has a purpose. It’s meant to make you feel proud to fight for your province, a pride that would be lessened if there was no limitations. That, and it makes no plot sense if you have this supposedly horrible war going on, then having the races intermix.
From what limited gameplay footage we’ve seen, due to the very strict distribution rules on the Beta testers, Online seems to control very similarly to Skyrim. In fact, some of the best MMO and Skyrim fanatics were given a private beta screening, and they, even the MMO players with little to no Elder Scrolls experience, praised the combat system. A few new combat features have been confirmed. Magic spells are hotkeyed, you can instantly switch between primary and secondary weapon sets, you can dodge attacks, and characters get special perks, completely unique to race and character gamestyle.
As far as enemy AI goes, they are rumored to be extremely intelligent. For instance, if you are playing as a mage-based character, the enemies will fight you differently than they would if you were an archer. They also have a “pack mentality” – no longer will you be able to go through a tomb, slaughtering draugr randomly. They will attack you together in a coordinated formation. This makes playing with friends almost necessary.
As will be expected in any PS4 or Xbox One game, the graphics are amazing, from what we’ve seen. The E3 trailer that was released during the Sony conference didn’t lie; the graphics in Online will be more than enough to appease any Skyrim fan.
Yeah, here’s where Online has pissed off a lot of fans. Similar to other MMOs, Online will also follow a subscription-based payment plan. That is, you will have to play for monthly memberships in order to play the game. So, yeah, this is a controversial decision by Bethesda; some people even plan on sticking to Skyrim until the game after Online is released. What do I think, personally? Well, based on the absolute fangasm this game in particular gave me while watching the E3 conference, I don’t care what this game charges, I’ll be buying it. For PC players, this isn’t as big of an issue, being as they’ll only have the $15 per month subscription fee, but if you’re like me and and don’t like PC gaming (no offense to PC gamers), be prepared to lay down some serious cash for this thing. I’m just being honest. Here’s what you’ll be looking at paying in the first year:
1. a PlayStation 4/Xbox One – $399-$499
2. Xbox Live or PlayStation Network memberships (PlaysSation will require purchase to play online) – $50-$60 per year
3. Monthly memberships – $15 per month
Obviously, there will be the option to purchase multiple months at once for a discount. Honestly, I don’t see the issue in paying for this game, especially since it looks fucking amazing. I’ll just buy the year membership, which will be about $40-$60 (I’m assuming, looking at other MMOs), and be done with it. However, since not all Elder Scrolls fans have the privilege of working and are able to pay $60 to play games, this is either an issue, or it can be a good thing. Personally, I’m glad they’re imposing a fee.
Why? Well, if you honestly want to play the game that much, you’ll be motivated to get a job and pay for it yourself. I’m not saying this is easy to do, I’m just saying it can be done. Contrary to what most children think, not everything in life can be simply handed to you. Which brings me to my next point – this is going to halve the amount of children trolling up the server. Who’s honestly going to pay $15 a month to troll? And how many parents are going to pay for this, on top of the console subscription fee? Very few. It keeps the “riffraff” out. Not only that, but the money will help greatly increase the game itself. So, no the subscription doesn’t bother me.
Many people feel this is the “nail in ESO’s coffin”. I have to disagree. I’ve debated people about this, using World of Warcraft and it’s $15 subscription fee as an example, and they all seem to bring up this point: WoW has years of MMO dominance to back it up, and they can afford to overcharge the players. However, that same argument can be used for Elder Scrolls. Elder Scrolls is a series that has defined the free-exploration genre of games and RPGs, and has never had a title that “flopped”. When Online comes out, it will be an MMO that world has never seen, combining the majesty of Tamriel with the fun of MMOs.
I have full faith that Elder Scrolls Online will be a great RPG, MMO, and a superb addition to the Elder Scrolls series.