Don’t Expect The Elder Scrolls Online to Feel Like a Skyrim MMO
I couldn’t shake a funny feeling while I was watching the demo for The Elder Scrolls Online during E3 2012 at Bethesda’s booth — it didn’t really feel like The Elder Scrolls.
In fact, TES Online seems like it’s actually creates a fusion between the likes of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the oft-imitated/duplicated World of Warcraft. The stylized graphics take on a cartoonish quality and lack the fidelity of the last two Elder Scrolls game. Of course, this is ZeniMax Online splitting the difference between the Skyrim look and the need to keep an MMO’s system requirements as low as possible. And the result is something of a stylized interpretation of the world of TES.
But more than that, TES Online has a fatal flaw, despite the many ways in which ZeniMax is working to keep the MMO easy for non-MMO players to break into: it’s not Skyrim. It’ll never be Skyrim. And players expecting Skyrim & Pals are going to be a little disappointed.
The graphical style of TES Online will be a bit jarring to Elder Scrolls fans, as will what seems to be a dedicated third-person viewpoint. As is probably pretty readily apparent, it’s hard to play an MMO like TES Online from a first-person perspective, especially when you’re trying to coordinate attacks and magic with other players. So you’ll already be playing TES Online from a perspective from which most players haven’t viewed the game before.
There’s also the matter of combat. From what we’ve seen of TES Online, it won’t handle much like The Elder Scrolls titles as we know them. For one, you’ll have the ability to block, and that’ll be based on your Stamina resource, but it’s going to look (and feel) much more like a bubble similar to what players might remember from Super Smash Bros. Melee. Stamina will govern how you escape from situations such as stuns, as well, to help you deal with crowd-controlling MMO players.
But combat will not be the immediate, visceral combat experience you’re used to having in Skyrim. Instead, it looks a lot more like a blend of TES-like swordfighting and the MMO auto-attack mainstay features. Apart from blocking, you’ll be using a lot of area-of-effect type spells to create “synergy” effects with other players. On the whole, fighting off monsters and bad guys will be more alike to World of Warcraft than Skyrim, however.
There are a few elements that players will enjoy and recognize: a single-player main quest, a compass that picks up points of interest and lets players explore the world whenever they want. And of course, you’ll be encountering dungeons, ruins, skeletons, dwarven spheres and lots of other iconic enemies that have shown up in The Elder Scrolls before. Your choices of weaponry are going to have a major effect on how the game works for you as well.
But despite the many small Elder Scrolls bits worked into ZeniMax Online’s upcoming MMO, they don’t seem to add up to make a game that will feel like The Elder Scrolls as we’ve come to know it. From what we saw at E3, it looks like TES Online will be MMO first, Elder Scrolls second.
That’s not necessarily bad, but I worry that the game will not be what many fans are hoping to see when it launches next year. For one, even despite the many elements which suggest that TES Online is geared toward non-MMO-playing folks, I fear it’ll turn off quite a few Skyrim fans when they realize that they’re getting something much more akin to what other MMOs have already done in the space — because TES Online looks a lot like other MMOs. By the same token, the Elder Scrolls franchise is going to draw non-MMO players into the game, flooding it with newbies to the space, and that may well create backlash among MMO veterans.
Then again, it’s really too early in the process to make sweeping judgments: This is all impressions from a single demo and information that ZeniMax has released already. And most MMOs don’t look like much fun until you actually play them. But the long-awaited Elder Scrolls entry into MMO territory so far doesn’t look too terribly much like Elder Scrolls, and it doesn’t look too terribly different from the kinds of games players already have. Whether those two things are going to be good or bad for the game remains to be seen.