The Elder Scrolls Online Preview: It’s Like Skyrim – Online

Exploration-based content

Just the night before my hands-on play session, I was lamenting the move away from discoverable quests in MMOs. Most games are on rails these days. Quests tell you exactly where to go, how to get there, what to do once you’re there, where to go for your reward and what that reward is going to be, all up front. While this is generally an improvement over the good ol’ days of early EverQuest, when you had no idea if an NPC even had a quest for you, much less what to do to fulfill it or what you’d get out of spending your time on it, it seems that MMOs have gone too far in the hand-holding department. Lord of the Rings Online recently dabbled in content that you aren’t directed to, but stumble upon, in its Riders of Rohan expansion, and I wanted to see more of that. And, boy howdy, did I get my wish.

There was a main quest line in the Daggerfall Covenant starter zone I played in. You start on a ship, having been picked up out of the water, and are told to visit the local pirate queen for a mission. Being the contrary person I often like to be, instead of heading up the docks for the appointment with my savior, I instead turned the other direction and dove off the side of the boat. Sure enough, I saw an available quest on my minimap immediately. It brought a tear to my eye. I ran around the island doing random quests for a couple of levels before even starting with the main quest line of the area, and I wasn’t penalized for that play style.

So while you can (and should) follow the main quest line in the area, ducking out around the back of a town or under a cliff, or taking a detour off the path, is encouraged and rewarded, with quest-givers of all kinds waiting for your aid. But if you just want to barrel through the content to catch up with higher-level friends, that’s an option, too. I’m one of those types that has to do them all and won’t leave a zone until I have.

Action-based combat

Similar to Skyrim (surprise!), there is very little cluttering the screen in terms of user interface. The devs want you to play the game, not the interface, so they took out a lot of what you would expect to see for an MMO. The only UI elements turned on by default are the minimap, the quest tracker and one seven-slot hotkey bar. You control your character with the mouse and WASD keys, and a reticle on the screen allows you to target monsters, NPCs or other players.

If you engage in combat, your health, mana and stamina bars will appear on screen, but there are no numbers to indicate their levels. To keep you from staring at them and your hotkey bar, the devs have created a few other visual cues. If your health drops dangerously low, the edges of your screen will start flashing red. Many abilities have little or no cooldown, so you don’t have to keep an eye on the hotkey bar for when to use your next one. Mostly, you’re just keeping your reticle on your target, moving away from their attacks and launching your own.  While reticle-based combat isn’t new in MMOs, nor is action-based combat, those other titles that employ them still have you playing the interface heavily. I’m not saying you’ll never look at your interface while in combat in TESO, but with the way the UI is designed to bring up information only when you need it, you’ll be spending most of your time looking at the world instead. However, if you want a more traditional MMO experience, player-made, LUA-scripted add-ons will be fully supported.

With each weapon, you have a basic attack and a special attack. Clicking the left mouse button repeatedly will swing/fire your weapon at the monster in a basic but rapid-fire attack. Holding down the left mouse button for a few seconds winds you up for a bigger, special attack. Unfortunately, the mobs can do the same. However, you can also block their attacks with the right mouse button. And if you block one of their special attacks, it dazes the mob for a few seconds, giving you time for your own special attack. Finally, clicking the left and right mouse buttons at the same time will launch a quick attack that can interrupt a spellcaster you have targeted.

Most mobs, as you can imagine, don’t stand still for this kind of treatment. Many will leap over you or burrow underground to get behind you, forcing you to swing around, reorient your reticle and line up your shots again. You also don’t have to stand still. You can strafe, walk backwards and generally act like a moving target to minimize the damage you take.

It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of the mouse button attacks. Soon, I was peppering in spells from my hotkey bar and dropping mobs left and right. It felt intuitive and added to the visceral feel of combat much more than standard hotkey rotation of abilities of games like World of Warcraft.

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19 Comments on The Elder Scrolls Online Preview: It’s Like Skyrim – Online

sep

On March 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Im still sad they made it into an MMO :(

David

On March 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I’m cautiously optimistic.

TheDog

On March 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

No caution here. Severely disappointed. Hope it bombs so they won’t do anything so stupid again.

Derek

On March 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I remember seeing a developer preview video from early last year where they stated that each server would be limited to 300 players, but there were be system to swap server instances for easy access to friends and guild members.

“Megaserver” implies it is…. but by chance do you know if this still the case? If so, how does one identify themselves in-game without a guild or building a large friends list? By that I mean as part of a server, shard, population segment, etc… and not just as one of the millions of players?

One of my favorite things about MMO games is that each time I play a new game I am usually among the same pool of players, thus allowing for a game community and relationships to form. While that pool may be thousands of players at first, eventually (depending on game progression and gameplay hours) it narrows down to playing with the same couple hundred people who you learn to recognize. From what I’ve seen TESO is going to function more like a matchmaking system of sorts.

Kinda seems like the next step beyond the dungeon/group/team matchmaking tools many recent MMO games have used. That may be a good or bad thing depending on your opinion of ‘em. I certainly think such tools are a bad idea and detract from the community aspect of MMO games.

How would such a system be better for social and group interaction? This system implies you’ll play with a far larger random pool of players. Is there a system which dumps players in servers with the same level players or…?

I’m hungry for more info

Hannibal805

On March 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm

The customization options sound disappointing to say the least.

lol

On March 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm

What was the actual character customization like? Was it like pick a face or did it actually have the sliders?

Marquez

On March 21, 2013 at 8:47 am

No player housing?!?!? I don’t want to play it anymore :-(

Zach

On March 22, 2013 at 1:06 am

This actually sounds pretty good. I don’t see why everyone just seems to hate on it. It isn’t even out yet.

TheDog

On March 22, 2013 at 2:02 am

And hopefully it never will and they will concentrate on games that actually sound good. I’m sorry, buy anyone who hopes for an mmo, well I just have a hard time understanding or agreeing with. There are more mmo’s out there, then you can use to choke a bloody T_Rex. When I hear about another one, I get just about as excited as I do when the doctor tells me I have some rare, incureable disease. I party, do cartwheels, do a litlle dance, make a little love, and I get down tonight. (that was part of a seventies song for all you young things out there).
Everybody and their grandmother, and their grandmothers best friend, her neighbors, her dog, her cousins in Detroit, are getting on the bloody mmo cash cow wagon. All hopen to strike it rich. Morons.

Dratkin

On March 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I love Elder Scrolls but I despise all MMO games.

Adam

On March 23, 2013 at 12:25 am

This game is being made by Zenimax Online Studios. Bethesda Game Studios isn’t working on it , all you haters are still going to get the normal single player games. Don’t like ESO? don’t play it, just wait for TESVI.

hwi

On March 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm

haters just beat it! you’r afraid of a real human fight so you prefer to go and smash some npc’s stupid head in single player games (no challenge? yes, please!)… becose a long time ago you’ve tried mmo and some punkass PK beat all the crap out of you… it’s all about your hands growing from your ass instead of your shoulders… ! So STFU go to your caves and cry for bethesda to give you another super hero dragonborn role than you can save the tamriel again with your mega daedra oneshot dagger… all by your self! ALONE!) PS. pardon my language)))

Trem

On March 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm

hwi – your comment makes zero sense. For one thing, there are countless reasons why people dislike MMOs, mostly due to connectivity, lack of new content, microtransactions and so forth. To wave this all away as people not being able to beat human players is, at best, blinkered. Of course, that leads to the second problem – the assumption that human enemies are ALWAYS, without exception, superior to NPCs. If that’s your opinion then I’m fairly confident in saying that you haven’t played many games in your life. Either that, or you struggled so badly with the really hard ones that you opted for MMOs, where difficulty is always variable.

Troll elsewhere, please.

TheDog

On March 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm

@hwi Omg but you are an idiot. You are one of the reasons I don’t like MMO’s. Stupid people annoy me. In real life I can take care of idiots like you. On the computer, you get even more moronic because you know we can’t touch you, and I simply feel like breaking my monitor, but that cost way too much money, so I simply avoid games that put me in touch with your kind of stupidity. Much cheaper that way.
So in short, go back to suckeling on you mommas teets and leave the thinking to the big boy and girls.

folklore

On March 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm

@HWI you piece of crap.
I happen to hate mmo’s because entitled little shieisskopf like you. I am usually fairly anti social, and the constant spam and crap put out by people like you has me uninstalling an mmo I would have liked with in less than an hour of installing it. As for pvp, I have almost a hundred hours in day of defeat source and various other games.

Dara

On March 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait. Been waiting for an mmo like this for ages. Even guild wars two is a glorified wow clone, this will be great.

The one thing I never like about tes before was lack of multiplayer and now it’s here :)

mustasha

On June 24, 2013 at 10:58 am

i want it now

Judas

On October 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

I can’t wait!

Please release soon!

mark

On December 28, 2013 at 11:12 pm

I like the idea of other real people playin the game with u.I’m a huge elderscrolls guy since morrowind love itn gotta say only complaint would b it does get really lonely n companions don’t cut it but don’t take core elements out of tes such as houses imperials n messin with classic 3 rd person view other than that looks badass! I’m in! But fix that stuff I said new devs