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Mar
31
2013

Go Sign up for the Elder Scrolls Online Beta Now!

I’m just telling you right now that you need to stop reading this and go sign up for the ESO beta right now! Then come back and finish this post to find out what you’re in for. I’ll wait…

…Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk turkey. If you’ve been so neglectful of Elder Scrolls awesomeness, or you’ve just emerged from your fallout shelter for supplies and haven’t had a chance to check out the trailer (which is six freaking minutes long!), you need to stop reading again, and go watch it right now. Really, you guys, my hands started to shake about 15 seconds in as I started jonesing for my MMO fix.

I try not to get my hopes up too much for new MMOs—we’ve all been disappointed before. WoW has lost its luster for a lot of people with new expansions. Guild Wars 2 is a no-brainer given that it’s subscription-free. But just like SWTOR, once I get through all the content, I find myself jumping to new classes just to keep things fresh.

Why ESO Could be Different

Bethesda never fails to amaze me, and I’m still playing Skyrim on a weekly basis. That’s why I have a lot of good will built up for them; I haven’t been as patient with WoW’s recent developments or upstarts like Rift. There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful that the Elder Scrolls gang is going to make a big splash with their new RPG, despite the limitations that the MMO genre will put on them.

Just from the standpoint of quality, I’d have to say that they’ve at least matched Guild Wars for game design and environmental visuals. The cinematic scenes are vividly amazing, and the trailer of actual gameplay gets me excited because I have a kick-ass gaming machine to push me past any likely performance issues. Others with last-generation PCs might struggle supporting such an open world (which we’ll talk about in a second), but I can’t imagine they’ve made the system requirements bar too hard to clear.

A Bigger Tamriel

If they’re going to keep our attention, Bethesda knows that players want a world that’s at least as expansive as Skyrim and previous Elder Scrolls games. It’s hard to tell until you actually get into the game but things look promising so far.

The borders of Tamriel are getting pushed back even further, so you’re no longer stuck to the borders of a single land. You can explore a lot more of the world, and the previews I’ve seen thus far promise that I won’t be disappointed with the quality of the world design. It’s akin to Skyrim in that respect.

“Exploration” is a word you’ll hear a lot in their promo video, and it makes me confident that the designers get what gamers really love about Skyrim, and they don’t want the world-exploration that makes all of the Elder Scrolls games work to get washed out in their MMO.

The storyline is set 1,000 years before Skyrim, so there will be plenty of game events and themes to feed the lore junkies. There are points of interest scattered throughout the world where quests are located, but we’ll have to see if they can take the regular density of storylines that you get in a regular Bethesda game and maintain that throughout a wider world. I’m betting they can, but I worry about them falling into the trap of fetch-questing my brain into boredom.

No Shards

Everyone is in the same world with ESO. Bethesda is touting their use of distributed computing, which allows them to dispense with the various shards that have separated so many characters in MMOs like WoW, which has cross-realm zones and team-ups for dungeons, but you still can’t quest with friends unless they pay for a character transfer.

I’ll withhold my judgment on the PvP area since it’s not my favorite. They say it’s going to be different with the siege weapons and the in-game aspect, but the gameplay still makes it separate from PvE no matter how inclusive they tell you it is. Details on gameplay are still light at this point, and I don’t doubt things will get tweaked during the beta.

Customization and Class

Your weapons, armor and even your skill-set set you up for many more customization options, although I’m always skeptical since the way the gamer population ends up optimizing each class always seems to push characters into one direction or another.

Too much customization also means that there’s less distinction between traditional class roles (healer, tank, DPS). While I like the idea of more variety, I’ve failed to see this freedom to customize do much other than allow every class in an MMO fill whatever role they want… often badly.

Hopefully, we’ll all get a chance to find out if we’re lucky enough to get an invite in the next few days for “scheduled play” sessions on weekends, during which you’ll be focusing on a specific part of the game and giving feedback. Don’t worry if you don’t get in right away; they’ll be adding progressively more beta testers as they move toward game launch.

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