The world of Tamriel is twenty years old. Suffice to say there’s plenty of history there for Zenimax Online and Bethesda to call on. History, lore, mechanics. They have experience with it all and so come well armed to give a good early impression of this Elder Scrolls Online Beta.
New Land, Old World. Elder Scrolls Online Beta Impressions
Unfortunately for them, I’ve never played The Elder Scrolls. We’re going into this one fresh.
People like me are going to be trouble. Not everyone has played the Elder Scrolls, so the first few minutes of gameplay are important. How else are you going to guarantee the subscription of myself and the ten other people who never ever played Skyrim let alone the others?
The First Fifteen
The first fifteen minutes, after however long you slave over character creation, are always going to make an impact. If people can’t pick the game up easily, they aren’t going to continue with it. If the early experiences don’t excite or at least interest players, there’ll be no word of mouth for their friends to pick up the title.
So what were my early impressions of those first fifteen? Well they start out strong.
Maybe one or two of my dozen compatriots who are Elder Scrolls virgins will sink under the over the shoulder third person or first person views. Maybe they’ll have issues with the lore. For me it felt good. Strange, but in a new way. Not so for others I know but it’s a nice subtle shift from other games in the MMO genre. That’s just the first look, what about the first moments?
Hey the only way they’re going to up the pedigree of their blind Prophet is if Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan had a baby and aged him about sixty years. It’s a little thing but it sells me on the experience. This isn’t just a tutorial, this is destiny. This is a jailbreak meant for more than teaching me the basic controls. This is prophecy made manifest. Who cares about W, A, S, D? We’re busting out of hell.
Zenimax is right to be proud of their voice acting. To be perfectly honest I don’t think AAA mutliplayers can ever go back now. If you don’t have good voice work and tight writing, you’re just not up to snuff. Between that and a clear, seamless and logical opening tutorial the first fifteen minutes hooked me in. I was interested, I was eager to see more. I even developed a major urn problem, but that’s a story for another time.
Welcome to Tamriel Stranger
No matter which side you choose, no matter which race you pick, there is a familiar start and a similar beginning. The hero wakes up in a strange place, a place beset by problems. The snow blows over Bleakrock Isle for the Ebonheart Pact and there’s trouble sighted off shore. The storm has passed on Khenarthi’s Roost and the Aldmeri Dominion is picking its expedition back up after a hurricane. Mutiny has stranded a friendly ship in Stross M’kai but it happens that there may just be a way off the island…if you’re good enough..
It’s tropes like this that make a familiar and successful beginning. Star Wars, when you strip it down, is a farm boy fighting true evil with wizards and magic swords. The Elder Scrolls Online, when you strip it down, is that other familiar story. There’s rot in the kingdom. Trouble is brewing. It’ll take a brave soul with more than a little skill to make a difference and change the world.
Here, for me, the technology used for the Elder Scrolls earns its keep. Gone are the familiar issues with early zones filled with other players all trying to kill ten rats. Sure we’re all out and about on the same island but I never feel as though other players are interfering with my experience. My objectives are always going to be there for me. The tools I need to complete any given “quest” will be there. There’s no wait, no problem. If I need ten rats, I’m assured of my own personal rodent supply to slaughter.
(Ladies, Gentlemen, I implore you. Get a lightning staff, blast the rats. It’s funny.)
If I was to have an issue with the early things I have experienced it would be a teeny tiny conceit of that wonderful system above when applied to grouping. Group with another player and go forth. There’s no trouble there. Just don’t expect them to push the lever for you. Player 2 will push his or her lever and for them things progress. There’s no freeloading in Tamriel it seems. You either pull your own weight on your own story or not at all. This is especially evident in some rare circumstances where story is happening. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a group, you walk the path of the story alone. You’ll be shunted into your own particular instance of the quest in question to work through.
Of course, just to taunt you, the arrow representing your teammate or mates as the case may be will still bob happily past you. Maybe it’s a new sport. Competitive time trials on story missions, you can see where they are and try to get through it faster.
Only don’t ever do that.
Smell the Digital Roses
The music, the visuals, the voice acting. They’re all brilliant in my opinion. Yes, in my opinion, there are also other games that do bits and pieces of all that better, but that’s life really.
Combined though, the early impressions of the game are one of a streamlined and well polished whole. Who knows, somewhere up the levels it might go all pear shaped, but for now, from where I stand… I can’t see that happening. The sights, the sounds, it all works. It also gives me the overwhelming urge to take my time. To tread slowly on the path from Coldharbour tutorial to the war in Cyrodiil. Why rush? Oh sure sometimes there’ll be something over there that needs killing now. Unless you are disguised, walking through a tough patch filled with mobs happy to tear you to shreds isn’t a great idea.
Otherwise though, it’s the equivalent of stopping to smell the roses. I want to hear what everyone has to say. I want to stop and read every book I find on the shelves. Not just because it may give me a boost in my various skill trees, but because I find myself honestly interested. Maybe this will go back to the divide on the fans. Those who have played the Elder Scrolls and those who haven’t. I’m not sure which of them will be the first to click rapidly through dialogue to try and get to the “mission” only to end up confused about why they’re doing whatever it is. Or how. Or where.
The environment and the beauty and the systems may all be familiar to anyone who has played Skyrim but I find them enthralling. The effect is a double one. I’m not just left wanting more of the Elder Scrolls Online, I’m left feeling guilty that I’ve never experienced the world before and wanting to.
Ultimately will they pull it all of? I have no idea. They have the people, they have the history and they have the will to do it… and I hope they will. I hope to be plotting out many more characters than I already am for a long time to come. I hope to experience more of the war in Cyrodiil which we’ll be discussing next week. I can sit and have idle dreams of possibly one day being crowned Emperor.
Most importantly though…. I hope that I still take my time. I hope that I never grow bored of listening to the voices, marveling at the sights or working my way through the world of Tamriel. Because I want to savour it. For twenty more years.Related: Beta, MMORPG, The Elder Scrolls Online