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E3 2013: Elder Scrolls Online Hands-on

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 21 comments

Yes, it's as awesome as the single-player games.

On Wednesday I got a chance to spend a huge 30 minutes with Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls Online, and frankly I had a hard time parting with the game. Just imagine your favorite Elder Scrolls title (Morrowind, Skyrim etc.), but in a multiplayer setting. Oh and with fewer objects to cram in your backpack.

The great news is that, unlike Final Fantasy XIV which I played earlier, ESO has absolutely no learning curve for the veteran MMORPG player. The Bethesda reps, who hovered over a number of us during the hands-on for suggestions and questions, seemed a little anxious about my left-handed gaming style, butI was able to jump in and work the magic like there's some standard across all MMORPGs without breaking a sweat.

Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take my own screenshots or video footage, so I can't show what the actual visuals look like. It's unquestionably Elder Scrolls although the facial movements of NPCs so far are sub-par. I think I was more enthralled with the whole environment which was the city of Daggerfall parked next to a bay of water. I spent a good deal of the time just sightseeing and fighting off the bandit or two who sprang out of the shadows and thought they could whoop my ass.  

Bethesda started us off at level five, and walked us through the process of choosing a class, skills and assigning points to attributes. I ended up playing a human Sorcerer (Templar and Dragon Knight were the other two I believe) packed with a mean fireball that I could shoot from a relatively safe distance. One mouse button, left I think, was dedicated to blocking with my staff while the other cast the fireworks. Oh so tasty.

What I loved about this game – at least from the demo - is that players seemingly don't merely get a quest to go kill pigs or other wildlife in order to to level up. There wasn't any grinding in the scenario we played. Instead, it felt like an Elder Scrolls RPG where you go talk to this person, talk to that person, find this moron's lost pig, search a boat for an item in particular and so on. The scenario didn't feel like a multiplayer experience iced with a shallow story. Instead, it was the other way around: your story iced with a cool multiplayer experience.

Now, I can't say that will indeed be the case when the game finally arrives on the PC and next-generation consoles. But I think I know where Bethesda is going, and it's in the right direction. Unfortunately, there weren't any staged epic boss battles like the way Square Enix demoed Final Fantasy XIV, so we didn't get to experience the group effort. We were left to wander the city and the dock on our own, to discover what The Elder Scrolls Online had to offer.

Being a lefty, I was somehow able to play this game like a first-person shooter. You can assume third-person or first-person by scrolling the mouse wheel up and down, and move about using the WASD setup or arrow keys – "E" is used to open doors, trunks and so on. In one scenario, I was searching through crates in two ships parked at a dock. Some of the crates produced bandits who thought they could take me down in close quarters. I was able to strafe around the fools and dose up with balls of fire without any effort. The gameplay just simply rocks.

Finding quests was rather simple. Actually, it was a string of quests that started with one individual with a glowing aura. Talk to him, and the next segment pops up on your radar at the top right corner as a small dot. I used this radar to navigate through the city which made questing super easy. Players can take on multiple quests too, but I somehow managed to stay on one path and had a blast doing so. Honestly, I'm a little impatient waiting for long, spoken and written dialog, even more so when I'm on a time limit.

I noticed that some of the elements made popular in the other Elder Scrolls games made it into this online version. For instance, I was tasked to speak to someone in one of the houses. After entering, I discovered several "glowing" objects that begged for my attention such as scrolls and books. Like Skyrim and Morrowind, these give some of the world's history, enriching your immersion. Other items can be scooped up like bread, but not to the extreme numbers as seen in the single-player games (where you can seemingly pick anything up and sell it at a local market).

Unfortunately, what I played was just a brief taste of what ESO offers. I'm not sure if we could actually leave the city; I focused on the quest line that eventually led me down to the docks. However I think newcomers and veteran Elder Scrolls gamers will find ESO highly satisfying and addicting, and should give Blizzard's rival MMORPG something to worry about when it crashes the MMORPG scene next year.

I can't wait.

 

 

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  • 0 Hide
    frillybob101 , June 13, 2013 11:17 AM
    But will it have a subscription be FTP? One $20 cost with a $15 a month. These are inportant too!
  • 0 Hide
    jk_ventolero , June 13, 2013 11:32 AM
    Blizzard will take an arrow to the knee from this one..

    Oh, gosh, I can't believe I just said a "knee-arrow" joke. LOL
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    gm0n3y , June 13, 2013 11:34 AM
    I'm a massive Elder Scrolls fan (since Daggerfall) and was extremely disappointed to hear they are making an online game, mostly because I feel they will stop making single player games (what happened to Warcraft 4?). This preview sounds promising, but I have yet to find a single MMO that I could actual get into. I guess if they can keep all of the single player elements and just throw other people into the mix, then maybe it will be ok. I'm hoping that it won't be F2P/P2W.
  • 0 Hide
    omgangrybees , June 13, 2013 11:40 AM
    "find this moron's lost pig, search a boat for an item in particular and so on."
    Ooh wow, glorified fetch quests, i'm so excited!
  • 0 Hide
    codo , June 13, 2013 12:06 PM
    really hope they deliver on this after the letdown of Skyrim. I dont care what anyone says. Watered down to work on consoles, hope it isn't the case again
  • 0 Hide
    bllue , June 13, 2013 12:16 PM
    I'm really getting that TES vibe from this game, which is very promising. Looks good so far. Hopefully it delivers.
  • 0 Hide
    Grandmastersexsay , June 13, 2013 12:25 PM
    It's about time they fix the biggest problem with the elder scrolls series, namely the fact that it is only single player.

    Why didn't the reviewer talk about the game mechanics? Does it have the FPS feel that the rest of the elder scrolls series has, or did they go with the lame targeting stat based system like WOW and every other MMORPG use?
  • 0 Hide
    LongLiveRock1974 , June 13, 2013 12:26 PM
    Really hoping this doesn't turn into a sh!tty PC port.
  • 0 Hide
    none12345 , June 13, 2013 12:29 PM
    "really hope they deliver on this after the letdown of Skyrim. I dont care what anyone says. Watered down to work on consoles, hope it isn't the case again "

    I completely agree, the hype far exceeded the quality. Especially the user interface, it wasnt just *meh*, it was downright horrible. From inventory to attacking(1 or 2 skills, 2 buttons? thats it? really? only 1 shout at a time? wtf?). Graphics were nothing special, meh at best for this day and age.

    If the online version has the same type of combat, 2 skills 2 buttons, i wouldnt even give it a second glance.
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    J_E_D_70 , June 13, 2013 12:48 PM
    I hope it *is* like Skyrim with only a couple of slotted abilities. There are plenty of other games that require you to manage 40 abilities on cooldowns.

    Neverwinter also has a "less is more" approach.
  • 0 Hide
    Horhe , June 13, 2013 1:00 PM
    Quote:
    I completely agree, the hype far exceeded the quality. Especially the user interface, it wasnt just *meh*, it was downright horrible. From inventory to attacking(1 or 2 skills, 2 buttons? thats it? really? only 1 shout at a time? wtf?). Graphics were nothing special, meh at best for this day and age.

    If the online version has the same type of combat, 2 skills 2 buttons, i wouldnt even give it a second glance.

    I'm playing Skyrim right now with many graphic and other mods + an ENB customized by me. It looks great, but still not as good as a heavily modded Oblivion. Unfortunately I spent 2 weeks to make it look like this, but it was worth it, I already got 100+ hours out of it.

    Before I read the name of the first picture, I thought it was from Cheydinhal. It would have been great if they showed some screenshots from Cyrodiil, Skyrim or Morrowind, to compare them to the original games.

  • 0 Hide
    aoneone , June 13, 2013 1:37 PM
    I dunno, there was a leaked 20 min beta out on veoh and it was terrible. Graphics weren't even up to today's standards with PS4 creeping up on us, and the gameplay style look so generic to every other mmo out there right now such as Guild wars, tera, etc etc. I dunno, I think I'm going to have to pass on this one. =(
  • 0 Hide
    aoneone , June 13, 2013 1:37 PM
    I dunno, there was a leaked 20 min beta out on veoh and it was terrible. Graphics weren't even up to today's standards with PS4 creeping up on us, and the gameplay style look so generic to every other mmo out there right now such as Guild wars, tera, etc etc. I dunno, I think I'm going to have to pass on this one. =(
  • 0 Hide
    Benthon , June 13, 2013 3:28 PM
    "What I loved about this game – at least from the demo - is that players seemingly don't merely get a quest to go kill pigs or other wildlife in order to to level up. There wasn't any grinding in the scenario we played. Instead, it felt like an Elder Scrolls RPG where you go talk to this person, talk to that person, find this moron's lost pig, search a boat for an item in particular and so on. The scenario didn't feel like a multiplayer experience iced with a shallow story. Instead, it was the other way around: your story iced with a cool multiplayer experience."

    I don't understand how in the first part of the paragraph can say it didn't feel like an MMO, then you go on to describe exact boring MMO elements...
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    viliu24 , June 13, 2013 3:51 PM
    erm what is with this fight "oh is beter than wow" "wow killer" etc.... ??? it is not a wow killer, it didnt kill and will not kill wow , wow will die because it is old> hellooooo it is only 10 years old...It is like saying a lamborghini veneno is faster than a diablo, it should be after over 30 years of progression . Anyway related to article , i personally never been a huge fan elder scroll series, iv played them but they are not my style , so i really hope it is going to be a huge step forward since skyrim disappointed me..... ye ye i know , skyrim is za best... for console maybe , for pc it sux thx to the consoles
  • 0 Hide
    CheesyHotDogPuff , June 13, 2013 4:17 PM
    This is the game I will test out my new haswell rig on. Looks great.
  • 0 Hide
    tomfreak , June 13, 2013 5:27 PM
    its from bethesda, I personally think they will get it right. But it will be a no buy for me if it falls in the following conditions

    1. Pay to play. *guild war 2 buy to play is better
    2. Still a no buy for me, since it is from bethesda. I'll wait at least 1 year. I repeat again IT IS from Bethesda, it will be buggy mess like all their other games lol. I had my share of bug fest from Elder scrolls Oblivion, Skyrim. Its better to sit this one out until they iron out most of the bugs
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    killerclick , June 13, 2013 5:51 PM
    Seeing how Skyrim raked in over $600 million in the first 30 days after release, I'm sure Bethesda will not forget the single player experience. In fact Elder Scrolls Online is made by a different dev team, and this game shouldn't affect the development of TESVI or Fallout 4.
    That said, I despise any and all multiplayer games (even having to install the Rockstar Games Social Club for Max Payne/GTA has me seeing red), and I won't be giving this game a chance, no matter how good it supposedly is.
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    shikamaru31789 , June 13, 2013 5:58 PM
    @ J_E_D_70 Last time I heard from someone that has played it, that is exactly what it is. Skyrim with a small ability bar. Left/right mouse buttons control your weapons/shields. There was a 5 slot bar last I heard, 4 for abilities, one for potions, you can switch in abilities whenever you want. I believe there is a lock-on system to help keep bows/magic balanced with melee, but if I remember correctly you can choose not to lock-on and aim yourself. It sounds like they kept it nice and simple, which is probably why it's actually playable on consoles unlike most MMO's.
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    shikamaru31789 , June 13, 2013 6:03 PM
    @tomfreak Bethesda Softworks is publishing it, but Bethesda Game Studios isn't making it. It's being made by ZeniMax Online Studios, which was formed in 2007 specifically for The Elder Scrolls Online. Bethesda Game Studios is believed to be working on Fallout 4 right now.
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