In my previous impressions article of The Elder Scrolls Online, I explored the game's adventure aspects ranging from the narrative to its various quests. I provided my thoughts on what I believed worked and didn't work in regards to the gameplay and overall presentation. In this article, I'll provide thoughts on my extended time spent exploring the game's player versus player component that takes place in the province of Cyrodiil, which was also the setting of Oblivion. The Elder Scrolls Online is set 800 years before the previous games in which the Aldmeri Dominion, Daggerfall Covenant, and Ebonheart Pact alliances battle for control of Tamriel's throne. Upon reaching level ten, players are made aware of and allowed to join the larger alliance war in Cyrodiil.
Cyrodiil is divided into three, ever-changing territories in which the alliances battle for control of keeps that are surrounded by resource points such as lumber mills and mines. The lands of Cyrodiil feel quite massive as traveling either on foot or horseback between keeps reveals the many dungeons and other towns that are scattered about the landscape. Players are given an array of missions from scouting enemy locations to capturing keeps and resource points which in turn reward alliance points for buying siege weapons and such. Even with the low number of players allowed into the test server during the beta period, it was exciting to imagine the lands of Cyrodiil overrun with thousands of players battling for control upon the game's launch in April.
The province of Cyrodiil provided an enthralling and atmospheric backdrop to the player versus player adventures and encounters. I wasn't expecting the sheer size of the world that is open for players to explore, which I'm going to guess will be more dangerous with additional players roaming about after launch. It's an especially entertaining landscape to explore alongside other group or guild members while discovering quests such as slaying a bandit leader or trespassing into enemy territory to scout for the next ambush. The player versus player component shares similarities with the current fascination with online survival action role-playing games in that The Elder Scrolls Online has a massive area in which players can succumb to ambushes by other players, but also explore at their own will across the map. The major element missing from primary narrative quests that makes the player versus player content such an entertaining experience are the dynamic occurrences of events and activities.
The process of attempting to capture a keep is one of the most thrilling gameplay activities as a group of focused players and strong teamwork are required to accomplish the feat. From the initial step of fighting through the primary gate to destroying one of the keep's walls with siege weapons are kept thrilling with a continually-dynamic battlefield. Non-playable characters can respawn if the process is taking too long, which contributes to a sense of urgency of capturing the keep. In addition, the presence of other players that are defending the keep result in tense encounters on the battlefield. The deployable siege weapons and various player classes work in combination with one another as each person can have specific roles while capturing or defending a keep. Groups of players that say for example lack a healer or individuals controlling siege weapons will fail quickly while trying to capture or defend a keep.
Through the actual process of capturing a keep or defending a resource point are entertaining in their own right, the underlying concept that players are able to contribute change to the overall game world is highly-satisfying. During the beta test period, I was able to participate in capturing an enemy keep and then proceed to name its new ownership under our guild name was satisfying knowing that my player specifically contributed to the process. Few massively multiplayer online games and especially their player versus player component create a sense of significant player accomplishment or personal change to the overall world state. The Elder Scrolls Online also ensures players can decide on their level of involvement with the alliance wars whether it involves scouting an enemy location or capturing an entire keep, all of which contribute to the game's world state in some manner.
Unfortunately the beta testing period for press didn't provide the best example of what the final game world be like upon launch as only a few amount of players were given access. Most times during play the lack of players resulted in a ghost world of non-playable characters roaming around the landscape. However, it did demonstrate the player versus player component will require a strong base of players to ensure that the massive province of Cyrodiil feels like its actually at war between three alliances. The ultimate success of The Elder Scrolls Online player versus player component will depend both upon the amount of players as well as how well groups can work together in accomplishing the various quests such as capturing or defending keeps. Quest attempts with groups of characters that either didn't communicate or didn't utilize teamwork all failed, while in contrast to working with groups that did communicate resulted in successful outcomes.
After spending an extended amount of time with the player versus player component from completing various quests and raiding dungeons to capturing keeps and exploring Cyrodiil I can say with confidence that it will be the primary draw for me in subscribing to The Elder Scrolls Online. While the primary narrative quests and adventures in the other areas of Tamriel were interesting, none of them compared to the unpredictable and dynamic nature of the player versus player gameplay elements. I'm especially excited to return upon the game's launch and see how the province of Cyrodiil is transformed over the game's course from battles and encounters between the three alliances. Now, the more difficult decision will be deciding which alliance I pledge my support for in acquiring control of Tamriel's throne.
The Elder Scrolls Online will be available on April 4 for Windows PC and Mac, and later in June for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
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