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E3 2012: The Elder Scrolls Online (Impressions)

Posted by: Travis at 6/20/2012 2:20 PM
The Elder Scrolls series has long been known for its epic open-world gameplay with a significant focus on the single-player narrative. The idea of transitioning that concept to a massively multiplayer online game sounds quite challenging considering the series' history. Zenimax Online Studios began that challenge five years ago and used this year's E3 to debut new footage and gameplay details of The Elder Scrolls Online. Some of the game's features showcased during the presentation included the world of Tamriel, the game's real-time combat system, and a brief snippet of player versus player battles.

The point made repeatedly during The Elder Scrolls Online presentation was that gamers will be able to play the game how they choose, from adventuring with others to completing the narrative alone. At the game's beginning, the player can select from three factions including the Aldmeri Dominion (High Elves, Khajiit, and Wood Elves), the Daggerfell Covenant (Bretons, Orcs, and Redguards), and the Ebonheart Pact (Argonians, Dark Elves, and Nords). Set during the second era, which is 1000 years before the events of Skyrim, the three factions battle against the Daedric prince Molag Bal and the Imperials that struck a deal with him to rule the continent. Now, each of the factions battle for control of the imperial crown and throne of Tamriel.

The first element of the Elder Scrolls Online's presentation showcased the diverse locales of the Tamriel content from snow-covered mountains to giant mushrooms. Even though the graphics aren't as impressive as Skyrim, the landscapes were beautifully-crafted and felt quite similar to Tamriel from past Elder Scrolls games. The game world seemed large from the presentation, but it's difficult to discover its complete scope until actual gameplay footage is released. The series icon of dungeons returns with even more variety and some that will include raid support for 25 players. The massive Tamriel will contain a variety of in-depth quests and fully-voiced characters for all dialogue sequences.

The game's combat system on display featured the finesse system for scoring performance with enemy encounters, activation of different abilities and spells, and blocking attacks. If you've played any other massively multiplayer online game, the combat featured in The Elder Scrolls Online seemed unoriginal and lackluster. The addition of real-time blocking and dodging to the combat system weren't that impressive in action. The game's combat felt completely drab in comparison to the detail-rich continent of Tamriel. Another aspect of the game showcased during the presentation was the player versus player combat system, which will support 200 players in a single battle. We were shown a hectic battle between a large group of characters that seemed to be simply running around and hitting whomever at will. There were no battle strategies or group commands of any kind featured in the player versus player combat footage.

The Elder Scrolls Online presentation at E3 was a mixed experience that ranged from stunning landscapes to lackluster battle encounters. Other than having The Elder Scrolls in its title, there weren't any elements that set it apart from other massively multiplayer online games. I'm still interested in seeing more of what the game has to offer and look forward to give the gameplay a try when it launches for Windows PC and Mac in 2013.