Elder Scrolls Online / Bethesda Softworks

With The Elder Scrolls Online gearing up for its release on April 4th on PC and Mac, we finally got in on the beta-testing action. The result? Great…but scary.

In today’s gaming community, I am probably classified as a “lazy gamer.” Probably even a noob, depending on what game I’m playing. Like most other gamers that even know what Elder Scrolls Online is, I began my MMORPG days with Diablo. (Yes, nerds, “OMG THAT’S NOT A REAL MMORPG! ULTIMA ONLINE MADE DIABLO ITS BITCH NOOB NOOB NOOB!” Like I said, I’m a lazy gamer.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to just move my mouse around the screen and click things to destroy them, and once in a while use the keyboard to drink a health potion or 2, or yell at another player online BY PUTTING EVERYTHING IN CAPS and saying something about his/her sexuality. It was easy, and fun. Diablo 2 was the same way, just better graphics and more stuff to do. It also introduced people paying real money for in-game items. I think I saw a sword going for $20 – $50 on Ebay, which is more than I would pay for a real sword, probably.

Then came World of Warcraft. At the time, this game’s graphics were on par with Diablo 2 except more cartoonish, something I could never get over. WoW also had a ton more things to do in-game, like multiple side-quests, jobs, skill-building, and tons of add-ons. There was also a ton more things to do on your computer, things that bothered a lazy gamer like myself: no more clicking just to move, extra keys to strike for spells, potions, talking, and fumbling to find out how to trade with other players, leading to you giving away all your stuff for a copper piece.

Then Bethesda came with an update to the Elder Scrolls series: Oblivion. I had played Morrowind but, due to an in-game bug or my own ineptitude, I could never get past the river. (I had the same problem with Hexen: Beyond Heretic.) Oblivion, however, made a statement. Superb graphics; simple game-play; huge open-world gamescape. The only problem? It wasn’t multi-player. Then Fallout 3 came. Again, fantastic graphics but no multi-player. then Fallout: New Vegas, and Skyrim. Still, no multi-player.

It makes sense. Games this detailed are tough on systems as one player. Try putting more than one player on the screen, and it would probably freeze.

But Bethesda heard our angst, and are delivering The Elder Scrolls Online, boasting the graphics of Skyrim with the MMORPG of World of Warcraft. Did they succeed? Well, the beta test has gone well so far.

Elder Scrolls Online / Bethesda Softworks

The first thing, obviously, was to see how much of a drop the graphics took. I am happy to say, not all that much. You can still customize a character gigabytes beyond any other MMORPG, and you can see these character traits in game on other players. The graphics themselves aren’t as sharp as Skyrim, but that wasn’t really expected by me. The important thing is that the game, for a beta test, ran relatively smoothly.

Elder Scrolls Online / Bethesda Softworks

How smoothly will the game run when it’s open to the public? That remains to be seen. There were a hell of a lot of beta-test gamers on. It seemed like a populated WoW game.

Elder Scrolls Online / Bethesda Softworks

One thing I noticed was that the best graphics came in the main quest, which constantly became a one-player feature.

Like the first boss battle:

Elder Scrolls Online / Bethesda Softworks

In-game cinematography:

Elder Scrolls Online / Bethesda Softworks

Basic one-player activity:

Elder Scrolls Online / Bethesda Softworks

It’s sneaky of Bethesda, but I am not against it. The Elder Scrolls thrived on its graphics. Why not try to give players a little more when you can? So it’s not Diablo 3-esque cinematic scenes. It doesn’t have to be if you’re focusing on the game.

The equipment and questing are very WoW-esque. Everything is expensive when you start out, and you really need other people to progress if you don’t want to sit around killing wolves for hours. Also, equipment degradation was brought back from Oblivion. Now it matters if you die, or hit a rock with your weapon a couple of times. Character leveling is like a giant mess of Diablo, Skyrim, and WoW all lumped together with skill trees, evolution of skills, and choice of adding to magic, health, and stamina.

As far a bugs, there were quite a few. Some public bosses wouldn’t spawn. I fell through some steps on my way into a town. When I died, I would usually spawn at the “closest waypoint,” usually a waypoint that I had never been to with enemies way stronger than me.

The Elder Scrolls Online looks like it will be a fantastic evolution of MMORPG. I only hope the servers can handle the public opening.

By Pat Emmel

Patrick began collecting a library of VHS tapes, DVDs, and CDs when he was young, and continues to build a library that could easily double as a video store and/or a revitalized Tower Records.