It seems that with almost any newly released MMORPG, there has to be a player vs. player element for the game to survive. The only games in recent memory that have downplayed the PvP element are Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. Both games have PvP, but the main draw is the PvE content. When The Elder Scrolls: Online ships later this year, PvP will not only be available, it will be a big part of the game. Because of this, the developers are putting a lot of time into the PvP elements to make sure they're not only balanced, but fun.
The PvP area in ESO is called Cyrodiil, and will feature three alliances battling it out. The large number of players is complimented by a large area to battle within. Cyrodiil takes approximately 30 minutes to traverse from one side to the other. With such a large area, it should make for some elaborate strategies.
In addition, the system is balanced by featuring a comeback mechanic of sorts. The alliance in the lead earns fewer Alliance Points, while the two trailing alliances earn bonuses. How this balances out once the game is out of beta will be interesting. There needs to be a reason to continue playing if one alliance has a significant lead, but at the same time you don't want to make it too easy for the trailing alliances to make a comeback.
Players can communicate in their individual groups within each alliance, or speak to the entire alliance via a shout-like feature that allows communication across the entire zone. Communication will be key because while Cyrodiil is large, the developers have implemented choke points to encourage small fights to break out.
If you're not looking to engage in all-out warfare, you can partake in normal PvE content within Cyrodiil as well. There will be PvE quests offered in the various towns of Cyrodiil, but be careful. Because you're still in Cyrodiil, you can be attacked at any point in time. It won't be surprising to see people on the lookout for adventurers doing PvE quests to ambush.
Almost everything you do in Cyrodiil will reward Alliance Points and experience points. There's special armor and gear you can buy in Cyrodiil, or you can use the gear you've earned elsewhere in ESO. Anything you pick up in Cyrodiil will be unique to PvP and not found anywhere else in ESO. In addition, they may have unique perks and bonuses geared toward PvP.
Cyrodiil and PvP in ESO isn't just about killing your neighbor though. There's an economic aspect to the war as well. If a warring faction takes down a wall, it will need to be rebuilt. This costs gold and takes time. If you don't rebuild it, your defenses will be lacking. It will be interesting to see if alliances look for economic warfare strategies in an attempt to cripple an opposing alliance's gold reserves.
Player vs. player combat in ESO won't be restricted to how well your gear is, or even large scale battle tactics. Taking a page from the offline version of Elder Scrolls games, reaction and player skill will play a big role in how well you perform in PvP. While latency has to be accounted for, you'll be able to use precision blocking to guard against power attacks, and knock an enemy off balance in order to land your own power attack. Dodging and stealth tactics will also play a role in PvP battles.
One of the big concerns about PvP in any MMO is the strength of crowd control abilities. Stunning and sleeping attacks are extremely powerful in many MMORPGs. Crowd control tactics have their place in ESO, but it won't be as powerful a strategy as it is in other games. Most of the crowd control abilities in ESO don't last very long, and can be broken with relative ease if you have enough stamina available. In addition, damage breaks virtually all crowd control abilities in ESO, so even if an opposing player hits you with a crowd control ability, any other damage inflicted upon your character will remove the effects of the ability.
So far, ESO is shaping up to be a solid entry in The Elder Scrolls series, as well as a quality contender in the MMORPG market. There are only a few short months until the release of the game, and hopefully we'll hear word on an open beta sometime in the near future. Either way, we'll have more Elder Scroll Online content for you leading up to its April 4 debut.