If there's one series that has done consistently well for Bethesda over the years, it's Elder Scrolls. Both PC and console players flocked to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, followed by other stellar entries like Oblivion and Skyrim. Now the franchise is about to stretch even further with a new massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, The Elder Scrolls Online, set to appear on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Elder Scrolls Online will take place in the continent of Tamriel with a storyline that ties into previous games. Daedric Prince Molag Bal acts as the game's antagonist, attempting to take control of the realm by any means necessary.
In the game, you'll choose between three factions fighting for the Emperor's Throne of Tamriel. You have the Aldmeri Dominion, represented by the eagle; the Daggerfall Covenant, represented by the lion; and the Ebonheart Pact, represented by a dragon. Each has its own character classes assigned: Aldmeri has the Altmer, Bosmer and Khajiit; Daggerfall has its share of Bretons, Redguards and Orcs; and Ebonheart consists of Dunmer, Nords and Argonians.
From what we've seen, the game takes a similar approach to Skyrim but allows you to interact with friends online, whether you're beating up members of a warring faction or joining together for a battle party, hunting down tougher enemies and divvying up loot. As you could do in Skyrim, the game features towns within Tamriel you can explore, talking with non-playable characters and getting either side quests or supplies for the next big journey. We only saw bits and pieces of a town in the limited hands-on demo, but it's a smaller part of a much bigger picture. In fact, parts of Tamriel will be unlocked as the game goes on, either through optional quests or via downloadable content introduced at a later time.
As for the gameplay, if you're familiar with Skyrim you'll feel right at home. The left mouse button is assigned for attacks, while the right mouse button brings up your shield, which is useful if you're low on health. The action bars return once more, but this time you only have seven slots to deal with, so you'll need to choose your skills wisely. As for leveling up, you'll be able to assign skill points through a Progression Menu, which range from increasing strikes to boosting confidence and statistics by taunting.
Where Elder Scrolls Online really makes a difference is with multiplayer. Friends can join you in public dungeons to form battle parties, and you can also find new allies. From there, up to four players can band together to take on dungeons, and the more the merrier – the dangers that lurk in these caverns pose an enormous challenge. There's no word yet on how PvP will work, though it will appear in the game.
One other feature worth mentioning is the add-on system. You'll be able to use add-ons over the course of your journey. Achievements can also be unlocked, and you'll have access to a Lore section where you'll be able to archive books that you've read.
There's still a ton to cover with Elder Scrolls Online in the months ahead, including more in-depth strategies on how to get started in the world, as well as a comparison on how well the console versions stack up. Be sure to check back for more information.
The Elder Scrolls Online will arrive in 2014 for PC/Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.