ZAM visited ZeniMax as classic Elder Scrolls 1st Person Combat and more was unveiled
It had already been quite the day as I sat among a throng of other journalists at ZeniMax Studios. Matt Firor was about to begin the overview presentation for The Elder Scrolls Online, to broaden our knowledge of the later game after we had already played for a few all too brief hours that morning. Check out my hands on impressions article for more on that.
Not only did we get a helpful fleshing out of the game’s story, a demonstration of a four man dungeon and a live look at a massive RvR keep battle, we also got a couple of huge surprises.
Firstly, the fourth class on release will be the Nightblade. This was one of those things that was revealed accidentally, so there isn’t a lot more detail beyond that. But when considering the three classes seen so far, the Nightblade certainly makes a lot of sense to round out the launch stable.
Secondly, and this is the news that caused deep intakes of breath around the room, ESO will have first person perspective combat, including the view of your character’s hands as they carry weapons or cast spells. In other words, the view that Elder Scrolls fans have been clamoring for, but never thought they would see, will be ready at launch. And it looks fantastic.
But more on that later…
Your Journey (For the Uninitiated)
Molag Bal is the main enemy of ESO; this pernicious individual has already killed you as the game begins and relieved you of your soul. As part of the tutorial (which wasn’t ready for us to play through) you will learn that your main quest concerns filling that gnawing hole in your heart (and no, pizza won’t do it) while saving Tamriel in the process.
Along the way, you will encounter various NPCs who can become heroes of Tamriel and help you in your quest to bring down the arch nemesis, but who lives and who dies will largely depend on your choices.
Much of that main quest will take place in Coldharbour, Molag Bal’s plane of Oblivion (a different part of the dimension that was explored in the game of the same name).
We watched a video montage of what to expect in Coldharbour, which is a twisted vision of Tamriel, chunks of its architecture scattered among a dark and foreboding environment, twisted irrevocably by the Molag Bal’s power.
Alongside the haunting buildings (which were impressive in detail and scale) we saw classic daedric creatures such as the Ogrim and Atronach but with a different slant, due to the influence of Molag Bal and Coldharbour.
As with any daedric prince, Molag Bal is unable to pass through dimensions and come to Tamriel himself. eHe has taken the Mountain/Mohammed solution to his problem and is forcibly bringing Tamriel into Coldharbour.
Throughout the game, massive anchors will burst through swirling vortexes and take purchase in rune covered land locks. With these Dark Anchors, Molag Bal plans to pull all of Nirn into Coldharbour, bringing it under his destructive dominion.
When playing through the game, you will be able to fight off any daedra protecting the anchors and release them, buying Tamriel some more time as you quest for a final solution.
Joining a Guild. No, not those guilds.
Though there will of course be player guilds (watch out for my interview with Matt Firor for more on that) the guilds that were of focus in the presentation were the NPC guilds for Fighters and Mages (it was stated that Thieves and Assassins guilds were unlikely to be available at launch).
The Fighters Guild and the Mages Guild have both sworn to bring down Molag Bal and are taking different routes to achieve it.
The Fighters Guild is dishing out contracts left and right to destroy Dark Anchors and any daedra you can get your sword/axe/lightning bolt on. When a player delivers on those contracts he/she gets rep that can open up new skill lines and abilities exclusive to the Fighters Guild.
The Mages Guild is researching Necromancy. Much of the wealth of knowledge concerning daedra and the necessary insights into defeating them has been lost so the collective of talented scholars is offering contracts to find lost artifacts. When exploring the world, you can find books and items to turn in to gain rep and open up skills and abilities just for the Mages Guild.
These are not mandatory quests but are instead ways to broaden your character’s power and add another layer of collection gameplay into the MMO.
Synergy for Mobs and You
Lead Gameplay Designer, Nick Konkle took the podium next as he demonstrated the kind of NPC interdependence that the game’s AI allows.
By combining their abilities to become even more challenging, NPCs will have the same capabilities to perform Synergy moves as players will. When working together, NPCs will shout or beckon to other nearby mobs as an in-game signifier to players that they should be wary of ability combos.
One of the examples we saw was of a Spriggan Forest Guardian who will call nearby forest animals, control them and then empower them to become much more lethal. Though some of the NPC groups were spawned with a specific party composition, ESO’s AI allows for creatures who path by or who the player inadvertently aggros to begin working together in the same fashion.
This type of cooperation between NPCs looks to be widespread as we saw other examples both in this session and in the one I attended late in 2012 and adds a strong strategic layer to combat. Choosing which enemy should be your focus, the importance of keeping certain NPCs separated and thinking beyond just tank and spank for basic mobs deepens the game play to a satisfying degree.
NPCs are not the only ones who can combine abilities. In one example a Templar put down a Holy Nova AOE spell. Nick ran his Dragonknight into it which brought up a dialog box to press X to activate Synergy; at which point the screen erupted in a wave of holy power as combining the power of both players had caused a Holy Super Nova.
The player who activates the move after the initial ability also has to spend some Magicka in order to power the combo.
This kind of ability combo game play is present in Guild Wars 2 but happens passively and often without really noticing it. Making Synergy in The Elder Scrolls Online an active choice makes the experience a conscious element of combat which should promote interplay that will be strengthened by recurring groups and socializing.