I had a chance to see very early footage of the Elder Scrolls Online last year and came away a little skeptical. The game just didn't look that good. Jess was more impressed, if still reserved in her opinion, stating:
"While it's still incredibly difficult to know how an unfinished title will actually feel to play and explore (and there's still at least half a year to go before we see it released), when the developers say things like "no one will ever be penalised for helping another character", I think that this MMO is definitely headed on the right track."
You can read the rest of Jess' thoughts here
Fortunately, a whole heap of spit and polish has gone on since then, and The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is finally starting to slot into shape. I had a chance to sit down and play through an early segment of the game (around level 5) and take this new Elder Scrolls experience through its paces.
As is customary for Elder Scrolls games, there is a massive and varied custom character builder. That's included in ESO and I spent a good chunk of time kitting out my character to look suitably rough and menacing.
There were three classes to choose from: Dragonknight, Paladin and Sorcerer, and nine races to select - running the full breadth of the Elder Scrolls world, from Breton to Khalijt.
The mechanics of the game are fairly similar to most other MMORPGs. You find people in distress, take on their quest, complete them, earn experience points, and level up. It seems that ESO is taking this tried and true route to their game, and it doesn't markedly differ.
With the exception of the camera views you can select - it was confirmed for me that first person mode would be available and gamers would be able to select it if they wished. This more tightly ties together the ESO experience, along with the classic Elder Scrolls style of combat that singleplayers have enjoyed so far.
However, when I moved on from the Bethesda booth, I was left with the nagging feeling that I'd played this game before. While the world of ESO will be far different from any other game, and it will give you the chance to experience the Elder Scrolls world with friends and enemies, it will need to ensure there is something special to pull players off other highly popular titles.
This could possibly be done through ESO's PvP system. While that wasn't available in my play through, we were told that ESO would support PvP in numbers of up to 200, which could result in some truly stunning online play. Thankfully, there is still enough time to tweak the title and continually improve it.
The Elder Scrolls Online is set for release in spring 2014.
The Good: It's Elder Scrolls but you can play with your friends
The Bad: Not so great if your friends are dicks
The Ugly: Telling your friends they're dicks