An overview of ZeniMax's in development MMO from a Q&A held for a select few at the company's studios
The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) has been the subject of intense speculation since its announcement. Not surprising considering the massive interest and devotion generated by a game such as Skyrim.
After being given the tour of the ZeniMax Online Studios in Maryland, I can reveal quite a bit of what to expect from the MMO incarnation of Tamriel.
This piece will focus on the highlights of the game's systems and the features you can expect as development continues toward the planned release sometime next year — for my more focused, personal impressions on playing the game check out this article.
More Combat, Less Dice Rolling
TESO has real time combat with a lot of importance based on mouse clicks to engage short or charged weapon attacks. The left button takes care of those abilities, while the right button is purposed for blocking, which is very important and can be done by all classes. Timing is everything in combat; when to move out of the way of an AOE, when to block a telegraphed heavy assault from a mob and when to best use light or charged power blows for maximum effect.
The proficiency with which you execute your moves is rewarded with Finesse, a ranking attached to every kill you successfully pull off, that gives you bonus XP for progression and recharges powerful hotbar abilities called Ultimates.
The mixture of mouse, hotbar and movement gives a fluid, responsive style of combat which also fits into the multiple levels of engagement approach that The Elder Scrolls Online has across the different systems. It is very easy to swing into action and learn the basics quickly, but deeper play is certainly available and waiting for the player to explore.
You will be able to combine abilities between different players. Those who have played Guild Wars 2 will be familiar to combo feeds, but there will also be specific abilities that relate to team combat, one example given was an AOE buff called United We Stand that became more powerful the more people stood in it.
Different classes can imbue others with abilities, a sorcerer can unleash a lightning AOE that a Dragonknight -- we could play that class or Templar -- can move into, gaining an extra magical ability, not normally available, that can be unleashed with a key press.
In the Q&A held at the studios last week, The Elder Scrolls Online’s Gameplay Lead, Nick Konkle said "Our monsters are not designed to be speedbumps." That philosophy is made obvious when looking at higher level encounters. TESO has some interesting challenges based on the combination of mobs you will face.
Like players, mobs will also be able to combine abilities, I watched a mob lay down an AOE DOT that was oil based only for a fire demon to let rip with a path of fire that caused the AOE to erupt in flame and add extra damage to anyone caught in it. Another example saw Dremora constructs working together, small magical machines that generated electrical fields. If you allow other constructs to stand in that field they become supercharged — shown by both the damage caused and a very cool effect; think Tron before and after.