For two weekends now, I’ve had the pleasure of beta testing the highly anticipatedElder Scrolls Online. Peter was the one who first turned me on to the Elder Scrolls franchise, starting with Oblivion, and he has recently become immersed in the world of Skyrim. But I’ll admit it: They’re not really my type of game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fantasy and medieval geek, so rich storylines and immense world was really attractive. Sadly, it was the gameplay that has deterred me from these games. I’ve never been great at the first person POV games because I get so stupid nervous when I can’t see what’s behind or to the side of me—I barely got through the Fallout games with my sanity—so I tend to die a lot and freak out.
But I knew I was missing out on something amazing when it came to the Elder Scrolls games, which is why I jumped at the chance to get a peek at the upcoming The Elder Scrolls OnlineMMO. I knew that the MMO would provide the third person action I enjoyed, while still immersing players in the rich mythology of the Elder Scrolls, and let me tell you: fans of both the Elder Scrolls and MMOs will be pleased with this game. Continue reading Meet Your Next Time Suck: The Elder Scrolls Online→
I’m not a big MMO player. The only one I got into was Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I’ll admit I haven’t touched it in nearly a year. But when I think about the top three games that have me excited for the new year, the ones that spring to mind are Dragon: Age Inquisition, The Witcher 3, and the MMORPG Elder Scrolls Online. And to get started with an expansive game like ZeniMax/Bethesda’s ESO, you need to create a character who will represent you in the game for many hours — even months or years — of exploration and gameplay.
The footage of the character creator in Elder Scrolls Online is stunning. I was already impressed by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s character creator, but the thing about Skyrim‘s is that every character you create looks a little war-torn and ugly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I don’t mind the realism. But it inevitably led to a ton of mods aimed at making characters beautiful, and that’s something that ESO devs might want to consider when working on the next character creators — a shallow something, maybe, but not a small something.
From early videos on the ESO character creator, it looks like they’ve addressed this. Orcs still look tough and toothy, Argonians still have that rough lizard-like skin with spikes, but everything looks absolutely gorgeous — and it seems it will be a breeze to make your character easy on the eyes and not Skyrim-style tired.
But going beyond the superficial in the superficial, the sheer number of customization options and the level of detail are impressive. You can choose height and weight, the build of the shoulders and waist, skin color, tattoos, and lots of facial features. Each gender currently has 24 hairstyles, with some of these specific to a character’s race. There are other customization options specific to races as well; for instance, black-colored eyes is an option uniquely available to Wood Elves. The same goes for body markings, with Dark Elves getting House sigil tattoos, etc. You can read more about it in a developer Q&A here.
Your character will also be able to wear any armor in the game, which is pretty awesome the more you think about it. Some armor is done in the style of a certain race — I immediately think of the glossy, heavy dwarven armor that I just loved to put all over my mannequins in my first playthrough of Skyrim — but your elf can rock Khajiit armor if you want.
The reason I like this is the extra opportunity for character depth this creates. For one thing, you can wear armor that means something to your character — like wear Nordic armor taken from a fight against a Nord. It’s natural to assign meaning to loot in games like Skyrim and ESO. But you can also take it one role-playing step further and say that your elf wears Khajiit armor because she was raised by cat people. Or her first love was a Khajiit. Or she just has an affinity for the Khajiit people and culture deep down in her soul. That’s cool.
Plus, it sounds like ESO will be rolling out new customization features in content updates after launch. Devs say:
“Over time, players want to change their appearance as they develop their characters, so we do have plans to release additional hairstyles, tattoos, adornments, etc. in post-launch content updates.”
I, for one, would love a barber shop feature, even if it’s just for changing hairstyles once in a while a la The Witcher 2. (Geralt can really rock a braid.) Whatever the case, I appreciate that devs will allow us to adjust our characters in some ways, however small, later in the game.
The thing about MMOs is that you don’t want to create new characters all the time; you want to stick with one and level him/her for a long, long time. It’s a journey that can take years and a relationship with a character you’ll never forget. Being able to create a character from scratch is the first step on that path, and it’s important to be able to fine-tune your avatar’s look in as many detailed ways as possible. ESO is definitely putting the reigns in players’ hands there with customization.
I’m already drooling over the Argonian skin colors, spots, and spikes for my future character…
Alright, guys and gals…this is it. Over the last week, you decided what I should play. I gave you the power over my destiny, and you came and cast your vote into the digital voting box. It seems we have both Trekkies and Star Wars amongst our viewers, since this one was a close call. In the end though, there can only be one. In this case, “the one” was the IP that has Wookies, lightsabers and the most annoying minor character in the entire sci-fi genre. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Before I continue, let me explain some of the rules I follow for No Fees Attached. In order to give you the full and honest F2P experience, I have created a new, virgin account. I have no Preferred Status, and I will not spend a dime on this game unless you want to (which you will decide in a later installment of this column). Also, I will try to cover all areas MMO players enjoy: PvE, PvP, crafting and maybe even some role-playing. Next week, you will decide if I continue my adventures in SWTOR, or if I should leave it behind for another title. Such are the rules of No Fees Attached. Now, let’s get into the game itself!
Consulting the Consular
Everyone, say hello to Sammor, your friendly neighbourhood Jedi Consular. Choosing a class for this experiment wasn’t that hard. When I played SWTOR during launch, I rolled a Sith Inquisitor and leveled him all the way up to about level 40. The Consular is the Inquisitor’s mirror class, so I’m guaranteed to have a familiar experience when it comes to class mechanics. However, what really convinced me to give the Consular a try were the themes of his class story: knowledge, secrets and the power gained from them. After rounding up the storyline of the first ten levels, I can say that those themes are already a part of the adventure Sammor experiences, and I’m curious to see if he will succumb to his thirst for dangerous knowledge, or stay true to the wise restraint a Jedi should show.
Talking about Sammor, who is he anyway? Well, for starters, Sammor has a bit of a weight problem. He’s chubby (especially for Jedi standards), and physical exercises were not his favorite part at Padawan boot camp. However, Sammor compensates that with his gentle behavior and unending knowledge. Really, if Wikipedia would exist in the Star Wars setting, Sammor would memorize half of the articles on there. Considering he is still a young Jedi, Sammor’s control of the Force improves every day, but he is a promising student.
Can you tell I like to role-play? I just think every character needs a story, especially in a plot-heavy game like SWTOR. But enough about my fat Force-user, what are the early levels like?
The (cartoony) forests of Tython
As a Consular, you start out on Tython, the planet where the Jedi Council was founded. Since the Jedis retreated back to Tython after the Sith attacked Coruscant, it is once again the central learning place of all who seek to wield lightsabers and push people with their minds, without resorting to electricity and other evil stuff. Sammor’s adventure started the moment he landed. It turned out that his new master, a kind but strict lady going by the name Yuon Par, was involved in some serious archaeological business, and now some Flesh Raiders are causing her trouble. Being the young hero Sammor is, he leaps at this chance to prove his skills and is out to hunt some monstrosities.
Before I know it, my young Consular is involved in a story of stolen holocrons, ancient Jedi masters and power-hungry Twi’leks, all while helping out random people here and there. The game introduces you gently to its very old-school gameplay. You complete quests, gain experience, find loot et cetera. It’s EverQuest or World of Warcraft with a Star Wars coating. However, it’s the sound and visuals that get you immersed into the game. When fighting monsters, you hear the oh so familiar action music from the movies, and the sound when you first pull out your lightsaber gives me as a serious Star Wars fan the chills. I also just love the graphics. The cartoony style will hopefully age well, since I’m actually impressed by some of the vistas this engine can render. I caught myself taking screenshots of the forests and cliffs regularly. Simply beautiful!
Your wallet’s the limit?
So, up to the point my Consular has reached, the game satisfies me. It’s nothing special, but if you like a good MMORPG and Star Wars, getting this all for free is a pretty sweet. But do you actually get all of it for free? Of course not! The moment I hit level 10, a nice pop-up reminded me of my reduced XP gain, and the two action bars I’m limited to are also getting kinda crowded. SWTOR’s F2P limitations are some of the strictest I’ve seen, though they aren’t annoying me just yet. I fear for the future though, even if I hope that it won’t be that bad. As described above, I won’t whip out my wallet just yet, no matter how terrible it will be…
So far, so good
Well, Chin, how is it so far? If you ask me like that, I have to say that I still enjoy SWTOR. The dialogues are fun, the story is good (though by far not the best BioWare has made) and you get quite a lot for not a single penny. Up until now, I can say that the game is fun and worth your time. Be careful though: this could change until next week, when I continue my report about Sammor’s adventures. Untill then, may the Force be with you!