You have not played any game recently!

Remove ?

You are removing the game from your account and My Games . Depending on the developer, your game progress may be permanently deleted.

Note: may still retain some data you shared with them directly or during game play. Please visit () privacy policy for details about having your data deleted.

Plugged In

A first look at Elder Scrolls Online’s wonderfully social universe

Plugged In

Enjoy epic PvP battles, help other players in public dungeons, and explore the living world of Tamriel

by Barb Dybwad, Tecca

It's difficult to imagine a more appropriate game franchise for adaptation into a massively multiplayer role-playing game than the beloved Elder Scrolls universe — so when Zenimax Online Studios and Bethesda announced The Elder Scrolls Online last month, that sound you heard was the collective cries of joy of millions of rabid fans celebrating. At E3 2012 this year we had a chance to get a first look at the game courtesy of its game director, MMO veteran Matt Firor.

The story

Taking place 1000 years before the events of Skyrim, the most recent title in the 18-years-running franchise, The Elder Scrolls Online finds you in the thick of an epic open-world 4-way war between three outlying warring factions and central Cyrodiil. The king of Cyrodiil has made an unholy pact with an evil daedric prince named Molag Bal, who has raised an undead army to aid in the fight against the three player factions: the Ebonheart Part, the Daggerfell Covenant, and Admeri Dominion (symbolized by a three-headed ouroboros, the game's logo).

To complicate matters even further, Molag Bal has stolen your soul, and you as the protagonist of your own journey must discover why he's fighting the three alliances if you have any hope of saving the world.

View gallery

.

Elder Scrolls Online

The living world of Tamriel

Players of any previous Elder Scrolls title from Skyrim all the way back to 1994's Elder Scrolls: Arena will find a plethora of familiar environments, landscapes, and cities to explore. Every one of Tamriel's nine provinces will be playable in the game, and players will be able to choose characters from any of the nine races associated with each province. From deserts to snow-capped mountains to sun-lit shores, the game promises to live up to the epic world-creation we expect from both this franchise and MMOs in general by offering an enormous world to explore.

You'll see familiar creatures and enemies you know and love from previous Elder Scrolls games, along with a running "undead" theme thanks to Molag Bal and his army's influence. Steeped in history and lore from the entire collection of past titles, everything from locations to NPCs to questlines will offer a deep — and now social — immersion in the Elder Scrolls universe.

The overall look and feel is definitely "lighter," a bit more cartoonish, and certainly less gritty than a game like Skyrim — and some fans of the franchise are undoubtedly going to take issue with that. However, the richly-detailed environments and gorgeous sense of place nevertheless feel firmly grounded in the ethos of Elder Scrolls, and we imagine that most players are quickly going to see past that initial perception once they find themselves actually inhabiting the world.

View gallery

.

Elder Scrolls Online

Dungeons

And speaking of social, Firor assures us that the game will be "socially connected from the ground up." Those weary of familiar MMO tropes should enjoy some new aspects found in The Elder Scrolls Online, among them the concept of "public dungeons" where you don't need to spend time and energy forming a group beforehand to dive into the action. Instead of being instanced areas for pre-made groups, public dungeons are areas you can simply charge into and find out if other players currently need assistance, then team up with them on the fly — all without having to go through the time and hassle of forming a traditional group.

The goal behind public dungeons is to give you a low-key way to actually meet new people in the game in a way that makes sense for the storyline, without resorting to cumbersome matching mechanisms or having to wait while gathering together the optimal set of classes. Another feature that aids this process is the class system, where your character can take on several different roles depending on what the current situational needs require, as opposed to being more rigidly defined as a healer, caster, or melee damage character.

There will be traditional instanced dungeons as well, from 5-person group challenges all the way up to endgame raiding. You'll be able to set the difficulty level as well, so that once you're familiar with how to traverse a particular dungeon you can flip on Heroic Mode to make things more challenging next time around.

View gallery

.

Elder Scrolls Online

The combat system

The combat in Elder Scrolls Online is designed to be more action-oriented than your average button-mashing MMO, aiming to differentiate itself from the typical global cooldowns and toolbars tactics. You'll be able to use standard Elder Scrolls traits like strength, magicka, and stamina as resource pools to power actions such as block, sneak, and sprint — and while every character can make use of the sneak ability, characters in heavy armor will of course not be able to take as much advantage of it as more lightly armored characters. Nevertheless, you should still be able to route around less intelligent enemies instead of going in swords blazing.

The overall user interface is a much more minimal departure from the complicated, almost flight console-like complexity of games like World of Warcraft. You have a familiar set of health, stamina, and action bars at the bottom of your screen, but they fade away when you're not rolled over them. As Firor puts it, the developers want you to be able to "look at the world, not the interface" — a welcome mantra for such an aesthetically pleasing environment.

Enemies you fight will have a character build just like you do, meaning you'll be tackling intelligent foes who are fire mages, necromancers, and other various diverse trait combinations. Often you'll be fighting multiple enemies, which is where another innovative social mechanic comes in very handy: dubbed "synergy," the idea is that two players working together each become more powerful than when using their abilities solo.

Just as with public dungeons, you don't need to be in a formal group to take advantage of this effect — you simply benefit from it when encountering fellow players in the world and deciding to help them defeat foes. Additionally, if you fight well together, you both receive extra loot for downing an enemy. Firor describes the philosophy of incentivizing players to assist each other as a core social element of the game's design: "everyone always benefits from helping one another."

View gallery

.

Elder Scrolls Online

Exploring and questing

One of the core themes of the Elder Scrolls franchise has always been your ability to be whoever you want and do whatever you want, and things are no different in the online version. You can "be the emperor, pick flowers, or do crafting," and there's "no wrong answer" for how to spend your time in the game.

In the demo, Firor showed a point of interest appearing on the player's map while pursuing another objective, alerting him to a potential activity nearby. You could simply ignore the opportunity and continue on to your original destination, or head over to discover what the newly emerging challenge might have in store.

On the particular side quest revealed by the point of interest above, there is an option to save a particular non-player character (NPC). Doing so is completely optional, and you can easily skip right over it, but if you do save her you'll unlock another additional side quest opportunity. In other words, the decisions you make in the world affect things, and help determine what types of content and experiences are available to you as you make your way around the world.

View gallery

.

Elder Scrolls Online

Player versus player combat

In another unique mechanic from typical MMO fare, Elder Scrolls Online features the ability to stage massive battles between dozens of player combatants on each side. Firor says there's been "nothing of this scope in an MMO before" while showing off a huge skirmish with a screen full of characters facing off in a giant melee.

In addition to all-out multiplayer brawls, there will be more sophisticated player vs. player campaigns available including actions like storming siege walls and occupying keeps, making for a deeper PvP experience undoubtedly requiring advanced strategy and teamwork.

Will your computer be able to run it?

Firor said the game was designed to accommodate a very low minimum specification in order to allow as many players to play the game as possible. The title aims to be very "laptop friendly" and accessible to a wide range of hardware; if you've bought a computer "generally within the past five years, you ought to be able to play the game."

While there's no specific release date set just yet, The Elder Scrolls Online aims to launch sometime in 2013 on both Windows and Mac platforms. Don't tell our bosses, but we're likely going to be saving up our "sick" days until then.

View gallery

.

Elder Scrolls Online

For game news, free codes and more, Like us on Facebook, follow @yahoogames on Twitter and check us out on Pinterest!

View Comments