The El­der Scrolls On­line

You know it makes us want to shout

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Bethesda De­vel­oper In-house (Zenimax On­line) For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin US Re­lease April 4 (PC), June (PS4, Xbox One)

PC, PS4, Xbox One

The El­der Scrolls On­line isn’t Skyrim. It looks older, sounds older, and plays like it’s older than 2011’s award-win­ning RPG. It’s a dif­fer­ent game from a dif­fer­ent team, a team that would prob­a­bly pre­fer its game to be judged as a sep­a­rate en­tity. Zenimax On­line’s Matt Firor has said on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions that TESO is its own game, with its own aims and am­bi­tions. That’s fair enough from the per­spec­tive of the MMOG vet­eran for whom the fa­mous li­cence is of pass­ing in­ter­est. But it would be wrong to think that com­par­isons with Skyrim won’t be rife or won’t mat­ter, and this is no Skyrim.

The in­ter­face is min­i­mal by MMOG stan­dards and clear ef­fort has been made to mimic the look and feel of TESO’s sin­gle­player cousin. But this sur­face sim­i­lar­ity only helps to em­pha­sise the ways in which the games dif­fer. In Skyrim, quest mark­ers – if you choose to use them – of­ten point to dis­tant tar­gets, to caves and tem­ples half a world away. Fol­low­ing the ar­row is an in­vi­ta­tion to travel, not to do what you’re told. In TESO, the same mark­ers are used to lead you from door­way to door­way, NPC to NPC, and ‘se­cret’ to ‘se­cret’. Even af­ter a dozen hours, quests rarely take you far from the per­son who tasked you to com­plete them. Like many MMOGs, the world is com­pressed to the ex­tent that lost rel­a­tives, in­vad­ing ar­mies and elu­sive mon­sters are all lit­tle more than five min­utes from the vil­lager they con­cern. Lay­er­ing Skyrim’s vis­ual short­hand on top of this dated sub­struc­ture doesn’t do the game any favours.

Most trou­blingly, com­plet­ing the main quest­line – which is broadly the same for each of the game’s three fac­tions, al­though it takes place in dif­fer­ent ar­eas – is nec­es­sary

to un­lock new zones along the crit­i­cal path. It is dis­heart­en­ing to be dropped into main­land Tam­riel only to find your progress to the next area in­sur­mount­ably blocked due to a locked gate. If you cre­ate a Nord char­ac­ter and want to visit TESO’s take on Skyrim, you’ll need to com­plete your quests in the or­der they’re given. There’s lit­tle lee­way for wan­der­ing off the beaten track.

The dis­ap­point­ing lin­ear­ity par­tic­u­larly stings be­cause, un­like a num­ber of the game’s other prob­lems, it’s not a re­sult of try­ing to marry two di­ver­gent schools of game de­sign. Free­dom of ex­plo­ration is a com­mon qual­ity of both The El­der Scrolls and MMOGs. It’s one of the rare ar­eas where they agree, so its ab­sence here is a com­pre­hen­sive let­down.

Com­bat is in­con­sis­tent, but fares at least a lit­tle bet­ter. The game is skill-based in the sense that you have to tar­get melee at­tacks as well as ranged at­tacks and spells, al­though it is not freeform enough to al­low you to strike one en­emy by ac­ci­dent while aim­ing at an­other. As in many MMOGs, play­ers are free to clip through both en­e­mies and each other as they fight, re­duc­ing com­bat’s sense of weight. And fur­ther ex­ac­er­bat­ing this prob­lem is a lack of feed­back, which af­fects melee char­ac­ters in par­tic­u­lar.

Magic users feel bet­ter, and we’ve found that a hy­brid of heavy two-handed weapons and of­fen­sive magic is the most sat­is­fy­ing way to play. There is plenty of depth to be dis­cov­ered, too: play­ers are free to mix and match skills and equip­ment from any of TESO’s dis­ci­plines, and un­cov­er­ing un­ex­pected com­bi­na­tions of pow­ers is re­ward­ing. The sorcerer, for ex­am­ple, can at­tack en­e­mies with a light­ning blast that strikes again if the en­emy passes be­low a cer­tain health thresh­old while the spell is

It would be wrong to think Skyrim com­par­isons won’t mat­ter, and this is no Skyrim

ac­tive. Com­bin­ing this with high-im­pact melee is an en­joy­able – and loud – playstyle, and skill ‘mu­ta­tion’ al­lows that light­ning blast to be im­proved with an area-of-ef­fect ex­plo­sion later on. This mix of freestyle lev­el­ling and the­o­rycraft is an ex­am­ple of an area where the game’s com­po­nent parts come to­gether to work well.

De­spite some strik­ing light­ing, though, TESO’s world looks no­tably less im­pres­sive than the pre­vi­ous game in the se­ries. Draw dis­tances are short and char­ac­ters suf­fer from stiff an­i­ma­tion, es­pe­cially in con­ver­sa­tion. The level of de­tail in the en­vi­ron­ments and the in­clu­sion of a full first­per­son mode should im­press play­ers used to the rel­a­tively ab­stract worlds of WOW or Guild Wars 2, but it won’t do much for some­body who sets their ex­pec­ta­tions against Skyrim.

While char­i­ta­ble play­ers may well find some­thing to like here, there’s no es­cap­ing the fact that this is a prod­uct of com­pro­mise. In try­ing to look like some­thing it isn’t, TESO in­vites com­par­isons it can­not live up to.

Ar­eas not vis­ited in pre­vi­ous El­der­Scrolls games evade the com­par­isons that are un­flat­ter­ing else­where. For an MMOG, this can be a tech­ni­cally im­pres­sive game

Con­ver­sa­tions mimic past games in the se­ries, but are fre­quently lin­ear. Play­ers will oc­ca­sion­ally be given the op­tion to ask fur­ther ques­tions, but it’s rare that char­ac­ters are deep enough for you to want to do so

ABOVE First­per­son mode is well im­ple­mented and helps to give the game a sense of iden­tity, but can be fid­dly when try­ing to fight mul­ti­ple op­po­nents. Com­bat re­quires a de­gree of mo­bil­ity that favours third­per­son view

TOP Limited draw dis­tance and ver­ti­cal­ity pre­vents the game from match­ing Skyrim’s sense of scale. Key lo­ca­tions tend to be fairly close to­gether, too, giv­ing the world a trun­cated feel. ABOVE Group en­coun­ters are rare at early lev­els, with the first in­stances show­ing up af­ter hours of play. In gen­eral, this is the area of the game that will feel most fa­mil­iar to MMOG play­ers

LEFT The Fighters’ Guild fo­cuses on bat­tling Dae­dra. Pub­lic quests re­volv­ing around so-called ‘Dark An­chors’ mimic the form and func­tion of Obliv­ion Gates

Icons on the map are used to draw you over to var­i­ous view­points, and these show off the game at its best. There’s no dis­guis­ing the lin­ear­ity of zones, how­ever

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.