The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) closed beta invites went out last week. After six years of development, it looks like this game is going to happen.
TESO’s main problem is that they’re adapting a single player experience into a multiplayer one. At its core, the Elder Scrolls series is about giving players a unique sandbox environment for them to fuck around with at their leisure. Does someone play a saintly hero who makes the game world a better place? How about a character that ignores the main story in lieu of traveling from town to town or exploring every cave? Or even a player who is just an asshole that murders everyone? The Elder Scrolls series is renowned and loved for giving people that choice.
But how does that experience translate into an MMO? It most likely won’t. Did a player enjoy physically moving objects until they were out of range of the NPC shopkeeper (or just putting a bucket over the NPC’s head and robbing them blind)? Such a thing done in an MMO would contribute to destabilizing the in-game economy. Do the developers sacrifice this player freedom for the sake of gameplay? How would the developers countermeasure this if they allow it? Have invincible NPC guards in every shop, which would counteract every other game in the series that let a player murder guards by the score?
Or how about murdering quest essential NPCs for whatever reason? Good luck trying that shit in a PvE environment. A lot of these complaints so far seem like “dick moves” but The Elder Scrolls is known for allowing such things to be possible. If a series renowned for player freedom releases a game that clamps down on choice, people are going to be a bit livid. That’s really the main problem with TESO: How are they going to faithfully recreate the ability to let a player leave his/her mark on the game world when there’s thousands of other people to consider? Get three people who played an Elder Scrolls game together, get them discussing the game and there will be three different ways they played the game. TESO might provide those people three different ways to build characters but will they interact with the game world differently? Most likely not.
TESO is completely contradictory to everything the series has stood for. The freedom of choice present in the single player games that attracted people to the series in the first place is going to be gone. Looking over what was advertised in the game’s announcement last year, it’s hard to get excited about the game at all. No player housing? An inability to master every discipline? Seeing it’s a prequel game set 1,000 years before Skyrim? Remember all those lorebooks in Morrowind, Oblivion, etc.? Unless they pull alternate dimension/time travel shenanigans, it’s fairly obvious they don’t intend for players to make a profound impact on the game world like they could in the single player games.
TESO will be The Elder Scrolls in name…but not in spirit.