Friday, January 18, 2013

The Elder Scrolls: Past, Present, and Future

The Best RPG Saga Ever?

My first introduction to the Elder Scrolls universe came with Morrowind, and I was less-than-enamored. I didn't actually play it until after Microsoft released the Xbox 360, so it was a bit dated at the time. That couldn't have helped my impression. There were no fast travel options as the two most recent iterations have had. You had to either pay close attention or take written notes if you wanted to complete quests because towns weren't instantly visible on the map. If you took a phone call or stopped paying attention even for a few seconds, you could miss a detail that would have you wandering blindly through the wilderness for hours looking for a certain tree or castle. Suffice it to say I didn't make it very far into Elder Scrolls III. 

Then Came Oblivion

I'll be honest. I probably didn't give Morrowind its proper due because I borrowed it from a friend to play after I had already purchased Oblivion. I just wanted to see what the prequel was like before diving into the massive world of Cyrodiil. With the addition of a fast travel option, this game was much more playable to ADHD gamers like myself who aren't used to investing over 100 hours in a single game. Players can (and I did) spend hours touring the countryside picking flowers, collecting pelts, and generally living out a wizards and warriors fantasy without ever having to actually complete a single quest. That said, I eventually completed every quest in the game including all of the downloadable content. I have friends that refused to join the assassin's or thieves guilds because they were too attached to the characters they had created and refused to let them "turn to the dark side" but the completionist in me just couldn't let those quests go.  

Oh, those wretched Oblivion Gates! Even though they yielded priceless artifacts that could turn a regular sword into a magical weapon of unbelievable power, they really got old, didn't they? The idea was good: travelling to another dimension to battle and close the gates that were releasing hordes of demons upon Cyrodiil. There were just so damn many of them! If the game had had half the number of gates, I think it would have worked much better for all involved. As it is, they became more of a chore than a joy by the time you'd cleared out many of them. I have to say I massively preferred the dragons in Skyrim to the gates in Oblivion. The battles didn't take an hour, the music was fantastic, and let's face it, fighting dragons is just cool!

Winter Is Coming

Finally, we come to it. In my humble opinion, the best of the Elder Scrolls games. Skyrim is a massive, beautiful, dangerous world that is teeming with life throughout its beautiful mix of environments. Where Oblivion had a Tolkien-like feel to the world, Skyrim shares its soul with Martin's Winterfell and the Wall to its north. While I played Oblivion as a tank, choosing the soldier's life and a sword over spells and magic cloaks, in Skyrim I went all-out mage, a decision I ended up being very happy with in the end. Early on in the game it presented certain physical limitations, but by the time I reached level 40 I barely had to fight at all since my re-animated minions handled all the rough stuff for me. With two Draemora at my side, I only had to take part in the bigger battles where boss-level enemies were involved. 

Elder Scrolls Online

A few weeks ago I wrote about the five games I'm most excited about in the coming year. This one was at the top of my list, which is strange because as I've said before, MMORPGs are not really my thing. It was a popular post and made me decide to take this week to delve further into the saga as I experienced it. The upcoming Elder Scrolls Online will contain not only brand new destinations, but many of the old ones from the three previous games, as well. 

It is set 1,000 years before the events of Skyrim. The amount of customization found in the previous games makes me salivate knowing that they're going to blow them all away with this one. One thing that will be interesting to see is the combat system. In previous Elder Scrolls games, you could essentially pause battle while you chose a spell or weapon. With MMORPGs that's impossible since everything must happen in real time. The aiming system in previous Elder Scrolls wasn't exactly Rainbow Six Vegas, which could present some problems to the spray-and-prayers among us. Rather than having multiple servers, they plan to hold the entire thing on one "mega-server" that will host the players in the world, I guess. At least that's what it sounds like from what I've read, although it's a bit hard for me to imagine there's a CPU powerful enough to handle the number of players this game is going to generate without some sort of issues arising, at least around the launch. 

I Can't Wait!

They haven't even announced a release date yet, which probably means Christmas, dangit! Even so, my excitement level for this game couldn't be higher. I don't play every RPG that comes along and I rarely pick up an MMORPG, but the completeness and care that has gone into the Elder Scrolls series has won me over. Anything Bethesda does with this series is going to have me doing backflips in anticipation. Until they come up short, I'll be first in line to try anything they make. I look forward to playing alongside many of you in the following year.