E3 2012: The Elder Scrolls Online hands-off impressions

The Elder Scrolls Online has already generated a lot of debate among fans of the Elder Scrolls franchise just a month after it was officially announced, and it's not hard to see why. All of the previous games in the popular fantasy RPG series were single player only, but The Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO PC and Mac game where you will be playing with lots of other human players.

At E3 2012, we got to see some new footage of the game in a behind closed doors presentation at the Bethesda Softworks booth, along with some new information on the game itself, which is being developed by Zenimax Online Studios.

The storyline of The Elder Scrolls Online takes place 1,000 years before the events in the 2011 released RPG The Elder Scrolls V Skryim. We were told there will be three factions in the game; The Aldmeri Dominion will have the Altmer, Bosmer, and Khajiit races while The Daggerfall Covenant is home to the Bretons, Redguards, and Orcs. Finally The Ebonheart Pact has the Dunmer, Nords, and Argonians.

It's not all about the factions, however. Developer Zenimax Online Studios have also created a very personal storyline for the player character. You see, your soul has been stolen by a character named Molag Bol and it's your goal to get your soul back. It shows that the development team knows that many of the fans of the previous Elder Scrolls will want a solid single player storyline in addition to the more open ended experience that an MMO game offers.

When you go on a quest in The Elder Scrolls Online, there won't be the typical MMO hubs for quests. Instead, a number of different missions will come up as you simply explore a new area. As far as combat, The Elder Scrolls Online will be a real time experience rather than turn based. You will have three things to kept track of as you engadge in combat; Strength, Magic, and Stamina. This kind of real time combat will likely serve as another point of debate among gamers as it will be based on actions rather than just skills.

Yes, there will be player-vs-player battles for The Elder Scrolls Online and Zenimax Online Studios says that we can expect massive battles between the three factions with hundreds of players involved. If this sounds a bit like the older game Dark Age of Camelot, there's a reason; many of the team members of The Elder Scrolls Online worked on that game, including the team's leader Matt Firor.

Visually, The Elder Scrolls Online doesn't match the graphics that players who have played Skyrim have seen but they certainly seem to be on a par with what the best MMO games have to offer and they certainly should improve before the final game is released. While ZeniMax did license the Hero Engine early in the game's life, the company has confirmed that it was basically a "whiteboard" to help create some art assets while the team made its own client and server engine.

The presentation and trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online at E3 2012 shows that Zenimax Online Studios has already put a lot of effort in making the Elder Scrolls franchise into an MMO experience. However, there are a ton of MMO games out there that are trying to get the attention of a limited number of players. It remains to be seen if Zenimax Online Studios can make a game that will both please the many Elder Scrolls fans while still attracting a big enough MMO audience.

Image via Bethesda Softworks

NeoGamr and Neowin's coverage of E3 2012 is sponsored by War Inc. Battle Zone.

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