TES:O: Buying Into The Behemoth
Will I try to get my hands on the BETA? You bet. Am I excited? Well…
No, not really. Elder Scrolls fans, and when I say “Elder Scrolls fans” I don’t mean everyone who’s liked what they’ve played, are a special sort of people. In my experience most people who pick up the series don’t put it down and play the sequels as well. Arena, Daggerfall, and Redguard were cult classics, but the series received a lot of acclaim when Morrowind was released back in 2002, 8 years after the series debut. This was due in part to the large modding community that cropped up and the user accessibility of modifying the content of the game. At the time there was nothing like it, and honestly, apart from other games Bethesda has fathered, there hasn’t been anything since. The trend continued with Oblivion, and the series gained more notoriety. People who played Morrowind moved on to Oblivion, but they series gained many new fans as well. Sometimes I really feel like Skyrim was TES’s “public” release because that is the point where the series really blew up. Skyrim was on the lips of everyone who ever played an RPG or even a console game. Those players would never be able to go back and enjoy the humble beginnings of Morrowind or Oblivion, just as I cannot bring myself to get through TES:I or TES:II.
It’s not really a terrible shame, but with the advent of TES: Online I’m not confident in the integrity of the series any longer. Allow me to make a parallel with the situation of another popular game which had its beginnings in 1994. Warcraft I, II, and III were real-time strategy (RTS) games released by Blizzard Entertainment. They were RTS with rich story lines and that was all. They had their own following until 2004 when World Of Warcraft (WoW) was released. Since, there have been 4 expansions over the past 8 years, and Blizzard has never looked back. Warcraft was completely removed from the RTS genre and has become a permanent fixture in the realm of MMORPG. It’s a HUGE cash cow.
Now, what really scares me is the revealed footage of TES:O “gameplay.” I say “gameplay” because there’s not a whole lot of action going on, just sweeping landscapes and idle animations. The environments are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but the things I’ve been hearing, and the NPCs/PCs I see say “hi-rez WoW.” To go on, this article on Sandboxer reveals that some (read probably as “most”) dungeons will be “instanced” as they are in WoW. We’ll also have PvP, and PC characters will be faction-ized upon creation in much the same spirit as PCs are divided up as Horde an Alliance in WoW. The final nail in the coffin is the report that TES:O will not be a sandbox game.
Oh, but that’s okay, right? It’s only what repeat customers to the series have enjoyed and come to expect for the past 10 years. It’s only what originally brought the series acclaim.
Yes, ZeniMax Online, the online division of Bethesda’s parent company, will be heading the project, and for that reason we can still hope to have our sandboxes for years to come from Bethesda Game Studios. However, let’s think a moment about Fallout 3. How many people were upset when Bethesda took on the project? Some of those who loved the original flavors of Fallout 1 and 2 were heartbroken and couldn’t bring themselves to play Fallout 3. In fact, it was nicknamed by many players “Oblivion with guns.” I’m sure there was an equal amount of mixed feelings about ZeniMax acquiring id Software (Doom series) among long time Doom…ers. Here we may have the same case, but it is not due to some acquisition or selling of rights– passionate sandboxers and lovers of the old TES spirit are potentially being sold out by their own company.
And at the same time, well, we don’t know that yet. TES:O still has the time and potential to wow and astound even hard-core TES and RPG fans. From here on out, though, revenue will make all the decisions for the future of the TES franchise. So, let’s cross our fingers and see what’s next.
One thing that always busts my watermelons is the lack of authenticity and role-playing in MMORPGs. You might say, “gee, but how can an MMORPG lack the role-playing element?” This comic from Sandboxer explains it so much better than words alone ever will…
It’s simply what happens when companies try to make game worlds “accessible” to the general public.