From taking part in Elder Scrolls Online's beta, one thing is apparent right away-- Bethesda is planning for ESO to be a major hit with both Elder Scrolls fans and traditional MMORPG fans. The game is attempting to strike a line between both audiences, and for the most part the effort comes across as a success. It's different enough from MMORPGs like World of Warcraft to garner the attention of gamers looking for something different yet still familiar, but it's also heavily developed with single player gamers in mind.
The Single Player Experience
Immersion is a huge part of Elder Scrolls Online even from the very beginning of the game. The opening tutorial serves as an introduction to the systems of the game but it also serves as a way to introduce the story that places your character at the heart of it. The introduction is very similar to other Elder Scrolls tutorials. After the tutorial, the game world opens up significantly.
Like other Elder Scrolls games, leveling is a story-based journey, but it's also one where exploration and discovery are brought to the forefront. Crafting, gathering, lockpicking, mounts, PvP, quests, skyshards, achievements, guilds and skill line progression are all introduced in a very natural manner that is as immersive as possible. As you gain levels in the game, the world continues to open up even more.
One interesting aspect about leveling in ESO
is the fact that grouping is entirely optional during the leveling process. There are multiple types of dungeons and world encounters that are best completed while in a group, but they are optional. Players hoping for a full single player leveling experience can enjoy one in full. Story-based quests create different phases of zones that may actually prove difficult for questing with friends frequently.
The MMORPG Experience
On the flip side, players hoping for a pure MMORPG experience full of difficult monsters, world bosses, dynamic content and dungeons can do so while leveling and especially during endgame. Grouping in the game is easy to do and there are numerous activities to stumble across that are easier to accomplish while with a few friends. Even during beta it was simple enough to find groups for dungeon and group content.
The flexible skill line system encourages group play but also works in favor of solo play. Each class has a large amount of support and utility skills that help them solo efficiently or help out when in groups. The holy trinity (healer, tank and DPS) are in place, but the requirements are extremely loose and players are able to create custom builds that take on whatever role they prefer effectively. All classes can wield all different weapon and armor types which opens up some interesting options.
The PvP beta experience was quite enjoyable for most testers, and early impressions seem to be that Cyrodil-- the large-scale raid vs. raid PvP battleground-- will be one of the largest allures of Elder Scrolls Online. The zone meshes together PvP objectives and PvE objectives while giving small groups a lot of options to swing the battle in their favor with the help of siege weapons and smart tactics. The wide range of utility abilities players have also works well for PvP
Most beta testers-- myself included-- found themselves pleasantly surprised by the end of the latest beta testing period. While the beginning tutorial can seem a little closed off, the more levels you gain, the larger the world of Elder Scrolls Online becomes. The openness of the world combined with both single player elements and MMORPG elements makes ESO one game that will surprise many.