By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Today we spent quite a lot of time at Zenimax Studios, where we were fortunate enough to get some time in with the devs and have a sneak peek at Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind! It’s not DLC! Nope, it’s an honest to goodness expansion! They don’t call it an expansion, and prefer to look at it as the next chapter of ESO, the next evolution of the storyline, and I’m likened to agree with that. It takes place, as many probably know, 700 years before the events of TES III: Morrowind. But that also means that I finally have a rough date for the events of ESO! They said that Morrowind and ESO are in the same time frame, so all of this so far takes place before the regular Elder Scrolls games, which I think is pretty great. There’s one major downfall, one thing that brought a tear to my eye: We didn’t get a hands on! But we saw tons of it, and at PAX East, from what I understand, it will have a playable demo. Of course this happens the year I can’t attend PAX East. But I’m not bitter, I’m not at all bitter. One of the biggest questions I had going in was “Will this be worth it? Will an existing player want to get this? I mean, they’re not used to buying expansions for this game. Just DLC content that has a bit of cool stuff, but ultimately is just bought with crowns rather than by going to the local video game retailer to buy.
Would you look at that view? Does it get any prettier than this?
Do I think that this is going to be important for the game? After the presentation and talking with the developers, I feel that the answer is an unequivocal YES. Had you asked me this before the release of One Tamriel, I’d have scoffed and said I’d never buy an expansion for this game! The early ESO experience did not feel like an Elder Scrolls game. The in-game content was pretty much locked behind a level gate, and people would treat Morrowind in that same manner. Nobody wants to buy an expansion then not bloody be able to play it because they aren’t strong enough! It is my sincere opinion that ESO: Morrowind is going to change the game for the better, to grow the game in a whole new direction. But while yes, Morrowind will be its own expansion, you can move freely between the main continent and Morrowind at will, but any DLC that comes out between now and the next Chapter of ESO will take place on the main continent. They’re not going to try and penalize people for not buying the content if they can’t/don’t want to. Wait… next Chapter, you ask? Yes, their plan is to produce one of these expansions/content updates a year, while still maintaining their quarterly updates like you’re accustomed to seeing.
“Since ESO isn’t really like these other games, it’s not level based, Morrowind won’t be level based, anyone can buy it. We designed it as an expansion for high-level players but we also designed it to be an entry point for new players. It has a new tutorial, a new box. . .” Matt said at our presentation. And that’s what One Tamriel fixed about the game. You can go anywhere, do anything. If you want to start a new character at Morrowind, you can do it! If you want to do the old content first? Go for it! It won’t harm your experience of the game in the slightest. Don’t expect a new class every expansion though, or level cap increases every time. They want new classes to feel fresh, fun, and exciting! But if you get one every time, who cares?
No, I guess it really doesn’t get prettier. Sure is hot, though!
But what is Morrowind? What is our end game/major goal for this expansion? Vivec has basically lost his mojo. He’s getting sick, his powers are waning, and you have to help him out. What if you don’t, you ask? What’s at stake? There’s a gigantic meteor/rock in the sky, held up by his powers. The closer he comes to death via sickness or weakening powers, the sooner the rock falls and destroys the island. Think Majora’s Mask. Kind of like that, only without the power to turn back time. So yeah… Time is an issue here. Metaphorically speaking. The content… it’s not timed. Don’t be so literal. That’s the major issue at hand, saving Vvardenfell from having giant rocks fall down on it. There’s also a sleeping God there, but it’s too early for us to be fiddling with him. Story continuity is important, after all.
There are side missions and other storylines, political intrigue, and more easter eggs than you can shake a stick at! I’m not going to spoil many of the ones I heard about, but here is something certainly worth mentioning. There’s a point in the history of Morrowind where a lot of false saviors start cropping up, claiming to be the Neverene. There’s a quest where you have to try and talk a man out of claiming to be the Neverene, and spare him the grisly fate that awaits his lies. Spoiler Warning: You fail, and encounter their tortured spirit in TES III: Morrowind. There are lots of references to the actual game that make me incredibly happy, and I’m a casual ES fan. The hardcore ones are going to love finding the stuff like that. There is so much good coming with this! Expect 30+ hours of story content in the Return to Morrowind theme, as well as in general, a homecoming to a lovely game that, while it hasn’t aged well, has a story that has truly stood the test of time. But it’s more than that! A new class [Warden!], a new way to PVP, a new tutorial, and new music! There’s quite a lot going on here and while sure, you have to pay for the game, if you already own the game you can upgrade into it. So let’s get started!
When in doubt, hurl a swarm at it!
The Warden is something that the ESO community has yet to see, something that in its own way, is a throwback to the regular TES games. It’s a character class that can pretty much do anything! They have a tank/frost magic tree, an AOE healing tree, and a DPS tree with a giant fucking bear companion. It also has a lot of other creatures you can summon to aid you, like a BIG ASS BEAR. And it’s awesome. This is important, because the other character classes have very direct, traditional roles that do one thing. While they aren’t so stale or narrow as that, and there are the more generic trees, the Warden can really do just about anything it wants. It makes me wonder, and hope that they’ll do some retooling to the other classes to make them a bit more open/diverse in what they can do. It’s also the very first new class to the game, and that counts for a lot. Like I said earlier, levels aren’t as relevant in this game: No matter where you go, the game adjusts to your strength level. That makes me think the current class setting is a bit less relevant. They’re taking slow steps towards the more TES style game, and while that’s not anything that was discussed, it’s certainly something I want/would find interesting. So all in all? The Warden is a fantastic addition to the game and might herald things to come in the future. But if that’s just my conjecture, we at least know that it fills the fantasy niche’ we were missing: The character that’s more Druidic/attuned to nature.
Don’t think I can fly, but it’s one hell of a fashion statement
PvP In Morrowind
PVP is an integral part of ESO. The huge scale sieges take quite a long while and make sense for the main continent. While yes, Morrowind is the biggest content update they’ve done yet [I believe they said it’s like 40% the size of the mainland, for perspective], those sieges don’t make sense for the style of land Morrowind is. Those sieges aren’t really all that balanced though. This will be the first “balanced side” small scale PVP for ESO. It will be team-based, 4/4/4, with several different game modes/types. At launch there will be three unique battlegrounds, representing the flavor of the world around them, which are all absolutely gorgeous. Right now there’s Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Domination. You can still level using these too. But the Medals you receive will be based on that mode. So if you’re playing Capture the Flag, you’ll be judged on Flag Caps, Grabbing the Flag, retrieving your Flag, etc. Though that can probably be a little upsetting if you aren’t the one getting them. But you won’t be rewarded for murdering everyone unless you’re playing Team Deathmatch. There will also be a manner of leaderboard, and lots more modes/maps coming, so don’t worry that it’ll just be this couple that you’ll get bored of immediately and that be that.
This is the latest in ancient Dwemer technology!
Trial of Morrowind
There’s also going to be a new 12-man trial [think raids for other MMOs], called the Halls of Fabrication. This is located within Soltha Sil’s “Clockwork City,” which hardcore Morrowind fans will be familiar with. It’s a replicated world of Tamriel, made with Dwemer technology, and your goal is to defeat the terrifying Dwemer Colossus. It’s the first new trial since Thieves’ Guild, and I have to say, it looks incredibly challenging. You’re going to want to bring your A-Game and likely pugging it will be rewarded with punishment and pain. Lots of Delves, side quests, story missions, piles of content on this island.
I had sort of fallen off with ESO until One Tamriel, and then I wondered if they were only going to do DLC content. Sure, it’s fun, and it’s neat, but it’s not lengthy; you get on, play it, and if you aren’t emotionally vested, you fall off again in many cases. Though it is interesting to note that since launch, not counting free to play weekends/beta tests, 8.5 million players have come to Tamriel. That’s wonderful. Whether you play on console or PC, the game is the same, and the Zenimax team works tirelessly with Bethesda to make sure that it accurately represents the alien nature of Morrowind, while still staying true to the ESO vision. And even if you didn’t play TES III: Morrowind, it’s not going to be lost on you. You won’t feel out of place, but there will likely be references/easter eggs that might be lost/might not make much sense, but if anything, perhaps it will inspire more people to experience Morrowind, a whole new generation of gamers gaining access to one of the greatest epic RPGs to ever be created. Morrowind is fifteen years old, so there are without a doubt plenty of people who missed out on it. I did when it came out, and I was old enough! I just didn’t have access. But those of you who are familiar, House Telvanni, House Dres, and House Redoran are all there.
The Morag Tong appear, and you do have to work hard to endear yourself to the Ashlanders, a group of Dunmer who do not recognize the tribunal or the houses and live amongst their own, near the Red Mountain. It’s the same map as Morrowind, same culture and region, and while it is 700 years in the past, do bear in mind that 700 is not a lot to the Dunmer. There are Dunmer in this world that are still alive during the events of Morrowind itself! And one of the things that really stick out to me are the “prequels,” stories involving the ancestors of the TES title to bear the same name. For people who are fans, there’s going to be a lot of fanservice, tributes to people who love the game. The long and the short of it is that Morrowind is going to be incredibly wonderful content if this presentation is anything to go by. It is a huge step in the right direction, and will create new memories as well as spark old ones for the really long-time fans of the franchise. And for people who were fans of Morrowind but didn’t play ESO? Maybe this will be the hook that lures them in! June 6th is when it goes down. Baar Dau hangs over Vivec Cty, a visual indicator of his suffering. The closer he gets to dying, it sinks closer to you, and fire erupts from it! You must heal him or the land is doomed. I’m glad that it and all future content will scale so you can play with friends, and I’m personally excited to get my hands on this next Chapter of the Elder Scrolls Online.