PAX Prime: Hands On With The Elder Scrolls Online

ESO Booth
PAX 2013 / Photo: Kelly Knox

At PAX Prime 2013, one of the most popular areas of the game hall was the corner housed by Bethesda. The line to play The Elder Scrolls Online, a massively multiplayer game currently in development from Zenimax Online Studios, filled up quickly each day with gamers eager to get into the world of Skyrim and Morrowind. I was lucky enough to settle in for a few minutes and enter the lands of Tamriel during my first hands on look at The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO).

The short verdict? You absolutely feel like you’re back in Skyrim.

Story-wise, ESO takes place a thousand years before the events of Skyrim. Players choose to be a part of one of three alliances, depending on the race of the selected character. Veterans of Elder Scrolls games will love to return to the lands of Morrowind and other familiar locales. In my play-through at PAX, I re-created my current Nord character to enter the cold landscape of Skyrim. Character customization is robust, as you’d expect it to be in a next-generation MMO. I could have spent hours just fiddling with each setting and slider to get my look just right, from age to proportions to facial features.

Elder Scrolls Online © Bethesda / Zenimax Online

Comparisons to Skyrim are (obviously) unavoidable, and there are some differences. For instance, when creating a character in ESO, you also select a class to determine your combat skills. Stealthy types might be surprised to learn that in ESO sneaking now consumes stamina, which will play an interesting role in Player vs. Player (PvP) combat. PvP is a large part of the game in the form of the alliance war, although Creative Director Paul Sage assured me that there’s lots more to the end game than fighting fellow players.

PvP is just one of the many multiplayer mainstays that make The Elder Scrolls Online a well-blended mix of Skyrim and MMO. If you’re a longtime player of games like World of Warcraft and EverQuest, you’ll feel even more at home in the game with slash commands like /dance, crafting, and using skills on the hotbar during combat. Surprisingly, the automatically disappearing hotbar was one of my favorite features from the get-go.

While I only spent a few minutes in ESO at PAX Prime, I left with a good impression and a renewed interest in the game. The Elder Scrolls Online is currently planned for a 2014 launch on the PC, Mac, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.