If you have been looking at this blog at all over the past week, it is likely you will have seen my article detailing the upcoming changes to the Elder Scrolls Online that will be implemented by launch day. This weekend will be (unfortunately) the last beta weekend and some of the changes I talked about have already been introduced in time for this event. The no-more starter islands and NPC collision detection are in the game, as well as a host of quest bug fixes and stability improvements in Cyrodiil. They have also made some vitally needed balance tweaks to combat, to make it feel more responsive as well as fair. This is good news and I hope Zenimax goes above and beyond to get the servers properly prepared for the barrage of Early Access logins they will receive. The rest of the features have been confirmed by Paul Sage himself, and I have a feeling there was an update to the PTS server today which may have rolled out some of the other features.
As well as this beta including some much needed changes to the game, it will also be unlocking the pre-order bonuses for everyone, even those who haven’t bought the game yet, to give people a taste of what they can expect if they do decide to make that purchase. They are also adding in one new zone for each faction, so for the Ebonheart Pact that is Deshaan (which is the South of Morrowind and North of Black Marsh), the Aldmeri Dominion that is Grahtwood (South West Valenwood on the mainland of Tamriel) and for the Daggerfall Covenant that is Stormhaven (which is in the centre of High Rock). This will add some much needed extra content for those players who have already reached the level 17 cap and have nothing to do. Looking at the screenshots I can’t wait to get to Grahtwood and see what the Wood Elves’ home really looks like, something I have wanted to do since I first rolled my Wood Elf archer in Skyrim. There has also been a screenshot of the map of Craglorn (the new adventure zone) leaked on the ESO Head website (see above), but it will not be in this beta weekend.
Dark Fissures are also going to be introduced in this beta, which is a change I left out in my other article. Dark Fissures are similar to the Dark Anchors in that when they spawn they send down daedra from the heavens to slaughter the unwary traveller. However Dark Fissures do not spawn in set location like the Dark Anchors do, they spawn above the player’s head at any given moment. They are smaller events than the Dark Anchors, but are meant to be solo-able so need to be less difficult. This will add a certain edge to exploration, the constant fear that Molag Bal is about to pop out of the sky and give me a friendly batch of bloodthirsty daedra to kill (or in my case, be killed by) is a worrying thought. As long as Zenimax don’t add daedric Argonians into the game though, I will be fine and free from infection.
In this beta we are more likely going to receive a more accurate representation of what this game is going to be like at launch, the NPC collision detection playing a major role in how combat feels and plays. I feel it is safe to say that if you don’t like the game by the end of this weekend, you will probably have little love for the final release, so it may be necessary to hold off for a few weeks, wait to see some reviews (there will be one on Webdevs) and then purchase it if you feel like the game is for you. Remember, unlike singleplayer games, MMOs are patched and updated with new content far more regularly, and from what I have heard Zenimax is gearing up for an aggressive post-launch content release schedule. If you don’t like an element of the game to start with, chances are it will be patched sometime in the future if the community complains loud enough. We will be getting the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild quest lines as well as a crime system about two months into the game’s lifecycle, free with our subscription, Zenimax are also promising us some “DLC sized content” updates every month, which is fairly substantial for a monthly update. I hope ZOS does keep their word and patch this game after launch, this has the promise of turning into the next great MMO if they do keep it up.
This will, on the other hand, be the last beta event and the final time we will be able to give feedback before Early Access launches on Sunday 30th March. I find myself looking back on the past year of following this game and feel a strange emotional attachment that I have gained over studying this game for many hundreds of hours and by playing it in various beta events. It is truly the next chapter in the Elder Scrolls franchise and I have seen this game grow from the ugly, MMO-like early Closed Beta days to now, where we have a fully-fledged Elder Scrolls game with First Person and an interactive world space. Zenimax has been the absolute best development team (apart from Bethesda of course) that I could ever have hoped for to bring a game the size of the Elder Scrolls Online to fruition, and they have done it by listening to community feedback right up till the very end.
One thing I do want to mention seeing as this may be my final article on the Elder Scrolls Online before its release (apart from the dual review me and Sam will be doing this weekend), is that I would like to offer the a chance to join our guild, the Knights of the Eight. Seeing as I am so excited for this game and am going to be hosting a guild anyway, it seems natural that I should open it up to other people before the launch of the game. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make the guild straight away (ie. In time for the beta weekend), but it will be active for launch and I will be sure to post a link to it in a future article when it is ready. We will be a casual guild, group ups and game nights may be featured if the guild becomes large enough and I hope to promote some of the members to officership if possible. We will be allied with the Aldmeri Dominion (for PvP purposes) but will accept members from other factions as cross-faction PvE is in the game.
Overall I am deeply saddened by the fact that this will be the last beta event with no open beta, but at the same time I am waiting with baited breath for the release of this game into Early Access. I have preordered the physical Imperial Edition (that statue of Molag Bal is heaven to my inner nerd) and may do an unboxing video for it. The new areas that Zenimax has added in will keep this beta fresh for me, and I hope they start to test the new features in the PTS server soon so that they can get them pitch perfect for launch. This game has come so far since its initial announcement back in May 2012, and I hope to see as many of you as I can fighting for the Queen on 4.4.14.