What’s will be the difference between ESO and WoW? There is a big fear among the Elder Scrolls fan base that ESO will simply become another MMO, another World of Warcraft with Elder Scrolls names and themes. While the developers at ZeniMax are working their tails off to make sure this doesn’t happen, we’re going to take a look at some of the differences that we’re already aware of.
The Mega Server
The developers have already bragged about their unique megaserver concept. Apparently, early on during your character creation you will answer some questions and the answers will help ESO’s phasing engine determine which players you’ll see and interact with.
This will eliminate the headaches encountered in games like World of Warcraft where you have a level 90 character on one realm but your buddies are on another. It took 7 years for Blizzard to solve that problem with cross-realm grouping. It seems that ZeniMax is going to avoid this problem all together.
While you’re running around exploring and doing quests, if you cross paths with one of your friends who is already online, the phasing engine will make sure you see them instead of other random levelers. It will also make sure that you’re matched with your selected demographic, if you’re a 50 year old male who wants to play with other 50 year old players, no problem! If you’re an annoying little kid who wants to test out new swear words in trade chat, no problem! If this system works as it’s been explained to me, those two folks won’t run into each other unless they are friends or in the same guild.
World of Warcraft’s combat system has went through several mid life crisis. Going from complicated and cryptic (2005-2006) to ridiculously templated and simple (2012). Either way, you still have pages and pages of abilities that seem to change every major patch. My characters have 3-4 rows of shortcuts and then some along the right side of my screen.
Elder Scrolls Online’s stated goal is to keep the user interface simple and clean. The ESO alpha contains 5 shortcut keys and 1 ultimate ability. If this reminds you of Diablo 3, that’s because it should. You’ll still have health, stamina and a mana bar, but that’s just about it. As you level you’ll be able to enhance those three stats.
Blizzard has tested a few questing models. Early in World of Warcraft you may have struggled to figure out where you should go next. There were several options and you might find yourself leaving a zone and returning a few levels later. During Cataclysm they wiped all that clean and redid almost every quest from level 1-60. The new model included doing quests at one hub and then moving on to the next. This linear experience wasn’t as popular as Blizzard had hoped.
In Mists of Pandaria Blizzard built their level 85-90 questing areas by giving you a half of dozen major quest hubs per zone where you can do quests independently of the other nodes. This gives the player a more dynamic leveling experience.
What’s in store for ESO? It sounds like the same exact system you find in MoP, with a little bit more flexibility as far as where you can go and level. There will be points where quests will actually find you when you’re out exploring a new zone. ZeniMax wants players to feel like they can explore the world instead of just following breadcrumbs of quests around.
If ESO stands apart from WoW in only one way, it will be world PvP. In WoW world PvP just means PvP that happens when you’re running around on your realm. In ESO world PvP will consist of a single and massive battle over Cyrodiil and the surrounding villages.
You’ll find capturable areas like towers, villages and farms. But be careful not to destroy the castle when you lay siege on it, you will have to work to repair it once its yours. Players will be able to play solo and do quests in the PvP area, while other players will be able to complete campaigns all to help your alliance (your faction) win.
The scale of PvP in ESO will be massive, this PvP area will consist of one-third of the map; with the surrounding alliance areas on the out skirts. The graphics engine is being designed to handle 200 players on screen simultaneously.
Similar to other MMOs and especially WoW, in ESO you will have to select a race and that race will be a member of one of the three factions. Right now these are slotted to be the Daggerfall Covenant in the northwest, Ebonheart Pact in the northeast and the Aldmeri Dominion in the southwest. You’ll be able to create characters within each alliance.
You will also choose a class in ESO, but you won’t be as limited in what you can and what you can wear by your class selection. ZeniMax has stated that you’ll be able to wear whatever type of armor you want regardless of the class you select. You can be a plate wearing caster or a cloth melee character. I’m not sure why you would want to do either of those, but I guess we’ll see.
Elder Scrolls Online promises to be void of the realm limitations that have plagued WoW, you’ll be able to play with your old and new friends, you won’t have to worry about an overbearing combat system or lame linear questing areas. Instead, you’ll be able to dive into massive world PvP solo or in a group, real “world” PvP, that is. While there are certainly elements to ESO that are similar to the traditional MMO, I think we’re in for a pleasant surprise to learn more about its differences in the coming year.