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Standing in the queue for The Elder Scrolls Online, developed by Zenimax Online, was just as a much of a treat as finally getting to play the demo.  Watching a gorgeous organic scene roll across the screens of other players had me hypnotized, however; I take my MMOs with a pinch of salt these days, and it takes more than pretty vistas to keep my attention.

Soon enough it was my time to indulge in the delights which glimmered so temptingly over shoulders of others.

To get as much as possible out of the demo I quickly chose a character. Naturally it was my go-to class type, the sorcerer; then I proceeded to charge out into the world. The cosmetics of the character is a task I could have easily spent hours on, but time was limited and I wanted to spend it on more worthwhile things than just the latest fashions of Tamriel.

Placed into the starting area of one of the three story zones, this was a snowy landscape filled with wolves hiding behind every tree trunk.  First impressions; it reminded me strongly of the epic snowy landscapes which Skyrim brought us in great droves.

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The world was open for investigation in either first-person or third-person views.  In previous games, the third-person perspective was considered clunky at best and provided a lot of challenges for the player in traversing the scenery.  I had no choice with using the third-person due to suffering from motion sickness; fortunately here, the viewpoint has been much improved.  However for those people who lived in first-person view, the option is still available.

Twenty minutes might seem a long time for a demo, but in reality it provided me with the smallest glimpse of what The Elder Scrolls Online had to offer.  Only able to take in the most immediate area on the map, it’s fair to say that by its conclusion, the demo just left me with a lust for exploration unfulfilled.

It was mentioned by the staff looking over my shoulder that there would be three overall story areas that you could start in, with each taking you from level one through to the current final level of fifty.  Refreshingly, this wouldn’t mean having to reroll a character or mill through low level areas just to experience the other adventures, as these other areas would be leveled up to challenge you.  How this is going to be implemented wasn’t explained at this juncture.

Quests are still a reasonably standard affair which will be familiar to genre stalwarts; go here, find this person, kill these dudes.  However it seemed to quickly launch me into a story, and with voice acting which is more commonplace in MMOs these days, I was able to achieve a modicum of immersion even on the busy show floor.

In the morsel of gameplay that I was provided, one quest sent me in search of a man and after peering through the trees and wading through packs of wolves I eventually found him.  This continued on further into the culmination of a short and abrupt instanced area; the only time where I noticed any loading of my environment.

Controls are standard, however there is one glaring item missing from user interface of The Elder Scrolls Online.

Namely, skillbars.

Or toolbars, or menu items or whatever name you had for those dastardly things which reduced your visibility to the size of a letter box.  They are no longer a permanent fixture on your screen with the exception of an unimposing menu bar at the top.  I had to check that I even had skills to start with, and only by travelling through the menus did I find a potential for a plethora of skills and other items which I simply didn’t have enough time to investigate.

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On polite questioning (read: I was the annoying woman who wouldn’t stop asking questions), I found that skills, unlike a large majority of other examples of the genre, don’t come solely through levelling your class.  If you are familiar with the way the existing Elder Scrolls games work this wouldn’t be a surprise, the use of weapons and armor increase skills in their respective areas.

Other skills, which promise further customisation of your character, were indicated through the joining of various guilds such as a fighters or mage guild.

While I am cautious about getting too caught in the hype I can’t help feel a little bit excited for the Elder Scrolls Online.  While I haven’t seen anything particularly innovative, the world looks stunning even at these early stages.  The breadth of skills make for interesting possibilities, and I look forward to eventually delving into the Tamriel’s online incarnation.

Published by Bethesda and developed by Zenimax Online, The Elder Scrolls Online will release next year for PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

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