LOS ANGELES--It was a productive afternoon: I rescued a pig, solved a murder, and foiled a regicide--not bad for a sell-sword who's 90 years-young. At this year's E3 I scored some time with a beta build of Bethesda's new MMORPG, The Elder Scrolls Online. I explored the lands of Tamriel as a decrepit mercenary, bent on stealing anything and everything that wasn't bolted down.
After a brief crash course on the controls from the game's developers, I set about creating my elderly avatar. Like most Elder Scrolls games, you're given a wide swath of options for customizing your character, and you can spend a considerable amount of time crafting your own, unique look. I named my wrinkly warrior Tim and set off to see what kind of trouble I could find.
The game dropped me off outside the city of Daggerfall, but I decided to check out my surroundings before crossing the bridge into town. The world looked vibrant and alive, but I was hesitant to wander too far from town, lest I be murdered by bandits. The final version of The Elder Scrolls Online will let you switch between third- and first-person viewing modes. The first-person mode wasn't available in this build of the game, however, so I was forced to look at Tim's backside as he awkwardly waddled around the landscape.
After unsuccessfully attempting to jump onto the heads of other players that had spawned nearby, I went into town only to be given a quest by a dog--yes, a dog--that wanted me to help solve a murder. As I approached the body, assassins sprang from the shadows and quickly surrounded me. I drew my sword, ready to accept my demise, when another player dropped by to lend a helping hand. Thanks to her magical aptitude, we were able to drive back the assassins and uncover a conspiracy to murder the king of Daggerfall. Boy, that escalated quickly.
One thwarted assassination attempt later, and I was the proud owner of a new flaming broadsword and matching set of armor. Neat.
I'm normally not a big fan of MMORPGs. Aside from the few I was peer-pressured to pick up, I tend to shy away from the genre, and multiplayer in general. The reason I found The Elder Scrolls Online so intriguing is that it combined the things I loved most about the single-player Skyrim experience--the complex quests, the story, the lore--and it allowed me to share those moments with others.
That's not to say the transition to multiplayer didn't come without its share of problems. There was a quest I couldn't complete, because the boxes I had to smash had already been smashed by another player. I had to leave the area for a few minutes for the boxes to reappear before I could continue with my adventure. This was in a setting with just a handful of people, and I can imagine this sort of thing being a bigger problem once the game becomes available to the general public.
You can still jump on top of things to progress creatively from point A to point B, but I encountered a few glitches when jumping into areas I probably wasn't supposed to be. I ran into another glitch while trying to open a door: My character began to spin around uncontrollably, and it took a few seconds before the door released him from its glitchy grasp.
The game's release is still a ways away, however, giving Bethesda plenty of time to sort out these problems. The Elder Scrolls Online will be available in Spring of 2014 for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.