When The Elder Scrolls Online was first announced, many wondered what it would play like. Would it be more like World of Warcraft, or would it retain its roots and play like a tradition Elder Scrolls game? We can now confirm that the game does indeed play like any other Elder Scrolls title. Even the user interface is strikingly similar to what we experienced in Skyrim. In fact, if you never saw another human player, you'd probably think this was an offline Elder Scrolls title.
Let's get some of the more mundane details out of the way before we jump into the gameplay of Elder Scrolls Online. First and foremost, it will require a $15 monthly subscription fee. In this day and age of MMORPGs being ruled by free-to-play games, there are many who have questioned how successful Elder Scrolls Online can be with a monthly fee. However, one has to look no farther than the recent release of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn to see that a subscription-based MMO can still perform well in the current market.
The game will be available for the PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with the first open beta being offered to PS4 owners. Unfortunately, the game will not support cross-platform play, but that's not surprising. One of the big reasons we haven't seen a release of Final Fantasy XIV on the Xbox is because Square wants the game to be cross-platform (much like Final Fantasy XI), and the two companies are having difficulty coming up with satisfactory conditions for that to take place. The Elder Scrolls Online is taking the easier route of simply not including cross-platform play.
With the game set to release in early 2014, it should be interesting to see what the population is like on each platform, but if games such as DC Universe Online can support a healthy population on the PlayStation 3 (and soon to be PS4), it's at least possible to see ESO having the same success. Of course, DCUO is free-to-play, and that could make all the difference. Again, we'll have to wait and see how thing work out. The game is great, so success is certainly expected.
Moving on to the gameplay of ESO, it's basically a streamlined version of Skyrim. Unlike most other MMOs on the market, you won't have to put up with a ton of random fetch quests as you level up. Every quest in ESO has a proper story to go along with it. You never feel like you're delivering pebbles to some guy's neighbor just... because.
It is almost important to note that the developers of ESO have been paying attention to what works in other MMOs, and what players aren't too fond of. You won't be forced to party with other players right at the onset. Instead, you'll be able to play alone, almost exactly like a tradition Elder Scrolls title, and you won't have to really party with other players until you've leveled up a bit.
The user interface differs a bit between the PC and console versions of the title. However, you'll still have access to the same features. A controller won't necessarily be better than a keyboard and mouse, or vice versa. Both will offer the same abilities, just streamlined to function proper on each specific platform. In essence, if you've played an Elder Scrolls title on console, ESO plays very similar to that. Likewise, if you've played on PC, the PC version of ESO has a similar interface. You won't be seeing too much that surprises you here in terms of controller options.
From everything that we've seen and played, if you're a fan of The Elder Scrolls, you'll enjoy The Elder Scrolls Online. You can play on your platform of choice and while there's a monthly fee, you get the first month free with the purchase of the game. Let's all cross our fingers that Bethesda will be one of the first companies in history to launch a highly anticipated MMO with minimal server issues. We're rooting for you Bethesda!