PvP isn’t what makes or breaks the success of most MMORPGs. Despite what vocal proponents may say, it’s usually more like the icing on the cake, something to expand the audience and provide continued replay value when the PvE portion gets stale or is awaiting new content. That said, it’s an aspect of the genre that’s really been starved for some true ambition and better execution instead of being thrown together haphazardly, and on that count at least it’s safe to say that The Elder Scrolls Online has given it some serious attention.
While many hardcore PvPers feel anything short of being able to PK everyone at the drop of the hat anywhere in-world is a disappointment, they should take heart that Zenimax did not merely limit the action to a set of pitifully sized instances with a minimal number of players (say only a handful a side at most like WoW or FFXIV). Instead they set aside the entire imperial province of Cyrodiil, an enormously sized map, for their PvP campaign. And it is a campaign indeed, with quests of its own to embark on, dozens of keeps and resource points like lumber mills, farms, and mines to capture as well as the overall goal of recovering the scrolls from the enemy. For WoW players, think of it as Arathi Basin and Alterac Valley combined and on steroids. Former DAoC playsers might feel at home in this as well as the scale of PvP is basically realm vs. realm, with Aldmeri Dominion, Daggerfall Covenant, and Ebonheart Pact all squaring off over vast swathes of territory.
And it’s the sheer size of the map that makes seizing each keep critical, as there is a teleport system that can only be used between areas of the map that are well under your control, making defense much harder to pull off if one base is cut off from the rest. While the game lets you start participating at level 10, it’s difficult to contribute much to the proceedings without a horse and enough power to take on the higher level players. Still, you can contribute in other ways, particularly with siege vehicles like catapults and trebuchets, which you can purchase at your home base and deploy just about anywhere.
In my time with the PvP this led to a couple of epic battles in which at first we manage to hold off a horde of invaders until they finally gave up and went for a less well defended outpost instead, only to see them ominously return from the hills in the distance and finally succumb to their forces. While again the population was restricted to those of us previewing the game, the numbers were still impressive enough and the amount of siege vehicles plenty enough to make the entire sequence almost look like a scene out of the LOTR movies, and I found myself enjoying it even though we lost. The game also does a good job of rewarding participation with loot and experience, and the PvP has its own set of skill points and trees to spend them in that only increases the customization of your character even further.
Even with this small taste of what TESO PvP has to offer, I feel like there’s enough promise in this portion to the game to really make it stand out from the competition. This could be the MMO PvPers have been pining for a while now, simply because of the scale of what they’re trying to accomplish here. Still all this depends on how many people they get onto the servers in the first place, and the question remains how well it’ll hold up both technically and balance wise when the populations increase and faction popularity fluctuates.
Don’t forget to ready Part 1 of our Elder Scrolls Online Beta Preview here.