The feature I located that was most important to me personally was UI scaling. Gigantic hotbars taking up precious screen space always end up being a source of irritation. Other notable options included auto looting and hotbar fading. Nothing game changing, but comforting to see included nonetheless.
A Bethesda employee watched over my shoulder while I rooted around in the menus. Almost all of the options I asked about ended up being something that wasn't necessary in the game anymore; the designers just hadn't gotten around to removing the checkbox. There were also some menus I brought up that weren't properly styled to match the game yet.
The starting area wasn't playable, so my character loaded into a small cabin at level 3. After I had my fill of the menu system, I closed all of the windows and immediately looted something off a nearby table. This might seem like a small thing, but grabbing random objects lying around was one of the features that I enjoyed the most during my E3 demo. I continued exploring the cabin, looting what I could and reading the three or four books and notes I came across.
Next, I wandered out into the snow. I slaughtered an unsuspecting chicken and looted "guts." Ew. I couldn't take, you know, the feathers or the meat. I had to take the guts
. I started doubting that my Nightblade was ready for the harsh life of an adventurer. I killed another chicken and added more guts to my inventory.
Having acquired what I figured was a suitable amount of entrails, I tried the next logical thing: dancing. I was pleasantly surprised when /dance actually worked. An employee saw my character wiggling about and suggested I try /drunkdance. I was doubtful my character's dance could look more drunk than it already did. I was incredibly wrong.
Heading out of town, I was stopped by a confused, terrified NPC. She had run into a crazy mage who'd turned both of her friends into Skeevers, though she escaped the same fate. She led me to a wand, begging me to pick it up and help change her friends back. I picked up the wand and promptly went off exploring instead. Sorry, Skeever dudes.
I admit my previous E3 combat experiences weren't the smoothest ever. The experience didn't leave me feeling that the combat was badly done, just that I needed to go through a learning curve. My impressions were reinforced this time around when I ended up with a weapon and shield combo and ended up genuinely enjoying combat.
It took a few fights before I was comfortable alternating between my basic attack (left click) and blocking (right click). Soon I felt more in control of the battle than I do in most MMORPGs
. I wasn't suddenly able to handle eight mobs at once but was comfortably taking on enemies in pairs and felt as if my movement and click timing played an active, important role in my survival.
After killing a few hostile humanoids, I rooted around in their campsite. I was able to use their campfire; it offered me a crafting interface. A nearby employee let me know that I could learn every crafting skill in the game on one character. I watched several players fiercely battling NPCs around me while I poked through the dialogue box seeing whether I could possibly cook something. I could not.
Foodless, I struck out on my own and explored the farthest reaches of the relatively small island. In my E3 demo, I was able to wander into other zones, but here I was stuck surrounded by water. My first instinct was to swim, which my character did just fine. She also jumped while swimming in the traditional gravity-defying MMORPG
style. I found floating sheets of ice and jumped from sheet to sheet. I was enjoying myself but not really learning anything new. I visited a couple docks but couldn't find a boardable boat, so I turned around and asked.
A Bethesda employee told me that if I completed a particular quest, I would be able to choose to either stay and save people or start evacuating and leave them to die. She said my choice would impact how NPCs react to me in the future, and sometimes other choices will cause other NPCs to never appear again. I asked about how this works when you want to quest alongside another person; she told me that if an NPC wouldn't logically appear for my friend -- for example, if she chose to let that NPCs family die -- the NPC will be replaced by a different NPC. The quest will be different, but the objectives will be the same. I should be able to seamlessly quest alongside my friends without worrying about having to make the same choices.
I decided I probably didn't have enough time left to complete the necessary quest, so I figured my minutes would be better spent exploring. I meandered through the mountains, platforming my way around. Scaling them was difficult, and I started to think I might have ended up somewhere the developers didn't plan for. Then I saw a chest. It was nestled in the snow between two sharp rocks and what appeared to be an invisible wall blocking me from the ocean (I couldn't jump into the water). I picked the lock on my first try and looted a pair of boots I couldn't wear yet plus a "petty soul gem."
While slamming the spacebar to platform my way back out, I ran across a couple more chests. I left them for other players to find and dashed my way toward what looked like a castle. It ended up being a large area swarming with skeletons, and among the undead I found something called a Skyshard. Finding three would have given me a skill point, and according to the Bethesda employee behind me, an achievement since there are only three Skyshards in Bleakrock Isle.
I had just enough time to battle a few more monsters before my appointment was over. Overall my impression was positive. I enjoyed my time, I liked what I saw, and right now I'm planning on picking the game up at launch. However, with only about two hours total in-game, I can't come close to knowing whether I'll still be paying a subscription fee after the first month. I'm painfully aware that there's a big difference between enjoying level 3 and enjoying level 33. Right now I feel optimistic. At the very least I'll have full control over my butt.
Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 30th to September 2nd, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2013. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest Next, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!