With Skyrim, Bethesda came pretty close to creating an Elder Scrolls game that never truly ends, and with Elder Scrolls Online, they will create just that. Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) takes place primarily in the province of Cyrodil on Tamriel, where three factions are vehemently fighting for control of the realm: the Daggerfell Covenant, the Ebonheart Pact, and the Aldmeri Dominion. In order to do so, players of their respective factions must manage the rather prolific undead situation they have rampaging across the land. Players can either put an end to the undead or try to rein them under their control. In the end, it all comes down to players choosing how they want to save the world.
While players can certainly play ESO alone, the game greatly rewards those who put in a collaborative effort. This is not to say that you must have a buddy system or be part of a guild, but that if you run across another player trying to complete the same quest you are, it’s in your best interest to help that other player out. In other MMOs, it’s typical that one will get a bit of a penalty if they help out another player. In ESO, everyone is rewarded when players help one another. So if you want to play alone for a bit and tag along with someone else for a brief ride, both players will be rewarded for doing so. In one sense, it encourages collaborative play with a group of friends, but in another sense, it gives you the freedom to drop in and out of playing with someone else as often as you want. Sometimes we game just to get away from people, even if the game is a MMO. ESO respects that.
However, if you’re into the “massively multiplayer” portion of a MMO, then you will be pleased to hear that ESO supports a PvP system that can host 200 players raiding at once. On the same screen. All killing one another in the name of their respective banners. It will even support a band of 200 dungeon raiders raiding together. Since you are rewarded for helping others already, participating in large dungeon raids is all the more encouraged.
We weren’t able to get our hands on the game actually play, but we may get at chance at Quake-Con in August. Elder Scrolls Online is currently slated for release in the vague time frame of 2013.