Even before the PC launch of the Elder Scrolls Online last year, there was something the community pined for: the Imperial City. In my first trip to Cyrodiil, I hopped on my horse to see if I could catch a glimpse of the White-Gold Tower at the center of the capital. As I galloped over a hill in the southwest of the Cyrodiil woods heading north, the shadow of a giant spire peeked out from the dense fog.
It’s not often anymore that we are awed by the scale of an MMO, especially since so many MMORPGs close themselves off with zones or a ton of instances — ESO does the same. But it’s nice to know that the developers did a great job of keeping the scale and the beauty of the land yet still sectioning off parts.
A little bit of history
Despite our being able to see the White-Gold Tower since the launch of the game, there has been no way to reach the bastion of the Empire in person. But the new rumors hold that the Imperial City will hit the PTS around the time when the console version of the game launches in June. In fact, we’ve been told on the ESO livestreams that we will hear official news about the Imperial City when the console version arrives, which is now only a few weeks away. And we do know quite a bit about what we will see just based on the lore of the city and some video footage that was released a while back.
The Imperial City made its first appearance in the very first Elder Scrolls game, Arena, although at that point it looked more like a dungeon level in DOOM than anything modern games would recognize. Interestingly, even though the Imperial city is nowhere near the province of Skyrim, you can see the tower in the far distance in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In fact, people have glitched a wall in Riften to run to see it. They could save themselves the trouble, however, as the capital and its many districts have a starring role in Oblivion.
In the Elder Scrolls Online, the Imperial City has been ransacked by Molag Bal and his forces, led by Mannimarco. In fact, you can see this whole display in the Blur-created trailers that predated the launch of the game; the last installment featured Mannimarco dropping when Tamriel Unlimited was announced. But like other MMO Blur trailers, the ESO trailers blew us away… but told us nothing about the gameplay we’d find. Even though the all the trailers add up to a super-long, 20-minute fight scene, we learn nothing about the history of the world, either.
I don’t think we will find the same things in ESO‘s Imperial City that we did in Oblivion, but we will likely see some sort of gladiator fighting. We’ve already seen the men in cages and the arena itself. I’m hoping that this isn’t just set dressing.
There is supposed to be PvP all over the Imperial City, akin to what we have across the rest of Cyrodiil, but this will likely be closer quarters and will have — I’m sure many PvPers are glad to hear — no sieges. Although we aren’t 100% sure, the belief is that all the siege weapons will not be useful in the Imperial City. This means that combat will be mostly based on the skill of the player alone.
I’ve seen speculation that there might be actual arena fights, scaled to 2v2 or 4v4, in the arena district. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that will be the case. It’s more likely that we will see the Imperial City become more of a smaller-scale Cyrodiil. Each district will likely be claimable by opposing factions; owning a district will probably grant you perks, but nothing too substantial or game-breaking.
If you recall the Aboretum district from Oblivion, then you know that the statues of the nine divines are posed around this area of the city, with the statue of Talos sitting squarely in the middle. But Talos hasn’t even been born at the time of The Elder Scrolls Online, so obviously his statue will not be there — but we can probably expect the other eight. Also consider that we’ll be attempting to take back the Imperial City for our faction after it has been desecrated by Molag Bol’s daedra. Would they tear down these statues — or maybe replace them?
It’s rumored that the Imperial City will have a heavy amount of PvE in this PvP. Does this mean that we will have actual quests in the Imperial City? That sounds intriguing, and I love the idea of PvE in a PvP zone. But I have never seen PvE and PvP mix well. Perhaps ZeniMax will find a balance, but I fear that it will turn out much the same way Restus did in Star Wars Galaxies. The best weapon in the game dropped off a mob in the PvP zone, so you’d either have to find a large group to protect you as you hunted for the weapon, or you’d have to get really lucky and hit the population downtime for the server.
The Market District presents another way the best-in-slot gear could present itself in a PvP zone that might work out for the good of the game. We know that there will be a new armor motif introduced in the next big patch. Perhaps some other gear will also be presented in the same way, and crafters will have to make it. Perhaps best-in-slot will be a crafted item.
In the QuakeCon video, the Market District really doesn’t look like much more than just another zone for PvP, but maybe it’s more than meets the eye.
The Temple District in the video doesn’t seem to present anything special other than a few daedra NPCs, which suggests that there will be PvE and PvP in the same zone. I did like the inclusion of the door to what appeared to be the White-Gold Tower there.
If the rumors again are true, our entrance to the Imperial City will be via the sewer. I’ll buy that given that the bridges are out and giant monsters guard the gates. However, I would like to take the sewer entrance a step further by suggesting that the sewers might act as their own PvP zone. It could be built like a labyrinth with boss fights and other encounters tripping up the pure PvP map. If any place in the new city is going to have instanced PvP, I believe we will find it in the sewers of the Imperial City.
What you think about the Imperial City? We know that it’s coming soon — most likely in the next patch to the PTS. Are you excited about re-entering some of those areas that you haven’t seen since Oblivion? Does the mix of PvP and PvE turn you off the game or make you more excited? Will ZeniMax have the first MMO to mix PvP and PvE well? Until next time, I will see you in Tamriel.