Ever since Molag Bal created the first vampires in Tamriel to spite the aedra Arkay, they have held a unique place in the stories of The Elder Scrolls universe. Some are altruistic, some strive only to create chaos, and some even go as far as to be involved in plots to take over various regions of the world, as is no doubt one of the motivations of the antagonist in the upcoming Greymoor chapter. While the “rules” of vampirism seem to differ from game to game and from strain to strain, a few things remain constant: They drink blood, they’re undead, and they’re generally despised and feared by everybody in Tamriel.Dark Heart of Skyrim event earlier this year, ZeniMax revealed that The Elder Scrolls Online would soon be updating the vampire skill line within the game. The term “visceral” was bandied about quite liberally in reference to how ZeniMax wanted the player to feel while piloting a vampire through the game. Visceral is defined as relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect. It’s synonymous with instinctual.
While I’m not sure that goal has specifically been met, I did have a chance to sample a vampire character on an early Greymoor build last week. Several changes have been made to the vampire, some of which are not related to the skill line at all.
For starters, vampire feeding works in reverse now. In the current game, lack of feeding results in higher phases of vampirism, as if the lack of blood were somehow responsible for a growing sense of ferality and viciousness. One of the main issues with this design was that once a character turned into a vampire, she really didn’t have anything else to do but wait around to reach phase 4. With the new design, a player must continue to feed to reach higher phases of vampirism and will slip back into lower phases as the time between feedings progresses. The result is that more vampiric actions are needed if higher phases of the disease are desired.
If necromancers are despised by the general populace, then vampires are downright reviled. Appropriately, certain obvious vampire skills will now trigger the justice system within populated areas. The penalty for using these skills can range from fees to city guards attacking the player on-sight.
In addition, some NPCs will refuse to interact with higher-stage vampires. These appear to be the non-essential NPCs (those not relevant to quests). When attempting to interact with one of these nervous townsfolk, the player receives a message that the NPC will not interact with that particular stage of vampire. I was stage 4 for the entirety of my preview server playtime, so I don’t know exactly which stage prevents this kind of interaction, but I can verify that many people in Solitude do not like stage 4 vampires.
When the ESO base game launched in 2014, ZeniMax had not yet mastered the ability to animate a player character and an NPC physically interacting with one another in a convincing way. Thus, the animation used by vampires, while gory, is not exactly what most would consider a realistic depiction. At present, the vampire stands behind the unwitting participant while a column of blood “shoots” from the NPC into the mouth of the vampire character. Effective, but unexpected.
Since the release of the Dark Brotherhood DLC, however, player and NPC animations have advanced tremendously. The Greymoor expansion seeks to make the vampiric feeding an even more realistic experience. Unfortunately, in the build I played it seems like there’s still work to be done in this area. While it looks like ZeniMax is attempting to make the vampire leap onto the NPC and bite his neck, in my experience the camera angle did not follow the action properly, so it was difficult to appreciate the action. I’ve got to believe that this is something still being worked on, and if it ends up looking as good as the dark brotherhood assassination animations, feeding is going to be a much more interesting experience.
The biggest change to vampires comes in the form of the skill line. Currently, vampires have only two active abilities: an ultimate and six passive skills. Greymoor will completely change the skill line for vampires into a more active, participatory line. There are now five active skills to go along with a brand-new ultimate skill and six passives. Keep in mind the following information is from a very early preview build and things may change prior to launch. The new active skill line (base abilities only, not morphs) is as follows:
Eviscerate: Slice an enemy open, dealing Magic Damage. Deals more damage based on your missing health.
Blood Frenzy (toggle, criminal act): Go into a blood frenzy, increasing your weapon and spell damage. While toggled on, you cannot be healed by anyone other than yourself.
Vampiric Drain (criminal act): Drain an enemy’s life force, dealing magic damage and healing you.
Mesmorize: Seduce all enemies in front of you, stunning them if they are facing your direction.
Mist form (toggle, criminal act): Dissolve into a dark mist, reducing your damage taken for as long as you maintain the channel. Entering this form removes and grants immunity to all disabling and immobilization effects, but you cannot be healed and your magicka recovery is disabled.
Blood Scion (ultimate, criminal act): Transform into a lord of night for 20 seconds, instantly healing to full health and increasing your max health, magicka and stamina. While in this form, you heal based on the amount of damage you deal and you can see enemies through walls.
Some of the passives have remained the same. The passives will include:
Feed: Allows you to feed on an unsuspecting target, killing them and increasing your vampire stage. Higher stages make you a stronger vampire at the cost of your humanity. Stages decrease over long periods of time.
Dark Stalker: Ignore the movement speed penalty of sneak. Decreases the time it takes to enter sneak.
Strike from the Shadows (While you are at vampire stage 2 or higher): When you leave sneak, invisibility or Mist Form your spell damage is increased.
Blood Ritual: Allows you to infect another player with Noxiphilic Sanguivoria once every 7 days by returning to the vampire ritual site. Players already infected with Lycanthropy cannot be infected by Noxiphilic Sanguivoria.
Undeath (while you are at vampire stage 3 or higher): Reduces your damage taken based on your missing health.
Many changes are on the horizon for the Elder Scrolls Online, not the least of which involve vampire player characters. Do these changes excite or frustrate you? Let us know in the comments!