The Elder Scrolls Online, Part 2: Cyrodiil PvP [VIDEO GAME BETA PREVIEW]

Elder Scrolls Online Alternate Cover ArtworkDeveloper: ZeniMax Online Studios
Distributor: Bethesda Softworks
Unique Elements: Elder Scrolls Universe meet Online Mechanics
Series: The Elder Scrolls
Systems: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: April 4, 2014 (Announced)
Estimated Play Length:100+ hours
MSRP: $59.99
Discount Link: Here
Website: Here
Trailer/Video: Here
Previewed by: Chris Young

Cyrodiil is the place to go for PvP action in The Elder Scrolls Online. Referred to as AvA or Alliance vs. Alliance, game play pits three factions against one another, vying for control of the Imperial Capital. Players will attempt to conquer objectives all across the map, each one providing additional resources for your faction. The final goal, to unlock the city gates and claim the Ruby Throne.

Tamriel, showing the contested zone of Cyrodiil in the center.

Tamriel, showing the contested zone of Cyrodiil in the center.

The Overall Feel

The PVP zone is huge, easily three times the size of any other. Littering the landscape are dozens of control points. There are massive fortresses which require siege weapons to break down; farms and mines which are guarded only by enemy NPCs; and temples containing powerful Elder Scrolls. Guard your own elder scrolls while attempting to steal others from under the nose of the enemy alliance. With these points dotting the landscape, combat can happen almost anywhere. With so many options it is natural to worry that finding the fight might be challenging, not so. Your map will display an icon next to any objectives currently being contested, so you can get into the action right away.

Controlling objectives will net Alliance Points for both you and your faction. At the character level, these points are used as currency for powerful rewards that are usable anywhere in Tamriel. From the Alliance perspective, points determine the outcome of the War. The team with the most points at the end of the battle will win control of the city and the deadly rewards within.

A dispatched Argonian archer falls from the battlements.

A dispatched Argonian archer falls from the battlements.

Players can enter the fray starting at level 10. To ensure that low level players are not a burden and can actually help their alliance win, every player below maximum level receives “battle levels”. These increase character health and resources but do not grant any new abilities, you’ll have to level up to unlock them. A “battle leveled” player will likely not pose a serious threat to a real level 50 character, but can still defend fortresses and complete objectives effectively. I did not run into any incredibly high leveled players but I am certain that the lack of abilities would put any battle leveled player at a serious disadvantage in direct combat.


Besieging a fortress was far and away the best, most entertaining time I had during the entire weekend. Our faction was attacking an enemy stronghold with trebuchet, ballistae,  and a battering ram when I entered the fray. Sticking to the edges of combat I was able to pick off stragglers on my Nightblade and fire arrows up at the walls to suppress the enemy defense. The trebuchets flung projectiles, knocking down the outer walls. Our attack slowly advanced into the courtyard and began to pound on the inner doors. It was very important to keep the defenders atop the keep from firing down at allies and siege machines. Healers turned into hugely important asset at this phase, making sure our forced stayed strong enough to outlast the barrage from the walls. Once the inner doors were breached the keep fell into our hands easily.

Trebuchets firing on a tower.

Trebuchets firing on a tower.

Throughout the experience I found myself playing exclusively from the third person perspective. Last week I had touched on concerns that the classic first person view was not up to par and the PvP environment has confirmed that. There is way too much going on to be limited by the comparatively tiny first person perspective. The wider field of view granted in third person is essential to keep track of the rapidly evolving battlefield. I should add that using a ranged weapon was much more tolerable than melee in first person.

Work in Progress

There were a few issues I ran across that made the weekend a little frustrating. Most serious of all a large faction imbalance. Faction imbalance could have a serious effect on the viability of this game mode. I found that by the second day, one faction was in control of most of the map and running away with Alliance Points. I fear that once a dominant faction is established on a server the AvA could become very one sided. I very much hope that ZeniMax has mechanics in place to keep the map balanced and fun for every faction. Additionally I did encounter some latency issues which made the combat a little difficult to manage. I’m not sure whom was responsible for that issue, but dying due to a lag spike is never fun.

Final Thoughts

Overall I found the PvP experience to be a good deal of fun. Your survival will rely mostly or resource management and clutch blocks/interrupts. Since the content is not instanced, there is no guarantee of a fair fight. When adventuring in this most dangerous area, it is always a good idea to bring a few friends along. Even when working through the quests that dot the landscape, you will never be truly safe. 

Author: Chris "Synct" Young

Chris "Sparvex" Young is an avid gamer and history buff. When he's not laddering on Starcraft II, you'll find him refining beer recipes for homebrewing or immersed in a good fantasy series.

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