As part of the Elder Scrolls Online Global Reveal Event last month, we got the exciting news that its Necrom update will add the Arcanist – only the third new class added to the MMORPG since its launch 8 years ago. It’s a major moment for the game – and a major undertaking for the developers at Zenimax Online Studios, who have 8 years of existing content to balance it against.
Appearing on the Xbox Podcast last week, Creative Director Rich Lambert explained the process of creating the Arcanist, and dove deep into how the team pulled off the precarious task of adding something so new to a well-established game.
It’s worth emphasizing first how different the Arcanist is to what’s come before. As Lambert put it, it’s “really important for us as developers but also as players that it doesn’t feel like you’re just going, ‘Oh I’ve done this class before but it’s just a different color,’ or, ‘The numbers are slightly different.’ We had to think of a lot of that kind of stuff for sure.”
With that in mind, the Arcanist offers some very different ways to play ESO. “It has three major skill lines just like the other classes,” Lambert explained. “Herald of the Tome – which is essentially like a DPS line – Apocryphal Soldier – which is a tanky line – and then the healing one [is Curative Runeforms]. This class is something that’s very different than anything that we’ve really built before. It’s really tightly integrated into the overarching storyline and themes. So a lot of the inspiration for this class centers around Hermaeus Mora and this thirst for forbidden knowledge. It is a little bit darker, it kind of hits that cosmic horror vibe, the visuals are really, really cool, the sounds that the audio team came up with are really something you haven’t really heard before.
“And then, even right down to the individual abilities and the core mechanics of this class are different as well. It is more focused around, I guess, a combo point system – we call it Crux – but the general concept here is some abilities are builders of Crux, and some are spenders of Crux, and if you’re spending Crux your abilities do slightly different things or completely different things. And then with the Morphs and how we’ve integrated everything, you can control some abilities that aren’t spenders or builders from the onset but you can Morph them to do that. So there’s just this huge toolchest to really dig into and play with, and lots of interesting choices for the players to make to really get the mastery of this class.”
Making a class this fresh means a lot of work had to go in to ensure it fit seamlessly into the game it was joining. “We have standards that we build everything towards […] But in terms of really digging into the class and its inspirations and themes and how it fits into the world, we talk a lot about basically what are the class defining characteristics, what is the vibe you’re going for with a class and how is that different from anything else we’ve already done.”
ESO is notably story-driven, and that will continue throughout the updates coming to the game this year – which will focus on the Elder Scrolls’ Daedric Prince, Hermaeus Mora. That meant the Arcanist needed to be deeply relevant to that ongoing saga as well.
“This class, this Arcanist, is centered around knowledge, and that’s very much within Hermaeus Mora’s wheelhouse – that’s what Hermaeus Mora does, is hoards this knowledge, and so we leveraged a lot of that,” said Lambert. “And as players saw in some of the Global Reveal stuff, but as they’ll see over the course of the coming months, there’s a lot of influences of Hermaeus Mora on this character and it just ties in so well to this overarching story.”
That overarching story will be everything to the upcoming Scribes of Fate and Necrom updates, which will shift ESO’s ongoing story in fascinating directions. Most notably, it will take us to the Eastern coasts of Morrowind – a location Elder Scrolls haven’t been able to visit since the mid-‘90s. “Yeah, 1994 in The Elder Scrolls: Arena,” Lambert make clear. “So yeah, a lot has changed obviously, technology-wise, games-wise since 1994, so we were able to go in and show players things and explore things that you couldn’t necessarily do back in the ‘90s.”
This balance of new and old is key to ESO, leveraging a quarter of a decade of RPG storytelling, but offering new ways to experience it. With the Arcanist, it feels as though ESO is nailing that balance.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom will launch on June 5 for PC and June 20 for Xbox consoles, and introduces new zones, stories, and updates alongside the Arcanist class. You can pre-purchase the update now.
The Elder Scrolls Online Collection: Necrom