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
Begin a unique adventure filled with the unparalleled storytelling and deep lore of The Elder Scrolls. Journey to Tamriel – a living, breathing, fantasy universe of magnitude, where your choices shape your experience. Battle, loot, craft, steal or role-play as an archer, mage, merchant, scholar or warrior. Play solo or with friends and combine equipment and abilities to suit your own play style. No game subscription required – buy once, play anytime.
What truths are best left hidden? Discover Necrom and the forbidden secrets of Apocrypha. From the Telvanni Peninsula in Eastern Morrowind to the cosmic realms of the Prince of Fate – fight to uphold reality and unlock the runic power of a new Class – the Arcanist!
Pre-purchase the Elder Scrolls Online Collection: Necrom now to start your adventure immediately within the game (base game or previous Chapter zones), get instant access to the Sadrith Mora Spore Steed & Pony* pair, plus more items when Necrom launches – as listed below. *Spore Pony pet only available with pre-purchases until 4/18/2023.
• Sadrith Mora Steed & Pony* pair
Get the following at launch:
• Sadrith Mora Formal Attire costume
• Apocryphal Bookwyrm pet
• x1 Unfeathered crate
• x3 Treasure maps
• x2 Experience scrolls (+100% for 1 hour)
The Elder Scrolls Online Collection: Necrom is like “8-games-in-one” and best for adventurers who wish to access all major Chapter zones, biomes and quest arcs from across Tamriel. The Collection: Necrom includes the base game, Necrom and all previous Chapters, as below.
• Necrom (NEW for 2023)
• High Isle
• Base game
UNLOCK THE NEW CLASS – Become empowered by the secrets of Apocrypha and the forbidden knowledge of Hermaeus Mora. The Arcanist is a powerful new Class capable of destructive, restorative, or defensive magic by channelling the arcane, ancient runes, and lost tomes of power.
ALL-NEW ZONES – Explore the Telvanni Peninsula, home of colossal mushrooms, arcane magic, rocky spires and the capital city of Necrom, additionally, behold the forbidden books of the endless library of Apocrypha.
A COSMIC STORY – The Prince of Fate holds secrets too dangerous for mortals or Daedra to comprehend. Now hidden yet turbulent powers threaten Hermaeus Mora’s realm of Apocrypha and if the Daedric Prince’s secret is uncovered, it could unravel all of reality.
NEW WARDEN AND ARCANIST CLASS COMPANIONS – Two new allies seek grand quests and glory! Unlock the Arcanist-power-wielding Redguard and Argonian Warden Companions to battle by your side and keep you company on your journey across Tamriel.
**Available when Necrom launches.