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I have heard several remarks about how linear this game is compared with Skyrim, because in Skyrim you can go everwhere on the map the minute you start the game.
This is not so in TESO, but that does not make this a linear game, far from.
So far after finishing the starter area which is about 1/4 the size of Skyrim you can travel everywhere you want in the outdoor world of your alliance, but keep in mind that most areas might be very dangerous as you are not powerfull enough yet to face the ennemies inthere, doing this and returning later to face those vile ennemies and then being able to defeat them is what gives that sweet taste of progression, thats something most RPG players really love. But there will be no boundries keeping you from finding your very own death. So as soon as you left the starter areas there is full freedom in exploration, its just very dangerous.
your life from 1 to 50 consists mainly of finding adventures trough killing things and or helping people that you meet on your explorations. There is no straight path and noboddy holding your hand. The quests are there to tell you stories, but if you dont like stories you can travel around and jump intoo every pihole or dungeon you find around, alone or with your friends. There are many many open world dungeons aiming at small group play. Keep in mind that altough your alliances world is divided into zones it still is several times the size of Skyrim.. Personally i am hoping that there will be several areas to play in for every levelrange, because this will be very important for the MMO non linearity, i have no answer to that question... Will there be several zones for each level range in a set alliance.
keep in mind that many quests involve choices, and some of he mainquests are phased and instanced to add to the story telling capabillities of the quests. This however does not add to linearity in my book. Its just a single step you take, and it even adds to the non linearity of you character, as they can add much more choice that way.. But then whole Skyrim was a personal instance so having onlybpart of the game instanced is for MMO players a huge advancement, and people that love stories and lore will adore this.
at 50 however the whole game changes. You get a full world of equall level stuff where you can travel freely trough the ennemies alliance zones as you where used in Skyrim. This is where the Skyrim players will find all their freedom back, and go everywhere they want. Something telse me these zones will feel much more sandboxy like the good old daggerfall game.
Also starting at level 11 there are 8 full PvP zones where you can go wherever you want, doing either PvP or PvE.. Free travel and exploration for all
Compared to the other major storybased mmos this game will feel much less linear ( swtor and tsw) and what would an elder scrolls game be withouth storiesvand quests.
Best MMO experiences : EQ(PvE), DAoC(PvP), WoW(total package) LOTRO (worldfeel) GW2 (Artstyle and animations and worlddesign) SWTOR (Story immersion) TSW (story) ESO (character advancement)