Bethesda has released a new Elder Scrolls Online video that discusses the all-important aspect of character progression in the online role-playing game.
Unlike single-player Elder Scrolls games such as Skyrim, ESO uses an experience system and has player classes. When you gain enough experience to level up you're awarded an attribute point and a skill point to spend on an ability in a skill line.
In Skyrim, levels are earned when you increase a certain number of skills through use.
Despite these restrictions, developer Zenimax Online is confident the spirit of freedom will remain in Elder Scrolls Online.
"Elder Scrolls games have always had very open-ended progression systems and this one is no different," commented lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle in the video.
"There's a huge number of choices and you can focus on one or spread yourself amongst all of them. And, of course, if you spend enough time, you can eventually master them all."
Skill points in ESO can also be earned by finding Skyshards and during special quests. Spending points in a skill line unlocks other abilities in that skill line, and when you're far enough along you'll be offered the chance to upgrade abilities by Morphing them.
Would you like your ability to heal others nearby or return some Magicka when used, for example? It's one or the other.
Even further down a line you'll unlock Ultimate Abilities, such as a Dragon Leap for a Dragonknight - which has you sprout wings and leap at opponents - or the Sith-like Overload lightning ability for a Sorcerer, or the Heaven-strike-like Nova for a Templar. Ultimate Abilities don't consume an attribute but you need to build up for the opportunity to use them.
There are also passive abilities that will permanently buff your character in one way or another, such as having the chance for lightning attacks to disintegrate an opponent and turn them into a mound of dust.
But race and class abilities are only "a fraction" of what is apparently available.
There are weapon and armour skills every character starts with, and "anyone can take the time to master". Anyone can equip a sword and shield and get stronger with it, or equip light armour and a staff and start improving with those.
On top of that, skills can be unlocked through exploration. You can join one of the world's iconic guilds - Fighters, Mages, etc - and unlock associated abilities there, or you can stumble upon the mouth watering opportunity to become werewolf or vampire, and progress there.
Elder Scrolls Online is due spring 2014, on PC, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One.