It’s BACK! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve all seen the teaser for the next installment of the Elder Scrolls series. If you haven’t, well go check it out.
It’s no secret that the Elder Scrolls franchise is a behemoth in the gaming industry and is backed by a huge community that spends countless hours exploring the in-game world of Tamriel. With the sixth installment slated to come out sometime in the near future (we got a trailer at E3, so there’s hope), let’s look back to the first five installments and see how the game has evolved over the years.
For those who are unfamiliar with this series, Elder Scrolls is an open world role-playing game that allows the player to create and customize their character while taking on a series of quests, which can be completed in any order or fashion, based on the player’s preferred playstyle. There are currently five major Elder Scrolls games that have been released, each focusing on different regions of the continent of Tamriel. The five previous titles in order are Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim.
The franchise’s first game, Elder Scrolls: Arena, was released back in 1994 for the MS-DOS. It was an open-world action RPG developed and released by Bethesda Software. Upon its release, the game became an instant hit and began to garner the beginnings of the massive Elder Scrolls following.
In Elder Scrolls: Arena, the player took the role of an Arena contestant, much like the gladiators of Rome. The basis of the title’s first game revolved around the player being given the chance to fight in an Arena and prove that they were a match for the game’s fiercest opponents. Although it lacked many of the elements that have become familiar to fans of later installments, the game featured an incredibly dynamic system for its time, which allowed players to be free to do what they wanted. For example, the game was one of the first to allow players to explore a town and perform random acts, such as pickpocketing strangers. It was also a huge open-world environment, arguably larger than later installments like Skyrim and Oblivion. This gave players the freedom to cover more ground and explore conquer more dungeons and towns than ever before.
Although the game featured many other RPG elements, such as an experience points based system, it wasn’t until the next installment, Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, that the franchise featured its most iconic element: letting players make decisions in-game. In the eyes of many Daggerfall was the turning point for the series as it expanded the boundaries of what a video game could be. Not only did it feature the choice to become good or evil as a player’s character developed, it also introduced the possibility of an array of different game endings depending on in-game decisions.
For example, at one point in the game, your character is sent by the Emperor to the land of Daggerfall to accomplish two quests. The first is to release the tormented soul of an old king from his eternal prison and the second is to investigate the disappearance of a secret letter that was sent to a spy in the Daggerfall court. During the quest, you uncover the location of a hidden key, which awakens an ancient golem that has great powers of destruction. After acquiring the key, the player must decide what to do with it, which triggers one of five possible outcomes.
The third installment of the Elder Scrolls series is Morrowind. Considered one of the most ambitious games of all-time, Morrowind is a true free-roam experience that allows players to create their own path to the end of the game. Instead of the usual, linear game archetype, which guides players from point A to point B, players can completely ignore their original path and explore a random region for as long as they’d like.
Morrowind featured a unique combat system that allowed players to perform complex attack combos using button clicks in unison with the directional keys. The game also introduced a different approach to the leveling system that saw player’s characters being rewarded for practicing, training, and studying to increase their proficiency with particular skills.
This title was the first Elder Scrolls game to introduce a more complex storyline, which begins with a player’s character being transported as a prisoner, before being whisked away to join a secret organization called the Order of the Blades. As the story develops the player learns that his or her character is believed to be the reincarnation of an ancient hero, prophecied to defeat a great evil.
However, the true value of Morrowind isn’t in its expansive storyline or its unique leveling system, but rather in the sheer depth of side characters and quests available for players to discover and interact with.
The next installment was a generational leap, as it was the first in the series to be released on both the PC and consoles. Oblivion, released in 2006, encompassed everything that made Morrowind great and gave players more freedom to choose how they wanted to play. The game went above and beyond any expectations for Morrowind’s sequel and a great percentage of fans who love the Elder Scrolls Franchise are first introduced through Oblivion.
Oblivion was the first in the series to be fully voiced, which only added to the intense immersion experience. Much like Morrowind, players are allowed to choose their own path, either going straight through the main storyline or ignoring it completely and creating their own journey. While it did not introduce new, revolutionary features to the series, the game polished up the unique leveling system and made it easier to understand for new players.
Oblivion feels more like an extension of the overlying Elder Scrolls story than any of the other previous sequels. The player’s character starts off in a dungeon cell in Cyrodiil and has an interaction with the Order of the Blades almost immediately. Long story short the Emperor of Cyrodiil is murdered and the player is tasked with finding his son, Martin, which is an oddly normal name for someone born in Tamriel.
Anyway, Martin is the only person who can save the mortal realm from Oblivion, the realm of the daedra, and its lord, Mehrunes Dagon. That name is much more Tamriel-esk by the way.
Seeing Oblivion’s overwhelming success, Bethesda took advantage of the momentum and released its next installment, Skyrim, in 2011. Building off the game mechanics that received great feedback in Oblivion, Bethesda introduced new features, namely in combat.
Players could finally dual wield weapons, meaning that that left hand was free of a shield. Skyrim also made spells much more intuitive, as a player could use both hands to make a spell stronger or wield a weapon in one hand while shooting fireballs with the other. This and a few other minor changes helped make combat more exciting and realistic than the mundane fighting system in Oblivion.
Skyrim also added secondary spells called shouts. Shouts are powerful spells that had to be discovered by exploring different parts of the map. Each one had 3 levels, with every level increasing the shout’s strength, and were unlocked with dragon souls, which were collected by defeating dragons.
Set nearly 200 years after the events of Oblivion the player’s character is seen being transported as a prisoner to a chopping block. However, before the executioner can finish the execution, a large dragon appears out of nowhere and starts burning the prison down, allowing the player to escape. It’s soon discovered that the dragon that attacked the player is Anduin The World Eater, a legendary dragon, long thought dead and who is prophesied to destroy the world. It is the player’s destiny as the Dragonborn, an ancient race infused with the powers of the dragon, to stop him.
The sixth Elder Scrolls installment has not been officially titled and not much information, if any at all, has been released to the public. Based on the official teaser trailer it can be inferred that the game will take place in one of the regions not explored yet, such as Valenwood or High Rock. Aside from that, it will be interesting to see where the series takes people. If there’s one thing to note, it’s that Elder Scrolls uses similar mechanics to Bethesda’s other popular RPG series, Fallout, which means that there could be some settlement building in Elder Scrolls. This speculation can also be backed by the announcement of the mobile game, Elder Scrolls Legends, which will give players the chance to develop their own town somewhere in Tamriel. There was also some hinting in Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC that gave players a taste of what it would be like to build your own house.
While there is very little information available at this point, it’s an exciting time in the world of Elder Scrolls and it may be time to replay some of your favorite titles before the next installment is released.
Photo Credit: Game Rant, IMDB, DOS Games, EB Games, Games Radar