Elder Scrolls is one of the most influential RPG games today. It’s perfect for gamers who appreciate the fantasy genre and Bethesda’s work.
With The Elder Scrolls (TES), you can be anyone, do anything and go anywhere. It's an exciting idea that has been a fix for many gamers over the years.
But, TES has not always been what many know it to be today. It has come a long way and this chronological breakdown of its journey will help you see just how far the franchise has come.
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The Elder Scrolls: Arena
Release date: March 25, 1994
Supported platform: MS-DOS
The first released edition of The Elder Scrolls was Arena, which almost didn't include TES in its title. Initially, the idea behind the game was to have gladiators battle it out in an arena as implied by the name. Somewhere in the midst of making the game, the developers decided to go a different path taking the quest to an open world. This change saw the birth of the first full-blooded Elder Scrolls RPG.
Arena set the precedent of the franchise and the developers didn’t hold anything back. Its stunning range of features included the Arena world (Tamriel) covering a total area of six million square kilometres. It outclassed every other game that followed in the franchise.
Unfortunately, the vast lands were procedurally generated, which gave the background a dull and boring look. Also, because of how far the towns were from each other, fast travel was a must.
There are several new traits in Arena, like the intriguing storylines that would keep developing for years to come, worldbuilding elements, and the exciting structures and dungeon-crawling.
Should you develop a soft spot for the game, remember that resting is key, and it's also vital as well as navigating a dungeon without quest marker or labelled points of interest.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
Release date: September 20, 1996
Supported platforms: MS-DOS
Daggerfall hit the market two years after Arena. There was a ton of innovation and improvement in the new game from the foundation laid out by Arena.
Instead of covering six million kilometres square, the map only covered a High Rock and a portion of Hammerfell which was about 160,000 square kilometres in size.
The smaller world means the game could offer more detail and provide a livelier feel to the game compared to what’s seen in Arena.
Players could own property, create custom spells, join guilds or become a werebeast or vampire. The new edition provided players with plenty of options that contributed to making the game more immersive and developing a profound attachment with the players.
Daggerfall boasted of exciting plot hooks and a well-constructed FMV cinematic, but all these additions came with the downside of more technical difficulties than the first game.
The multiple bugs and problems can dampen your playing spirit, but for the strong-spirited who would love to give this classic a try, it is worth your time.
An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
Release date: November 30, 1997
Supported platforms: MS-DOS
TES was not waiting for players and critics to get tired of its theme and storyline. In the third instalment of the franchise, the developer took a different approach from the first two gamers.
Tamriel is replaced with the titular Battlespire a battlemage training fortress located in the Daedric Realm of Oblivion.
Battlespire doesn't have an open world. Instead, it has a closed level, and the merchants and currency are obliterated from the game mechanics. The new release also introduces a multiplayer mode to the players. Unfortunately, despite a spirited attempt to create curiosity and keep gamers engaged, Battlespire remains the least impressive edition in the franchise.
The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
Release date: October 31, 1998
Supported platforms: MS-DOS
Redguard is another non-conventional spinoff of The Elder Scrolls. This pirate-themed action game takes place in The Elder Scrolls universe.
The plot of the game takes place on the island of Stross M’Kai located off the shore of Hammerfell. The main character Cyrus is pre-made and non-customisable, which might leave a bad taste in players who love giving characters a touch of their creativity.
The Prince of Persia heavily influences the storyline, but the game does enough to maintain an identity of its own and it was reasonably well-received when it was released. Nonetheless, it appears close to Battlespire on the forgettable Elder Scroll games.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Release date: May 1, 2002
Supported platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox
Battlespire and Redguard take the title for the weakest links in the franchise and Morrowind hits the homerun by being the most beloved title in The Elder Scrolls franchise.
The newest addition traces back to its roots and delivers one of the most open-world RPG experiences ever created.
The game is set in the province of Morrowind and only encompassed by a small portion of about 24 square kilometres. The smallest area yet in the game means developers could focus on providing gamers with a unique aesthetic and there is no procedural generation involved. The result is an excellent and immersive world that feels a lot bigger than it actually is.
Morrowind expands on the foundation set by Daggerfall. The developer streamlined the gameplay experience and scraped off some of the previous features that could not fit into the revised mechanics of the game which featured a fully three-dimensional world.
The enchanting world is the most notable part of the game. However, several other features also stand out. These include the main questlines and the updated graphics. Like every other game, not everything about Morrowind was perfect. The most glaring flaw is the dice-based combat system brought in from previous games. It waters down the experience and makes combat very dull, very fast!
Later on, Morrowind got two new expansion packs:
- Tribunal – Tribunal was the first expansion for Morrowind. It takes place in the temple-city of Mournhold, which is the capital of Morrowind. The city is only accessible by teleportation. While in the city, players cannot levitate because it is forbidden so as not to upset Almalexia.
- Bloodmoon – The second expansion like the first was developed by Bethesda Game Studios. Bloodmoon adds a new island which is a cold northern territory named Solstheim to the map. The new island is populated by the Nord race.
In addition to being the best title in the franchise. Morrowind also became the first edition to feature on a console.
The Elder Scrolls Travels (Stormhold, Dawnstar, Shadowkey)
Release date: August 1, 2003; August 26, 2004; November 11, 2004
Supported platforms: N-Gage, BREW, J2ME
The Elder Scrolls Travels is actually a three-game series which is why there are different release dates for each of the games going from the earliest to the latest releases.
Stormhold is a role-playing game that was developed for J2ME and BREW devices. The game was made in the same style as the games from the main Elder Scrolls series. However, this particular port was not done by Bethesda. Instead, it was done by Vir2L studios.
Like Stormhold, Dawnstar is also a role-playing game and was developed for the same devices and by the same studios. It is also heavily inspired by past Elder Scrolls main series and was released a year after Stormhold.
This Elder Scrolls expansion was made for the Nokia N-Gage platform as part of the Elder Scrolls Travels series. It was also developed by Vir2L studios with a little assistance from TKO Software who chipped in on the games multiplayer features and additional publishing was done by Nokia.
One of the unique features of the Travels series is it allowed a 1-4 player co-operative gameplay via Bluetooth. The player can create or use characters from the different races in the games with different classes for each of the characters.
Of the three series, Shadowkey received the most mixed reactions and had a paltry score on some of the game critic websites. The controls, combat system and short draw distance were some of the highlights weak points of the game. N-Gage’s technical limitations also played a role in enhancing the already weak points of the game. The use of the soundtrack from Morrowind and the co-op multiplayer mode are some of the most remarkable aspects of the game.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Release date: March 20, 2006
Supported platforms: PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
Oblivion is the fourth among the main edition of The Elder of Scrolls. This edition was designed to bring the game into a new age and make it appealing to new games. In the process, it also took a few steps back.
The game is set on the Imperial province of Cyrodiil which is enhanced with beautiful graphics that lived up to the beauty of the province. The enhanced graphics pushed the hardware to the limits for the sake of providing gamers with an excellent experience.
The bid to take the franchise to the next level starts with Oblivion being the first full-voiced Elder Scroll game. The game mechanics are also streamlined and tweaked heavily to make the game more accessible to a broader audience.
The vibrant world and exciting side quests of the game hide some significant shortcomings in the game. While there were some impressive graphic upgrades, sometimes, the world has a bland and generic feeling, particularly in the dungeons. There were very few voice actors compared to the many characters, and the facial animations were uncanny.
Despite the hiccups, the game was well-received among fans and critics, and it also got two major expansions: Knights of the Nine and The Shivering Isles.
Why not play it on your Fierce Gaming PC.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Release date: November 11, 2011
Supported platforms: PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
Having sold over 30 million copies, Skyrim is the best-selling Elder Scrolls game and the 12th best-selling game of all time.
To achieve these magnificent fetes, Skyrim added many changes to the core gameplay mechanics to adapt to the influx of a mainstream audience even though fans grinned at some of the changes.
The traditional RPG levelling mechanics were among the first features to get the axe, for a simpler perk-based system. This made the game more of an action game with RPG elements as opposed to a traditional RPG. Because of the incredible design of the world and the sheer amount of content, it was easy to overlook this as a small price to pay for a better and more immersive experience.
To keep the momentum going, Skyrim received a total of three DLCs:
- Downguard, which adds new locations and quests and brings vampires to Skyrim.
- Heartfire is a more RP-oriented DLC focusing on property ownership and development and even starting a family.
- Dragonborn, introduces numerous quests, stunning environments and new enemies and features the isle of Solstheim.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Release date: April 4, 2014
Supported platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Albeit a few years too late, Bethesda finally decided to jump on the MMO bandwagon with the release of The Elder Scrolls Online.
Online had the greatest number of provinces since Arena's whopping six million square miles of land. The game allowed players to explore the majority of Cyrodiil, the Summerset Isles, Valenwood and Highrock. Players could also explore portions of Skyrim, Morrowind, Black Marsh and Hammerfell.
Expectedly, not all the areas were available in the base game but were introduced overtime using DLCs and two major expansions.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends
Release date: March 9, 2017
Supported platforms: Nintendo Switch, macOS, iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Bethesda waited too long to jump on MMOs and missed the Golden Era. But they had learnt their lesson given how first they reacted when another profitable phase: collectable card games floated to the surface.
The release of Legend in 2017 had everything to do with collectable card games inspired by the Magic the Gathering.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
Release date: March 27, 2019
Supported platforms: iOS, Android
The Elder Scrolls franchise has done an excellent job balancing the different systems. With Blades, the franchise introduced a mobile action RPG with Android and iOS in mind.
Unlike previous TES games, Blade has a more linear approach and doesn’t dwell much on the openness that the main games are known for mainly because of the limitation of the mobile hardware.
Blades provides an intriguing contrast between roguelike dungeon exploration and PvP arena combat and players also have access to an upgradeable town hub where NPC interaction takes place.
Despite the limitation and the deviation from the open-world, the game remains a decent option and instalment in the franchise. But in addition to the gameplay limitation, there are too many microtransactions which might dampen your gaming spirit.
The Elder Scrolls VI
Release date: TBA
Supported platforms: TBA
The Elder Scrolls VI is the next major instalment in the TES franchise. The developers are keeping their lips tightly sealed on what the new game is going to offer. The only information provided to the public is that the latest instalment will be released after the upcoming IP, Starfield.
Players are curious about which province the new game will be set in with most thinking there’s a good chance action will take place in Hammerfell or High Rock.
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This is just the main timeline of the TES games released so far. There are more DLCs and expansions released in between. From the current momentum and anticipation on the upcoming release, it’s easy to say the franchise will likely be with us for the next foreseeable future.