The Elder Scrolls feature a lot of open ended role playing, with no overall fixed order in which the player must complete some of the games content, although quests, especially sub-quests of a major quest, will require the completion of component parts before the next stage can be started.
In-game books are a common component of the series, which, as well as sometimes providing training, also provide background to the world the series is set in, and the events of earlier games in the series may be found in books in later games. The game world itself is extensively detailed, with a lot of history and legends.
The Elder Scrolls
The Elder Scrolls: ArenaElder Scrolls series and was released in 1994. The Emperor Uriel Septim VII has been betrayed by the Imperial Battlemage, Jagar Tharn, and imprisoned in a realm of Tharn's own creation. Jagar Tharn then ruled the Empire for a decade, using illusion magic to appear as the emperor, in the period known as the Imperial Simulacrum.
The object of the game is to travel all over the Empire, collecting the eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos that Jagar Tharn broke and scattered across the Empire, with the guidance of the former apprentice of Jagar Tharn, Ria Silmane.
The original concept of Arena was that of a gladiatorial game, hence the name Arena, but this was gradually changed to be more role playing in design during development, and the gladiator-style game was never actually coded.
Of all the games in the Elder Scrolls series, Arena has probably the most linear storyline, but there are still a number of random quests in addition to the main quest that can be completed.
The events of Arena are referred to in the book series "The Real Barenziah" that can be found in the sequels, although the Daggerfall version of the series differed from those found in later games. The date that the events occurred is 399 of the Third Era.
After Arena's 10th anniversary in 2004, Arena has been available for free. The official game and patches are available from Bethesda, with both the 1.06 floppy disc release and the 1.07 CD release with the cut scene audio. Playing this version of the game may require the use of an emulator, such as DOSBox, on newer systems.
Daggerfall is the capital of the Breton province of High Rock. The player travels around High Rock and Hammerfell, finding the King's murderer, and freeing the King's spirit, as well as attempting to find a letter to the Emperor that has been lost. Depending on the player's actions in the game, there are several possible endings to the main quest.
As is typical with the Elder Scrolls games, there are also various optional side quests that can be done. The events in Daggerfall occurred in year 405 of the Third Era.
The number of non=player characters in Daggerfall and the game area is much, much bigger than in later games; however, the NPCs are much less detailed, and the map is randomly generated and also less detailed than is found in the later games. Daggerfall also increased the open-ended role playing concept, removing the more linear framework that was seen in Arena, as well as moving more to a role playing training system, where skills improved through use, rather than the experience point based system in Arena.
Daggerfall did not come with any official tools to mod the game, but users did develop their own tools in order to do so, and thus there is some user created content available.
Daggerfall was also made available for free in 2009, the 15th anniversary of the Elder Scrolls series. The official release and patches are available from Bethesda, and unofficial releases with all official and unofficial patches are available. The game also requires and emulator such as DOSBox, which is included in an unofficial release.
The Elder Scrolls III: MorrowindMorrowind is the third game in the main Elder Scrolls series, and was released in 2002. Morrowind is once again set in Tamriel, in the province of Morrowind, on the island of Vvardenfell. The central plot and main quest of the game revolves around the reincarnation of a Dunmer (Dark Elf) hero, Indoril Nerevar, known as The Nerevarine (the player) and the defeat of the demigod Dagoth Ur and his followers, as foretold in the Morrowind Prophecy. The events of the Morrowind Prophecy take place in the year 427 of the Third Era.
Although there is a main quest, there are also a substantial number of other quests and quest series that can be done, which can alter how Non Player Characters behave towards the player, and doing some may preclude doing others.
Morrowind is even more open ended than either Arena or Daggerfall, and although the game has a main plot, this receives much less emphasis than in either Arena or Daggerfall. Completing the main quest does not end the game, though, as the player can still continue, completing other quests than the main plot that have not been done, or exploring various locations that are detailed but have no relevance to any of the quests, or playing user created quests.
Although there are far less NPCs and places to visit than in Daggerfall, those that there are included are far more detailed. Various guilds and factions, many of which can be joined, add more depth to the game, and can affect what the player is able to do or how NPCs will react to them.
At the beginning of the game, the player is guided to create their character through interactions with NPCs. Players can pick their race, gender and starsign, and either pick a class or have one assigned through answering various questions. All these can effect what the player is able to do and their abilities and statistics, and mistakes made can make the game more challenging to play.
Morrowind was released with The Elder Scrolls Construction Kit; an official game modding tool released by Bethesda which allows users to create and modify any aspect of the game, from graphics to quests, including such things as races, using plugins. Consequently, it is possible for a game of Morrowind to be vastly improved over the original 2002 release. Bethesda also released several official plugins.
After a Dark Brotherhood assassin attempts to kill the player, they travel to Mournhold to discover more about the Brotherhood. The Tribunal is the collective name for the three demigods worshipped by some of the Dunmer of Morrowind, and the main quest revolves around them.
As well as the main Tribunal quest, a number of smaller unconnected quests are also added by the expansion.
Tribunal also takes place in year 427 of the Third Era, although the events are, at least in theory, set after the conclusion of the main quest of the original game.
The theme of the main quest revolves around werewolves and lycanthropy, and it is possible for the player to become infected. Should this happen, the quests done as part of the main quest will alter, as playing as a werewolf requires different quests to those as a normal character.
As well as the werewolf quest, there is another major quest series done on behalf of the East Empire Company, in which the player helps establish a colony. There are two possible colonies to support, and as with the main Bloodmoon quest, there are different actions required depending on which colony is supported. As with the main game and Tribunal, there are also a number of unconnected quests to do.
Bloodmoon also takes place in year 427 of the Third Era.
The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionOblivion is the fourth game in the main Elder Scrolls series, and was released in 2006. The game is set in the Tamriel province of Cyrodiil, although there are some excursions to Oblivion.
The Oblivion Crisis takes place in the year 433 of the Third Era, and last year of that Era, with the ending of the crisis marking the end of that Era and the start of the Fourth Era. The crisis starts when the Emperor Uriel Septim VII's sons are assassinated, and then the Emperor himself whilst fleeing, by Mythic Dawn cultists, supporters of the Daedric Prince of Destruction Mehrunes Dagon, who was previously referenced in Morrowind.
Gates to the plane of Oblivion have opened, and Daedra start passing through into Tamriel, initially destroying the city of Kvatch. The object of the main quest is to find the last heir to the throne and defeat the head of the Mythic Dawn and stop Mehrunes Dagon from coming through into Tamriel. Again, as with Morrowind, there is no requirement for the player to start with this immediately.
There are a large number of other miscellaneous quests and quest series, notably those faction quests that can result in the player becoming the head of the Mages Guild, Thieves Guild, Fighters Guild, the Dark Brotherhood and champion of the Arena. There are also a substantial number of dungeons, ruins and places to explore that do not form part of any quest, and a number of Daedric quests to receive powerful Daedric artefacts.
The game continues with the open ended play seen in Morrowind, and the initial part of the game is based around the creation of a character, with the chance to choose races, starsigns, and class. Custom character classes may be created. NPCs now follow schedules, and some may be found in many different places. Arriving at shops outside of opening hours will mean that they are not open for business.
Oblivion was also released with an improved version The Elder Scrolls Construction Kit that was included with Morrowind, and again the community of users has created a vast range of unofficial plugins to enhance, expand and improve the game, some of which rival the games official expansions in size, as well as various patches to fix problems not sorted out by Bethesda in the official patches. Bethesda also released a number of official plugins as well as the two expansions.
The Knights of the Nine
The Knights of the Nine expansion adds a specific quest series, rather than an entire new area as with other expansions. The object of the quest is to recover the relics - armour and weapons - of the Divine Crusader. These are then used to defeat the sorcerer-king Umaril, as well as refounding the Knights of the Nine in the process, as the head of the Knights.
The only quests added are those related to the main plot; there aren't any miscellaneous quests. Any new locations added are all used in the quest itself. There is nothing added to the game other than the quest; as such, the expansion resembles a very big plugin, like the official Mehrunes Razor Oblivion plugin, rather than the other Oblivion or Morrowind expansions.
This also takes place in the year 433 of the Third Era during the events of Oblivion.
A large user-created mod extends the Knights of the Nine storyline.
The Shivering Isles
A portal has opened on an island in Niben Bay. Going through the portal, after swimming out to the island, will transport the player to Sheogorath's realm. The main quest requires the player to help Sheogorath prevent the destruction of the realm itself by the Daedric Prince of Order, Jyggalag.
The expansion adds a large new area, with new equipment, items, NPCs, monsters and locations. As well as the main quest, there are also a number of unconnected side quests that may also be done, and various locations unconnected to any quest that can be explored. This expansion is substantially bigger than the Knights of the Nine.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
After the ending of the Septim dynasty in Oblivion, the Empire became much weakened. The capital was conquered by Titus Mede, who began a new dynasty. The provinces of Elsweyr, Black Marsh, the Summerset Isles and Valenwood secede from the Empire. The province of Skyrim, where the game is set, although still part of the Empire, wants to leave it also.
The main quest revolves around Dragons, in particular the Dragon god Alduin. The player may have to defeat many Dragons during the game, with the aim of finally meeting and destroying Alduin himself.
Once again, there are many side and faction quests, as well as locations unconnected to any particular quest.
Skyrim incorporates the new Radiant AI technology, which adds greater complexity to NPCs. NPCs are less rigidly programmed, and can interact with the world in a more unique fashion than seen in previous titles. Quests can also be dynamically altered by player's actions through the use of this, and the game is even more open-ended than its' predecessors.
The Elder Scrolls Construction Kit is now known as the Creation Kit, and also integrates with the Steam Workshop, allowing users to rate, download and share mods created with it. The modding community that has created mods for both Morrowind and Oblivion has also already created many mods, again fixing problems and adding depth to the game.
Dawnguard was the first major official add-on for Skyrim and was released in 2012. This is set in Skyrim, and features a conflict between vampires and their opponents the Dawnguard. The vampires intend to end the sun itself; the Dawnguard have to stop them.
This add-on has a Main Quest series which also has a number of side quests. You can either choose to join the vampires or the Dawnguard, and the quests you can do are affected by this decision, as is the end result of the Main Quest line. The vampires are the new, more powerful Vampire Lords, not the regular vampires seen in the game from contracting the disease Porphyric Hemophilia. By choosing to join the side of the vampires, the player can transform into a Vampire Lord when desired. Which faction the player chooses to side with alters which side's headquarters they have access to.
A consequence of starting the series of quests in this plugin is that urban areas around Skyrim start being subject to vampire attacks, usually as the player arrives in them.
The add-on also adds new dragon shouts and new locations, as well as creatures, NPCs, items and magic.
The second official add-on for Skyrim, Hearthfire, which was also released in 2012, is rather different to the major add-ons for any of the Elder Scrolls games. This add-on allows the player to build from scratch a total of three homes in different locations, as well as furnish and equip them. The ground where the houses will be built also needs purchasing from the relevant Thane. New tools allow raw materials into the necessary materials and furnishings. The finished homes have a variety of useful facilities, and there is also the option to adopt orphaned children, who will then live in the home, or in the other homes that can be acquired in the game.
Hearthfire adds no new quest series, but there are a number of minor quests related to buying the land for, building and outfitting your home.
The third and final official add-on for Skyrim, Dragonborn, which was released either at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, depending on the platform, is set on the island of Solstheim, which was originally visited in the Morrowind add-on, Bloodmoon. Unlike Bloodmoon, the theme of this add-on is dragons, not werewolves. The player can travel to Solstheim from Windhelm; the main quest starts when they are attacked by cultists who consider the player to be a false Dragonborn.
This add-on introduces a lot of new quests; there is the Main Quest, five other quest series, and a selection of miscellaneous quests. It also adds a new land, Solstheim, albeit one that has been visited before. Like Dawnguard, there are new dragon shouts added, but probably the most significant addition is the ability to ride dragons, once the last quest in the Main Quest series of Dragonborn is completed.
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An Elder Scrolls Legend
The Battlespire itself is a training facility for Imperial Battlemages. Rather than being set in Tamriel, the Battlespire is located between Oblivion and Mundus. The player is an apprentice who, after being sent to the Battlespire, discovers that the place has been invaded by a Daedric army led by Mehrunes Dagon and most of the inhabitants killed.
The game involves the player travelling through the Battlespire, essentially just a single, huge dungeon, in order to find and defeat Mehrunes Dagon himself. It lacks the depth of other Elder Scrolls games, just being what is commonly called a dungeon crawl in traditional RPGs.
Battlespire can be played on Windows using an emulator, such as DOSBox, although the game is fairly resource intensive and may have problems even on fairly modern computers. The game was designed with a multiplayer online option which, although no longer supported by GameSpy Arcade, can still be played through Kali.
The Elder Scrolls Adventures
Redguard is set in the year 864 of the Second Era. The player plays the part of Cyrus, a Redguard who returns to the island of Stros M'Kai off the coast of Hammerfell, in search of his missing sister, Iszara. Redguard is in a third person style, rather than the first person of the main Elder Scrolls series.
Although the initial premise of the plot is simple, Cyrus quickly becomes involved in political machinations. After working his way through the various sub-quests, Cyrus must eventually defeat Lord Richton.
Redguard features a much more linear plot than is typical in Elder Scrolls games, rather than the usual more open-ended role playing. There are also less NPCs than can be seen in the main games.
Redguard can be run on Windows through an emulator such as DOSBox. No official patches were ever released by Bethesda for the game.
The Elder Scrolls: Travels is a series of mobile Elder Scrolls games, that work with Java enabled mobile phones, or the Nokia N-Gage. The Travels games are much more limited in size, graphics and sound than the normal games, due to the platforms they are published on. The games are also more linear in nature than the main series.
A fifth game, Oblivion for the Sony PSP, was planned but never released.
Stormhold was the first TES Travels game released in 2003. Set in Stormhold prison, in the province of Black Marsh, the player must kill the mad warden, Quintus Varus, and escape. Stormhold also featured in Elder Scrolls: Arena.
With the game designed to run on as many phones as possible, the actual size of the game varies depending on the mobile used, with the smallest having six classes and eight dungeons and the largest version having seven classes and thirty-six dungeons.
As with Stormhold, the game also came in a variety of sizes, with eight dungeons and six classes in the smallest to thirty-six dungeons and seven classes in the largest.
The game consists of one main quest, although a fairly extensive one. The final object of the quest is to stop an invasion of Dawnstar by various enemies, culminating in an attack by Gehenot Thriceborn.
After finding the artefact known as the Shadowkey, the player is told by a prisoner that the player needs to stop an item, the Umbra' Keth, that is currently being created from falling into the hands of mages such as Jagar Tharn - who was seen in Elder Scrolls: Arena.
The player has to collect a number of items, the Star Teeth, to make the Umbra' Keth vulnerable, so it can be killed. The game is more extensive than the previous two TES Travels games, with nine character classes, eight races and a Bluetooth multiplayer option.
The player has to accomplish the major quests of the main storyline, although some of the minor ones are not included. There are also four optional quests that can be done, for extra rewards.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is a massively multiplayer online role playing game. It was originally launched as The Elder Scrolls online in 2014, but the name was changed after it changed from a subscription version to free to play. The online game is set in year 582 of the Second Era, making it the earliest-set game in the series, even earlier than Redguard, which was also set in the Second Era, and the only other game to be set during that era. During this period, there are three warring factions attempting to expand their territory. The player can join one of these factions.
The playing style is rather different to other Elder Scrolls games, and for the first time since Arena players can visit all the provinces of Tamriel. However, there are still a variety of quests that can be done for different factions, in different locations and of different types, which is similar to other games in the series. Unlike many Elder Scrolls games, and due to it being a multiplayer online game, user-created in-game content is not possible, although user created AddOns are possible.
Imperial City was the first downloadable content (DLC) available for The Elder Scrolls Online and was released in 2015. This adds the Imperial City in Cyrodiil, familiar to a degree from Oblivion. The city is currently occupied by Daedric forces.
This DLC adds new quests and monsters, as well as locations and events, but it is most notable as a player vs player (PvP) area.
Orsinium was the second DLC and was released in 2015. This added a new zone, Wrothgar, and the city of Orsinium, the Orcish homeland. There were many new quests added, which included a main quest series to rebuild the city itself, as well as new areas, monsters and items. A major feature of this addition was player vs enemy (PvE) content).
Thieves Guild is the third DLC and is scheduled to be released early in 2016. This DLC adds the Thieves Guild faction as well as stealth and the Justice System. Thieves have been an integral part of the Elder Scrolls series, as has stealth. New items, a small zone, new quests and new areas to explore are also added.
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