A look back at some of the most immersive and detailed role-playing games ever!

Home Arts and Entertainment A look back at some of the most immersive and detailed role-playing games ever!

The Elder Scrolls: A Retrospective

With the imminent release of the long-awaited fifth installment in the award-winning series, The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim, I thought it prudent to go back and explore the series and see where it’s taken us in the past, so that we may better understand the impact of this monumental open-world series.

In March 1994, a small but ambitious software company called Bethesda Softworks released the first Elder Scrolls game, called Arena. It chronicled the efforts of a lone hero, a citizen of Tamriel, whose emperor, Uriel Septim VII, was betrayed by his close advisor, the Battlemage Jagar Tharn and sent to Oblivion.

As with all installments in the series, you begin as a prisoner, jailed for an unspecified crime, and must follow the words of Tharn’s ex-apprentice Ria Silmane to journey the lands of Tamriel and eventually find the Staff of Chaos and restore the rightful ruler of Tamriel to his throne.

Being still in the early times of 3D computer gaming with rather primitive graphics and effects, the open-world environment was quite revolutionary; still, the lands were procedurally generated to save disk space and processing power. This would also be the case with the second in the series…

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, from 1996, sees a new protagonist also close to the emperor rise, and as a close friend to the emperor, you must travel to the High Elven region of High Rock, to its kingdom of Daggerfall, and attempt to exorcise the raging spirit of dead King Lysandus, whose death has caused unnatural energies to swirl around the whole western reaches of Tamriel, including the Redguard province of Hammerfell.

The third main game in the series, Morrowind, sends us to the titular land of the Dark Elves, specifically to the northern volcanic region of Vvardenfell. Again upon request of the Emperor, you travel there because you were born under certain conditions that may qualify you as the prophesied hero of the Dark Elves, Nerevarine.

In order to calm conditions in the region and lead the Dark Elves – both urbane and Ashlander (direct descendants of the first Dark Elves) – to a better future, you must work with the secret Imperial intelligence branch, the Blades, and become powerful enough to challenge the ancient evil god-king, Dagoth Ur, who sends the transforming Blight out from Red Mountain to muster his followers and take over Vvardenfell.

The game, released in 2002, was the first in the series to feature hand-crafted landscapes and dungeons through the Elder Scrolls Construction Kit, resulting in a much more detailed world and more interesting locations, including two new regions through DLC (downloadable content): Mournhold, the capital of Morrowind; and Solstheim, the snowy border island between Morrowind and Skyrim. But the best was still to come…

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released in 2006, and featured the lush, forested region of Cyrodiil. Again as a prisoner obeying the Emperor’s request (sadly, his last request, as he is assassinated shortly after the game begins), you must take charge of an ancient, magical artifact that is passed from Emperor to Emperor, and find the lost heir to continue the lineage. If you fail to find him, Cyrodiil, and indeed all of Tamriel may fall prey to the machinations of the Mythic Dawn, who seek to return Tamriel to the time when Daedra, such as the malevolent Mehrunes Dagon, ruled the land.

This game was the first to contain extensive downloadable content which expanded the game’s functionality and added new quests: from the much-maligned and overpriced Horse Armor (which only changed the horse’s appearance but not functionality, and yes, you could ride horses starting in this game) to the much further-reaching Knights of the Nine quest, which has you fighting against an ancient Ayleid evil (the Ayleids were the original inhabitants of Cyrodiil in ancient times) and showing the land what true virtue means.

The largest expansion for Oblivion, however, was Shivering Isles: featuring a fully-realized new region and new NPCs, quests and locations, this huge chunk of content sent you to the home of the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath, to attempt to settle conflicts and assist people as you did back in Cyrodiil. There’s a little twist to that, but I will let you discover it…

Now, we come to the frozen North of Tamriel. Skyrim is the home of the Nords, a blonde, blue-eyed people that thrive on war and conquest and song, and which has fallen under hard times as late; their king has died and the lands are thrown into chaos… Further details than that will have to wait until my review, coming this weekend! Suffice to say, the Elder Scrolls is a long and storied series, and you will most definitely do well to lose yourself in the gigantic worlds presented to you!