The Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
Battlespire released on PC back in 1997, one year after Daggerfall. You would reasonably expect that it would build upon its predecessors, offering yet another larger glimpse at the world of Tamriel, one where you could explore new caves, discover new wonders, and face off against unimaginable forces of evil. Unfortunately, your expectations would be smashed against a bug-laden wall as you found yourself advancing through seven levels of the one dungeon the game had to offer.
All could be forgiven if the story and questlines were up to snuff, but they weren’t. Sure, you got to go up against the God of Destruction himself, Mehrunes Dagon, one of the powerful Daedric princes who influences Tamriel, but even that couldn’t save this mess of a game. It is one of the most closed off entries in the entire series, riddled with glitches, and far from being the large adventure that The Elder Scrolls brings to mind.
The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
To be completely honest, Redguard isn’t much better than Battlespire. It does get some credit for working much better than its spin-off predecessor, but it also diverges much too far from what makes The Elder Scrolls such a great franchise. This game, led by Todd Howard – known for his work on Bethesda’s greatest games such as Skyrim, Morrowind, Fallout 4, and Fallout Shelter – had a decent story and a more enjoyable world than Battlespire. You could tell that it was trying to be a spin-off that took cues from its source material, but it failed in one major way: customization.
How did it fail with customization you ask? It had none. You couldn’t personalize your controlled character in any way which comes across as odd because this happened to be the game that introduced the third-person camera. You finally were able to look at your hero, but, for the first time, you couldn’t change them.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
Daggerfall is the first entry that actually isn’t a bad game. It took a lot of what made Arena, the first game in the franchise, great and opened it up by dropping players into a huge map surpassing anything that came before it. And when we say huge, we mean the size of a small country huge (just over 60,000 square miles). Unfortunately, that scale is also the reason why Daggerfall doesn’t fare so well against its kin.
The game was simply too large. A problem that has only recently started being solved is that many open worlds feel empty and dead. Walking across vast expanses of nothingness can only seem majestic for so long. When you couple the large, barren world with the slew of bugs, you’re left with a sequel that is lacking the honed-in focus of its predecessor. It was a great idea, don’t get me wrong, but one that wouldn’t be executed well for some time.
The Elder Scrolls Arena
Arena is the beginning of a dynasty that would take the RPG world by storm. Released back in 1994, this ambitious title boasted a large world with quests and mysteries hidden for players to discover. Numerous dungeons were filled with threats, glory, and, most importantly, loot. The play space was impossibly large but the developers managed to fill it so you were never left with nothing to do.
Of course, the game didn’t age all that well, but it gave us a glimpse of the greatness that would eventually become synonymous with The Elder Scrolls. Not everything was perfectly in place, and it would take nearly a decade before things really started to come together, but none of that would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for Arena inspiring awe in those of us that just wanted a fantasy adventure.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Oblivion is the second game to pit would be adventurers against Mehrunes Dagon, the destructive Daedric prince. Thanks to some unfortunate assassinations a covenant was destroyed and now the realm of Oblivion and that of Cyrodil are merging. This releases the Daedra, demonic beings hellbent on destroying everything in their path. That sounds like it would be everything a fan could hope for, except it just felt a little lacking.
Oblivion definitely improved on a few things put forth by its predecessor, Morrowind, yet it managed to lose a bit of its charm along the way. Exploits helped to sap away most of the challenge, and not everything was fully thought out. What Oblivion did bring to the table, however, was possibly the best expansion in the entire franchise, Shivering Isles. It did work a lot of new elements into the experience, improving upon the base game, and is why most fans remember this particular game so fondly. Unfortunately, when just looking at the games for what they are, Oblivion was a step forward that lacked the awe-inspiring magic that made Morrowind such a cherished memory.
The Elder Scrolls Online
If you would’ve asked us where The Elder Scrolls Online ranks within the franchise over a year ago, we would’ve quickly put it near the bottom. While it had some great ideas built around features that made the entire franchise a success, Zenimax still had a lot of adjusting to do to make it a viable competitor to the likes of games like Final Fantasy XIV. Over time, ESO started to take a much tighter form, adjusting the arduous grind of gameplay, making the world more inviting and fun to explore, and giving gameplay the distinct feel of the franchise.
Now, with the One Tamriel update, players are even less restricted as they’re able to join up with anyone and participate in everything that the game has to offer. The developers have managed to make something that provides that same sense of wonder and discovery fans have come to expect while still making it work in the MMO sense. ESO is definitely an achievement worthy of recognition.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Morrowind helped to bring mass awareness to the franchise as a whole, as it ushered the series into full 3D and was the first entry to make its way to consoles. Arena and Daggerfall had introduced a new generation of fantasy RPG players to an unparalleled experience, one where you really were able to create your very own entry. Morrowind took everything that made each of those games great and finally gave them a sound structure.
The world was large, but not too large, offering up detail in every structure, character, and dungeon. As your character progressed you could customize them with beautifully designed weapons and armor while upgrading their skills and abilities. Morrowind was brimming with life and possibility in a way that no other action RPG was at the time. Even with Morrowind’s few issues, it exuded charm within its now dated visuals, and fantastic battle effects. Those on PC were able to further enjoy the game thanks to mods, but even on console, it made everything near it pale in comparison.
It set up its lore and allowed you to exist within it as you saw fit, cementing how the series would be going forward.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
We’re not going to even lie and say we understand what the opening theme is singing about, but one thing’s for certain: it sets up the following experience extraordinarily well. Skyrim is the fifth main entry in the Elder Scrolls franchise, and normally that would mean some heavy fatigue. Yet, what you have here is a game that has taken the best parts of both its own franchise and a bit of learning from Fallout in order to captivate and immerse players in beautiful ways.
Skyrim is an open world, just like the worlds of all of its predecessors, yet it manages to feel even bigger while also having the sense of being full of life and possibility. The Elder Scrolls is known, and celebrated, for giving players the freedom to play as they see fit, but Skyrim really pushed the point of making the adventure all about you. Hundreds of roads and different locations ranging from small caves to large, stone cities create a web of opportunities for you to get lost in and that’s where Skyrim shines. Even when you’re far away from your main objective, you never actually feel lost. You’re being pushed and pulled in all of these different directions that bring you face to face with vampires, werewolves, demons, monsters, and even dragons, but it all… fits.
Your adventure is truly yours, and the systems that had taken over a decade to mold are all working in perfect synergy. You’re rewarded for everything you do, and you’re able to go wherever you see fit. There is no wrong way to play this game, and that’s been the goal of The Elder Scrolls since inception. Skyrim is the first land in the series that felt as if it were truly yours, putting you, not the story, front and center. Plus, one of the expansions let you fly dragons and that automatically makes a game a hundred times better.