Memoirs of a Gamer – The Elder Scrolls

We look at Bethesda's hit Elder Scrolls series

Ellie Zoe continues her look into the games that have left a lasting impact on her and her latest installment takes us towards Bethesda’s hit Elder Scroll series.

Despite last week discussing that I much preferred smaller, refined environments to large open worlds – The Elder Scrolls games are certainly huge exceptions to that rule. Unlike titles with yearly installments, Elder Scrolls games are few and very far between – and the amount of brand new code, algorithms in place, textures, models and systems in every installment quite simply boggles the mind. I can’t pretend to understand the process that goes in to creating one of these games, and as riddled with bugs as they may be, they’re technical masterpieces in their own right. Now, it’s all well and good being technically impressive, but none of that is of any use if the game isn’t engaging. Thankfully, you’ll struggle not to be pulled in the moment you finish the tutorial in one of these games – but before we discuss exactly what is so fantastic about the franchise, I feel it appropriate to give a little bit of background on my history with the series.

To be brutally honest, I had absolutely no interest in the Elder Scrolls before playing it – in fact, I barely even knew what it was. I was young – still at school actually – and looking for a new Xbox 360 game to help fill the evenings. I suffered from a lot of stress and anxiety directly relating to both going to and being at school, and even once home I could barely rest for fear of going back the next day. As for many other kids, video games were an escape for me. I could sit down, stare at a screen and get lost in a world. Books and films only provided a passive viewing experience, but games allowed me to interact and become a direct part of the proceedings. I’d more or less wrung my favourite game at the time – Viva Pinata – dry at this point, and needed a new adventure. I’d genuinely no idea what I was about to get myself in to.

In the city I live, we’ve a large branch of Debenhams. Whilst long gone now, there was a small Game (similar to Gamestop in the states) store on the basement level, tucked away in the corner. We still had a full on, standalone store elsewhere, but this was always handy to pop in to and have a look around whilst your parents were doing other kinds of boring shopping. It was usually pretty quiet, and you could have a good natter with the staff. One particular time, I’d been asking for recommendations, and the assistant starts telling me about this amazing open-world fantasy adventure – with castles, monsters and creatures of all manner. The best part was, that this version came with two major expansions – and it was on sale for £17. Bargain.

I struggle to remember falling in love with a game quite as quickly as I did with Oblivion. Sure, I’d played the odd open-world game before but I’d never played one where everything had been quite as well realised. I never felt overwhelmed with the amount of content, despite how much of it there actually was. Every quest or location seemed to have a purpose, not as if they’d just nonchalantly sprinkled fetch quests and time trials across a generic cityscape. The industry loves to use buzz terms like “player choice” and “branching paths”, but when you’ve got a number of fully fleshed-out guilds to choose between, all with storylines as long as plenty of other games in their entirety, I’d argue you can use them unapologetically. This is all in addition to the main story, might I add.

Don’t forget the numerous Deadric Shrines you have to seek out – beautiful yet terrifying effigies of key characters in the lore, deities that play a very direct role in goings-on. Some of these are in pretty remote locations, and finding them is a quest in itself. Once you’ve actually made it to them, prepare to have yet another brand-new story path opened up with plenty of challenges and rewards. Even with all that said, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what the series has to offer. After many years of waiting, Skyrim released and blew our minds. There was everything we’d already loved, with better graphics, mountains to climb, and freaking dragons.

I’ll admit that I’ve not actually sat down and played through every single entry in the franchise. I’ve never once touched Morrowind or anything that came before, and I can’t say I could really ever get to grips with The Elder Scrolls Online. There are however, a couple of exciting releases coming up for fans of the series. Blades is a new entry in the series, coming to the majority of devices, including mobile, later this year. It will be free to play, so there’s little reason not to give this one a go if you’ve been on the fence beforehand. Also releasing at some point in the future is The Elder Scrolls VI. Incredibly little has been revealed about the game bar a piece of concept art, which makes it look as if this entry could be set in either Hammerfell or High Rock, although it’s quite possible that fans could be way off on this. Regardless of where it ends up taking place, it’s an exciting time to be a fan, and perhaps take your first journey in to the land of Tamriel, as I did many years ago.

Ellie Zoe

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