The History of The Elder ScrollsBy Kyle Mann | November 9, 2011 | Features | 1 comment | Share
The Series that Birthed a World
If I don’t finish a game, it’s usually due to a boring section, a difficult bit, or poorly designed mechanics that just aren’t worth fighting against. It’s rare then that I don’t complete a game not because of a fault within the design itself, but because there is just so much content packed into the world that I never feel compelled to attack the main quest. But such is the case with nearly every Elder Scrolls game.
The Elder Scrolls, since its birth in 1994, has consistently created game worlds that envelop and engross the player, becoming less of a game in the traditional sense and more of a canvas on which gamers write their own stories. The series is perhaps the ultimate role-playing experience in the sense that you’re not guiding a character that the developers designed and fleshed out through a series of established plot points; instead, you’re giving life and meaning to an individual and creating his story for him. The Elder Scrolls shifts the motivation of the player from beating a boss or making it to the next stage to pure desire–desire to see what’s over the next ridge or what treasures lie in the nearby ancient ruins.
Ask ten gamers old enough about the best part of Morrowind or Daggerfall, and you’re likely to get ten different answers. That is the real beauty at the heart of the franchise, the willingness to pass control of the story, the dynamics, and the pacing over to the player. It is game design driven to the extreme end of the spectrum of player freedom, shunning the philosophy of the scripted and tightly woven narrative. It’s not a movie meant to be watched from one perspective, nor is it a book written to tell a specific story from but one angle; The Elder Scrolls at its core is about choice.
It has never had the best, most visceral combat in any RPG. It’s never been the absolute prettiest game among its contemporaries. It’s not even the most consistent game series around; fans the world over debate back and forth the merits of each game in the franchise daily. That’s not even to mention the controversial and little-loved Redguard or Battlespire spin-offs. But despite these shortcomings, The Elder Scrolls has endured due to an unwavering commitment to the player’s freedom above all else.
Now, for Day 3 of our Elder Scrolls Week feature, and just a short day before Skyrim‘s release, let’s take a look back at the history of the franchise to see just how far it has come.