Elder Scrolls Game mechanics
The Elder Scrolls games can be safely categorized as role-playing games (RPG), although they do include elements taken from action and adventure games. In Arena, as in many RPGs, players advance by killing monsters (and thereby gaining experience points) until a preset value is met, whereupon they level-up. However, in Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Oblivion the series took a skill-based approach to character advancement. Players develop their characters’ skills by applying them, and only level-up when a certain set of skills have been developed. Skyrim took a new approach, where the more a skill is leveled, the more it helps to level the character. This shifted the focus away from character creation and more onto character development. The flexibility of the games’ engines has facilitated the release of game extensions (or mods) through The Elder Scrolls Construction Set.
The Elder Scrolls main series of games emphasizes different aspects of the gaming experience than most computer role-playing games. A brief article by Joystiq in early November 2006 compared BioWare’s creations to Bethesda’s by noting a difference in emphasis. Bethesda’s creations focused on “aesthetic presentation and open-ended adventuring”; BioWare’s on a combat system and modular architecture. This overarching aim has been noted by their designers as well. Bethesda has described their motivations in creating the first series game, Arena, as those of any good pen-and-paper RPG: creating an environment in which the player could be what the player wants and do what the player wants. Daggerfall’s manual begins with a sort of design manifesto, declaring the developers’ intention to “create a book with blank pages”, and “a game designed to encourage exploration and reward curiosity”. Choices, in the form of paths taken by the player, to do good, to chase after evil, are left open to the player, “just like in real life”. This design trend continued with Morrowind, following the hiatus of similarly epic games in the interim, though Joystiq’s previously noted insistence on graphics came again to the fore. During the development of Morrowind, Bethesda tripled its staff, so as to perfectly color its newly hand-made world. In their own words, “We knew we had to exceed the visual polish of the other games on the market, and we made it our goal to put The Elder Scrolls back into the forefront of game innovation.”
See also: Races of The Elder Scrolls
An elf cosplayer at the 2013 Calgary Expo
The Elder Scrolls world can be described as one of high fantasy with influences from a multitude of cultures all over the globe (Medieval, Roman, Nordic, Ancient Japanese, etc). Like most works of high or epic fantasy, the Elder Scrolls games are typically serious in tone and epic in scope, dealing with themes of grand struggle against a supernatural or evil force. Other characteristics typical of high fantasy fiction are common themes in the Elder Scrolls, such as demi-human races including elves, orcs and dwarves (a now-extinct race known as Dwemer), magic and sorcery, mythical creatures, factions with their own political agendas, walled medieval cities and strongholds, and plot elements driven by prophecies and legends. In accordance with many literary high fantasy works, the world of The Elder Scrolls is known for its attention to detail including well developed lore and back story. This includes a vast amount of information such as names, dates, and places that constitute its history and the interconnected structure of its various societies, cultures, and religions. Lore including histories and legends are contained in dozens of readable in-game books that are scattered throughout the game world.
The Elder Scrolls games take place on the fictional world of Nirn, on the continent of Tamriel, a large landmass divided into nine provinces. The exceptions are The Elder Scrolls Legends: Battlespire, and parts of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which take place between the realm of Oblivion (one of several alternate dimensions ruled by immortal god-like beings known as Daedra) and the mortal realm of Mundus. There are other continents besides Tamriel on Nirn (such as Akavir or Yokuda), but there has yet to be an official game that takes place upon one of them.
Tamriel itself is an empire divided into nine provinces, each with its own native race. Those provinces are as follows: Cyrodiil, Morrowind, High Rock, the Summerset Isles, Hammerfell, Black Marsh, Skyrim, Valenwood, and Elsweyr. The native races of the provinces are as follows: Imperials in Cyrodiil, Dunmer (also known as Dark Elves) in Morrowind, Bretons and Orsimer (also known as Orcs) in High Rock, Altmer (also known as High Elves) in the Summerset Isles, Redguards in Hammerfell, Argonians in Black Marsh, Nords in Skyrim, Bosmer (also known as Wood Elves) in Valenwood, and Khajiit in Elsweyr. The emperor resides in the capital province of Cyrodiil. The ruling dynasty throughout the Third Era consisted entirely of the descendants of Tiber Septim. His line, frequently called the Septim Bloodline, ended at the conclusion of the Third Era, with the death of Martin Septim, the last living heir of Uriel Septim VII, during a failed invasion of Cyrodiil by the forces of Oblivion.
Several years after the Oblivion Crisis, a Colovian warlord named Titus Mede assumed the throne of the Empire, reigning through at least the first forty years of the Fourth Era. During the Fourth Era, the Empire declines in power, leading to the secession of the provinces of Elsweyr, Black Marsh, Valenwood, and the Summerset Isles. The provinces of the Summerset Isles and Valenwood, home to the Altmer and Bosmer, respectively, create the Aldmeri Dominion, an Elven empire whose influence quickly eclipses the Old Empire, who faces another separatist movement in the province of Skyrim.
Of note, there is no one compilation of all information pertaining to the Elder Scrolls world, and, within the games, historical references are often vague or even contradictory, as players are encouraged to draw their own conclusions about situations and events.
An elf cosplayer at the 2013 Calgary Expo