The Elder Scrolls: A brief history

The wait is over – today is Skyrim day.

And while you’ll likely be salivating over the shiny new epic, it’s also important to reflect back on the series, and take a look at the games that came before.

Or, you know, to quickly read up on the games you never played because the graphics weren’t pretty enough to capitvate you.

Either way.

The World of The Elder Scrolls is set on the continent of Tamriel – which is split up into different provinces, and each game mostly takes place in a separate one.

The games in the series do not follow a single continuous story, but are rather self-contained – taking place apart, at different times and involving different characters.

But they are all very much closely linked, with a deep lore and history permeating across the game world, and a few characters that get cross-mentions.

The Elder Scrolls: Arena (1994)

The first Elder Scrolls game takes place in Tamriel – more specifically, the area of the Imperial City (which we later learn to be Cyrodiil).

You play as a hero who must search for eight pieces of an artifact – called the Staff of Chaos – and bring them all together.

By accomplishing this, and defeating the big bad guy – an imperial battlemage called Jagar Tharn – you’re able to free Uriel Spetim VII from his imprisonment in another dimension.

Being the first game, and released in 1994 no less, it was somewhat lacking in the graphics department – especially by today’s standards – but it established a universe that would carry through well into the future.

The game featured an open, explorable world that had randomly-generated locales – and was notoriously unforgiving.

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (1996)

Taking place across two provinces of Tamriel – Hammerfell and High Rock – the second Elder Scrolls game cranked things up a notch.

It featured an absolutely huge game world, with over 15,000 locations and 750,000 NPCs.

The game also introduced spell-crafting and enchanting, and carried the same randomly-generated gameworlds from its predecessor.

The story focused on the player sent to Daggerfall on a special mission from Emporer Uriel Septim (from the first game) – eventually falling into a conspiracy where everyone is trying to revive a powerful golem for their own purposes.

The game was also the first in the series to offer multiple endings – a different one depending on who you decided to ultimately help out.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)

After having such a massive game world, Bethesda would struggle to top themselves; most complaints about Daggerfall, was that the game was simply too big – with a lot of monotonous areas and textures.

So with Morrowind, they decided to tighten things up a bit, and instead focus on creating a game world that was smaller – but more unique.

The third entry into the series refined the combat by making it more mouse-accessible and user-friendly; it also introduced a skill system that developed certain skills and attributes the more you used them.

Once again, Emporer Uriel Septim pulls the strings behind Morrowind’s story, which revolves around the reincarnation of a hero called Indoril Nerevar.

Nerevar is the only one who can defeat the big baddie – Dagoth Ur – who has become immortal through dubious activities.

Over the course of the game, the player learns that he is, in fact, Nerevar reincarnated, and you save the day.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)

Shifting back to Cyrodiil and the land of the Imperials – Oblivion started off with the assassination of Emperor Uriel Septim, and focused on the player searching for, protecting and assisting his sole heir, Martin, in his quest to shut down the gates of Oblivion.

Oblivion brought about a massive upgrade in graphics for the series, and brought in many big names to do the voice acting.

The game built on the features that were added and evolved across the series, with players starting off establishing a clear class path at the early stages – and levelling up based on using that skill-set.

With 41.4 square kilometers to explore in the world, the map was the second largest in the Elder Scrolls series, after Daggerfall’s hypothetical 487,000 square kilometer land mass.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Released today (11/11/11), Skyrim takes place 200 years after the events of Oblivion – in the northern province of…you guessed it – Skyrim.

I could probably tell you what it’s all about, but why would I do that when you’re probably already playing it?

It’s pretty clear that The Elder Scroll series has come a long way, and evolved over many years. Will Skyrim be the ultimate representation of this series?

Share your thoughts on the forum!

A brief history of The Elder Scrolls << Comments and views

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  • KiLLFr3aK

    Oblivion brought about a massive upgrade in graphics for the series, and brought in many big names to do the voice acting.


  • KiLLFr3aK

    Oblivion brought about a massive upgrade in graphics for the series, and brought in many big names to do the voice acting.


  • Hound_Doggie

    I just got killed by those damn ice wraths in the picture… they screwed me over, but they looked awesome doing so, so I forgave them 😀

  • Anonymous

    So has the old comments been imported over to the new comments section?

  • Ebrahim Ally

    Is that Chuck Norris in the first Elder Scrolls screen 😛

  • Anonymous

    It appears that way. Love this new site!

  • James Etherington-Smith

    Yes, we are busy working on importing the old comments over without deleting the entire internet in the process.

  • powerdarnell

    woah hey alright

  • Quinton Bronkhorst


  • cumstains

    morrowind is the best then oblivion… skyrim is good, but it should be so much more

  • Richard Dean Wickens

    Ummm, get a better graphics card, the upgrade in graphics is extensive. Daggerfall holds a special place in my heart because of the huge scope of the world. The enormous dungeons were a pain in the rear though. I remember spending entire days trying to get through a single dungeon. I hated the graphics of Morrowind (didn’t stop me playing it) but a couple addon’s sorted that out.

  • ranter101010

    the only reason you found skyrim “uninspired” was because you played it with the end goal of beating the game, instead of ‘living’ in the game, you went through all the actions without enjoying the ride, you, probably, simply did the quests and chose between varying game choices to gain the better reward than try to be influenced by your moral compass in-game like which political side you thought was right between stormcloaks and imperials as i argued and is still arguing with friends that the imperial was the right between the two, you probably didn’t try having a good coffee reading the books in-game, relaxed at your house/s just eating venison chops and chilling with mead, went out to hunt some deer for a while, went and enjoyed a non-thieves guild thieving rampage for the heck of it and other stuff, i lived the game, tried to postpone the main quests as long i can, and leveled the heck out of my character making multiple skills multiple-times legendary so i can beat miraak, alduin or the vampire lord so easily it would just be like squishing an ant like.

    you rushed the game, you felt what you felt because of your own doing

    of course you found oblivion and morrowind more interesting, you were younger and more about “enjoying the game” than right now whose older and all about the fictional ‘accomplishments’

    i’m sure you consider yourself a hardcore gamer, and i have no qualms about it, but try to enjoy your games like what your younger self did, and not rush in to beat the game for the sake of beating it.