This year’s E3 spoiled a lot of fans from all walks of gaming life. Fans of Bethesda and their brand of open-world RPGs should be especially happy with the announcement of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition, the HD remaster that includes the base game and all DLC add-ons, and completely overhauls the game’s graphics with flourishes such as remastered art and effects and “volumetric god rays.” The new game will also include the ability to run officially-sanctioned mods, similar to the recent implementation for Bethesda’s other big RPG game, Fallout 4.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for a long time, was the magnum opus of sandbox gameplay. Over the course of two years I clocked in 117 hours, 43 minutes, and 28 seconds. Time flies when playing a great game and no, I didn’t have a life back then. That may once again be true when Skyrim: Special Edition launches on October 18. That’s very exciting news…sort of.
As I explained in a previous article, Skyrim deserves a touch-up, but as far as I can tell, the addition of mods is the only real meat being added to the core game. This new version is in essence what would normally be called a Game of the Year edition, but with better graphics. For someone who has cleared every dungeon, amassed so much coin it’s become useless, mastered every spell, and conquered every quest, what’s the point of going back? The addition of mods seems like the obvious answer; Skyrim has one of the most active modding communities and some of the stuff they do ranges from ridiculous to downright incredible. However, the recent Fallout 4 attempt to bring mods to consoles has been, admittedly, a bit of a fiasco. Nobody wants to wait months on end for Bethesda to patch the game after launch, something they are notorious for doing.
For those looking for an all-new Elder Scrolls experience, some might suggest The Elder Scrolls Online, which after a mediocre start is starting to gain traction. There’s no denying it has fans, who just received a sizable update that is sure to make a stir. However, that game never really captured what made the main Elder Scrolls games great, and it is still plagued by a myriad of bugs and dismal dungeon quests.
What I and many fans like myself were actually hoping for was an announcement of The Elder Scrolls VI. As expected, the chances of that game happening any time soon were shot down by Pete Hines, VP at Bethesda in charge of marketing and public relations. While the fandoms of Skyrim and ESO remain as devoted as ever, it would be nice to play something new, or perhaps something old.
Unbeknownst to most, there are a number of spin-offs of the Elder Scrolls series (excluding ESO): Cult hits, mysterious products, others so obscure they can only be found after wading through a sea of malware. Some of these are actually decent, while others… Let’s just say they make good collector’s items.
The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
Let’s start with what may be the best out of all Elder Scrolls spin-offs that is also generally the one people are familiar with. Redguard is unique because it is not an RPG, but a third-person action adventure game set in the pirate-filled desert paradise of Hammerfell. There is no character creation; you play as a man with his own backstory trying to rescue his sister. The game’s few characters have their own unique personalities and rather complicated political views that carry the player through one heck of a plot complete with an explosive beginning, clear lines between the main quest and all side quests, and intriguing ideas about magic. Fun fact: Redguard is also the first Elder Scrolls game to have 3D-generated characters and fully-voiced dialogue.
An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire began as a potential DLC for The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, but soon became its own unique game. Character generation remains the same as it was in Daggerfall, with a notable lack of Argonians and Khajiit. This was due to their lack of popularity at the time due to having poor stats and the fact that their models resembled a human with tails tacked on. That’s not the strangest part of this game, rather the fact that it’s not open-world. The linear setting places you on an oddly talkative path with all the NPCs in the game, which depending on how you react to them, can keep your stats very low. The general rule of thumb here is if you make the wrong stat choices in the beginning, you’re pretty much screwed for the rest of the game. The final boss is a bit of a joke. He can be killed in one hit, at least if your game doesn’t roll over and die from all the bugs first. Still, Battlespire is worth checking out just to see how weird it is.
The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold / Dawnstar / Shadowkey / Oblivion
After the release of Morrowind, four mobile games were released as the Travels Series. The first two games, Dawnstar and Stormhold have the honor of being released in tandem to one another and were playable on mobile flip phones. While the games are average at best, they are extremely rare and hard to find. Emulators are readily available, but one needs to be willing to go to the darkest pits of the internet to be able to find these babies. As for the games themselves, they are dungeon crawlers with randomly generated dungeons, pure and simple. They’re a bit plain, but were fine for when you were waiting for the bus.
Even though the Travels Series is generally derided by fans, Shadowkey managed to stick out from the rest. While Dawnstar and Stormhold were developed for the average phone at the time, Shadowkey made its debut on the Nokia N-Gage handheld/phone hybrid. Coming out just two days after the Nintendo DS, the decision to make the N-Gage the system of choice for Shadowkey was a poor move. The game had way too much fog, the controls were bad, and the frames per second were in the single digits. Despite all this, the game actually manages to push the boundaries more than any other spin-off here. The amount of content within a portable 3D game, including equipment, areas, and characters, was years ahead of other games at the time. The plot revolves around another barrier-breaker, the infinitely interesting Shadow Magic and keeping it out of the hands of evildoers. If not for its technical constraints, Shadowkey had the potential to be truly great.
The fourth and final game in the Travels Series is a mobile version of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and is pretty much what you would expect from a mobile version of such a robust game. Interestingly enough, screenshots of a canceled version for the PSP made their way online. From the looks of it, it would’ve been great!
The Elder Scrolls: Legends
The next spin-off set to come out is The Elder Scrolls: Legends, which will be a free to play digital card game based on the parent series. The game comes out later this year, so time will tell if this will live up to its name.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition will be released on Oct. 28, 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.