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Skyrim: A Beginner’s Guide

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of those games that don’t come around very often.  A huge, expansive world, the freedom to build whatever type of character you want, and lots and lots of dragons.  It’ll also undoubtedly be stuffed full of history, legends and the lore of Tamriel, which is great for those of us who’ve played the previous games in the Elder Scrolls series and know our Mehrunes Dagon from our Dagon Fel, but perhaps a little intimidating for any newcomers.

Fear not!  Player Affinity is here to help with a swift run-through of all the previous titles in the Elder Scrolls series.  While none of the Elder Scrolls games after Arena are direct sequels to the game before them, there are some common threads which run through each game.  It’ll be spoiler-free, since we don’t know what exactly is going to happen in Skyrim yet, but it should give you a good idea of what has come before and prepare you for your travels through Skyrim when the game hits the shelves!

The Elder Scrolls I: Arena
Arena is notable for introducing many of the elements that are now staples of the Elder Scrolls games: it was a first-person RPG set in a huge (though randomly-generated) world, which allowed the player to use melee or magic abilities in combat.  The game featured a spell creation system which allowed players to create new spells from existing spell effects and introduced Emperor Uriel Septim VII and the Imperial City, both of which would appear in later Elder Scrolls games.   

In the main quest line of Arena, the Emperor was imprisoned in another dimension (revealed to be a realm of Oblivion in the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) and being impersonated by an Imperial Battlemage named Jagar Tharn.  The player was tasked with finding eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos and battling Tharn to restore the Emperor to the throne.  It’s a theme which recurs through most of the subsequent Elder Scrolls games. Your character often acts on behalf of the Emperor, who is usually in some trouble and requirs the player’s help.

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
Daggerfall carried over the successful elements from Arena such as the spell creation system and added its own enhancements, including an equipment enchantment system and the ability to buy houses (both features which are repeated in future games).  It also featured a fully 3D world, although most of the terrain was still randomly generated.

The story of Daggerfall revolved around the Numidium, an iron golem which could be controlled by an artifact called the Mantella and which was found in Illic Bay.  The player was sent by Emperor Uriel Septim VII to investigate the murder of King Lysandus and in the process, discover the location of the Mantella from Lysandus’ mother.  Again, the player was tasked with assisting the Emperor. As in Arena, the Emperor was key to the story of the game.  In addition, Daggerfall added the concept of multiple possible endings to the game based on the player’s decisions.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Morrowind is notorious as the game which really established the Elder Scrolls series as the king of the Western RPG genre.  It combined the gameplay mechanics and free-form style of the previous Elder Scrolls games with a uniquely rich and colorful world. Set on the island of Vvardenfell within the Dunmer (Dark Elf) province of Morrowind, the game took players away from the more civilized environs of Arena and Daggerfall and into a strange and wonderful world.

While Morrowind placed less emphasis on the main storyline than its predecessors and encouraged the player to explore on their own. The main quest line centered around the deity Dagoth Ur, imprisoned within a mountain in Morrowind, who sought to break the province free of the control of Emperor Uriel Septim VII, by creating a second Numidium (like the one in Daggerfall, named Akulakhan).  As an agent of the Emperor, the player is sent to Morrowind and must become a prophesied hero of legend known as ‘The Nerevarine’ in the process of stopping Dagoth Ur’s plot. 

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The most recent entry in the series, Oblivion followed on from the events of Morrowind while not being a direct sequel.  Stylistically, it maintained the gameplay elements of Morrowind while bringing back the fast-travel system that had been in place for Arena and Daggerfall.  It also brought players back to the civilized lands of Cyrodiil, in the centre of the Empire and a world away from Morrowind’s almost alien environment.  

The main storyline of Oblivion was pretty full of references to previous games: your character traversed Oblivion planes and encountered some of the daedric deities who were mentioned in earlier installments in the series, on the way to helping the son of Emperor Uriel Septim VII prevent an evil cult from unleashing a daedric lord upon Cyrodiil.  In addition, the quest line for the Thieves Guild tasked you with actually stealing one of the Elder Scrolls which are the namesake of the series.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
What little we know about the plot of Skyrim shows that the series is stepping away from its involvement with the Empire featured in every other game in the series.  Set 200 years after the events of Oblivion, it tasks your character, one of the last surviving Dovahkiin (dragon hunters anointed by the gods), with defeating a Nordic (the Nords are the Viking-like race inhabiting the province of Skyrim) god of destruction named Alduin.

The most important thing to remember about Skyrim is the philosophy which has taken center stage in every Elder Scrolls game since Arena: “be who you want, do what you want”.  The game will allow you to create a unique and individual character and explore as much of the world as you like with that character. The stories and legends of Skyrim are yours to discover, and exploration is its own reward.  If Bethesda have learnt anything from the well-placed and often incredibly poignant dioramas that could be found in many parts of Fallout 3’s world, there are likely to be lots of things to discover in the expansive landscapes of Skyrim.


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