A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The Elder Scrolls Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) that lets you decide how you want to play. Positive themes including loyalty, trust, and friendship are found throughout the narrative. However, much of the gameplay is unavoidably focused on violent and sometimes gory combat.
Positive Role Models
As with most role-playing games, you can customize the look and abilities of your character, including age and gender. Once the game begins players control the character's behavior, including whether he or she is good or evil -- or a positive or negative role model.
Ease of Play
There's a learning curve, but those who've played previous The Elder Scrolls games or other MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) should pick it up fairly quickly. Windows PC versions of the game use a mouse and keyboard for control. The console editions use a gamepad.
Violence & Scariness
Action is made up of frequent and bloody fantasy combat. Players can use swords, knives, bows and arrows, and other weapons -- including magical spells -- to kill thousands of enemies, many of whom are human. Blood can be seen splashing from wounds and there is some gore. Scenes of torture, mass deaths (e.g. piles of skulls), beheading, and dismemberment are also present.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Players will encounter female characters with low-cut clothing revealing deep cleavage as well as sexually suggestive language. Sexual violence is referred to in dialogue that mentions a male raping a female and vice versa (example: "She...raped the men as cruelly as Bal had ravished her".)
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In-game dialogue includes only mild profanity, such as the words "hell" and "damn." However, because the game must be played online -- presumably with others -- gamers might encounter other people using inappropriate language while speaking with one another or text chatting.
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Products & Purchases
A monthly subscription is required. The developer has stated there will be other things players can purchase with real money in the game.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The player can purchase and consume alcohol in the game, and even partake in a drinking game (vision becomes blurred and speech becomes slurred). Many missions can be acquired from taverns.
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Parents Need to Know
The Elder Scrolls Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) that requires players to play online with others to complete many missions. If players allow voice or text communication they may hear inappropriate language spoken by others. Action focuses on combat in which players use medieval weapons like swords and bows, as well as magical spells, to kill enemies. Foes often scream in pain and their wounds gush red blood. Sexual references -- including mention of rape -- exist within dialogue and texts found around the game world. Players can consume alcohol to the point of inebriation, resulting in a camera blurring effect.
Is It Any Good?
The Elder Scrolls Online is generally a good game, but be aware a massive, open-ended MMORPG like this must be played for many weeks (or even months) before knowing if it's a worthwhile investment. As a result, consider this review a "first look" at this ambitious game rather than a deep dive. Still, so far, it's a lot of fun. It doesn't veer too far from other popular MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft, but still offers a few new twists in a universe familiar to fans. For example, it features a smart real-time combat system that fuses strategy with action and is tailored to your individual character's class, abilities, and weapon loadout. It takes a bit getting used to, but targeting, attacking, and blocking become quite intuitive over a short time during which you'll likely encounter only low-level threats. While the game's huge world can be a bit daunting, a handy compass will guide you to areas of interest, including mission objectives, characters, events, and landmarks. The world has a look consistent with previous The Elder Scrolls games, complete with very impressive graphics, animation, and special effects. The voice acting and music is also superb.
Just keep in mind that you are now expected (but not necessarily required) to venture out and potentially chat with groups of friends in order to complete missions -- a clear departure from the single-player games in this 20 year-old franchise. There is also a PvP (player versus player) option for those who want to play more competitively than cooperatively. As with many other MMORPGs, especially when they first launch, there are some technical glitches, including characters that get stuck in or walk through objects (like walls), frozen screens, and even the occasional crash to desktop. But knowing the talented folks at Bethesda Softworks are behind the game, these issues will likely get smoothed out sooner than later. The Elder Scrolls Online might not reinvent the MMORPG genre, but the developers have added some nice new touches, along with an intriguing story, comfortable controls, and awesome graphics. After two decades of single-player-only adventures, this online game in The Elder Scrolls universe was well worth the wait.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.