The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr Game Poster Image
Desert expansion asks tough moral questions.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

For the most part, the main quests have players working to help the Khajit people (non-player characters) overcome their oppressors; side quests have players helping non-player characters solve personal problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players get to choose their characters' moral alignment. Not only do they choose their own races and roles (Sorcerer, Templar, Necromancer), they can also choose to do illegal/immoral things such as stealing and fencing items.

Ease of Play

Tutorial teaches basics, but keyboard controls, strategic skill, and gear use require experience to be successful in battle. Some areas are too difficult for a single player and require cooperation with other players. 

Violence

Combat's a big part of gameplay; humans and animals are cut, burned, shocked, hit with arrows and blunt weapons. Player characters can die but are immediately resurrected. Quests ask players to kill people or creatures and reward them for killing. 

Sex

Some female characters wear revealing outfits, showing low necklines and bare midriff armor. 

Language

Unmoderated chat could expose players to inappropriate comments from other gamers.

Consumerism

Players can buy items in the in-game store that make progression faster and easier, and temptation is high to spend money on things like mounts, pets, special outfits. This is the latest expansion for the Elder Scrolls MMO (massively multiplayer online) game.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Players can purchase alcoholic drinks and visit taverns; some characters are shown drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr is an expansion to massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) The Elder Scrolls Online (the expansion comes with the base game), which is available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. This title takes place in the desert region of Elsweyr, and adds new environments, character abilities, and enemies to face. Combat's the core of gameplay, and players are rewarded for killing humans, humanoids, and monsters with fire, cold, and electric shocks, as well as ranged and melee weapons, and the game shows blood and gore. Player characters can visit taverns and buy alcoholic drinks, and drunkenness is depicted. Some female characters wear revealing costumes. In-game chat could expose players to profanity as well as suggestive, violent, or substance-related content and bullying (players can block other players and employ a profanity filter if they want). An in-game shop prompts players to spend real-world money on in-game currency for performance-enhancing potions and vanity items. Online versus play could expose players to harassment.

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What's it about?

THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: ELSWEYR is the latest expansion to the fantasy MMO (massively multiplayer online) game The Elder Scrolls Online. The expansion focuses on the desert region of Northern Elsweyr, which is the home of the Khajit, a proud race of cat people. Dragons have invaded Khajit lands, along with a dangerous would-be usurper and her necromancer accomplice, and it's up to players to work together to defeat them. Along with new story content and a new zone to explore, the expansion comes with a new class, the Necromancer (whose powers can get players in trouble if used in polite company), a range of new gear and weaponry, and best of all, dragons! Dragons enter the game as formidable foes, offering players the chance to join together for an epic fight. 

Is it any good?

When it comes to style and story, this expansion lives up to The Elder Scrolls' usual standard of excellence and is well worth the cost, even with some AI character flaws. Considering that The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr descended from a series of single-player adventure/role-playing games, it's perhaps no surprise that it does solo play better than other MMOs. The expansion throws you into the heart of the action, expertly creating a sense of peril while making you feel what you do makes a difference. As it goes along, the main quest line introduces you to a series of new characters (and reacquaints you with a few old friends) who quickly become allies in the fight against the dragons. Difficulty for a solo player is generally good, though occasionally you'll need a few friends (or friendly strangers) to progress. You can, of course, build your skills up by completing optional side quests, and Elsweyr offers you plenty of these, with situations and narratives that are tragic, funny, mysterious, and scary -- and that explore serious themes related to the suffering of an oppressed people. Whatever their emotional tenor, they're worth playing through.

The Necromancer, the new character class, is equally worthwhile, with three complementary skill tracks to follow and numerous interesting spells. (For the uninitiated, Necromancers manipulate souls and raise the dead.) Of course, you have to be careful where you display these ghoulish abilities; turn into a Bone Colossus in town, and you're likely to have words with local law enforcement. In any case, the kingdoms of Northern Elsweyr are a lot of fun to explore, but if you're a loot hound, you could be disappointed. This isn't a loot-centric game, so searching every bag and chest is generally a waste of time. Also, if you're seen carrying stolen goods, the guards will force you to pay a fine. (How they know you have stolen goods is anyone's guess.) This represents one questionable mechanic in the game, and points to another: lazy AI. Too often you find yourself adventuring with AI characters who stand by and do nothing while you fight off enemies. There's no narrative reason for it; they just don't help. Worse yet, if a monster chases you into a city and you engage in combat, the townspeople stand like statues, not reacting to the attack. It's a let-down -- a dead spot in a world that otherwise feels so alive. In spite of this, The Elder Scrolls: Elsweyr offers a range of moving and entertaining stories, an abundance of new challenges, and a good number of exotic locations to explore. Granted, because of its mature themes, near-constant violence, and blood and gore, it isn't the best option for kids. So keep it for yourself, and steer your kids toward a different MMO.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about setting limits for in-game store purchases. Do your kids think they can buy whatever they want, whenever they want? 

  • Can any skills learned in role-playing games be transferred for use in the real world? How can you make sure that these skills work the way you want them to?

Game details

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