The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset Game Poster Image
Elven content poses timely moral questions.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Asks timely questions about tolerance; tests players' empathy and compassion toward others in challenging situations and moral dilemmas.

Positive Role Models & Representations

For every kind-hearted hero, there's a selfish, cruel counterpart. Players get the chance to decide which kind of player they want to be.

Ease of Play

There's a definite learning curve in balancing your skills, learning new abilities, and then triggering them during exploration or battle. 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

Frequent 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 or humanoid. Blood splashes from wounds, and there's some gore. Also scenes of torture, mass deaths (e.g., piles of skulls), beheading, and dismemberment.

Sex

Mild references to sex/sexuality throughout.

Language

Unmoderated chat can expose players to inappropriate language/content.

Consumerism

Login ads encourage players to purchase boosts and vanity items. This expansion to the online game requires the original title to play. Premium subscription provides bonus content and additional downloadable content (DLC) for $14.99/month.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Game characters can buy and drink alcohol in the game and even play a drinking game (vision becomes blurred, and speech becomes slurred). Many missions can be picked up in taverns.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset is the second expansion of the popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) The Elder Scrolls Online. Expect frequent bloody, gory violence, as players kill monsters, animals, and humanoids with swords, bows and arrows, and magical spells. Players can buy and drink alcohol as well as pick up quests in taverns. There are mild references to sex and sexuality in the game, and players can use the in-game chat to have iffy conversations (though swearing can be censored with the profanity filter). Basic game service is free with the purchase of the base game and the Summerset expansion; players can also pay an additional $14.99/month for a premium subscription, which entitles them to premium content (vanity items, boosts) and full access to all downloadable content (normally available as a separate purchase). The game regularly promotes its in-game store, which sells vanity items, storage upgrades, mounts, and housing items for real-world cash.

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What's it about?

THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: SUMMERSET is the second expansion of fantasy MMORPG The Elder Scrolls Online. Its focus is the verdant home of the "Altmer," or High Elves, and the mysterious force threatening their land's magical, pristine beauty. The expansion features new combat abilities for players to master, a new 12-player dungeon to explore, and a useful new skill to learn: jewelry crafting. Existing players can take a portal to Summerset or create a new character and start there fresh. Once in Summerset, players learn about political tensions in the region and take on quests for the High Elves, either alone or with other players. Questing involves equal parts combat and exploration, and players are rewarded for quests by earning experience, items, and currency.

Is it any good?

The Elder Scrolls series is known for its rich storytelling, and the latest online incarnation of its world of Tamriel is just as engrossing as the one found offline. The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset takes place in the lands of the always popular High Elves; their enduring popularity among players makes them a no-brainer when it comes to subject matter for an expansion. Not only are they glamorous and elegant -- effectively Tamriel's equivalent of nobility -- but their history is mysteriously ancient, and their lands are what fantasy lovers' dreams are made of. That said, there's a dark side to all the glamour and beauty, which makes for some thought-provoking adventure. Early on, it becomes all too apparent that the Altmer are an arrogant, racist people, unsympathetic to the plight of others. With their queen having opened the borders against the people's will, they're quick to let you and everyone who's not a High Elf know just how unwelcome you are in their country.

Their behavior and the game's overall theme is extremely timely, and both offer a great way to start some important discussions with kids. By taking this subject on, The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset makes quests more than just excuses to kill things and earn gold; they become litmus tests of your empathy and compassion. Yes, there's still a lot of violence, blood, and death in this expansion, which makes it inappropriate for younger players, but it's set within a thoughtful context that makes you consider what you're doing and what the consequences of your actions might be. In addition to that, it makes free-form exploration fun and rewarding. If it deserves any critique at all, it's for the often-confusing map/quest-tracking function that can make finding your objectives harder than it should be. Still, this is a great expansion, even for players completely new to The Elder Scrolls Online, and mature story-loving role players will kick themselves if they miss it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. How does the violence in a fantasy-based game like The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset compare to what you'd see in more realistic/contemporary game worlds? Is there such a thing as justifiable violence?

  • What big issues (i.e. racism, violence, poverty, gender equality) does your favorite fantasy game, movie, or book tackle? Does it handle them effectively? Why or why not?

  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset deals with issues of exclusion, which raises the question: How likely are you to befriend someone who's not like you? Are you willing to extend yourself to outsiders or people who are different from you?

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