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The Elder Scrolls Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing (MMORPG) video game developed by ZeniMax Online Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.[1][2] It was originally released for Microsoft Windows and OS X in April 2014.[3] It is a part of The Elder Scrolls series, of which it is the first multiplayer installment.

The Elder Scrolls Online
Elder Scrolls Online cover.png
Developer(s) ZeniMax Online Studios
Publisher(s) Bethesda Softworks
Director(s) Matt Firor
Producer(s) Ala Diaz
Designer(s) Nick Konkle
Richard Lambert
Programmer(s) Daniel Dunham
Artist(s) Jared Carr
Mathew Weathers
Writer(s) Wynne McLaughlin
Lawrence Schick
Composer(s) Brad Derrick
Series The Elder Scrolls
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Microsoft Windows, OS X
April 4, 2014
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
June 9, 2015
Genre(s) Massively multiplayer online role-playing
Mode(s) Multiplayer

As with other games in The Elder Scrolls franchise, the game is set in the continent of Tamriel and features a storyline indirectly connected with the other games. The Elder Scrolls Online had been in development for seven years before its release in 2014. It initially received mixed reviews, but these improved significantly with the re-release and rebranding as The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, with critics praising the changes.

Similar to other MMORPGs, The Elder Scrolls Online originally used a mandatory monthly subscription model, until it transitioned to a buy-to-play model with microtransactions and an optional subscription in March 2015. The game was then renamed as The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited,[4][5] and released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles in June 2015. As of 2017, the game had around a million monthly active players, with over 8.5 million players in total since release.



As in previous The Elder Scrolls titles, gameplay is mostly nonlinear, with a mixture of quests, random events, and free-roaming exploration of the world.[6] The game does not provide a mode for single-player offline play, although the developers stated that there would be "plenty of content" designed to accommodate players who prefer to play solo.[7]

The player is able to play as ten different races; four different varieties of humans: Nords, Redguards, Bretons, and Imperials; Elvish varieties: Dunmer (Dark Elves), Altmer (High Elves), Bosmer (Wood Elves) and Orsimer (Orcs); and more bestial races: the Khajiiti and Argonians. Players must choose one of five classes when creating their character. Each class gives the player various different attacks, spells, and passive effects. The game has other character choices beyond those of race and class, such as the player character also being able to become either a vampire or a werewolf, each of which grants its own skill tree.


As with other games in The Elder Scrolls series, the game is set on the continent of Tamriel. The events of the game occur a millennium before those of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and around 800 years before The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It has a broadly similar structure to Skyrim, with two separate conflicts progressing at the same time, one with the fate of the world in the balance, and one where the prize is supreme power on Tamriel. In The Elder Scrolls Online, the first struggle is against the Daedric Prince Molag Bal, who is attempting to meld the plane of Mundus with his realm of Coldharbour, and the second is to capture the vacant imperial throne, contested by three alliances of the mortal races. The player character has been sacrificed to Molag Bal, and Molag Bal has stolen their soul, the recovery of which is the primary game objective.[1]

Many parts of the continent of Tamriel are available in the game, with most zones being accessible based on faction. Some zones are accessible with DLC-only from the Crown Store, while others are accessible to players of any faction when they reach a certain level. Players have the opportunity to join any of the three factions warring over the Ruby Throne of the Emperor of Tamriel:[1] the First Aldmeri Dominion (represented by an eagle) led by Queen Ayrenn, composed of the Altmer (High Elf), Bosmer (Wood Elf), and Khajiit races; the Daggerfall Covenant (represented by a lion) led by High King Emeric, composed of the Bretons, Redguard, and Orsimer (Orcs); and the Ebonheart Pact (represented by a dragon) led by Jorunn Skald-King, composed of the Nord, Dunmer (Dark Elf), and Argonian races. Players may also unlock an additional race, Imperial, which may be a part of any of the three factions. The other major ruling faction of Tamriel is the Empire, led by Empress Regent Clivia Tharn, which has fallen into instability and disrepair, and serves as a non-joinable faction. Pre-ordered copies of the game included the "Explorers' Pack", which allowed all races to be played in each of the factions, and this feature is available in the Crown Store.[8]

The game begins in the Wailing Prison in Coldharbour, where the player character's soulless husk has been enslaved. This opening continues another The Elder Scrolls tradition, of beginning the game with the player as a prisoner.[1] After escaping, the base of operations becomes the Harborage, a cave found at each of the starting cities, and is where the Prophet opens portals to the locations of the main questline. Once the Amulet of Kings is retrieved, the headquarters shift to the Hollow City, a location in central Coldharbour blessed by Meridia. Civilians saved from Coldharbour's prisons arrive in the Hollow City, and it is from there that attacks on Molag Bal's controlled areas are orchestrated.[9]


The Elder Scrolls Online had been in development for 7 years before its release in 2014.[1] It is the first project for ZeniMax Online Studios, which was formed in 2007. Matt Firor, studio lead at ZeniMax Online, is the director of The Elder Scrolls Online.[2]

While rumors of a massively multiplayer The Elder Scrolls game had been circulating for years, accurate information about the game and its imminent May 2012 announcement was not leaked until March 2012, to online publication Tom's Guide by an anonymous industry source.[10] According to the leak, the game was scheduled to be shown at E3 2012 in June and QuakeCon 2012 in August. On November 8, 2012, Bethesda released a video on YouTube called "An Introduction to The Elder Scrolls Online", in which the game's developers talk about the game's content and development.[11] Several actors were announced to voice the characters of The Elder Scrolls Online, among them John Cleese, Bill Nighy, Kate Beckinsale, Lynda Carter, Alfred Molina, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Hale, Malcolm McDowell, and Peter Stormare.[12]

Beta sign-ups for The Elder Scrolls Online began on January 21, 2013, and continued for seven rounds until February 26.[13][14][15]

In June 2013, Sony announced that The Elder Scrolls Online would be available on PlayStation 4 at their E3 press conference. It was later clarified by Bethesda that it would also be available on Xbox One.[16] While players on PC and Mac play together, those on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 play only with others on the same platform.[17] In August 2013, at Gamescom, it was announced that The Elder Scrolls Online would have a monthly subscription fee upon release for all platforms.[18][19] Subscriptions could be purchased in 30-, 90-, and 180-day increments.[20] While it was announced in January 2014 that the game would not require a PlayStation Plus subscription to play online,[21] the Xbox One version would require an Xbox Live Gold subscription in addition to a The Elder Scrolls Online monthly subscription.[22] On May 8, 2014, Bethesda spoke about development of the console editions, announcing that the release date for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game would be delayed until the end of 2014, though it was revealed in December 2014 that the game's console debut was once again delayed into the Spring of 2015. ZeniMax Online Studios announced that players who purchased The Elder Scrolls Online before the end of June 2014 would have the opportunity to transfer their characters from Microsoft Windows or Mac OS to either console platform and receive a free 30-day subscription.[23]


Original releaseEdit

The Elder Scrolls Online was announced on May 3, 2012, on the Game Informer website and in that same month's issue of the magazine.[1] It was released on April 4, 2014, for PC and Mac. Home console releases for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released on June 9, 2015.

Shortly after the game's launch, it was reported that some players were unable to activate the 30-day complimentary game time included with their purchase until a subscription had been set up and—in "a strange state of affairs" and "most likely a mistake"—after a full month had been paid for.[24] A serious item duplication exploit was discovered that allowed players to gain huge fortunes, which was patched shortly after release.[25] ZeniMax later announced that they had permanently banned thousands of accounts because of the exploit.[26]

Tamriel UnlimitedEdit

On January 21, 2015, it was announced that an active subscription would no longer be needed to play the game effective March 17, 2015.[27] Aside from the initial game price, there will be an optional subscription called "ESO Plus" which grants access to all current and future downloadable content (DLC) and a monthly allotment of 1500 Crowns, one of the in-game currencies, as long as the player stays subscribed. The DLC will also be available for separate purchase in the Crown Store. Additionally, the optional subscription grants various perks that allow players to progress slightly faster than a free player.[28]

Gold EditionEdit

On July 6, 2016, ZeniMax announced the release of a "Gold Edition" of The Elder Scrolls Online for September 9, 2016. The Gold Edition includes the base game and a certain vanity item, as well as the four major DLCs: Imperial City, Orsinium, Thieves Guild, and Dark Brotherhood.[29] Additionally, ZeniMax released the "Guilds and Glory" DLC pack for users who already own the base game.[30]

Expansions and updatesEdit



On January 31, 2017, ZeniMax Online Studios announced a full expansion pack based in Vvardenfell, the setting originally playable in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.[31] Unlike previous DLC for the game, Morrowind is not purchasable with crown points, and must be purchased as a separate title. The expansion includes a new class, a new trial, and a new player vs. player mode, known as "Battlegrounds".[31] The expansion was released on June 6, 2017.[32]

Downloadable contentEdit

The Imperial CityEdit

On June 14, 2015, at the Bethesda showcase at E3, downloadable content (DLC) was announced for the Imperial City, the Capital of Cyrodiil.[33] It was released for the PC and OS X on August 31, 2015, for the Xbox One on September 15, and for the PlayStation 4 on September 16. It introduced a new currency known as Tel Var Stones, and added the game's largest dungeon to date, The Imperial City Sewers. The city itself is overrun by the forces of Daedric Prince Molag Bal, with every district and the central White-Gold Tower being merged into his realm.[34]


At the E3 showcase, the new zone of Wrothgar was announced in a DLC called Orsinium, the capital of the Orsimer, better known as Orcs.[33] The DLC was released in November 2015, and introduces a solo challenge known as the Maelstrom Arena. The questline involves assisting the Orcish King Kurog with rebuilding the city of Orsinium.[35]

Thieves GuildEdit

The Thieves Guild DLC was revealed by ZeniMax in a livestream to be set in a new area, Abah's Landing in Hammerfell, featuring an all new quest line and new game mechanics.[36] The DLC was released in March 2016.[37]

Dark BrotherhoodEdit

At the end of the 2015 E3 trailer, was a note with a black hand on it that stated the words, "We Know", a reference to a Dark Brotherhood guild in previous The Elder Scrolls games.[33] The Dark Brotherhood DLC takes place on the Gold Coast of Cyrodiil, and introduces new story content and gameplay mechanics.[36] It was released on May 31, 2016, for Microsoft Windows, and on June 14, 2016, for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[38] It was made available on the Public Test Server on April 25, 2016. In addition to the Dark Brotherhood questline, the release of the expansion saw the removal of the Veteran Progression System,[39] a new system of poison crafting, and quality of life changes for The Elder Scrolls Online Plus subscribers, including "craft bags", which allow subscribers to store crafting materials without taking up space in their inventory.[40]

Shadows of the HistEdit

In an interview with IGN, game director Matt Firor said that the last DLC for 2016 would be Argonian-themed.[41] Further information was later released, revealing the title to be Shadows of the Hist. The DLC includes two new dungeons: the Cradle of Shadows and Ruins of Mazzatun, and was released in August 2016.[42]

Content updatesEdit

One TamrielEdit

In June 2016, a new content update, titled One Tamriel, was announced. The update changed the core gameplay to allow players to play quests, explore areas, and group up with others without previously implemented restrictions.[43] The update was released in October 2016.[44]


In October 2016, Firor announced that player housing would be coming to the game in 2017.[45] It was released on February, 6, 2017 as part of update 13. There are over 40 different types of houses available, homes are styled after the game's 10 playable races, and they come in furnished or unfurnished versions, which can be bought using in game gold or with real money using crowns.[46]


Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic (PC) 80/100[47]
(XONE) 77/100[48]
(PS4) 74/100[49]
Review scores
Publication Score
Game Revolution 4/5[50]
GameSpot 6/10[51]
IGN 8/10[52]
PC Gamer (US) 68/100[53]
Polygon 6/10[54]

Original releaseEdit

The Elder Scrolls Online initially received mixed reviews; the game has a weighted aggregate rating of 71/100 on Metacritic, based on 64 reviews.[55] PC Gamer gave the game a score of 68/100, writing that it is "an MMORPG of moderate scope with a few good ideas" but cautioning that "'okay' isn't good enough when you're facing down this much of a premium."[53] The game was mainly criticized for an excess of bugs, a "phasing" mechanic that separated players from groups, and its Veteran Progression System. There was also some controversy about the game's utilization of a subscription model.

ZeniMax responded to and fixed many of the game's early criticisms, releasing major updates since the game's launch. In January 2015, they announced that the game would no longer be using a subscription model, becoming effective March 17, 2015. ZeniMax also announced that the game would be coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on June 9, 2015, and that the game would be rebranded as The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited.[56]

Tamriel UnlimitedEdit

Tamriel Unlimited received mostly positive reviews. The PlayStation 4 version of the game has a weighted aggregate rating of 74/100 on Metacritic, based on 30 reviews,[49] PC version has 80/100 based on 4 reviews[47] and Xbox One version received 77/100 based on 11 reviews.[48] Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead reviewed the game, saying that "For fans eager for a new fix all these years on from Skyrim, that may well be enough. The ability to share the adventure, somewhat clumsily, with friends is both a selling point and a pitfall, but those who concentrate their efforts on the Alliance War will find the experience worthwhile."[57]


The Elder Scrolls Online was the top-selling game in the United Kingdom for the week of April 5, 2014, for individual formats, and number two across all formats.[58] When the game was released on consoles, the game once again became the top-selling game in the United Kingdom for the week of June 15, 2015, across all formats, becoming the year's second best-selling game at retail[59] The game was ranked the best-selling digital PlayStation 4 game of June 2015 in the United States and Europe.[60][61] In the United States, the game was the second and sixth best-selling game of June and July 2015, respectively.[62][63][64]

In February 2017, it was announced that the game had surpassed over 8.5 million in retail sales[65] having around one million monthly active players.[66] In June 2017, it was announced that more than 10 million players had played the game since released, and that the game had around 2.5 million monthly active players.[67]


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External linksEdit