Bethesda announced in January that its upcoming subscription-based MMO The Elder Scrolls Online had received an M-for-Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a determination the company did not agree with–despite every other recent entry in the series being M-rated–but would not challenge.
Now, the ESRB product description for The Elder Scrolls Online has been published publicly, giving insight into why the game earned an M-rating. The ESRB’s main content descriptors note that the game contains “Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence.”
But it’s the ESRB’s complete ratings summary that sheds a better light on the M-rating. As you can read in the below text, The Elder Scrolls Online features sexual innuendo in its dialogue (“In his mind, she would be the sheath to every knight’s blade”), bloody depictions of severed heads, and drinking games that result in the character’s blurred vision and impaired speech.
This is a multiplayer online role-playing game in which players assume the role of a warrior in the fantastical world of Nirn. As players explore open-world environments, they can perform various quests and complete tasks. Characters use swords, arrows, axes, and magic attacks (e.g., lightning, fire attacks) to kill human-like and fantastical enemies (e.g., orcs, demons, giant insects). Players engage in melee-style combat, hacking and slashing at various enemies; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, impact sounds, and blood splashes. Some sequences depict large amounts of blood streaming up-close as vampires attack/feed on characters. In some quests players have the ability to mount creatures’ severed heads onto pikes; some environments depict corpse piles or skeletons hanging from torture devices. Text descriptions or dialogue sometimes contain references to sexual material and/or innuendo (e.g., “She…raped the men as cruelly as Bal had ravished her”; “In his mind, she would be the sheath to every knight’s blade”; “No sweetmeat for you”; But it is huge! It could take me all night!”). During the course of the game, alcohol (i.e., wine, mead, ale) can be purchased and consumed by the central character; one sequence prompts players to engage in a drinking contest, resulting in the central character’s blurred vision/slurred speech.
The ESRB rating also mentions that because The Elder Scrolls Online is an online-focused game, players are likely to be exposed to user-generated content that cannot be rated.
Bethesda said in January that it will not challenge the rating or change the game’s content to achieve a different rating. “The game we have created is the one we want our fans to be able to play,” Bethesda said at the time.
The Elder Scrolls Online launches for PC and Mac on April 4, with a release for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to follow in June 2014. The game carries a $15/month subscription. On PS4, the game will not require PlayStation Plus, but the Xbox One version will mandate that players have an Xbox Live Gold account.
I love massively multiplayer role-playing games. I love Elder Scrolls games. And I love exploring huge fantasy worlds, seeking treasure and gawking at gorgeous vistas that feel at once foreign and familiar. You would suppose that The Elder Scrolls Online is my dream game, an online RPG in which I can join others in daring feats and seeing just how far we can bend the world to our wishes before it snaps back.
Up until a recent beta weekend, however, The Elder Scrolls Online hadn’t enthused me. I’d seen the game in action, heard developer Bethesda Softworks explain their design approach, and played the game myself, and my impression rarely wavered: ESO looked and sounded dated, a product of old philosophies that the genre had outgrown, with clumsy animations and by-the-numbers questing. Over the weekend, I played a good dozen hours of the game, and my outlook improved. Do I still think The Elder Scrolls Online is beholden to outdated ideas? Yes. Am I still as apathetic to the game as I once had been? No.
What drew me in was the world. Yes, it’s a world many of us already know, but The Elder Scrolls Online uses that familiarity to its advantage, easing back on the user interface and allowing Tamriel to fill the screen, rather than relying on labels and markers. By default, you don’t see names and titles hovering over the heads of your fellow players, vendors aren’t identified as such onscreen, and the hotbar containing your attack icons disappears when you’re not engaged in combat. As you roam the wilds and stroll about the streets of the city of Welcome back to Daggerfall.
As I played, however, it didn’t take me long to see the downside of the game’s focus on immersion, one that was exacerbated by the limited group of players inhabiting the same fields and dungeons. I was approaching ESO as I would approach any Elder Scrolls game: as an adventure of my own, unsullied by the presence of others. I occasionally noticed other players, but there was no reason to interact with them, and the game offered no encouragement to do so. The chat channels were all but silent–again, partially because I was not surrounded by a full contingent of players, but also (I suspect) because we were involved in our own personal agendas and had no need to interact. In turn, I had to ask myself: does this game need to be online at all?
It’s too soon to know, even after a dozen hours. However, because I was a lone adventurer, it didn’t take long for me to notice that next to, say, Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls Online wasn’t stacking up. On one hand, perhaps it’s unfair to presume that all of the series’ elements should be brought to an online environment intact; on the other, the game is so intent on replicating the tone of the single-player games that it’s almost impossible to not make comparisons. Fair or not, I noticed how the online environment dulls some of the shine. There’s certainly plenty of exploration value, and the wide-open world beckons you to poke around, but that larger-than-life feel that comes from games like Oblivion and Morrowind is lacking.
The Elder Scrolls Online uses that familiarity to its advantage, easing back on the user interface and allowing Tamriel to fill the screen, rather than relying on labels and markers.
I recall, for instance, the first time I saw a giant silt strider in Morrowind. It towered over me, statuesque and obedient, prepared for me to leap on and hitch a ride to Seyda Neen. In Skyrim, I stood in awe at my initial glimpse of a mammoth lumbering off in the distance–and of course, the first ten minutes of that game were terrorized by a fearful dragon. In such instances, your imagination runs wild. What wonders will this world reveal? By contrast, The Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t feel as mysterious.
That’s not to disparage the game’s production values, or to dismiss its atmosphere, which nails the proper vibe. But the usual Elder Scrolls invitation to go anywhere and do anything has been stifled a bit, instead sending you down a path more akin to other online RPGs. I do admire Bethesda’s commitment to the universe, however. When you initiate dialogue with a non-player character, the camera adjusts to picture her on the left side of the screen, while the right side displays the dialogue and your potential choices. Aside from interactions that have not yet had audio inserted, every line is spoken aloud, and characters and tomes dump lore on you by the bucketload. “Never have the elemental spirits refused to answer our calls,” says a character called Wyress Helene. “The grass, the trees, the very earth itself–they’re dying.” Oh yes, this is Elder Scrolls all right.
It did take me some time to realize, however that it was not an Elder Scrolls that would allow me to kill random townsfolks, steal their gold, and then fill their house with dragon bones. The game let me pilfer random goodies from sacks and trays, but I never got to pickpocket a vendor or slash his throat. The very online nature of the game prevents such delights. The problem with that is that I have yet to see how the online nature of the game benefits it, and I may not know until the game is launched and the servers fill with other fantasy buffs.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed my questing time, due to the variety of the locales and circumstances. Bethesda has always done a great job of taking typical RPG duties–kill things, collect things, click on things–and giving them good context so that you don’t feel like you are repeating the same activities over and over again. When a dog trotted up to me, I eagerly followed him so that he would lead me to my next objective. When villagers were burnt out of their homes, I went in search of stray victims in need of assistance. I was even transported to the past, where I discovered the origins of a racial conflict that had present day implications. And in many of those cases, I had choices on how to proceed. For example, I could interrogate prisoners so that they would divulge the information I required, or I could order the guards to slit their throats, and then compel the victims’ spirits to betray their kinfolk.
Of course, a lot of these quests required that I slash up bandits and wolves with daggers, or fling fire at them. I like that The Elder Scrolls Online provides so much flexibility in how you develop your character. You choose a race and class at the outset, but from there, you equip weapons and armor as you see fit, and earn additional possibilities as you spend skill points and align with certain guilds.
Sadly, the act of beating creatures to a bloody pulp isn’t nearly as compelling as you might hope. The battle system resides in an odd purgatory between the action-based combat of Tera or Neverwinter and the traditional hotkey combat of World of Warcraft or Everquest II. You use mouse buttons to perform standard attacks and blocks, and press keys to unleash more powerful abilities, but whether I was dual wielding axes or pointing a magical staff hovering imps, I was typically unimpressed. The combat in Skyrim and Oblivion is messy, but it still delivers some sense of impact and personal control. The Elder Scrolls Online’s battles, on the other hand, lack any sense of connection between blade and flesh. The animations are the most culpable criminals in the combat crimes, which perhaps comes as no surprise given that animations are a continuing weakness in the series. Nonetheless, the stiff animations and seemingly random hitboxes make for milquetoast skirmishes.
But here’s the thing: I had a lot of fun of playing The Elder Scrolls Online during its most recent test weekend. The fantasy ambience, the beautiful world, and the varied quests kept me absorbed, even when I was so keenly aware of the game’s shortcomings. I’m just not sure how long the enjoyment can last. The game seems stuck between two identities: the massively multiplayer journey, and the liberated Elder Scrolls adventure. And I’m not sure that The Elders Scrolls Online can reconcile the differences in a way that satisfies fans of either approach.
Bethesda releases an eight minute trailer for Elder Scrolls Online featuring a glimpse of Cyrodiil, From Software tells us how Dark Souls is getting harder, and why did Nintendo’s CEO slash his salary in half?
As the trailer continues we get to see the action taken closer to Tamriel’s capital city, Cyrodiil, which Oblivion players will already be intimately familiar with.
Bethesda also announced the Imperial Edition of The Elder Scrolls Online, which will be sold both physically and digitally. The boxed version will retail for $99.99/€99.99/£89.99/AU$139.95, and the digital version will be sold for $79.99/€79.99/£69.99/AU$119.95.
The physical edition comes with a 30.5cm status of daedric prince Molag Bal, a 224-page illustrated guide to Tamriel, and a 53.3cm x 66cm map of the continent. You’ll also get the game in a fancy steelbook.
As for in-game content–which you’ll also find in the digital The Elder Scrolls Online Imperial Edition–players will recieve the ability to play as an Imperial, including an exclusive white horse mount, alongside a Mudcrab pet and the Rings of Mara, which gives you an experience bonus when playing alongside a friend.
The Elder Scrolls Online will be released for PC and Mac on April 4. The game comes with a 30-day subscription to the MMO, but players must then spend $14.99 (€12.99/£8.99) a month to continue playing.
Elder Scrolls Online (ESO), the upcoming MMO for the popular Elder Scrolls series is approaching its release (April 4th for PC, June for PS4 and Xbox One). With the game costing $60 and having a subscription fee of $15 per month, many have been wondering whether the game will be behind a second pay wall of Live/PSN Plus.
Today, the game’s director Matt Firor confirmed that players on PS4 won’t need to have PSN Plus in order to play the game. On the other hand, Xbox One owners will need Xbox Live Gold.
Firor also confirmed various facts in today’s Q&A, including separate servers for EU and US players, and separate servers between PC and PS4 players. Recently the game was rated M by the ESRB. Bethesda confirmed they will not challenge the rating as they are “unwilling to change the game’s content to achieve a different rating”, even though they wished for a T rating.
Bethesda Softworks announced a press release last week that was promoting its upcoming MMO The Elder Scrolls Online that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has sold more than 20 million units worldwide. The game first launched in November 2011.
The game has sold 16.33 million units worldwide at retail, according to VGChartz. That puts digital sales around 3.67 million units. The Xbox 360 version is the top selling version with sales of 7.77 million units at retail. The PlayStation 3 version has sold 5.24 million units, while the PC version has sold 3.32 million units.
There are no games in the top 30 to be in its final week.
One game has 200,000 or more pre-orders, the same as last week, and the top 13 has 100,000 or more pre-orders, up from 12 last week. One game added 20,000 or more pre-orders, the same as last week and three added 10,000 or more, down from four last week.
Games in Final Week Before Launch
There are no games in the top 40 to be in its final week.
Major Performers in the U.S. – Week Ending January 18
Hardware and software sales are expected to drop across the board, however by less than the previous week.
Other Hot Games – In Order of Release
Titanfall (XOne) added 11,481 pre-orders, down from 11,622 last week, for a total of 199,920. The PC version added 1,143 pre-orders, down from 1,163 last week, for a total of 57,350. The Xbox 360 version added 2,350 pre-orders, up from 2,148 last week, for a total of 51,233. The game is nine weeks away from launch in the USA, March 11, 2014.
inFAMOUS: Second Son (PS4) added 8,679 pre-orders, up from 8,395 last week, for a total of 175,260. The game is 10 weeks away from launch in the USA, March 21, 2014.
Notable mentions: Destiny (PS4) 6,062 pre-orders for a total of 213,625. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3) added 11,756 pre-orders for a total of 159,834. Bravely Default: Flying Fairy (3DS) added 36,201 pre-orders for a total of 123,646.
Requests: The Elder Scrolls Online (XOne) added 1,133 pre-orders for a total of 19,338. The Elder Scrolls Online (PS4) added 1,053 pre-orders for a total of 15,939. Bayonetta 2 (WiiU) added 458 pre-orders for a total of 27,243.
If your favorite game isn’t in the top 40, leave a comment requesting which game you want to see and the most requested games will be added in next week’s article!
The Top 40 can be seen below or click here to go to the USA pre-orders page.
A life-long and avid gamer, William D’Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel dedicated to gaming Let’s Plays and tutorials. Outside, in the real world, he has a passion for the outdoors which includes everything from hiking to having received his B.A. in Environmental Studies.You can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.