Like the return of the dragons to Skyrim, an Elder Scrolls MMO seemed almost inevitable.
Still, that didn’t make the semi-announcement/semi-leak any less of a surprise. Bethesda‘s Todd Howard has repeatedly said that his company has no interest in developing an MMO, but times change. For whatever reason, it seems to be nearly upon us, and we’ll probably hear a legitimate announcement soon – possibly as early as next month.
So what can we expect?
The most solid details we have so far is that the game will be set about 1,000 years before Skyrim and that it will feature three factions, represented by a dragon, a lion, and some kind of “bird of prey.” That’s not much to go on, but blind speculation – especially with a property as rich as the Elder Scrolls – is always fun. So what can we make out of these miniscule details?
The Fourth Era — when Skyrim takes place — is 201 years old. The Third Era lasted 433 years, and the Second Era 897. Going back 1,000 years puts us in the sixth century 2E, which the timeline regards as a pretty slow time. Bethesda certainly could set a game in this time, crafting new lore, but it might be more tempting to move things forward a little, to the eventful ninth century of the era.
That’s when Tiber Septim essentially conquered all of Tamriel and founded a new Empire, installing himself as its first ruler and eventually ascending to godhood — unless you adhere to the tenets of the White-Gold Concordat, you Thalmor toady. There are all sorts of recognizable people and events during this time that would make for a delightful experience for Elder Scrolls lore junkies. Imagine fighting alongside Tiber Septim and his general, Symmachus, and Archmage Zurin Arctus – or joining the rebels who challenge his rule.
The dragon, lion, and bird symbols seem to indicate a likely three-faction system. As Skyrim fans know, the dragon is associated closely with the emperors, specifically the Akiviri who invaded Tamriel late in the First Era. The emperors of the early Second Era employed the Akiviri as bodyguards, a unit that eventually morphed into the emperor’s secret enforcers, the Blades.
Whatever route Bethesda takes, the “dragon faction” will almost certainly have imperial ties.
The other two factions are a little tougher to puzzle out. Having not seen the symbols for myself, I could speculate that the lion is related to the khajiit. In elder days – including, possibly, the Second Era – the khajiit leader, the Mane, would receive locks of hair from all other khajiit and incorporate it into his own mane, likely giving him a lion-like appearance. Still, it might be odd to have a faction so closely related to a single race. How would a nord or elf character fit into a khajiit-led faction?
No significant factions or peoples seem to have a particular connection to a bird, but if we go with the dragon as Tiber Septim’s avatar, a bird could symbolize the resistance to his imposed rule. Birds are often a symbol of freedom, as with America’s bald eagle, and would be a good choice for a rebel faction’s mascot. After all, as any Firefly fan knows, “you can’t take the sky from me.”
The easy money would be on placing the game on the well-known continent of Tamriel, though the map in the Second Era, before Tiber Septim’s reign, would look a little different. But here’s a possible twist: What if the game isn’t set in Tamriel at all?
The continent of Akavir lies to the east of Tamriel, and little is known about it, apart from it being home to four races: the demonic Kamal, the snake-like Tsaesci, the Tang Mo monkey-men, and the tiger-dragon empire of the Ka Po’ Tun.
An expedition to Akavir was launched in the Third Era, likely after the timeline of the MMO, but perhaps there was another, lesser-known expedition in the Second Era, and the PCs are part of that expedition, sent to contact, make allies of, or conquer Akavir’s native races?
Setting the game outside of Tamriel has both advantages and disadvantages.
The most obvious disadvantage is that players will be less familiar with the land and its people. However, seeing as how the game is set in the past, direct interaction with the people and places of Tamriel are a little dicier. For example, even if you meet Tiber Septim, you won’t be able to kill him or prevent his empire from rising. On Akavir, however, anything goes.
Turbine took a similar approach with Dungeons & Dragons Online, setting up shop in the city of Stormreach on the continent of Xen’drik, south of the “main” continent of Eberron, which is more widely described in the RPG. Also, since most Elder Scrolls games cover a single area of Tamriel, Bethesda might not want to “reveal” new areas, preferring instead to save them for future installments of the single-player games. Going to Akavir solves all these problems, and as long as you can play as one of the familiar races and have wide-open class and gameplay options, what does it matter if you can’t visit Morrowind or Cyrodiil? You couldn’t in Skyrim, either.
These speculations are all just based on my experiences in the Elder Scrolls universe, and don’t represent any official word – or unofficial leaks – from Bethesda.
What do you think the Elder Scrolls MMO will be like? Leave your comments and wild ideas below!