Bethesda Just Quietly Released an Addictive New Elder Scrolls Game For Free
The Elder Scrolls: Castles is a departure for Bethesda's flagship series and one that's worth checking out.
The long wait is finally over as Bethesda quietly released a new Elder Scrolls game at the end of September. Oh, it’s not the one everyone’s been excited about? It’s a mobile management sim that’s only on Android for some reason? Well, a free new Bethesda game is still worth taking a look at, even if it’s not The Elder Scrolls 6.
If you played Bethesda’s 2015 mobile game Fallout Shelter, The Elder Scrolls: Castles may look familiar. Both games put you in charge of building and maintaining a home in Bethesda’s signature worlds, while ordering inhabitants to work and explore the surroundings. On a closer look, though, it’s clear that The Elder Scrolls: Castles is far more than a simple fantasy reskin.
Where construction was the main focus of Fallout Shelter, it’s just one part of The Elder Scrolls: Castles. On top of customizing your castle, you have a lot more responsibility in deciding how it’s run than you did with Fallout Shelter’s vault. The Elder Scrolls: Castles lets you make decisions that affect the direction of your kingdom. Choose wisely, and you can improve your fortress and hold onto power, but each choice can also ripple out in unexpected ways. Your decisions influence how other inhabitants and entire factions view you. Go against their interests too often, and you may find your reign coming to an early end.
Though, like in Crusader Kings, your game doesn’t end when one ruler steps off the throne. If you go and get yourself assassinated — or just succumb to old age, since everyone in The Elder Scrolls: Castles actually ages one year for each day you play — you’ll simply pick back up as the next ruler.
The Elder Scrolls: Castles is still in early access, and these audiences with your subjects are one aspect that could benefit most from more polish. While it’s certainly fun to satisfy your god complex and make decisions for the petitioners who show up asking for help, the choices you make lack personality. And aside from how your decisions affect the kingdom’s finances and people’s opinions of you, they don’t change all that much in the end.
What really seems to be missing is the Elder Scrolls-ness of it all. Bethesda has spent decades building out the expansive lore of Tamriel, from the fungal forests of Morrowind to the nomadic kitty cats of Elsweyr. Members of Tamriel’s various races pop up in The Elder Scrolls: Castles, but they don’t yet bring the political intrigue and deep lore they usually embody in Elder Scrolls games. Honestly, just including more classic Elder Scrolls weirdness like finding someone leafing through The Lusty Argonian Maid or sneaking a bit of skooma would go a long way.
More customization for your castle would also be welcome. The Elder Scrolls: Castles already has Fallout Shelter beat when it comes to construction. You have more freedom to change the shape of rooms and the overall layout of your castle, and adding more options there would certainly help. It also seems like an easy place to add more unique Elder Scrolls flavor, like changing the design of the castle to fit the cultural styles already established in the series.
No Elder Scrolls game would be complete without a trek through the wilderness to fight trolls and bandits, and The Elder Scrolls: Castles delivers there, too. You can send adventurers away from home on quests, furnished by equipment made by your own blacksmiths. While they’re out getting into trouble, you can control these adventurers directly, but that’s limited mostly to telling them when to use the abilities they’re equipped with. I don’t necessarily need a full-fledged combat system, but having more to do on these expeditions would be a nice touch.
For now, though, The Elder Scrolls: Castles is a promising new adventure in Tamriel. Despite being in early access, it already feels like a full enough experience to keep players coming back day after day. And while it may not be the epic quest the series is known for, it may help ease the wait for The Elder Scrolls 6.