The shadows gather around us once again. Take our hands and wander with us into the darkness where the monsters gather. We’re bringing you 31 horror reviews in October. Whatever you do, don’t let go of our hands lest you find out what truly goes bump in the night.
As I contemplated all the usual horror suspects this year, I was driven to look further into games that don’t typically carry the “horror” genre tag, but that when glimpsed under a finer light, can be seen to be predominately horror based in theme. Maybe not on the surface unless you really consider aspects of the story arc in a game that hides the horror just under the surface of a grand adventure. Or adventures.
Such is the way of things with The Elder Scrolls series. Beginning with Daggerfall and all the way through to Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls series has always been steeped in horror. In fact, I daresay the overarching theme of each is trying to prevent some horrific outcome if things are left unchecked.
In Morrowind, you had to prevent the Dagoth Ur from destroying the island. You will also be trying to find a way to reverse vampirism and lycanthropy, stop the spread of and cure Corprus disease, deal with Ashblight, capture the souls of demons to use in the creation of magical devices, and plenty of other things, including becoming an assassin for hire amongst other things. In the expansions, you deal directly with werewolves (Bloodmoon) and witness gods becoming mortal again (Tribunal).
Although I had played Daggerfall and Redguard long ago, I really consider Morrowind to be my introduction to true open world RPG gaming experiences and it holds a special place in my gaming life as a result. So vast and such meaningful and varied nuances to the story. Truly an all time great game steeped heavily in many types of horror.
Oblivion took over next, allowing us to enjoy Cyrodiil, the capital Provence of the Tamriel empire. It’s quite the idyllic adventure right up until Oblivion Gates start opening up around the country, allowing demons and other spirits to enter our world, burning and otherwise killing and destroying everything in their wake. The empire starts to crumble in the face of such heavy and seemingly endless attackers. You have to try to find a living heir to the crown, the Emperor having been assassinated towards the beginning of the game. I mean, the Oblivion Gates alone is straight horror. There is a cult dedicated to keeping these gates open and bringing an apocalypse upon the land.
Then, you get into the expansions, which were amazing. The Knights of the Nine has you battling against a fallen king and his army, who are being released onto the world having escaped their demise.
But The Shivering Isles is really where it’s at. I think that is the single greatest expansion ever crafted. You end up in Sheogorath’s realm. Being as how he is the lord of insanity, his realm is equally twisted in representation of Sheogorath’s bi-polar chaos vs law split personalities. The world is very much a fairy tale land like you might experience with Alice in Wonderland, although actually even darker in every conceivable way. People might be gleefully homicidal or happily cut themselves, to mention a couple personality types you will meet in The Shivering Isles. Everybody has to be some level of mad or insane to gain entry and live there, so you will encounter plenty of horrific situations or evidence of such. The people of The Shivering Isles will generally treat such things with nonchalance or outright apathy.
Skyrim takes place in Skyrim of course, which we earlier were able to explore part of The Bloodmoon expansion for Morrowind, so we definitely know there will be werewolves. The intro of Skyrim starts out with a dragon, and dragons are the single most important creatures in Skyrim. Why? You’re going to kill a lot of them, and in doing so, you will capture their essence which will allow you magical shouts that can kill, charm, heal, and plenty of other things. You will also be investigating some death and demon cults, necromancers, undead, and plenty of other horrible things. In the meantime, you will also be caught up in the middle of a civil war and will have to choose a side in the conflict as well.
The expansion Dawnguard has you joining an order of knights dedicated to the destruction of vampires. In addition to this, your travels while trying to find the source of vampirism leads you to a Daedric realm of death (which are the equivalent of Abyssal layers). In the process of doing all of this, you will investigate the origin of the Falmer, blind cannibal elves that live underground and are functionally the world’s boogey men.
In Dragonborn, you further explore the origin of other Dragonborn such as yourself, which takes you back to the Morrowind area and the inception of the Dragonborn. The area is quite vast and filled with tragic tales.
I’ve really just scratched the Elder Scrolls surface. I mean, the Elder Scrolls themselves have the ability to literally change the world and those who look upon them typically die. So much murder and mayhem. Cults, thieves, demons, you name it. Elder Scrolls has a little bit of everything as it pertains to horror. Very Lovecraft-ian for sure. So, definitely a great time to revisit the series for this, the spookiest month of the year.