Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
That is the Entertainment Software Rating Board designation of M (Mature, age 17+), and also the official rating given by the ESRB to The Elder Scrolls Online.
The game was just over 60 days from launch when they were struck with this news. In a post by Zenimax, they said, “While we disagree with the ESRB’s determination, we do not plan to challenge the rating, and we are unwilling to change the game’s content to achieve a different rating.”
The entire time The Elder Scrolls Online has been in development, they’ve been creating it with the intention that it would be rated Teen. With the game less than 60 days away from Early Access for Pre-Orders, what does this rating mean for the game and the community?
Taking a look at the previous Elder Scrolls titles, Skyrim and Oblivion were given a mature rating by the ESRB as well. Now that ESO has been given the same rating, Zenimax has a lot more freedom in terms of what they can do.
Zenimax should embrace this rating, as they are now fully able to live up to the infamous statement that Matt Firor made: “It's an Elder Scrolls game you can play online!”
Skyrim and Oblivion were rated mature partly due to the blood and gore that you’d see throughout the combat system. The most graphic part being the fantastic kill cams.
Kill cams were always an exciting part in Skyrim, never knowing exactly when it would happen, and watching my screen slow down as I thrust my sword through the chest of my enemy, or using my fireball and watching my opponent fly backwards in a giant burst of flame was pretty epic.
ESO offers its players a very unique combat system that would meld perfectly with the kill cams. Finesse, if you’ve earned enough finesse points by using your abilities and for interrupting your opponent perfectly, you should be awarded an epic kill cam.
Of course with this being an MMO we can’t expect the same type of kill cam that we had in Skyrim. Imagine you’re in Cyrodiil and you kill a player, your game slows down and you see your character slicing through the enemy faction without remorse. When you’re brought back full speed you see your character is lying face down in the dirt. Obviously you can’t have your game slowed without putting you in a compromised position.
Kill cams and all their glory could be used in a more controlled situation such as, instanced dungeons or instanced quest areas. Think about killing a “boss” and whoever had the highest finesse score would have their final attack reshown in a quick cinematic scene.
Players would want to master their characters so they could have the screenshot of them slicing the head off a Daedra lord, or firing a magicka spell and blowing the Daedra back to Oblivion.
This is another opportunity Zenimax can really embrace the mature rating and truly make ESO an Elder Scrolls game. Skyrim had outstanding visuals and audio with the combat mechanics. When you hit the enemy, you heard the impact, you saw the blood spray off your weapon as it sliced across the body of the enemy, your sword (for a brief moment) had the blood of your enemy, dripping down the fuller of the blade.
Even though the combat system in ESO is different than that of Skyrim or Oblivion, combat realism is something that has existed in Elder Scrolls titles for years, and is something the fan base has come accustom to. Without them, it won’t feel like a true Elder Scrolls games, but more of watered down version.
Sexual content and/or strong language
This is an area that Bethesda never really emphasized on. That said, it is in the game, mostly in books that you find and a few innuendos by some citizens, never anything graphical.
Lifts-Her-Tail: I must finish my cleaning, sir. The mistress will have my head if I do not!
Crantius Colto: Cleaning, eh? I have something for you. Here, polish my spear.
Who can forget the book, The Lusty Argonian Maid, or The Sultry Argonian Bard? These books are items that can be found in the Single Player games, and hopefully hidden away in the dark corners of a few bedrooms in ESO.
In terms of language, I’ve seen “whore” and “bastard”, but never anything dramatically over the top.
There is a fine line when it comes to sexuality and coarse language, one that I believe Bethesda implemented perfectly. There are games on the market that just want to take the mature rating to the far edge, Scarlet Blade comes to mind. However, it feels like Bethesda wanted their games to be very detailed, very realistic, and even though bloody and violent, it was still able to be played and enjoyed by millions, without it ever being accused of being too violent, or too sexual.
In short, the ESRB giving ESO a mature rating could be a golden light shining down on ESO, showing the community that this will truly be an Elder Scrolls game that you can play online and not just a toned down MMO with the Elder Scrolls title, and of course, shiny spears.
Ryan Getchell/ Ryan Getchell is a freelance writer for MMORPG.com. His roots go deep within the MMORPG gaming genre, branching back as early as Ultima Online. When he's not swaying around the forums you can find him lumbering around on his twitter, barking tweets. @Garbrac