Elder Scrolls VS The Witcher

Written by Daniel Paradis Steel for humans, silver for monsters, Daedric for Daedra? Welcome to Watchmojo, and today we’re pitting 2 RPG powerhouse franchises against each other: the Elder Scrolls vs. The Witcher. This is gonna be a 5 round winner take all showdown. Just a little reminder: we’re pitting the entire franchises against each other, so this isn’t just The Witcher 3 versus Skyrim – we’re looking at both series from top to bottom. Special thanks to our user Dan Paradis for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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The Elder Scrolls Vs The Witcher

Steel for humans, silver for monsters, Daedric for Daedra? Welcome to Watchmojo, and today we’re pitting 2 RPG powerhouse franchises against eachother: the Elder Scrolls vs. The Witcher.

This is gonna be a 5 round winner take all showdown. Just a little reminder: we’re pitting the entire franchises against eachother, so this isn’t just The Witcher 3 versus Skyrim – we’re looking at both series from top to bottom.

Round 1 - Story and Lore:

For this first round, some could say that the Witcher has a bit of an unfair advantage. Having drawn its world and characters from Andrzej Sapkowskis novels, the games have always had a solid base from which to build their world.

But the series certainly can’t be accused of resting on its laurels. Using the books as a jumping point, the games have been able to tell rich, fascinating tales populated by unique and colorful characters. Any game can give you factions; the Witcher games have politics. Sure you can go to bed with NPCs in tons of RPGs, but how often can you say you’ve experience genuine romance? This white-haired devil certainly has…

That’s not to say that the Elder Scrolls series is lacking in the lore department. With innumerable deities, religions, regions, nations, towns, factions and races – you could go on and on. Diehard fans can tell you where Argonians come from, what a Kajit’s guilty pleasure is, or which areas of Vvardenfell you might want to avoid if you don’t wanna get caught in an ash storm. And Bethesda has built all of this from the ground up! That’s an impressive feat by any means.

But in the storytelling department, Bethesda’s RPGs often fall behind. Their strict, dogmatic adherence to non-linearity means that telling a cohesive narrative is often next to impossible. Since they can never really know what kind of character you’ve made and what you’ve done so far, the quests, characters and story all have to play it very safe. Often the best story’s to come out of these games are the story’s players make for themselves. That's commendable, but it's not really what we're looking for here.

For being able to capitalize on the lore in order to tell deeper, more emotional tales, the White Wolf takes this round.

Winner: The Witcher

Round 2 - Role Playing:

So, how much RP to your get from these Gs? How well does it – in the most literal sense – allow you to pick a role and play it?

When it comes to the Witcher, all that in-depth storytelling comes at a price. While you can choose pour your resources into Herbalism, Magic Signs or pure badass swordplay, you’re quite pigeon holed in what you can and can’t do with your character. If you don’t really think swords are cool and you’d rather shoot a bow or rock a Gandalf style robe while tossing fireballs, you’re basically outta luck.

On the other side, you cannot deny that Bethesda’s RPGs give you options for your character. Recent entries may have trimmed those options down a bit, but you’re still given a massive amount of control over what your character can do. Players are free to mix and match to their heart’s content – heck, you even have to pick an astrological sign before you begin.

Reading might be soooo 2010, but the fact that dialogue on your end is primarily confined to text not only allows for a greater variety of responses, but also allows you to project any sort of personality you desire onto your unique creation. Sure, it might not be as seamless and cinematic, but if role playing is what you’re really after, that’s a sacrifice that’s well worth it.

For allowing you to play the role you want the way you want, the Elder Scrolls series handily mops up this round.

Winner: The Elder Scrolls

Round 3 - Environments & World:

So now that you’ve got your character, where do you go? Regardless of the lore, what’s are the worlds you’re exploring like, and how much of an incentive is there to just go get lost?

The Elder Scrolls games had been doing the sandbox RPG thing long before anyone ever used the term “sandbox RPG”. One thing you know is that the world is always going to be HUGE. While Skyrim essentially set a new standard for how big and dense an RPG can be, earlier entries like Morrowind and Daggerfall had already set the bar extremely high.

Not only were these places huge, but there is perhaps no other series that gives you a better reason to lose yourself in the wilderness, diving into dangerous caves and scanning the horizon for interesting landmarks. On top of that, the open-ended nature of the games suit these environments perfectly. Most people will tell you that if you leave the tutorial section only to go straight to your first quest marker, you’re totally doing it wrong.

If we were counting only the Witcher 3’s gorgeous world, this would be a tighter race. While some areas might look a bit same-y, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Wild Hunt’s environments are some of the best we’ve ever seen – period. The added benefit of next gen hardware certainly helps, but the technical feat on display cannot be understated.

The series as a whole, however, often struggled to break free from linearity. The Witcher 2 did a good job of making the environments feel open ended, but a quick look at your map often revealed that the sprawling forest you found yourself in was more of a series of interconnected pathways and corridors. Plus, there was never the same push to discover and explore – and you had to tackle each spot in a specific order.

This round goes to the Scrolls.

Winner: The Elder Scrolls

Round 4 - Game Play and Combat:

If there was ever something that turned people off in the first few entries in the Elder Scrolls series, it was probably the combat. Morrowind looked fantastic in screen shots, but as soon as the swords start swinging, things get a bit…floaty. Every subsequent entry improves upon it’s predecessor, but the overall feeling is always a bit lacking. Skyrim was definitely the biggest step forward – but there’s still plenty to be left to desired.

In the combat department, the Witcher games benefit from their singular character design. Because Geralt is ALWAYS gonna be a sword master, the developers have been able to make combat into a tighter, more visually impressive package each time. While the way that swordplay works seems to vary slightly from entry to entry, the end result is almost always a better system than what Elder Scrolls can come up with. The added bonus of a fixed 3rd person perspective also certainly helps.

Winner: The Witcher

Round 5 - Legacy:

Okay, so how have these franchises affected the gaming industry as a whole, and what legacy do they leave behind?

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was our game of the year for 2015. Probably the first title to feel truly “next gen”, it showed everyone just how big, polished and powerful an RPG could be. But up until 2015, the series struggled to find it’s footing. The first Witcher game showed enormous potential, but it was still a bit of a mess; so much so that it had to get a re-released enhanced edition to fix nagging issues like an opaque menu system and crazy long load times. Assassins’ of Kings was a huge leap in the right direction in terms of story telling and presentation, but many of the systems didn’t quite gel – and the simplified combat system definitely didn’t help. I think we can all agree that third entry definitely hit it out of the park, but it was coming up to bat as a major underdog.

While the Elder Scrolls definitely had a head start in this department, the legacy of this what Bethesda has created has had in immeasurable impact on the gaming industry. While Arena, Daggerfall and Morrowind incrementally grew the series from cult classic to well known franchise, Oblivion and Skyrim basically re-wrote the book on open world games in general. Simply put, they didn’t just raise the bar for RPGs, they raised them for games in general.

Perhaps the best example we can use to illustrate just how much of an impact Skyrim alone had on the industry is the fact that even though it’s 4 years older and on a different gen of hardware, people still hold it up against The Witcher 3 to compare the pros and cons. It’s still the zero point against which all other RPGs are compared and evaluated… although if CD Projekt Red continues to push the genre like it has, that might soon change. For now though, Bethsoft’s baby has still left the biggest dent.

Winner: Elder Scrolls


There you have it folks. While the Witcher is a beloved series with a spectacular recent entry, the roleplaying chops and impact on the industry that the Elder Scrolls series has built up over time were juuuust enough to keep it from being dethroned by that new kid on the block with the fancy hairdo.

What do you think of our verdict? Be sure to clash silver and steel in the comment section, and for more great videos published ever day…HAIL SITHIS.


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