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Surprise, Bethesda Just Released A New Elder Scrolls Game

If you’ve played Fallout Shelter, new mobile game Elder Scrolls: Castles will feel familiar

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A screenshot of Castles shows a large collection of rooms.
Screenshot: Bethesda

On September 28, Bethesda shadow-dropped a new spin-off in its popular RPG series, The Elder Scrolls, with absolutely no fanfare. We didn’t even know it was coming, as there was no announcement for Elder Scrolls: Castles, a mobile game where you aren’t playing as one brave adventurer exploring dungeons and killing goblins like in the beloved RPGs. Instead, you’ll take on the role of multiple kings and queens as they rule over their royal dynasty and castle. This involves making a lot of decisions and collecting wood.

Elder Scrolls: Castles is currently available in early access on the Google Play Store—no iOS App Store release yet—and anyone can download, install, and play the new spin-off. It was released with no launch trailer and dropped so quietly that some wondered if Bethesda had accidentally flipped a switch early and mistakenly made the game public for all. Though at this point, as it still remains available to download, either Bethesda purposely launched it stealthily or they screwed up and are just letting things play out.


Since Elder Scrolls: Castles launched on Thursday, I’ve played about six hours of it. And unlike the last mobile Elder Scrolls game, Blades, this isn’t Bethesda trying to recreate the first-person RPG experience of the main games. Instead, this is a management and building mobile game developed from the ground up to take advantage of the touch screen.

What is Elder Scrolls: Castles?

If you’ve played Fallout Shelter, you’ll have some familiarity with how Castles works. The games aren’t identical, to be clear, but they are very similar—including the 2D ant farm presentation and cartoonish art style.


In Castles, you are tasked with creating a big castle filled with various rooms, items, people, and workstations like a kitchen for producing food or a furnace for creating iron ingots. But Castles gives you much more freedom with how you can build these rooms—including the ability to add more floors or walls within rooms—letting you create something more unique than what could be built in Fallout Shelter.

A screenshot of Castles shows a king making a choice.
Screenshot: Bethesda / Kotaku

At the start of the game, a king is killed and you, the son of that king, take his place and begin making decisions, which reminded me a lot of another mobile game, Reigns—a game all about royal decisions. This is another big departure from Shelter, as Castles is frequently asking you to make decisions that can affect how much commoners, noble citizens, other races, and even your own family members like you. Anger too many people and your king might get killed, but no worries, as you can replace them with someone else and continue the dynasty. And unlike Shelter, people age in Castles, so eventually, every king or queen dies and every child grows up to become a new worker, ruler, or adventurer.

Elder Scrolls: Castles also lets you send out people on quests across Tamriel, equipped with weapons and armor crafted by your castle. Combat in these quests is a bit more involved than what was seen in Fallout Shelter, letting you activate special attacks, but lacks the exploration gameplay seen in that spin-off.


Fun stuff, but things could change…

As for Castle’s microtransactions, well, it’s a bit odd right now. I assume this is due to it being released in early access (possibly ahead of schedule) but at the moment, you can’t buy anything. There is a store and there are gems, which appear to be a premium currency, but hours into the game, after it seemingly unlocked all of its features—like daily quests and the store itself—I still can’t buy more gems.

A screenshot of Castles shows a person fighting a bandit in the woods.
Screenshot: Bethesda / Kotaku

This is a bit of a bummer as I’d want to buy some so I can get the game’s Emperor Pass, which offers extra rewards—like more gold or XP—for leveling up.


After a day or so with Elder Scrolls: Castles I’m excited to play more. Managing a vault and its dwellers in Fallout Shelter was something that occupied a lot of my free time for a few years. And Elder Scrolls: Castles seems to have a lot of the same gameplay hooks and ideas, plus more customization options and more ways to interact with the people in the castle than seen in Fallout Shelter’s vaults.

I’m a bit nervous that Bethesda might tweak things and make the game more grindy once the store is properly turned on, but for now, it’s good to be king, assuming you have an Android device.