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Elder Scrolls Online Imperial race exclusive to special edition - but won’t “bestow unfair advantages”

Imperials. Bit haughty. Imperious, even.

The Elder Scrolls Online is out now; here’s our Elder Scrolls Online review.

Browse the Elder Scrolls Online’s available races and you’ll find the Khajiit, or ‘cat people’, the Argonians (‘lizard people’), and the orcs (‘orcs’), all present and correct. But you won’t find the Imperials (‘posh humans’) who’ve been playable in every other Elder Scrolls game since Arena.

Turning Oblivion’s Cyrodiil into a ginormous PvP zone has had the curious side effect of rendered the Imperials homeless. Turning up their noses at a nomadic life, they’ve instead made their nest in a £69.99 box: the Imperial Edition – but Zenimax Online are keen to point out that they’re removed from the rest of the playerbase only by their aesthetic.

Zenimax have now stated that playing Imperial is “not an overall gameplay advantage”, but rather “an opportunity to set yourself visually apart in the lands of Tamriel”.

In the MMO’s 1000-years-displaced fiction, the Imperials are filthy Daedric worshippers – and so many generations removed from Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean that there’s not a lick of thespian gravity between them. Hardly playable character material.

The Imperial Edition, then, allows players to cast themselves as a rogue Imperial who has “broken from their Daedra worshipping ways”. Their outcast status affords them the unique opportunity to choose freely from the game’s three overarching alliances, which define geographical starting areas, key quests and the shape of PvP.

Of more concern has been the unique racial skill line, free mount, and the ability to craft items in the Imperial style. Would-be players have worried aloud that these would amount to paid-for benefits over other players in-game. But Zenimax say that the benefits of the Imperial Edition have been tuned to “avoid bestowing unfair advantages”.

“This is cool content designed for some of our biggest fans who wish to have something different from other collector’s editions in the market,” wrote the developers. “The only other alternative would have been to offer a collector’s edition that offers no in-game items whatsoever.

“That simply didn’t seem fair to fans who are excited about the game and want some special digital items.”

Once Imperial players have chosen their alliance, they’ll be dedicated to that group and unable to switch, just like their counterparts in other races.

The Imperial Horse that allows buyers to “travel with speed through Tamriel”, meanwhile, travels at the same speed as other horses found in the game – which are pricey, but bought with in-game gold. Its stats are “identical”.

A disappointment for players looking to play their favourite race, then, but not the paid-for distinguishment some were worried about. Who wouldn’t rather play a lizard, in any case?