Before Starfield, before Skyrim, before Fallout 3 and Oblivion, before your parents even knew how to make you, there was The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. It was, and remains, Bethesda’s biggest-ever game, and now a fan-made rebuilding of the entire vast world in Unity has reached its 1.0 release. Oh, and it’s entirely free, and won’t be destroyed by lawyers! This new Daggerfall is an almighty achievement, and exactly the excuse you needed to return to Tamriel.
Daggerfall originally released in the magical gaming year of 1996. It was an astonishing moment in gaming history, a year when video games demonstrated they were capable of achievements vastly greater than anyone had dared imagine. It was the year of seismic releases like Super Mario 64, Quake, and Pokémon Red and Blue. Gaming’s potential exploded exponentially, and few games exemplified this better than Bethesda’s second entry in The Elder Scrolls legacy.
Read More: 1996 Elder Scrolls Game Re-Released With Modern Controls, New Visuals
2023’s Starfield has roughly 1,000 planets you can visit. 1996’s Daggerfall features 15,000 locations to explore. Spread across High Rock and Hammerfell, it features everything you’d expect from a TES game, with free exploration, guilds to join, religions to associate with, a reputation system, and of course the ability to get turned into a vampire or werewolf. This was all set in a game world the size of the United Kingdom, said to be 80,823 square miles big.
It’s hard to better show the impossible vastness of this than in this epic Reddit post, which superimposed the map of Skyrim (2011) over that of Daggerfall (1996):
All of this is now playable in updated, prettified graphics, along with full mod support, thanks to Daggerfall Unity. 10 years in development, the team behind it declared the project complete on the last day of 2023. And best of all, it’s entirely free, thanks to Bethesda’s releasing the original game for free in 2009, to celebrate its 15th anniversary. In 2022, it added that free version of the game to Steam.
To play Daggerfall Unity, you need to download the free game from Steam, then download the Daggerfall Unity release, and unzip the latter and tell it where to find the former.
You’ll then, likely, want to install approximately 480 billion mods, which are abundant. But importantly, having just tested it myself, you don’t need to—the game works perfectly at launch, in enormous resolutions, with a clean, crisp UI.
Bethesda intended Daggerfall to be a game people could just keep playing forever, with its enormous size and hundreds of hours of quests. The developer probably didn’t think that would be literal, but 27 years later it’s proving extremely valid.