The developers of Elder Scrolls Online have gone to great lengths to create a highly detailed and delightfully immersive universe for players to explore. This attention to detail makes for a rich game texture and gives the environment a more realistic, substantial feel. One of the most prevalent (and charming) details is the in-game biodiversity of non-enemy animals. These critters are both wild and domesticated, and can be found all over the map. Here’s a countdown of my top ten favorite animal appearances. Just some animals going about their animal business while the chaos of war and the threat of daedric invasion ensues around them…no big deal. Click the images to enlarge them for detail.
10. Marine Critters: Brain Coral, Sand Dollars, and Starfish
Okay, so these are admittedly not the most enthralling creatures (more exciting animals later on, I promise) but stumbling across them while questing at the tideline of a beach was too neat not to include. Relatedly, I feel that the beach rife with broken and jagged seashells deserves an honorable mention (since seashells are the body parts of animals, after all). Seeing that detailed texture evoked memories of walking on similar beaches, where the sand contained so many seashell fragments that it was impossible to go barefoot. Props to the ESO devs for their creativity on that one.
9. Insects and Arachnids
Again, not the most exciting variety of creatures, but it’s hard to deny the element of realism they add to the landscape. Some can also be interacted with and treated as harvestable resources. Daytime butterflies and nighttime ‘torchbugs’ (fireflies) are frequently spotted frolicking delicately near flowerbeds (that is until you pull them apart alive to use as fishing bait). Others include cute little beetles that like to hide in tall grass, and ‘small’ tarantula-esque spiders that hang out all over the place. I put ‘small’ in quotation marks because although they are easily larger than two human hands put together, the game also boasts more massive enemy spiders (the size of medium/large dogs) to which the diminutive ones can be compared. I think most of us can agree that a universe in which tarantula sized spiders are considered the ‘little guys’ is very unsettling indeed!
8. Frogs and Snakes
What’s not to like? Croaking frogs and slithering snakes are a staple of any pond and cattail ecosystem, and ESO’s environmental consistency does not disappoint in this instance.
Deer can be found in wandering around or drinking from streams in forested areas. They will prance away if you (or enemy wolves) approach them. I’ve encountered both bucks and does, but no fawns yet.
6. Rabbits and Foxes
The rabbits are pretty much exactly what you’d expect. They hop around, nibble on grass, and look up at you with their big eyes and twitchy rabbit noses. There are no interactions with them at this time. Foxes are unsurprisingly found in the same forested zones where the rabbits live. Although you can’t interact with them directly, they will scurry away if you approach them too closely. I’ve also witnessed an NPC hunter standing over a freshly hunted fox, though I was unable to loot any pelts or meat from it. I have yet to see these keen predators do any actual hunting themselves, but given the level of detail and artistry already seen in-game, I wouldn’t be surprised if I happened upon a fox catching some bunnies for dinner in the future.
Monkey sightings are quite common in ESO, primarily due to the fact that beta participants were awarded with a monkey vanity pet. However, I have also encountered them in the wild. Monkeys are one of the more animated critters in Tamriel, but serve no higher purpose than aesthetics. Although they seem friendly and benign enough, I did witness one feasting on the carcass of a recently deceased mudcrab that someone killed. So much for bananas now that it has a taste for blood!
Horses are probably the most common animal in the game. They can be found in nearly every major city and are also scattered across other map locations in the company of humanoid NPCs or being ridden by other players. All the horses I’ve encountered are domesticated (though wild horses would be pretty sweet), and can be purchased as mounts at select stable locations within cities. The mounts can be leveled up in various skills (speed, stamina, and carrying capacity) and renamed through the stable interface. Definitely the most functional animal I’ve encountered so far.
3. Miniature Dinosaurs
Although these critters are not strictly analogous to actual dinosaurs, they are definitely one of the more adorable adaptations in the game. In addition to their compact sizes, their features are often round and almost childlike. Their movements are plodding and innocent, unlike that of the threatening beasts which inspired their design. Another distinction between these and the actual dinosaurs they’re modeled after is their disposition. Far from fearsome predators that roamed the Earth millions of years ago, these guys are domesticated and seem to enjoy grazing in fields of grass (despite their suggestively carnivorous teeth), sunning themselves while taking in the scenery, stretching, and other similarly passive pursuits.
2. Dogs and Cats
These standard, traditional family pets can serve both aesthetic and functional purposes in Tamriel. Some of them are nothing more than props, but others can be interacted with as quest givers. The quest giver dogs will often prompt you to follow them, and then lead you to a person in distress who would otherwise not have been discovered. I haven’t observed much variety in breed of dogs I encounter, but different kinds of cats were plentiful (Khajiits not included). Some of these animals even have mildly lulzy names, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the homes of stereotypical crazy cat ladies in some of the large cities.
My number one choice would definitely have to be critters of an avian variety, as they are the most versatile and diverse type of animal in-game. In just the first few levels, I’ve encountered owls, cardinals, seagulls, chickens, crows, birds of prey, and even some unidentifiable (perhaps fictional) birds with colorful feathers. Like real birds, most of the wild ones will fly away long before you’re close enough to be a threat. However, some of the crows in particular exhibit acutely intelligent behavior upon interaction, and become vocal quest givers (unlike the dog who gets your attention by whining and barking as a quest giver). After completing their quests, the crows can be summoned to swarm battlefields with the promise of a carrion feast, which certainly makes them an interesting combat ally.
These critters didn’t quite make it into the top ten, but are still awesome enough to be included.