"That Which Has Come Before"
This is a somewhat unusual review to write, in that it's not a review of the games themselves, whose legacies speak for themselves, but rather the process of collecting them and the effort that went into their presentation. The Elder Scrolls Anthology, currently available exclusively for PC, collects Bethesda's epic series from its beginnings as Elder Scrolls Arena, right up to the contemporary epic of Skyrim. Along with copies of the games themselves, all of the DLC is included.
All five Elder Scrolls games are included: Elder Scrolls Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. Even for fans who have played every single one of the Elder Scrolls games as they came out (and may still own copies), having the full series assembled in one place is awfully satisfying. Beautifully packaged and presented, the collection strikes a balance between gorgeous layout without hogging too much shelf space. Each folded leaf is designed according to the mood and aesthetic of each particular game, and taken together, convey the vast and varied landscapes that the Elder Scrolls games were built within. This is further emphasized by physical maps of each of the lands that the Elder Scrolls stories take place in: Tamriel, Iliac Bay, Morrowind, Cyrodiil, and Skyrim.
As much as having a fresh physical copy of these well-loved games is aesthetically pleasing, the collection also, incredibly conveniently collects all of the downloadable content released for each game. For Morrowind, but the Tribunal and Bloodmoon expansions are included; for Oblivion, Knights of the Nine as well as the Shivering Isles are bundled in; and for the latest instalment, Skyrim, the Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn DLC are all present. In addition to allowing the games to be played in their most full, lush and narratively rich format, there is a deep satisfaction to having all of this material neatly collected and presented in one place.
Completeness aside, it can be argued that simply re-issuing all of these games in a single collection does not necessarily change the gaming experience much, and taking individually, that is true. What does change, however, when playing through the games again is the sense of narrative scale and scope. Even if you're familiar with the rest of the franchise, it's easy to play each game in a kind of narrative vacuum. Presented this way, taken and played together, the world opens up. Subtle connections and narrative leylines become more apparently. Examined together, the sheer depth and scope of the stories and environments are even more breathtaking than ever before.
It's important to note that this is a re-release and not an upgrade, especially considering that other adored classic games (like Duck Takes Remastered) have been completely re-worked before they reappeared. All of the games in this collection appear in their original format; as a result, Arena and Daggerfall run on an included DOS emulator. Having these games in their original form will hit gamers who have been with the series since the beginning right in the nostalgia sweet spot, while gamers who came to the series later will be able to see where and how it all began. The games have aged well, though much younger games might be put off by the enhanced graphics, there is something to be said for preserving them.
Taken individually, each Elder Scrolls game is a huge narrative universe, with tons of potential for exploration. All together, The Elder Scrolls Anthology is a collection that is tantalizingly easy to get lost in. The addictive potential of the Elder Scrolls games are somewhat infamous, and with all of them sitting there tantalizingly in one box, it's all the more easy to obsess over these worlds and stories.
GameDynamo's Score for The Elder Scrolls Anthology (PC)
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Natalie Zina Walschots is a music writer, poet, and editor based in Toronto, Ontario. She writes about comic books, video games, combat sports, sadomasochism, feminism, and difficult music for a number of publications, both in print and online, and currently serves as the Managing Editor of Canada Arts Connect, as well as the Reviews Editor of This Magazine. She also has published books - DOOM: Love Poems For Supervillains and Thumbscrews, which won a Robert Kroetsch Award.
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