A vast story world, sword and sorcery combat, and fascinating quests that rarely fail to satisfy -- welcome to The Elder Scrolls, a popular series of role-playing video games that has become the standard for open-world fantasy gaming.
The Elder Scrolls Anthology, released Sept. 10, is a collection of all the previously released PC games from the series, including all available DLC add-ons.
Arena, released in 1994, was the first Elder Scrolls game from Bethesda Game Studios and establishes the fantasy world of Tamriel. In the role of a lone prisoner, players set out on an adventure to save the Empire from an evil battlemage named Jagar Tharn.
Daggerfall, released in 1996, added the ability for players to create their own characters by choosing class roles, races and skill sets. Emperor Uriel Septim sends your character on a quest to set a murdered king's vengeful spirit to rest.
Both Arena and Daggerfall are included in the Anthology in their original versions and are designed to launch within a DOS emulator.
But it was Morrowind, released in 2002, where many players became loyal fans of the Elder Scrolls series. The game's immersive world, filled with hundreds of towns and NPCs (non-player characters) encouraged creative exploration beyond the pursuit of mission quests.
With the release of Oblivion in 2006, Bethesda focused more attention on character development and began to hire world-class acting talent to bring those characters to life. Oblivion features an unforgettable performance by Sean Bean (Game of Thrones' Ned Stark) as Emperor Martin Septim. Patrick Stewart, Terence Stamp and Lynda Carter are also featured in the game's cast. The add-ons Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles added additional locations and quests and are both worth playing.
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011) was a huge critical and commercial success. Set in an epic Viking-inspired world where one could easily spend hundreds of hours exploring, the gameplay was compelling and seemed never-ending. The Skyrim add-ons Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn are included in the anthology.
Although the older games may seem dated to all but the most die-hard of fans, The Elder Scrolls Anthology is a great deal for players who loved the original games but did not want to spend additional money to download all the add-ons. Now, you can have the complete collection for a great price.
Playing these games again, the only element that seems lacking is a more personalized storytelling in the form of moral choices. Whereas games like Dragon Age, Dishonoured and Bioshock allow you to take different narrative paths, the Elder Scrolls series sticks to a more old-fashioned form of role-playing where the games can only end in one way. Even the impressive Skyrim could benefit from a deeper level of story options.
But the Elder Scrolls games do contain top-notch writing, great production design and excellent voice actors. These are impressive games that deserve their high reputation and are worth playing again.
Danishka Esterhazy is a screenwriter, film director and self-confessed video game addict. She prefers games with a story but will settle for a good sword fight.