The Elder Scrolls Anthology - Misses the Point

Who's ready for The Elder Scrolls Online? That seems to be the idea behind the recently released compilation release of Bethesda's seminal Elder Scrolls series. If you're expecting an actual Elder Scrolls Anthology, you're not going to find it here.

The Elder Scrolls Anthology released recently contains five Elder Scrolls games, from Arena to Skyrim, and all of the expansions and DLC. Arena and Daggerfall, the first two Elder Scrolls games, are pretty tough to find these days and are a nice addition, even though they can be downloaded for free from Bethesda's website. Where the collection really misses out though is the gaiden games in the larger Elder Scrolls franchise. The side games Battlespire and Redguard are so rare and so far below the radar that even staunch Skyrim fans might not know they exist. The lack of these games is a glaring omission for what should be a total Elder Scrolls package, though I'll forgive them for omitting the cell-phone based games, for what I hope are obvious reasons.
The book has a nice leather texture, but the Skyrim inspired branding
seems inappropriate for all of the games that aren't Skyrim.

It seems Bethesda missed a golden opportunity to show these games to the world, though maybe they were aiming for a more cohesive product. Battlespire and Redguard don't fit in with the main series of games, either in story or gameplay (one featured multiplayer, the other was an action adventure title), so it's possible they were judged unworthy of the anthology. Unfortunately the CD version of Arena was also judged unworthy; instead of including the version of Arena with the voice acting and higher quality music, the anthology includes the neutered floppy disk version available for free on Bethesda's website. That means you get a CD of the floppy disk version, which seems kind of backwards.

A CD version of the floppy diskette version of Arena. How meta.

Packaging is reasonably attractive; the game discs are contained by a thick "book" with pages for each game, all housed in a nicely textured slip cover. The iconography chosen for the set is clearly reminiscent of Skyrim, which is unfortunate as imagery universal to series as a whole would have been more appropriate for an anthology release. The discs included also don't contain all of the content; Steam activation is required and all of the Skyrim DLC is download only. This isn't a deal breaker as Steam probably isn't going away anytime soon, but it once again detracts from the presentation of the set as an "anthology."

Skyrim disc contains only the base game; the rest of the content
must be redeemed and downloaded on Steam.

Anthology map (top) and
Morrowind map (bottom).
Aside from the disc booklet, you get a set of maps, one for each game, and that's it. Instead of a manual the anthology includes a single sheet of paper directing you to Bethesda's website to download the manual. The maps are of lower quality than were originally released in the individual games. They're smaller and printed on less durable paper. In order to make them more cohesive (or just to save money on printing), the Morrowind map is in sepia brown instead of it's original, glorious color. The Oblivion and Morrowind maps also don't have the expansion content on the maps, something which the original Game of the Year Editions featured. That means no map of Mournhold or Solstheim for Morrowind, and no map of the Shivvering Isles for Oblivion. Overall the collection of maps seems to lack personality, since they're all the same shape and color.

For access to all of the content you paid for, please visit a page
on our website accessible to everybody for free. 

What about extras, or bonus content? You get a sticker. A sticker advertising the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online. And that's what this release feels like: a large, expensive advertisement for The Elder Scrolls Online.

We're making a game called The Elder Scrolls Online! Have you heard of The Elder Scrolls Online? You should buy The Elder Scrolls Online! You want a beta invite for The Elder Scrolls Online? Too bad, you have to enter the raffle and hope
for the best.

What the Elder Scrolls Anthology really boils down to is another trumped up Game of the Year Edition. I would recommend it to someone wanting to pick up the more recent games and all of the expansion content for cheap, since you do save a bit off the current suggested retail for all of the games. Similarly, for a newcomer to the series, $80 USD gets you a lot of bang for your buck and is a great introduction to the series. For the hardcore fan who actually wanted a definitive Elder Scrolls collection, I don't recommend it. This anthology is lacking games, lacking features, and lacking in presentation.