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The Elder Scrolls Online: Tales of Tamriel -…
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The Elder Scrolls Online: Tales of Tamriel - Vol. I: The Land

by Bethesda Softworks

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I've been a bit nostalgic lately about the Elder Scrolls games. I meant to replay Skyrim again but after logging onto Steam to download some of my old mods, I ended up buying Borderlands 2 in their summer sale and playing that instead (damn you, Steam!). Nevertheless, it meant I had been thinking about how great those games were – not just Skyrim but also Oblivion and Morrowind (especially Morrowind). I loved the richness of the worlds (exceptionally rendered both graphically and sonically), the freedom to explore all their nooks and crannies, and the ability to build a character within them.

In reading Tales of Tamriel, Book I: The Land, a lorebook comprising a number of in-game books from The Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG (which I found a middling experience when I actually played it last year, but one which I now look back on fondly), I am reminded of how little these lorebooks chime with what I enjoy about the games. I've read previous TES lorebooks, like The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel (included with the Imperial edition of the Online game) and the Pocket Guide to the Empire (included with the special edition of Oblivion), and none have really interested me. This is my rather long-winded way of saying that, absent the freedom to roam Tamriel, shout at dragons and steal sweetrolls, the Elder Scrolls universe is not all that compelling. Its expanded lore and world-building lacks a lot of the originality, meticulousness and flair found in the great fantasy worlds created by the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien or George R. R. Martin.

As a game – an interactive experience – the Elder Scrolls series is peerless, and Greg Keyes' two novels set in the universe are really great for fans. But then, they are adventures, stories in which stuff happens, not fantasy almanacs. But reading Tamriel's half-hearted attempt at The Silmarillion? I'm not convinced. I'll read the rest in this series, but moreso out of a compulsive, geeky sense of completion than out of joyful anticipation. This Tales of Tamriel book is agreeable enough for what it is, and well-presented if all you're looking for is a coffee-table book, but Tamriel is only really fun to explore when you're a Level 41 Dunmer nightblade cutting down n'wahs, not when you're in the real world. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
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