When it comes to keeping their fans happy, some game companies like to do all kinds of different things to make their mark on their community. They release extra special collector’s editions, super unique DLC for people who dare to pre-order and even films and products to help make the world of their game that little bit bigger. This is how this book came to be, as it takes the history and lore of the world of The Elder Scrolls V and collects it lovingly in a bound and illustrated book for all to see.
Titled, in full, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Skyrim Library, Vol. I: The Histories (from hereon in The Elder Scrolls V), this book is not actually an original piece of fiction. Indeed many of the stories within it may in fact be familiar to gamers and fans of the series The Elder Scrolls. Just as the game world is home to several books and stories which help fill the world, so too is this book, which serves as a collection of those in-game stories which players would need to explore a whole continent to peruse.
These snippets of fiction and history are a perfect companion to the game series and help flesh out the world within the context of the game, and this physical collection serves the same role but in a way which gives the fan more for their money.
As well as containing the aforementioned ‘histories’ of Skyrim and the Empire of Tamriel, the book also hosts several beautiful examples of artwork from the game and really captures the essence of that same fantasy world that has attracted players for years. Indeed as a player of this game I found myself taken in quite easily and found it complemented the experience – making me want to play the game more. It’s therefore a perfect purchase for any gamer worth their salt.
When it comes to reviews, I am never one to judge a book by its cover. That said, a very nice cover can also do wonders for a book – and this one is no exception. The Elder Scrolls V is presented in a hardback cover with a faux leather effect, creating the illusion that this is one of the selfsame tomes that you could easily find in the game.
The effect of the medallion on the cover and everything from the colour of the paper, the font and the beautiful illustrations helps make this item feel all the more genuine too. While this is mostly an exercise in aesthetic, it has to be said that Bethesda, who produced the game and the stories featured in this collection, definitely did their best to make an authentic seeming addition to any gamer’s collection of loot.
Approaching this from the point of view of a gamer, I have nothing but praise. That said though, there are one or two things about the book which means it will not sit well with everyone.
Firstly, there is a lack of innovation, which is a little saddening. All of the stories featured in the book can be found in-game as well, meaning that really all you are buying is a printed version of stories you’re likely to have read before.
Secondly, there is a problem with accessibility: many terms and place names are thrown around in each story which are native to the game world. While this adds to the overall feeling of authenticity, the book sadly doesn’t have a glossary p- meaning that a reader who isn’t versed in this world will find themselves lost with no frame of reference.
Therein lies the major flaw with The Elder Scrolls V. While the item itself is of high quality and touts a real sense of authenticity, it doesn’t stand on its own enough to induct newcomers into this vast gaming world. While fans will undoubtedly love this book, it won’t be able to win over new players or people who want to experience this world without necessarily playing the game.
These limitations don’t necessarily take away from how good this is as a tie-in product, but for all the work that was done to make the book look and read so authentically, it really would have benefited from the addition of new material to add a standalone element. For instance, an appendix or glossary of terms for the uninitiated, or perhaps even an original story or two which would have provided something new and interesting for people who are already familiar with the game and some of these stories.
Looking at the whole package, we have a case of style and substance meeting and helping to make The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Skyrim Library, Vol. I: The Histories a great treat for gamers. However, while it will be great for fans of the series it won’t win over newcomers, leaving an unfamiliar reader a little cold. In short this is not destined to be a well thumbed story on an average-Joe’s bookshelf, but it is possibly a perfect addition for any gamer’s swag bag.