Everyone has a clear idea of how fantasy elves – as opposed to their fairy tale counterparts – look and act. They are ancient and wise and possess both great nobility and power. In form Elves stand as tall as men – taller than some – though they are of slighter build and greater grace. They revel in the wonders of nature, the beauty of songs and tales, the glimmer of the stars, and the voice of the waters. They are not always called Elves but, whether it is Tolkien’s Eldar, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Lios Alfar, Tad Williams’ Sithi, Raymond E Feist’s Eledhel, Michael Moorcock’s Melniboneans or Katherine Kerr’s Elycion Lacar, these common features make them unmistakable as a fantasy archetype. In the worlds of fantasy role-playing there are numerous divisions and subdivisions of this proud, noble and ancient race – High Elves, Wood Elves, Half-Elves, Wild Elves, Sea Elves, Deep Elves – the list goes on and on. But there is one Elvish race that pops up time and time again in almost every fantasy world, one that is as synonymous with darkness as their fair cousins are with light and goodness. They have many names – Drow, Moredhel, Dark Eldar, Svart Alfar, Norns – but they are best known as Dark Elves.
The Elder Scrolls computer game has a long and venerable history. The first versions of the game came out in the mid-1990s and, although they were largely forgettable, what distinguished them was the scope of their creators’ ambition, which was nothing less than to create a game world larger than Britain, rendered in a fully 3D engine, and build a skill-system that revolved around skill building rather than experience gains. Unfortunately the early instalments in the Elder Scrolls saga suffered from that very ambition – they were rushed to publication and as a result the games were tortuously buggy and prohibitively hardware-intensive. I’m a huge fan of fantasy and sci-fi themed computer role-playing/strategy battle games, in particular the Baldur’s Gate, Battle for Middle Earth and Dawn of War series, and like them for me the later instalments of the Elder Scrolls series really stand out. It was really Morrowind and Oblivion which changed the game in my opinion, focusing as they did on providing a tighter storyline, improved AI, physics and graphics. Having enjoyed those versions of Elder Scrolls it was with some trepidation that I approached Skyrim when it came out recently – how would this instalment measure up against its illustrious forebears?