If asked which is your favourite Elder Scrolls
game, Skyrim is the easy answer. It’s polished, looks better and is more finely balanced than
the earlier games. It has a large and current fanbase, whereas those who prefer Morrowind
or Oblivion tend to look like bitter, nostalgic losers who hate it just because it changes
things. But it IS my favourite, and I don’t want to
discuss its obvious strengths. Those are trumpeted enough already. I want to say why it’s special
to ME, and even after hundreds of hours in the earlier games, this one still stands out
as being the best. Before its release, I didn’t care much for
Skyrim. I excitedly watched the first trailer minutes after its release, only to leave it
somewhat disappointed. Okay, it looked better and had an interesting setting. But it was
still limited to current-gen technology and would no doubt be hindered by it. We wouldn’t
have hundreds of characters onscreen at once. The polycount and texture detail would suffer.
And let’s face it- the Elder Scrolls games have never been about good gameplay.
Honestly, they haven’t. If I wanted good swordfights, I’d choose Dark Messiah. If I wanted graphics,
Crysis. For magic, Magicka. If I wanted an RPG… um, actually I’d probably still go
for Final Fantasy 9. However, The Elder Scrolls has been about
the bigger picture. About the freedom. What amazes me is how no other game offers the
sheer sandbox scale that the Elder Scrolls can. I’d happily overlook its many imperfections
just because it’s more ambitious than any other game out there. It’s effectively a continent
on a disk. I was astounded when Oblivion came on a single DVD, and even more so with Skyrim.
A single disk, limited by current-gen technology. Even when I finally got around to playing
the game it wasn’t love at first sight. I was disappointed by how dull and scripted
the intro was. Bethesda have always managed to disappoint me with their intros. Minutes
later I questioned why I’d bother exploring a world that looked to me as a God… but
slowly, it grew on me. I watched the villagers amble about, carrying
out every-day activities. I harvested some bushes, spoke to some guards and the opportunities
for mischief began to formulate in my mind. And that’s when I saw it- the mountain. I
wanted to climb it, and just like in real life, the closer I got to it, the larger and
more impressive it became. As I rushed past mountain goats and towards the snowy upper
regions I questioned how the game could even simulate it so well… and then I got smashed
in by a troll. I wasn’t a God and this one annoying creature
was restricting a part of the world from me. I’d show him! I rushed into a near-by cave,
only to get destroyed by a vampire. All of a sudden, the world was growing around me.
I knew my place and I knew my foes. I understood that one day, things would be different and
hoped that the whole world would be full of as many little touches as my first hour had
been. It was. I recall several hours later in the main city,
looking at the quests I had to do. They were piling up in my inventory faster than I could
complete them. For every one I finished, several more would take their place. I was overwhelmed
and almost wanted it to stop! This continued, not just for the next few
hours, but for days and days. I remember I went to have tea half-way through Sheogorath’s
quest, my head buzzing from the opportunities and experiences I had encountered so far.
The game left its mark on me- the last 2 months of 2011 for me will forever conjure up images
of the Northern lights, the sad Nordic chanting and the beauty of Skyrim. I remember admiring
my magic professor as we embarked on a terrifying quest into a tomb, aware that something bad
could happen at any second. Despite completing hundreds of quests, I continued
to respect each one and they never ceased to amaze me with their twists and turns. Tens
of hours after Oblivion was becoming repetitive, Skyrim’s world kept giving. The levelling
scaled just enough to keep me on my toes, but would let me see my progress by challenging
me to fiercer looking creatures. It was kind enough to chuck in the occasional, unfortunate
low-level bandit to show me how much of a bad-ass my character had become.
Earlier games had relied on their scale to compensate for sub-par gameplay, but Skyrim’s
could stand on its own two feet. I’ve heard people moan about how it removes elements.
Really? Did you ENJOY jumping around the world to level up your acrobatics, or continually
heal yourself to become a wizard? Skyrim’s world is harder to exploit and I didn’t find
myself developing irritating tics to take advantage of them. I played as I was meant
to! Skyrim is a diverse and beautiful place. You
have forests, open plains, bubbling springs, marshes, mountains, SNOW and grassy valleys.
Each area is memorable and unique and has helped me chart up a mental map of the world
that I could never do in Oblivion and Morrowind. Although the earlier games had variety, it
either looked artificial or was too subtle to make any difference.
And how about the tombs. These were the places I’d avoid in Morrowind and Oblivion. I’d dread
entering them and would long to leave once inside. Skyrim’s are vast and varied and are
ingeniously designed. If you’re in a massive tomb and get to the end, there’s almost always
a quick way out to avoid back-tracking. The architecture, creatures and stories that exist
in these dark places help to add another side to Skyrim. They don’t feel tacked on, but
rather serve as another side to the game that’s just as well thought out and constructed as
the world above it. The main storyline is a massive improvement
over previous games. In my opinion it’s still the weak-point of the game and after a while
the dragons become a flying joke, but honestly I don’t care. I enjoy staging battles between
villagers and a dragon, or guards and a giant. Whilst in previous games, the creatures seemed
limited to a certain size, Skyrim isn’t afraid of adding a sense of scale and progression
to your abilities. It’s a small touch with big consequences.
I pity anybody who hasn’t tried this game. It’s a game that has something for everyone,
and even if you only like 5% of what it has to offer it’s still greater than most entire
other games. I’ve been quick to point out flaws to the previous games, but Skyrim isn’t
so easy to criticise. I feel I’ve done everything there is to the game, and yet one quick conversation
with my sister later reveals things that I’ve missed, or different paths I could have taken.
I still play as my original character, the fearless and mentally challenged Odgrub the
Basher. With him I conquered this harsh land. I remember gradually maxing out his abilities.
I treated the last unexplored regions of the world with the same respect as a child with
their last unopened present on Christmas day, knowing that it would be a long time before
such treats would come around again. The game to him is no longer a challenge, but a playground
to muck about on. I scale mountains for the fun of it and fill houses with cheese rolls
because I can. Some of the quests remain unfinished because I attempted them before the patches
rolled out and these tease me to this day, begging me to start the game again from scratch
to experience them the way they were meant to be played.
But I’ve grown too fond of Odgrub, and it’s not an experience I’m going to throw aside
easily. No doubt he’ll be the one who will boldly venture first into the Elder Scrolls
6 for me. Our friendship may last for the rest of my life and extend far beyond the
reaches of the world of Tamriel. Authors claim that the characters they create take on personalities
of their own and Odgrub to me is no exception. He isn’t just my eyes and ears in these games,
it’s as though his personality takes over and I begin to play as him. I know it sounds
incredibly sad but… I don’t care. My experiences with him have been more exciting and memorable
than any in the multiplayer games that I’ve played.
I could happily jump in to this game again, were it not for the fear that it will swallow
up entire weeks of my life. When Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out earlier that year
it was the best game I had ever played. I didn’t expect the experience to be trumped
so soon afterwards by Skyrim. I am almost frustrated by it, since Skyrim doesn’t need
any support and most definitely doesn’t need me making a video trumpeting how amazing it
is. I don’t need to convince any of you to play this game since you have most likely
already experienced it. Although the tangible parts of this game are
great, the true importance of Skyrim are the personal experiences that you alone have encountered
thanks to its sandbox nature. I believe that when you search for videos such as the one
you’re currently watching, you don’t want to hear about what’s so good about the game.
You want to hear WHY it’s a good game and how it is worth more to you than the sum of
its parts may suggest and I’m afraid that you’ll likely be left disappointed.
Nostalgia is a bitter-sweet and poetic fact of life and what’s truly important about this
game to you may not be the same as for me. Words can’t describe the importance of discovering
a certain quest, or of losing your dearest Lydia in an accidental sword-blow. I too share
your frustration at being able to recall the best bits of this game, but being so unable
to convey them into words for others to appreciate. It’s one of the most lonely parts of life.
But I urge you to keep the screenshots, save games and favourite music tracks from it safe
in a folder somewhere, because in 10 years’ time when new games have rendered this one
obsolete in all areas, you can go through those memories again and remember just how
special Skyrim was to you. You’ll argue with fans of the newer games,
sharing your reasons for why Skyrim was better. They won’t understand. And how can they? Their
memories will be with newer games that have built on Skyrim’s strengths further. They
won’t appreciate how without the earlier games, the ones that they’re playing now wouldn’t
be possible. You too can then become a bitter, nostalgic
loser who hates newer games just because they change things.