Why I’ll Always Keep Playing Skyrim.
“Hey, you! You’re finally awake. You were trying to cross the border right? Walked right into that Imperial ambush same as us and that thief over there…”
I’ve heard these words many times, because out of every game I’ve played, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, is one of my favourites to come back and replay again and again. Since being released in November 2011, I have started a new character four times, and am eager to start a fifth. The first character that I made – a Nord mage warrior called Valeria – definitely has the most hours clocked: a number that I am not proud of. If I put that much time into any other activity – one that is more socially acceptable than sitting on my bed in my underwear for 26 hours at a time, only getting up to make cups of coffee, use the bathroom and make another packet of 2 minute noodles – I would be an expert.
When push comes to shove, there are probably three main reasons that Skyrim appeals to me so much more than other games I have played. The fantasy nature of the game and the heavily explored lore and history, the beauty of the graphics and visual aspects of the game – which still hold up today, after more than three years – and just how expansive the world really is in terms of gameplay.
The Elder Scrolls universe has a very rich and deep history filled with lore, legends, religions and the like. There is magic, mythical creatures, like giants and dragons (DRAGONS!!!), cool armour, even cooler weapons… The writers of this game really gave it their all to attempt to create a fully immersive world for players to lose themselves in and become a part of. And it one hundred percent payed off. The final product is a game that sucks you in and holds onto you. In the first five or so minutes of the game, you are already becoming part of the world, and you haven’t even created your character yet! Everything from the loads of exposition they throw on you to get a better sense of the story (Ulfric, Imperials, Stormcloaks, details of the civil war going on. You are inundated with names and facts and story to fill you in to this very moment), to the look and feel of the world around you impacts you and helps you to decide what kind of character you are going to play this game as. And these decisions impact your gameplay. Skyrim is the homeland of the mighty Nord people, so choose to play as a Nord and you’ll have an easy time interacting with most of the NPC’s in the game. Argonians, Dark Elves and Kajiits, however, are less welcome in Skyrim, and so the NPC’s will react accordingly. The game has a very heavy fantasy feel to it (helped along with the inclusion of magic and DRAGONS!!!) which really appeals to me on a personal level as fantasy would have to be my favourite genre to read/write/explore.
The second reason that Skyrim is a game that I keep coming back to is the high quality of the graphics. Seriously, this game is so beautiful to look at. I remember when I first started the game, before I could even get to start playing and could only move my controls to look around my surroundings (sitting in a horse-drawn cart with other prisoners as we were being taken through a forest at the bottom of a mountain to a small hold called Helgen), I was in complete awe of the realistic landscape and the detail of the whole thing. The visual quality of the game is so impressive that, in many instances, someone on the internet has posted a screencap of a Skyrim landscape and at first glance, you could be fooled into thinking it was a real life photo of a real life place. The environments are so varied as well, you have everything from snow-capped mountains and icy tundras, to swamplands and deep forests. All of the holds and villages are joined together by quaint little dirt paths with signposts every so often so you can find your way – although it is important to note that you probably will not use these paths, instead attempting to just jump your way up a mountain or get to where you’re going in the fastest and yet most difficult way possible. My favourite mode of transport is via Shadowmere – the undead horse, but each to their own. The designers of the game did one of the best graphic design jobs I’ve ever seen in a video game. This is evident because the game has been out for over three years now and it still stands up against games being released in 2015. The beauty of the game is something that I get excited about every time I play.
The gameplay of Skyrim is the main reason that I love this game. Seriously, there is almost nothing I do not love because there is simply so much to do!!! I loved all three expansions – Dawnguard which deals with vampires and vampire hunters, Hearthfire in which you can build houses and have a family and Dragonborn where your character battles the first ever dragonborn. I felt like these expansions added to the experience of Skyrim all together and were very refreshing and exciting when they came out. Between these expansions and the original game, there is a seemingly endless amount of quests to complete and dungeons to explore and the levelling up system takes some serious time to complete. You could, in theory, start this game over fifty times over and have a different playthrough experience every time, whether that be because you play as a mage or a warrior, join one or all of the guilds, be an relatively good guy or a bad guy who deals with Deadra. The experience can be different every time. Some people I know only completed the main story lines, others did everything, or a bit of this and a bit of that. Some people grind to level up every possible skill to 100, and some don’t. I fall into the latter category here. I don’t necessarily try to “beat” the game to get to 100 or be the best at it. I’m more interested in completing quests and exploring dungeons than I am in smithing, but that is my personal preference. Everyone plays Skyrim a bit differently because the gameplay is so customisable to suit you and your personal playing style, and that is a wonderful thing. It’s also the number one reason that for the foreseeable future, I will always come back to play this game.
So even though the gap between playthroughs is forever getting larger (probably because I have stuff to do now, I mean, I’m a Uni student and I can’t just lie around all day playing video games. I have classes to sleep through, cheap wine to drink and sobbing stints of self-loathing to battle against…) I keep finding myself wanting to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim because it is one of my favourite games, and for me, isn’t boring or dated. It holds up, it stands its ground. What’s not to love about absorbing the souls of a dragon you’ve just killed and using those souls to shout words that allow you to breath fire or knock goats off mountain tops?
I wrote this in April of 2015.