588th played so far
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2011
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Looking back on the Elder Scrolls series, I think I preferred Morrowind over Oblivion. Sure, the latter is more modern, with better graphics, but it wasn’t quite as weird as Morrowind, while having to worry about how you level in Oblivion ruins some of the freedom of play you want to get out of it.
Skyrim is certainly meant to resolve the latter, while the world is at least more interesting than generic fantasy. At the same time, it offers the better graphics and modern gameplay of Oblivion – or Fallout 3, closer to the release date, really.
So Skyrim is a good game. It has been dominating our evenings for a few weeks now, we have to keep playing to see more of the world. The game starts with a tutorial, but it’s fairly short and fun. When you get out you get led to the first town, and first city from there, with some pointers on where to proceed – useful for the first game – but it allows things to mostly stay completely open. You get some bonuses by following the first few plot threads, leading you to the first few useful bits, but you can let go whenever you want – and soon enough the game encourages you to by throwing many different things at you.
I mean, let’s be honest, Skyrim isn’t the best written RPG. This isn’t the fault of the writers, but being an open world game gives you a lot of places to with things, while being fully voiced limits what you can put in. The large dialogue trees of Morrowind don’t apply here. Because of the open world feel, there isn’t always a need to go in different directions either.
The quests can have similar problems. There are loads of them, but most are fairly straight forward – often go to dungeon, fight to the end, get item, go back. It’s an easy way to set up the quest, especially necessary for the semi-random quests the game throws at you, but it mostly makes the special quests shine far more, when it’s not just fighting and looting, but there’s more conversation and more variety involved. As it stands, sometimes it’s just a case of “which quest dungeon do I take out today?”
The world itself is well realised. There are some really good bits of environmental story telling, and loads more stories that emerge as you play, from interactions you cause by doing quests in specific orders, speaking to the right people, and just dealing with random challenges the game throws at you. More than once, I managed to avoid a difficult battle because a second group turned up and they started fighting each other before facing me.
The game also looks good. Sure, the boundary of graphics is always being pushed, and this game certainly isn’t leading the pack (especially considering the fantastical monsters it needs to display, as well as the large environments), but it’s immersive enough that it feels special to walk across the snow coverered areas where the road sometimes disappears, while animals run around. It’s one of the really nice bits of the game – just walking around finding things.
Going into an Elder Scrolls – or really Bethesda – game sets you up for a certain type of experience. Not many in depth quests or characters, like, say, a Mass Effect or recent day The Witcher offers, but a large, living world where you have more freedom to create your own experiences instead. That’s where a lot of power exists, in a way that makes me want to go back to play it right now.