Whenever the conversation starts going towards video games, I can’t help but mention Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s an amazing game, and since it’s birthday was on Monday, I feel like writing a post about why it’s still great.
That’s right, Skyrim was released on 11/11/11, 8 years ago now. In that time, Skyrim has been teased, especially by fans of older Elder Scrolls games. It’s in the same way you tease your best friend though, because you can’t expect someone to do everything the exact way you want, but that doesn’t make them less amazing, and the same goes for Skyrim.
For those of you unfamiliar with Skyrim or the Elder Scrolls series, allow me to break it down. The entire series takes place on a massive fictional continent called Tamriel, and each game takes place in a different country on that continent. Within Tamriel are various races you can choose from, mostly based on humans or elves, and magic is prevalent for combat purposes; there are wars and factions, religions and religious disagreements, and so much more that helps this feel like a real, and realistically flawed, world.
The first Elder Scrolls game was Arena, which came out in 1994 on the MS-DOS, had hundreds of dungeons to fight in, as well as various towns, and was known for having the first accurate day/night cycle in a game. The story essentially revolved around going through a specific 17 dungeons to obtain pieces of a Staff of Chaos, to defeat an evil force.
Next came Daggerfall in 1996, had over 62,000 square miles to explore, and over 750,000 NPCs to interact with. Whereas Arena allowed you to create new spells and their effects, Daggerfall also allowed you to enchant weapons, as well as buy houses and ships. The story here involved political intrigue, and putting souls to rest.
Next was Morrowind in 2002 on XBox, where the developers decided to dramatically reduce the playable space of the game, but instead removed the “random generation” and instead made every choice very intentional, which gave the illusion of a bigger, more living world. Here the story revolves around helping the gods stop an evil usurper who recently gained immortality.
Then we had Oblivion in 2006, which was known for its Radiant AI which allowed the NPCs to act and react in more realistic ways. If you followed one NPC, you could watch them wake up, go to work, hit the tavern and grab a drink, before going back to bed. NPCs were no longer just bodies waiting for you to show up, they were people with their own (mundane) lives. The story of Oblivion is about how an old covenant has been broken, and now there are multiple gates to the underworld, known as Oblivion, and demons, or Daedra, are attacking the world.
Finally, that leaves us with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The biggest change with Skyrim compared to previous games, was a brand new graphics system called the Creation Engine, where lighting and textures were enhanced to new levels. Skyrims story follows the main character being a Dovakkiin, or Dragonborn, a person with the blood of dragons, which is directly tied with an evil dragon god bringing back ancient dragons from the dead.
Within five weeks, the game had sold over 10 Million copies, and to date is over 30 Million. Todd Howard, director at Bethesda Game Studios who makes the Elder Scrolls series, believes that a large part of the success of the game are the “mods” or modifications, that became possible in recent years on PC. The game has also received many, many awards.
- PC Game of the Year – IGN, Gamespot
- RPG Game of the Year – Spike TV, IGN, X-Play, GameSpy,
- Game of the Year – Spike TV, X-Play, Machinima, Game Spot, 1UP, Game Revolution, GameSpy, Joystiq, Giant Bomb
- Best Video Game of All Time – Good Game
- Greatest PC Game of All Time – PC Gamer
- Best Virtual Reality Game – Gamescom 2017, SXSW
- So many more!
The game also received various other scores on reviews, averaging around 9/10 from the publications listed above.
Because of the high success of the game, it’s been re-released multiple times, including Virtual Reality, on the Nintendo Switch, and even on your Alexa device.
As mentioned, a large part of Skyrims success was it’s ability to be modded by the community of fans over time. Mods that increase the graphics of the game, or add various weapons and armor; mods that are even pranks, like one where all Dragons are replaced with Thomas the Tank Engine.
When the game was re-released as it’s Special Edition, it came with an option to add mods on the Playstation 4 or Xbox One versions of the game, as well as all three DLC (Downloadable Content) expansions that were released. The options that mods allow, means that you can play Skyrim fifty times, and it will be a different game every time.
Speaking of the Mods, how do I play Skyrim? I wrote this entire article about my love for the game, so I clearly have found my favorite way to play it.
For me, it really comes down to one thing, Dungeons & Dragons. As readers of this site are aware, I love to play D&D, therefore, I wanted the game to be as much like D&D as possible. Therefore, the first mod for me to find, was a multiple followers mod, so that I can have my adventuring party. With my six followers in the game, we take quests and travel the country, slaying monsters and getting loot. Another much used item in D&D is your Bag of Holding, which allows you to carry an impossible amount of equipment with you, so I have a Cloud Storage mod, which allows me to apparate and disapparate up to 10 chests, for me to store my belongings in. Outside of that, I’ve removed Fast Travel, and forced my character to eat, sleep, and drink, so that random encounters are still a serious part of my game, and I’m forced to live in the world and deal with consequences, much like a good game of D&D. Of course if you are living in the world more, it’s always nice to have some AI enhancements, so that the NPCs of the world feel more like characters your DM is playing as, and not just a cycle of voices that are automated when you walk by.
Hopes and Dreams
Of course, like anything you love, you realize there is always room for improvement, and with Elder Scrolls VI having been announced, there are some things I hope the new games head towards. These are all possible, as I’ll be pulling info from other games.
First, the Nemesis system in Shadow of Mordor, wherein if you leave a fight before killing your opponent, they become more registered in the game, level up, and hold grudges against you, for the next time you see each other. They are also generated a series of fears and strengths, that you can only learn through fighting them. To treat the other NPCs in the game with much more realism would be amazing.
Next, the Romance System from Dragon Age or Mass Effect. In Skyrim, when you want to get married, you put on a necklace, and people start hitting on you left and right, so that you can quickly learn what your options are. In Dragon Age, when you think you like an NPC, you have to get to know them, give them presents that they are interested in, and essentially raise your romance score with that character.
Lastly, the Fable series had a great renown system, where every one of your actions had a value, based on good vs bad, and how big your action was. One town could love you, and the very next town could hate you, or even one person could hate you that lived in a town that loved you. In Skyrim, once you’ve paid your fine for a crime, everyone forgets you ever did something. Or maybe you paid off a guard on one side of the map, then another guide on the complete other side would mention to you about your “honied words.” How did he even hear about that? It was from the other side of a civil war! It also affected the ways your character would change over time.
Lastly, all of these could tie together with a “Political System,” where if you wanted to become Jarl, High King, or even Emperor, you had to learn to balance these different systems on your way up. I know for most people, Fantasy Politics isn’t the most exciting story, but I want NPCs to treat my character like a full person in their world.
Essentially, for the game to have a stronger sense of consequences, and work to be done with the other NPCs to win their favor, or lose their trust.
Lastly, Skyrim has reached a level in the meme community that has only been achieved otherwise by the Star Wars prequel movies. So I’m going to show some great memes to wrap us up, with my love of Skyrim.