Today marks 2 years to the day that Skyrim released. I wanted to do something for it, and so I typed down some ramblings on my feelings of the game and series, and here it is. Happy 2nd Birthday Skyrim.
Has it really been two full years since players were first allowed to set foot in post-Septim Skyrim? Obviously, the answer is yes, but it sure doesn’t seem it like it should be, at least in my opinion. To celebrate the second anniversary of what is possibly my favorite game of this current generation, I thought I would write this piece about both the game as well as my love for this wonderful series. I intend to share my feelings on both over the course of this probably mediocre blog.
My first exposure to the series of The Elder Scrolls came from a PC Gamer demo disc way back in 1994. We had had our first pc for less than a year (An old Canon computer bought from the then still around Future Shop) and had been getting the magazine regularly since. The disc contained a demo of Daggerfall, the second game in the series. I was still too young for my mind to grasp what a computer RPG really was, and wouldn’t for another few years.
I wouldn’t see anything beyond that demo, or even of the series until the Game of the Year edition of Morrowind first released. My cousin got it for Christmas and gave me his original copy. I admit, however, that I never could get into it due to the combat issues everyone has when trying the game the first time (the idea of missing so badly with a sword at low levels, patience wasn’t something I had a lot of back then). It wasn’t until Oblivion that I really got into the series, although I borrowed a copy near release for a day to try it out (and being too stupid to realize that I had to exit where the assassin came in to get out of the passage), I didn’t play it for long. Oblivion I knew was a special game, and I bought the Game of the Year edition when it became available and have easily pumped out 200+ hours in the game. I even hunted down a collector’s edition for the extras disc, coin and even the original T rating.
I would return to Vvardenfell in 2010 when I purchased Morrowind GotY edition during the winter sale of the time. While I haven’t beaten the main quest lines of Tribunal or Bloodmoon due to save corruption and having to start over, I realized after just a few hours of play just what I had missed those years ago when I shelved the base version given to me. I enjoy Morrowind enough that I consider it tied with one other title in terms of quality for the series, however it would not be my favorite of the series, after all, I didn’t write an entire blog for Morrowind or Oblivion’s anniversaries.
It was 10PM on November 10, 2011. My sister, best friend and I drove down to our local GameStop to pick up our collector’s editions of Skyrim (my sister and myself, my friend has yet to get this game, finally having purchased and played Oblivion earlier this year). There were many people there, all relaxing and talking, some brought soda to share with the group, those of us who had been at PAX just about a month prior had our plush helmets on. All that was missing was song and a fire and it would have been exactly like a gathering you would have expected in the game. Once midnight rolled around, they started handing out the game. Very few picked up the CE of the game, but those who did held it over their heads with pride after walking out of the store, it was truly something special to behold. I actually didn’t play the game a whole lot launch day, the release event had drained me, and it wasn’t really until November 12 that I really started playing.
The generation defining game for me:
For me, Skyrim is the best experience I’ve had this generation. No it isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t hit every right note, but for me the game shows how Bethesda can build a world like no other… that and the wonderful modding community on the PC, that helps too. I understand not everyone will agree with me, and I know some people will call my opinions bullshit because they don’t like the game. That’s fine; they’re welcome to their opinions just as much as I am to mine.
The Elder Scrolls series, and Skyrim more than others for me, has been more along the lines of “here’s a world, make your own story within it.” Sure, there are main quests and side quests, but no two play-throughs will ever be the exact same, even if you do the same quests at the same time with the same builds. The feeling of playing the character I want to be, imposing my own rules on what my character does and does not do, is part of this fun of carving out my character’s story in the vast expanse of Skyrim. For instance my character (generally I prefer playing a Spellsword Khajiit) is limited to light armor, never steals, never knowingly conducts an evil act, and only wears armors she herself crafts. I mean, how is it that banded iron armor the huge Nord was wearing fits my smaller, thinner Khajiit without adjustment?
To me the province of Skyrim is amazing to look at. While not as fantastical as Vvardenfell or the Shivering Isles, Skyrim provides the sense of wonder and exploration that Oblivion lacked to some degree. I blame this mostly on the fact that Cyrodiil, while beautiful in its own right, feels too close to ‘home’ to really provide that true sense of fantasy. Skyrim has this, although through the eyes of a Viking wonderland, and for some reason it works. The honor over everything attitude the Nords have is admirable for the player, it’s not what is said or how much coin is made, it is about the actions, proving the character can come through that matters to those in the frozen north.
If it is one thing Morrowind had well over Skyrim, it is the options for character equipment. Back in the days of Morrowind a player could wear the following all at once: Shirt, pants, Cuirass, Greaves, Boots/shoes (beast races couldn’t, more on that later), left glove, right glove, left pauldron, right pauldron, and helm (beast races couldn’t wear closed-face helms). Newer games have it where it’s clothes, or armor, not both. When wearing armor it’s body, feet, head and hands, more restrictive, but at the same time, modders have enabled many more slots, the bandolier mod allows the player to wear a staggering 7 pouches that have their own slots, and a backpack, so maybe this feature will return to future titles, it not by Bethesda themselves, then by modding. As stated though, beast races (Khajiit and Argonian) couldn’t wear any footwear in vanilla Morrowind or wear closed-faced helmets. This is because the races had digitigrade legs, and therefore were farther away from human than the current versions. Modders are working on this, and I can’t wait to see the completed version.
The soundtrack is another reason why Skyrim is such an important part of my gaming library. I’ve been a fan of Jeremy Soule’s work since Morrowind, even before I got into Oblivion. Skyrim has some of the most beautiful tracks of the series. While I will always prefer “Nerevar Rising” as the theme for the series, I hold the song “Streets of Whiterun” to be one of the best musical pieces on all 4 discs of the soundtrack, though the entire thing is worth a listen to outside of the game.
The Streets of Whiterun to this day is in all my playlists.
Graphically, Skyrim is pretty. It’s not mind blowing by default, low resolution textures do hurt the game but the art style is very appealing. The armor designs are great (especially with the AMidianBorn Book of Silence mod) and the world, even with some technical flaws, is highly detailed. Shadows however are the game’s weakest point, I don’t know what Bethesda Game Studios was thinking, but even at the highest resolution, the shadows aren’t pretty without modding. To make matters worse, the shadows made by the sun’s light move in increments. Ini tweaking can fix this and make the movement better, but I hope the next game gets a jump in shadow quality and movement.
Like I said though, even though Skyrim does have some faults, in some cases fairly big ones, the overall experience, the stories my characters have made, the NPCs interacted with, the harrowing battles and dangerous traps, ruins explored, it all adds up to an experience that I have yet to see equaled by any game that isn’t named Morrowind. While I enjoy games from every genre, and deeply love many series out there like the Legend of Zelda, Mario, Final Fantasy (9 and down mostly), and the ‘shock’ series, the Elder Scrolls always seems to give me the most investment and joy while playing. At the moment of writing this, I have 422 hours according to Steam logged on Skyrim, and while it may not be much compared to other players, it is still the most time I’ve spent on a single game, and in fact more than any games belonging to a single series combined.
I wanted to close this with some magical quote to end this blog on a note that truly reflects my love for the game, however I can’t simply write it down, as the one that truly inspired me to write this cannot be captured in just text, so I’ll link it below. It’s talking about a mod that adds a cabin outside of Riverwood, but it captures my feelings so well in the tone that I had to use it.
The Quote. Thank you Gopher for your Skyrim Mod Sanctuary series. This one minute is what inspired this whole thing.
Thank you Bethesda for a game that has lasted me an amazing two years and probably will last another two or more.