I love Skyrim.
Huh? You want more? Mmkay…..
It’s difficult to know where to start with my adoration of Skyrim – saying it’s a fantastically deep, beautiful, absorbing experience is only the tip of the iceberg – we need to go back further, back to the year 2007, when a certain 3rd Playstation console was born (in the UK anyway…..lucky Japanese getting it a year early)…….
My brother and I sauntered into an empty Virgin Megastores (remember them?), walked up to the counter, and just bought a brand spanking new Playstation 3 – it was a simpler time, no mass hysteria (that we were aware of), no stock shortages, no queues, just a man and a counter, about to make a £450 sale. Our new beefy black box came with Resistance Fall of Man, Motorstorm, and Ninja Gaiden 2 (I think), and anyone who knows me will know that I am horrendously bad a shooters, and play games on easy, so that essentially left me with Motorstorm. Luckily for me, it was fantastic, brought back memories of playing Smugglers Run, vast open areas of manic driving, and i lost many hours in it. But I needed something more, something I could really sink my teeth into…..
Enter a game called The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a massive hit on the PC, the latest game in a long running series (and follow-up to the much adored Morrowind). My knowledge of this series was very limited – all I knew was that it was an RPG (tick), was open world (tick) and was in first person (errr), but we took the plunge. I was worried that, being a port of a PC game, I was going to be swamped with an overwhelming amount of information, controls, mechanics etc, but after an hour I had already forgotten that the real world existed, let alone any worries that occurred in it.
That opening section in Oblivion is still one of the best game openings ever in my opinion – briefly introduced to some key plot points, trawling through a dark sewer, learning the controls, getting a feeling of the perspective, the lore, and then it happened, the moment you left the sewers, and out of the darkness, a blinding light, and there it was, Cyrodiil. All of it. It was a total game-changer, never had I seen such freedom in a game, sure, there was a marker for the next story quest, but also, there was the whole rest of the world to explore. The only boundaries were your own skill and daring. Do I find the nearest town and suit up? Do I see what’s behind those trees? Or do I wait, and kill the Mudcrab that’s currently nibbling at my shins? After doing the latter, off I went, and I never looked back…..
Now I was familiar with the name Bethesda (the company responsible for making the Elder Scrolls games), I picked up Fallout 3, a similarly open world style game, although this was set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Washington D.C. area of America (back when the words post-apocalyptic were refreshing) and had futuristic guns, mixed with a mid 20th century aesthetic, it was a similarly glorious experience. Trophies were also a thing by now, and I played Fallout 3 3 seperate times to unlock the Platinum trophy (is neutral karma really a thing?) – if only Oblivion had trophies, well, maybe one day…..
We move forward to sometime in 2011, Bethesda have a new Elder Scrolls game due out this year, called Skyrim, release day 11-11-11, and the first proper chunk of gameplay has just been revealed…….cut to me, 26 years old, sitting in my small bedroom, at an absolutely awful time in my life, now counting down the days until I can hide away in this new open world adventure. I’ll never forget that gameplay reveal – stunning graphics, crazy attention to detail, the fact that the world was a living, breathing place, like, if you weren’t in it, it would still carry on functioning – I needed November to hurry the flip up.
And so the day came, a Friday, and i was peering out of my window, waiting for the poor postman who would be lugging my £130 Skyrim Special Edition (complete with Artbook and Dragon Statue – I was a money hoarding batchelor at this point) through the narrow streets of my town. And then it was here, just like that. And then I had to go to work! 8 of the most torturous hours, knowing there was a whole new world sitting on my bed. It is not a new thing for me to leave work as quickly as my body allows (see my Bio), but it must have looked like I had committed some kind of mass homicide – a maniac sprinting home, sadistic grin on his face, unaware of traffic, one thing on his mind – and then I was there. This was it, the most excited I’d been for a game since Final Fantasy 9……
The next few hours (and to be honest, days) were somewhat of a blur, from the epic opening where a dragon indirectly (kinda) saves you from execution, running through burning buildings, escaping to a nearby village, talking to everyone, soaking in the world, accepting a quest, a dragon claw in a cave you say? I’m there……although it would have been nice to tell me it was infested with spiders the size of elephants, and guarded by a pesky skeleton (that T-Rex is all to familiar with), but nothing my level 2 half-naked Nord can handle. The quest is done, the shopkeeper is happy (until a put a bowl on his head), I level up (accompanied by deep chanting……so good), a quick look to the stars shows all the skills I can learn, completing constellations as I do so…….and this is all in the first 2 hours! It was Oblivion, but on steroids only meant for Triple H.
In the many many……many hours that followed, it never stopped being amazing – new towns and cities, each with their own problems that made them feel like their own game, randomly stumbling upon a ruin or cave, venturing in, a new sidequest popping up as you do so, the odd flourish of nature going about its business, bears attacking lesser creatures, giants protecting their mammoths and coming near you if you venture too close, and that soundtrack…….glorious, a combination of ambient sounds and tunes during the downtime, ballads sung by bards in the inns, and crecendos when the dragons attack. Ahh yes, the dragons, a new thing for this game series, and they do not disappoint. The fear you have when you spot your first one, just circling the skies in the distance, annoyingly in the direction you need to be going, so you creep forward, hoping it doesnt spot you, drawing your sword just in case, and the next thing you know, youre darting to the nearest bit of cover, hoping his fire breath doesnt torch your behind. If youre lucky, itll land, as at least now you know where it is, you just have to avoid its claws, tail, and roar that can put you off balance…….and it never gets old.
Over the next 35 days and 120 hours, I devoured it, sometimes spending 5 or 6 hours on it at a time, joining all the factions, collecting all the Daedric artifacts, slaughtering Draugr like noones business, and crying out in anguish anytime a quest involved heading into a Dwemer Ruin (Elven-made, with tough enemies that were mechanical and super fast), but at long last, I was the proud owner of the Platinum trophy. I knew there was probably still about 30% of the world I hadn’t even touched, for me, the story had ended. Would I ever experience anything like it ever again?
Well yes I would, when, in 2016, it was re-released on the Playstation 4, with better graphics, and I bloody did it all again didn’t I! You have to feel kinda sorry for the brand new games that were desperate to be played, well I would have felt sorry, I was too busy killing that pesky spider and skeleton again! 130 hours later, and another Platinum was mine, although I enjoyed it differently this time, as I was now in a really good place in life, and it wasn’t about escapism, it was just pure joy.
And there’s my story, sure, in the years since Skyrim came out in 2011, there have been many games that have vastly improved upon the open-world game – The Witcher 3, Horizon Zero Dawn for example, but none have given me that special feeling inside – the wonder, the magic, the true sense of being whisked away to a world, and living it.
I love Skyrim.
Thanks for reading!