Something About Skyrim
There was a time when the RPG reigned supreme; the genre was at its peak and for fans everywhere times were good, but like all good fairy tales a period of darkness was soon to spread. As the industry began its shift away from the PC in favour of consoles so did the play styles of gamers everywhere. It’s not to say that the RPG gamer never went away, more so they simply became vastly outnumbered to the new king of the hill, the first person shooter.
This latest generation of console has definitely been one of the FPS’ strongest to date. One only has to look at the global acclaim the likes of Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield and Resistance have achieved compared to the relative quietness of RPGs. Many have tried but for whatever reason have simply lacked that final breakthrough – even the Witcher 2 couldn’t save the day and the genre continued to sit lingering in the shadows, until now.
There aren’t many series’ that carry such clout as that of the Elder Scrolls, a name that is not only likely to resonate a sense of nostalgia across many a gamer but also excitement about any upcoming expansion to the franchise, welcome to the Skyrim generation.
It’s been no secret that Skyrim has been lauded by both critic and gamer alike. It’s a title that even weeks after its launch still dominates friend lists across Steam, Xbox Live and PSN – a staggering achievement in a period that has seen so many high quality titles released. Social media channels are awash with discussion, “have you seen this”, “did you do this” and “have you played bear bowling yet?” – the RPG is back in the spotlight, and it’s back with a monumental bang.
So what exactly contributes to Skyrim’s success, what ingredients does it have that put it one step ahead of the rest? Arguably one of the biggest things it has going for it is the world itself. Developers have impressed over recent years with their ability to create worlds we can’t help but let our imagination fall into, but the world of Skyrim takes it to a whole other level. Everything has a reason for being there, from the strange rock formation that conceals a small stream, to the riverside hut that’s home to a hunter. The amount of love and care that has gone into the creation of the world is truly staggering. It doesn’t just look beautiful – Bethesda have managed to pull off one of the hardest things possible: they’ve made the world live. Not since I set foot into Rapture have I felt this way, and while I adore the subterranean world of Bioshock there’s just something about Skyrim that reaches out to me. I don’t just want to play the game, I want to explore the world and more importantly, I want to live and experience as much of it as possible.
It lives, it breathes, nature takes its course; the weather, the denizens and the secrets it holds with the only sombre note being that we’ll never get the chance to grace the lands ourselves, instead having to be contempt to leave the travel to our virtual identities.
Everything in the game oozes from the world to the NPCs, the quests to the places you can visit, it’s the sheer amount of depth within the game that is truly staggering and quite often mind bending. The fact you can finish the opening sequence and then not touch the main quest line for another 50+ hours is incomprehensible. All this at a time when games are becoming shorter and shorter, with times such as six hours often branded about, only then do you realise just what has been created.
I’d be hard pushed to talk about Skyrim without mentioning quest lines, something I’ve got a particular interest in and anyone who knows me will tell you there’s one in particular I’ve been harping on about lately, the Thieves Guild. I won’t go into in detail, but for me personally I believe the series of quests you carry out while under the services of the Thieves Guild are some of the best I’ve ever experienced – expertly designed to keep me interested from start to finish, plot twists and above all else a top draw narrative.
The quandary over whether or not a narrative is important to games will continue to be the topic of community forums, conferences and editorial websites for some time. Regardless of your own personal opinion it’s hard to disagree with the fact that Skyrim has made narrative an extremely important aspect of its design. Everyone has a story to tell, whether they’re a lonely city guardsman, a humble fruit and veg trader, or a blacksmith just trying to make their way through life. Stick around a city long enough and you hear more gossip than you would a midday talk show.
Consequently as a result of the emphasis on the narrative within the game the quest lines come out all the more stronger for it. There’s now a reason why you’re being asked to steal a goblet from a strangers house, repercussions from a deal gone sour perhaps. There’s none of your generic ‘go here do that’ without any explanation. There’s a reason behind everything, but the most important aspect of it all is how you’re able to react as you want. Don’t like the terms of the deal, walk away? This is after all you’re story, what do you want it to say about you?
At a time when it’s all too easy to get carried away with the hype train one does have to cast a concerned eye over Skyrim, and ask if it really is that good… but I’m yet to find a fault. For me at least Skyrim is one of the greatest games of not only the current era of gaming but that of my own gaming history – it’s perfection coded and stamped onto a hard drive. Many may have doubted whether Bethesda could do it; the very name of Morrowind sends a generation of gamers weak at the knees, Oblivion was a rather fine stepping stone, and now they’ve delivered. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, please take your place in the vaults of gaming greatness.
Bethesda, thank you.