If you have listened to any of our podcasts recently I’m sure you would get the overwhelming feeling that I’m really into a certain game at the moment. It’s my game of the year 2011.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
When I first saw this game in action at the Eurogamer Expo in London back in September 2011, it instantly brought back many, many memories of its predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I must have sunk well over 100 hours into that game.
Oblivion was the first Elder Scrolls game I had properly played, yes I had played other RPG’s like Final Fantasy VIII and IX, but nothing had prepared me for the world of Tamriel. So vast was the land of Cyrodiil the province in which Oblivion was set, so many were the quests that had to be fulfilled that even to this day almost 6 years after its release, I still have only scratched the surface.
Then Skyrim came along. I only managed to get 20 minutes with the game at Eurogamer but it was enough to give me a taster of what would later come to consume my gaming life.
Let’s start with the environment, the province of Skyrim itself.
Even though the game was being showcased on the Xbox 360 I was astounded with how beautiful the landscape looked. The sky, the mountains, the hills, the very ground you walked on seemed to be a live photo album of a medieval Scandinavia. What made it all the more exciting was that you knew that the mountain or wooded hill side you could see in the distance, you could travel there and see it up close in all its detailed goodness.
Then you see the water. Watching small rapids with some salmon racing back up stream, jumping out of the waves over some under water rocks just made me stop and take it all in for what seemed like an age. The water looked so crisp and fresh that I wanted to crouch down and take a cupped handful to sip from, just to feel its life giving essence.
The weather is another part that makes you believe that you are part of this harsh environment. The sight and sound of the howling wind and snow up high on a mountain actually gave me goose bumps. Plus seeing the aurora borealis in the night sky was a wonder to behold.
What about the people? What amazed me the most about the inhabitants of Skyrim wasn’t the look of them or even how you interacted with them, which has been greatly improved by not making you zoom into their faces every time you spoke to an NPC. It was how they interacted with each other. Rather than everyone looking at you, the player, and waiting for you to do or say something, they carried on with their lives around you.
Now I know that this happens in other Elder Scrolls games but this time it seemed to feel that you were living in a real village with real people who had real problems.
After watching the character I followed out of captivity speak with his sister and her husband about what had just transpired, I truly felt their joy of being reunited and their fear of what was to come.
Just recently I was also reminded of how ‘normal’ this world interacted with you. I was making my way back to Whiterun and to make it a bit speedier I decided to use Whirlwind Spirit, one of the shouts that are used to propel you forward. I used it many times as I passed the small farms that surrounded Whiterun.
As I approach the gates of the city a guard comes up to me and states that he has had complaints about me using the shout, that it made the townsfolk feel nervous and if I wouldn’t mind stop doing it. He then gave me the option to agree or to tell him where to go. I was so surprised by this seemingly small request that I agreed to keep the peace. Now I honestly can’t think of any other game that would treat you as one of its own inhabitants and in such a way to make you actually feel it.
What about things to do in Skyrim? Well there seems to be an almost endless supply of quests to keep you busy while you wonder Skyrim.
As one person gives you a quest, there are others along the way to completing that quest that give you other quest to do for them also. That is not including the main story line quest! The list of miscellaneous quests alone has given me almost 60 hours of game time. I may have sunk over 100 hours into Oblivion but I can see me living in Skyrim long into 2012.
Even with many great triple A titles coming out in 2011 like Batman: Arkham City, Portal 2 and Modern Warfare 3. Plus lots of smaller indie games like War of the Worlds, Bastion and From Dust, all of which have deserved my time and money. For me the number one, the head honcho, the king, the one and only is Skyrim. Now if you don’t mind I have to move into my new house in Whiterun, lord knows where I’m going to put the T.V.!