Love it or Leave it, Skyrim Edition: One Year Later, What's Still Great About Elder Scrolls 5 -- and What Isn't
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Skyrim celebrated the first anniversary of its release this month, and even one year later it's still a hot topic. It has it's own subreddit forum that gets new material posted as often as every couple hours from the community, and modding sites like Skyrim Nexus are still teeming with innovative new content.
Skyrim has proven that it has the same staying power that of previous games in the series (namely Morrowind and Oblivion) had... Maybe even more. But what exactly is it that keeps it going strong, and what parts of it have we outgrown in the past year? Here's my take:
Open-World Exploration: I love that more games are opening up their worlds for players to roam around in freely while they play (rather than keeping you on a fairly linear path), but the Elder Scrolls games have been doing it for ages, and they have it down to an art. The world of Skyrim extends even beyond the fringes of the map, and it's absolutely littered with secrets and unique locations even beyond what's marked. A seemingly endless array of sites to see means that truly "finishing" it seems like an inhuman feat.
Alts: Because the world is so open, no two characters need to have the same experiences. A simple choice like deciding to travel east instead of west can change a vast amount of the content a character experiences, so having a couple alts can be a fun way to see much more of what Skyrim has to offer.
Wreak Havoc, Restore Order, or Both: It's not just the moral choice of deciding to be good or evil which so many games like to offer. In Skyrim you can choose good, evil, and every shade of grey in between. It's a much more realistic system where morality can be situational, and there is not necessarily an advantage to gaming the system or min-maxing. This experience makes characters feel less like archetypes and more like people (unless you want them to be archetypes, of course!)
Modding: Call me a mod addict, because I love to load my game up with the latest and greatest mods from the Steam Workshop and Skyrim Nexus (here's a complete list of my favorites). The game is great on its own, but the ability to personalize it and make it exactly what you yourself want it to be makes it even better.
Playing with Friends: One of the most enjoyable things as a fan is reading the perspectives and experiences of other fans. When the game first came out, I loved talking about it with other friends who were playing, hearing about the crazy things they had found that I'd completely missed and vice versa. For a game to still be interesting in that way one year later is an impressive feat.
Not Being Able to ACTUALLY Play With Friends: You don't want to know the horrible, horrible things I would do to get the same kind of drop-in drop-out multiplayer that games like Dead Island or Diablo III have. I suspect one of the reasons that feelings are so mixed about The Elder Scrolls Online is because what people want most is an Elder Scrolls game with a taste of an MMO, not an MMO with a taste of Elder Scrolls. Multiplayer doesn't belong in every game, but it definitely belongs in games with worlds as open, expansive, and explorable as Skyrim.
Lydia: Lydia was the first companion for many players, and even the first wife in some cases. You never forget your first I suppose, but the truth is... Lydia's just not very good. The default AI in Skyrim is not exactly perfect (though there are mods for that too), but if you want to roll with a companion it's better to roll with one you can make the most of; I prefer companions that specialize in ranged combat (so they're less likely to get caught with friendly fire), for example. Self-healing mage Aranea is my top pick, but there are plenty of others to choose from. Just let Lydia retire, she's earned it.
Vanilla Lighting/Textures: Textures were one of the first things I upgraded when I got into modding Skyrim, and even if you haven't gotten in to modding there's an official HD Texture DLC up on Steam for free that's an absolute must-have. I also installed an ENB lighting mod a few months ago with depth of field and I haven't looked back since. There was zero impact on performance, and now my game looks absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, take the time to mod these elements of Skyrim if nothing else and you'll be glad you did.
Skyrim for Consoles: This is a sensitive subject, but put down the pitchforks for just a second. I have no real position on the console wars, but to me Skyrim just isn't Skyrim without the mods, and the mods just aren't an option if you aren't playing on PC. It also doesn't help that PS3 users are still waiting for the first Skyrim DLC expansion, Dawnguard, to come to their platform-- all they have are promises of "soon" going all the way back to August. Yikes. So when it comes to Skyrim I'm sad to say that it's really PC or bust for me.
"I used to be a ________ like you, then I took an arrow to the knee": Stop it. Seriously. Shut up forever.Tweet
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.