Celebrating 10 years of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

“Hey you, you’re finally awake”

There are few video game intros as iconic as this, maybe an Italian accented “It’s-a-me”, or whatever other worldly sounds comprise the Pac-Man intro song. However, those starting words when you first boot up Skyrim are now engraved in video game history.

What follows them though is one of the most mixed albeit recognisable open world adventures, filled with waves of literal Dungeons and Dragons, ghosts ghouls and goblins, but also glitches and game breaking bugs.

It’s a world in which you’ll try and squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of, almost as well as Bethesda has squeezed every last penny from this game.

One could say it’s borderline comical how many times this game has been re-released and repackaged with little to no changes to its content. But I’d say the border has been crossed quite some time ago. The only game that may even rival them in re-releases might be Tetris, a game that’s nearing it’s 40th birthday, and also the only game where you could quite literally say everyone and their grandmothers have played.

Image credit: GAMEREACTOR/Bethesda Game Studios

Bethesda’s re-releases fully embody the mentality of a middle-aged man reliving through memory the glory days of his college sports career, they truly could’ve gone pro had it not been for that sprained ankle. The name of the company has become, as with many others giants in gaming, synonymous with unfinished. While Skyrim isn’t exactly an exception it is still on the more tolerable side of the spectrum.

The scope of the game is impressive for its age, but it’s hard to define it as either wine or milk in the aging department.

The gameplay is fairly straight-forward and while its depth isn’t as extensive as other RPGs, it does make up for it on surface level.  This may sound bad, but it actually works within the context of its world.

All different aspects such as combat, traversal and looting, which are in essence the foundation of the gameplay, aren’t that convoluted, but the game offers a varied choice for each of these that keeps them from getting stale and adds to replay value.

For example the combat, if you want to you can just simply stick to a single style like bow and arrow, single or double handed swords, destruction or conjuration magic, etc. Any of those on its own will probably get the job done but by mixing them up it makes the combat flow much better and you’ll get more out of the implemented game mechanics.

For people more well versed in gaming this might sound like really basic game design, and for the most part it really is, but getting those fundamentals right is at the core of offering an enjoyable experience.

Meanwhile, referring to the combat as “not that deep” is partially true, at least when comparing Skyrim to other games in the same genre, it does have its depth and to explain in detail how each section works would probably still take hours.

Despite this anyone unfamiliar with open world RPGs will probably find this game quite accessible which makes it a great stepping stone for people that are looking to get into that type of game.

Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios

That being said, the game does seem to walk a completely different path when it comes to its narrative. To be fair fantasy literature has never been known for its simplicity and straightforwardness, and that’s probably for the best.

Take Lord of The Rings for example, it incorporates complex sociological and political ideas into its narrative, to dilute them for the sake of simplicity would be counterproductive. Not to mention that it does this while still telling an interesting, fantastical, and memorable narrative that’s able to keep the viewer invested.

That said, even with a gun to my head, or, more thematically, a sword to my neck, I could not recall a single detail about this game’s story. I can’t say that there’s any actual problem with the writing, first of all because I don’t really remember any of it, but also because the structure of the game inherently prioritises gameplay over plot.

No matter which direction you walk you will be bombarded with side quests, some of them heavy on narrative others not so much, but because there’s no incentive to complete them in order the player just ends up doing whatever is closer on the map, which means that it all just kind of blurs together into a clutter of dialogue that you’ll most likely end up skipping.

The game has 60,000 voiced acted lines of dialogue most of which is monotonously delivered exposition, so after a while the fatigue of listening to it sets in and the story takes a backseat.

Much like playing it, when talking about Skyrim it’s rather easy to get side tracked, the truth is that the game has so much content that when discussing there’s no one thing you can focus on, nor is there a definite answer to if it has aged properly or not, whether it be small details or its entirety, Skyrim is, at the end of the day what it achieves to be, a virtual fantasy world.

Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios

The game is stacked with creatures and characters, several libraries made but by dozens and even hundreds of books, incredible scenery, castles, villages, dungeons and so many other things that I didn’t even get to mention.

Although deeply flawed, it is still a fantastic world where you can get genuinely lost in and set out on adventures that feel grand in their scope even if incomprehensible in their narrative.

Happy 10th anniversary The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim!

By Fransisco Santos

Feature image: Bethesda Game Studios


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