Everyone remembers when Skyrim came out on the 11th of November in 2011, excited screeches could be heard all over the world during that midnight release, people passing out left and right from the sheer excitement of anticipation. Those that got the game, popped it into their consoles or pcs and would go on to play until sunrise, till their fingers ached and their eyes were bloodshot. Skyrim’s perhaps one of the most successful game launches in the history of video games — with seven million units sold first week and 30 million by November 2016, cementing its rightful place in the Video Game Hall of Fame. Bethesda capitalized so much on its success that it was released 4 times, for the PS4 and Xbox One, and finally the Switch and finally it was ported onto VR platforms. Spawning endless memes, jokes, and references — Skyrim could seemingly make a fan out of a hater.
Following the meteoric success of Skyrim, Bethesda would have massive shoes to fill — and perhaps unknowingly put massive pressure on themselves and the company. When the hype died down, people would notice how bugged the game is, with mostly weak texture work and braindead AI. Bethesda, knowingly, or perhaps unknowingly, proceeded to use the same engine for Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 after, with fans growing increasingly tired of the poor quality assurance, and many flat out boycotting Bethesda after the outright disaster that was Fallout 76. But, Bethesda being well aware of all these faults and shortcomings, would The Elder Scrolls VI put Bethesda at the top of the industry once more, or would it fall flat on its face — with little hope of getting back up again?
Everyone that has played Skyrim remembers the first moments like they happened yesterday, the player character slowly opens their eyes, Jeremy Soule’s soul-piercing music sweeps through the headphones and the game’s logo slowly appearing on the screen before fading away. The player finds themselves in a carriage, hands bound, and in the company of three strangers, all being hauled to an unknown location.
“Hey, you, finally awake.”
One of the strangers notices and introduces the civil war plot and the identities of the three people with whom you ride with — a rebel, a thief, and the king of the opposing faction with his mouth bound in cloth. Quickly, the player character finds out that all of them are on their way to their own executions, ordered by General Tullius, of the Imperial Army — and the leader of the resistance, Ulfric Stormcloak of the Stormcloak Rebellion is sitting right beside you. Fast forward to the camp, with the ominous military banners of the Imperial Army swinging in the wind, a father calls his child back into the house quickly, and with the carriage finally stopping — the thief tries to escape but gets shot in the back almost immediately by an arrow. Finally, the player character is introduced to the world with a rather extensive character creation system. Witnessing an execution, the player is called up next to the chopping block, in the presence of the Imperial Army, under the shade of a dark tower. As the executioner raises his ax above his head, ready to sever the player’s head from his body — a distant roar is heard echoing throughout the sky. With a furrowed brow, the executioner grows concerned — and the general tells him to ignore it, to proceed with the task at hand, and as the ax is raised and poised to strike down, the massive head of dragon appears from behind the tower and lays waste to all those around with a powerful gust of flame. As if reborn from the fire, the Dragonborn’s adventure begins in the freezing province of Skyrim.
Perhaps the charm of Skyrim isn’t the dynamic and finely crafted personalities of each of the characters that you meet, for they are mostly all generic and rather bland — encouraging the player to skip the dialogue frequently. It isn’t the AI of said characters the seems more on the suicidal side, frequently running out into the line of fire or just outright charging directly at you. It isn’t the main plot, which is quite stale and forgettable by almost everyone that’s played the game. And it definitely isn’t Bethesda’s care for delivering a bug-free product, which are so prevalent in all Bethesda titles, that there are countless memes referencing this. What, then keeps players coming back?
Two words, immersive freedom. As the player sets foot out of the tutorial cave, they can go in literally any direction and find adventure. While they are given a quest marker, the player can easily turn it off and return to it whenever they feel like it. They player can even ditch the main story entirely (although that is not recommended, as the player wouldn’t have access to a very important gameplay mechanic, Shouts) and just go off on their adventure. The density of the world is what kept players coming back, it was truly a revolution in the RPG genre, making the style accessible to everyone. The scalable nature of the game was truly a marvel, from the difficulty to the builds possible, to creating an all-arounder, to min-maxing, although it isn’t perfect as every single player would eventually gravitate naturally towards the Stealth Archer build — as it was the easiest in the entire game. This was quite a serious shortcoming, as this meant that mage and warrior builds were not very viable throughout the game, with a warrior doing insane damage only late into the game, and a mage would be constantly running out of mana. These builds were especially not viable for boss characters, such as the Dragon Priests, and even the dragons themselves, yet despite all this — the game remains incredibly fun.
It is rather difficult to put on paper what its like to explore Skyrim for the first time, as many players will never get that chance again (even when the Special Edition released, it didn’t change much). Yet, almost all players will agree that playing it, just to experience everything once more, never seems to get old and almost always stays fresh (save for the boring parts, but those can be easily skipped or avoided entirely). But to preserve the game’s life and to keep it fresh, Bethesda started and continues to have a practice that prolongs interest in the game for massive amounts of time — mods.
Mods have always been a mainstay in Bethesda games, since any player can remember. However, many will say that Bethesda games are ‘unplayable’ without mods, and while there is some truth to that statement — Skyrim only seeks to benefit and improve with the help of the community. Bringing together the collective of millions of fans around the world with various skills, Skyrim can be modified to look like a true next generation title. Although the core janky feeling would remain, with the help of various modifiers to change game mechanics, the game can morph into something completely different. It is almost impossible to put the range of changes that the Skyrim mods can have into a couple of sentences, but it is rather easy to tailor the wants of almost any player with them.
Skyrim has definitely left a very powerful impact in the hearts and minds of every single player that had a chance to explore the finely-crafted world that Bethesda created. The countless hours players spent exploring and making their own tale are truly special and won’t be forgotten anytime soon. And so, hopefully, with The Elder Scrolls VI — Bethesda will capture everybody’s imagination once more.
The Elder Scrolls V - Skyrim
A must-have for every game enthusiast, Skyrim has stood the test of time with more and more people coming back to experience the Nordic province one more time.
- - Overflowing with Content
- - Emergent Questing
- - Tons of Player Customization Options
- - DLCs Add Meaningful Content
- - Largest Modding Community
- - Fairly Dated in Mechanics and Gameplay
- - Strips Back Features that Were Present in Previous Entries
- - Sequel is A Long Ways Off