Skyrim, My Far Away Home

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Image taken from Bethesda’s Skyrim download section.

As of November 11, 2014 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim turns 3 years old. Today I would like to take a look back at Skyrim and see how I feel three years later. I still remember vividly going to the midnight release for the game and hanging out with everyone else waiting for it too. I picked it up and drove home to, at least, play the intro to the game. As my character awoke in the back of the cart being taken to Helgen with Ulfric Stormcloak, a handful of his rebels, and a horse thief I was in love. I stayed through the whole escape of Helgen and on into Riverwood. I actually stayed up WAY to late playing through Deep Falls Borough to see my first quest finished. I would have kept playing too not just to play more, but to see more, and to see how much Bethesda had changed the way the game played and worked compared to Oblivion and Fallout 3. Turns out it changed a lot.

As many of us have played through many of The Elder Scrolls games we may play many different characters and classes to experience it in many different ways. For the sake of this post I will default to the race and “class” I usually start my games with, a human Imperial and a knight/paladin class. I use Imperials because they are the most like me, in the fact that I’m white, mostly Irish and have dark brown hair with mostly European features, so Imperials are the easiest to match that. Yes, I’m that guy who tries to make his characters look like him, especially if the games doesn’t have a main character or characters to choose from. Other games with already established characters to play, like Borderlands I will choose the character I enjoy the most (for example for Borderlands 2 I played Gaige). So which my race picked I was ready to go but Bethesda changed something in the game (for the better in my opinion) the did away with classes. This was quite shocking to me at first as a D&D player I’ve grown accustom to choosing race then class to define my character and their place in the world, but here was free not only to create my own class but to define based on my actions. This concept may not be revolutionary in gaming but it was to a series that was so established into a typical role paying style. In Skyrim what you did is who you are. If you want to be good with destruction magic, use destruction magic a lot, want to be a great sneak thief stealth a ton. I wanted to be a knight (I have a slight fascination with the medieval period) then I wear heavy armor and carry a sword and shield. The idea of not having to pick skills within the first hour of the game and beholden to if for the next 100 hours or so was very inviting. In Oblivion I had created my typical Imperial/knight who was fine for a while or but certain skills never used. It wasn’t until Jinx explained to me that I could create my own class I went back and started again. Skyrim was completely different, now I never felt I choose skills wrong for my character whatever I was doing a lot is what improved. This was a great step from not just Oblivion but from Fallout as well.

The next thing I want to touch on is leveling. The ever important reason we get stronger and better and a significant sign as a player we are improving and evolving. In Oblivion we added point to our skills, in Fallout we did the same but then added a perk to add something new to our abilities or to enhance our skills even more, in Skyrim raising skills became inherent within using that skill continuously, with all your separate skills increasing toward your leveling goal. When you reach a new level you choose a perk, similar to Fallout, in that it can either increase a skills ability (like increase your heavy armor by 20%) or added a new feature (like learning a new style of armor to smith). This change made the number crunching process much easier and opened the game up to more people who may have viewed the number crunching or skill management to imposing to even try the game. I know some people have the view that making a game more open to more people somehow lessens the game but I’m always of the view that the more people you open a game to the better chance it will sell better and ensure more of the game and the continued survival of the game creators.

As I’ve played many RPGs in my time, from the great boon of JRPGs of the Super Nintendo era to the consistent greatness of the Zelda series the main reason I always enjoyed them was for the story and Skyrim doesn’t skimp on story. There are two “main” story lines running throughout the game. The first being the return of Alduin and the dragons that are moving toward ending the world and you as the Dragonborn are the only one who can stop the dragons by killing them and absorbing their souls to power your own dragon shouts. The second storyline being the civil war erupting in Skyrim between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks. Alongside that there are the four guilds you can join and follow their stories (which have radiant quests attached, meaning the game will create new quests so you can literally never end a quest line for a guild) as well as tons of side quests. Literally I have entered towns and would actively avoid people because they always seem to need something. I always enjoy the middle of the stories myself, mostly because Bethesda makes them too much fun. (SPOILER WARNING for Oblivion) In Oblivion (The Elder Scrolls IV) when you defeat Mehrunes Dagon it closes all the Oblivion Gates, which were fun to go into for experience points, cool magic weapons and unique items, and ended that part of the game so fearing this to be the case with the dragons in Skyrim I didn’t finish the main quest for quite all while, because I enjoyed fighting the dragons and didn’t want that to end. Fighting and killing dragons was especially necessary for powering you shouts. (SPOILER WARNING for Fallout) Similar to Fallout as well as when you finish the main campaign you ended the game completely, originally you died at the end but after players complained about wanting to continue Bethesda changed the ending in an update that allowed player to survive and continue playing.

Skyrim itself is a reason alone to play the game. The world is huge, to be honest I’ve play for a TON of time with multiple character and still haven’t seen the whole world. It may or may not be as large as Cyrodiil in Oblivion but it is definitely larger than the Capital Wasteland in Fallout and there is a strong diversity in landscapes as well, similar to Cyrodiil. From dense forests to swamps to the snow covered mountains it really is breathtaking to behold (especially if you have a truly great gaming PC) I play on Xbox 360 and I’m still in love with the world. I jokingly say to people when they ask if I play Skyrim, “I play many games, but I live in Skyrim.” It gives you that feel as you wander through the world. It feels cold and harsh the more north you travel and easier as you get to warmer locations like Whiterun, few games have made me feel that way, other Bethesda games and Bioshock also comes to mind. The sense of adventure is palatable in the world as my Imperial knight wanders the hills never really knowing what will happen next. I may get into an argument with High Elves from the Aldmeri Dominion or a pack of wolves. I could meet a thief or a simple traveler going to join the Stormcloaks or the Imperials, that sense of the unknown has kept me excited during the in between parts of the game.

There were also a lot of minor things that improved the game compared to previous in the series that I want to briefly touch on. One of those things is smithing, in Oblivion you could repair your weapons but had to find or purchase the ones you wanted. Smithing in Skyrim gave the player the ability to create armor and weapons depending on their armorer skill. I really enjoyed making weapons and armor either for myself to use or for a companion character or to sell for a few extra gold. The ability to double wield weapons was a surprising ability in the game. I really enjoyed being able to cut down enemies with either a sword and dagger or two swords or if magic was more of you interest you could dual wield any two spells in the game. Attack with a ice spell while healing yourself or both hands delivering a devastating fire attack, speaking of spells. Magic finally came into its own, I feel, in Skyrim. In the past you could launch fireballs, for example but they were easy to dodge and enemies could get too close to hit, but with the streaming effect of a fire spell those days are over and a mage can deliver a devastating attack with fire, ice or electricity to keep foes at bay while taking them down. Mounted combat from your favorite war horse was also a nice new addition as well as a better lock picking game. I cannot tell you how many lock picks I broke in Oblivion while Skyrim uses the same mini game as Fallout which in my opinion was much more fun. I also liked the fact that while Fallout completely blocked you from even trying a lock that was beyond your skill Skyrim would let you waste many lockpicks trying to pick a master lock. Another addition that separated Skyrim from those that came before is the ability to marry. You could choose from a wide variety of people whom live in the world, from companion and followers to people that you help through their quests (for example I married Lydia, usually the first follower you can get.). You can even marry into a same sex marriage (quite progressive for a medieval fantasy world.) Later DLC would also allow the adoption of children. These things although not major plot points all seemed to add up to an even more living world and a more fun enthralling experience.

Needless to say I love this game. It gives me so much of what I love about gaming and packages it all on one disc. From the music to the visuals it is a game that will stay with me for many years to come. I understand I’ve left a LOT of stuff out as well but I can’t really go into everything this post would go on for many more pages, I just wanted to briefly touch on things I’ve so loved about the game and are large reasons why I love it. If you happen to have it for PC you are in real luck Bethesda is wonderful with community support and have whole sections of their website dedicated to assisting fan programmers access to adding mods to the game extending the staying power and introducing new and creative content.

So my friends go forth and choose your own path, hero or monster. Will you help free Skyrim from the oppression of the Imperials or simply sit by a roaring fire listening to the sweet sounds of the bards singing Age of Aggression. Are the Stormcloaks going to meet their end at your hands or are they for the Black Hand to command. The world is yours, the only question left is what you want to do with it.

As always I have a question for your. I have told you of my usual default character/class I use in my first characters for Elder Scrolls games so who are you, what do you choose, and what do you do with them, hero, thief, villain?

“We’re the children of Skyrim and we’ll fight all our lives,

And when Sovngarde beckons, everyone of us dies.

We drink to our youth for the days come and gone,

For the Age of Aggression is just about done.” – from The Age of Aggression

Thanks for reading, Ness

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.