As I write this, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is celebrating its ninth birthday. It is the fifth installment in The Elders Scrolls franchise. Like the previous entries in the series, Skyrim is an action-RPG made by Bethesda Game Studios that released across all major gaming platforms on November 11, 2011. It is one of the highest-sold games of all-time as it made around 30 million sales. It is so popular that it has been released several times. I have played the game multiple times as I first played it a few months after it came out. After playing through it last year, it became one of my favorite games of all time and one I will never get tired of playing.
Usually in story-based video games, I look for great gameplay. However, I also want a good overarching story that makes for a satisfying experience, such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Final Fantasy VII Remake. Skyrim is the exception as, while having a main story, it is not as impactful to the world and the experience as it is in other RPGs, such as the first two Gothic games. The main story is one of many different quest lines throughout the game along with the many optional side quests and dungeons on top of that.
Skyrim takes place 201 years after the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, this time featuring the province of Skyrim in the empire of Tamriel as the primary location. The player controls the Dragonborn, a mortal being with the soul of a dragon. The game starts with the Dragonborn being sent to be executed in Helgen. The first dragon ever created, Alduin, interrupts the execution by wreaking havoc on the village, allowing the Dragonborn to escape.
The Dragonborn works to stop Alduin from fulfilling his destiny as the one to consume the world. In conjunction with this situation, the Dragonborn must choose a side in the civil war in Skyrim, which is between the Imperial Legion, led by General Tullius, and the Stormcloaks, led by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, who leads the native Nords and Skyrim citizens as they want to rule Skyrim themselves.
Before I address why I love this game, I have to get the major criticism I have with this game out of the way. While I am fine with the lack of emphasis on the overarching story as it allows me to explore wherever and do whatever I want, it lessens the impact of events in the game and they don’t feel as important as they could be.
The first example of this are the dragons which appear throughout the game. The citizens are supposed to be in terror about these dragons as they are supposedly “devastating the land.” However, you never see dragons destroying villages or causing chaos after the opening of the game and only appear to attack the Dragonborn so he can add another dragon soul to accumulate shout power. The fact the dragons are only a nuisance instead of a roadblock is a missed opportunity to create a doom-like scenario. While I understand the shout mechanic, Bethesda could have found ways to keep the exploration a free as it is while displaying the terror the dragons are imposing.
Also, the civil war questline is disappointing due to this. There is one quest where you either defend the city, Whiterun, from invasion or you are the invading force trying to kick off the rulers of the city. You see heavy damage in the city and if the player has residence there at the time, it can be a really impactful scene. However, the next time you go there after the attack, everything is the same and your family has no recollection of the battle. While it makes sense, it is still disappointing and unfulfilling.
With that aside, I love this game so much as the immersion is still spectacular for it’s freedom on the character design and the organic world it portrays. At the start of the game, you are able to choose any race you want, which are: Altmer (High Elf), Argonian, Redguard, Bosmer (Wood Elf), Dunmer (Dark Elf), Orsimer (Orc), Nord, Khajiit, Imperial and Breton (High Elf). Each race specializes in different areas such as Nords being more adept with two-handed weapons, Bretons having more magical ability and Redguards having resistance to poison. This is brilliant as you can choose a race to build your character around. Also, depending on the race you choose, various dialogues change throughout the game.
The world feels real and organic (on top of the stunningly-realistic 2011 graphics), which is my favorite aspect of this game. You see traveling merchants go from one city to another, shops open and close at certain times, the Companions go on hunts outside Whiterun and more. All of these events make the world feel alive and real. You see people living day-to-day lives, moving from place to place and locking their houses at night to go to sleep. You can also get married in this game, buy a house and adopt children. Your spouse opens a store, which allows you to earn 100 gold per day, and gives you a home-cooked meal everyday. When you sleep in the same bed as your spouse, you gain an ability called Lover’s Comfort, which allows your skills to learn 15% faster for eight hours. It is a great touch and realism like this is why I adore this game.
Two other major reasons I love this game are the other major quest lines and the soundtrack of this game. Outside of the two biggest storylines previously mentioned, there is the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves’ Guild, Companions and The College of Winterhold. There are also two DLC quest lines: Dragonborn and Dawnguard. All of the quests take the Dragonborn to new and exciting places, where he does some crazy activities and meets many interesting characters.
In the Dragonborn quest line, you are taken into the hellish world of Hermaeus Mora, the daedric prince of knowledge, and you must overcome the dangers which lie within to acquire the knowledge he has. In the Dark Brotherhood quest line, you have to kill the emperor of Tamriel. In the Dawnguard quest line, you ally yourself with the vampiress Serana, who is voiced by Laura Bailey (Fruits Basket, Uncharted 4, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), to either become a master vampire or destroy the vampire cult in Skyrim. There are many twists and turns in these quest lines and my vast enjoyment of them make up for the lackluster two main quest lines.
The soundtrack, composed by Jeremy Soule, is fantastic and one I still listen to today. The soundtrack adds to the immersion factor and the eerie atmosphere this game can display, especially when exploring dungeons. My favorite piece, “Blood and Steel,” is an epic and pulse-pounding track which plays during some of the most intense battles in the game. I will never forget battling falmers, hostile and blind cave-dwelling creatures, at Alftand early in the game when I first played the game and this music was blasting. I felt like I was in a movie and it was some of the highest intensity I have ever felt playing this game. Even listening to it today still hypes me up and the rest of the soundtrack works so well for the atmosphere it represents.
Overall, Skyrim is one of my favorite games of all time due to the immersion factor, great quest line and awesome music. This game leaves me feeling satisfied every time I play it despite my major issue as all the great elements more than overshadow it. If you haven’t played Skyrim (what are you doing with your life?) I recommend checking this out if you love RPGs or games with fantastic immersion.