Skyrim: Game of the Decade?
by John Zamborsky
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a massive, fantasy role-playing game that has been enchanting the hearts of gamers since its release on November 11th, 2011. Since then, it has sold almost 20 million copies worldwide. Skyrim has been awarded countless “Game of the Year” awards from various different video game reviewing sites and entertainment magazines. While some regard this game as an artistic masterpiece or as one of the most immersive games of all time, to me the game is all of that and so much more!
Back in 2011, I remember when I had first heard about this video game. I was watching one of my favorite Youtubers, The Yogscast, when I saw that they posted a video of them playing a game called “Skyrim” (which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-DNBXvwgho). I have vivid memory of them playing the tutorial level of the game, with their character wielding an iron war axe in their right hand and harnessing fire magic in their left hand. It was in this moment that I became interested in Skyrim. The artwork of the fire burning in the character’s hand alone was beautiful, but to an 11 year-old boy, the idea of being able to shoot fire out of your hand was remarkably enticing. After watching that video, Skyrim on the Xbox 360 crept its way to the very top of my Christmas List that year!
When I woke up that Christmas morning, I ran to the tree in search of the game. To my luck, I found Skyrim in my gift pile. I ripped into the Santa wrapping paper and held this masterpiece in my young hands. I popped Skyrim into my Xbox 360 and dove into its world.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a massive quest-based game with an estimated 500+ hours of gameplay! When you begin your quest, your unnamed character is on a carriage with other prisoners about to be executed. Suddenly, a dragon attacks the executioner, allowing you to escape. After completing a short tutorial level, you are free to do anything in the game. Experienced players may choose to go ahead and follow the main storyline, while new players (me on my first playthrough) may run in a random direction to explore and see what loot they could find. A choice like this is what makes Skyrim the immersive game that it is. While the “main storyline” of this game could be completed probably in less than 15–20 hours, that storyline makes up such a small part of what the game has to offer. Skyrim offers a main quest, quests to join over four different guilds, quests to defeat all 12 Dragon Priests, quests to acquire all 16 Daedric artifacts, quests to become a vampire or a werewolf, quests to build a customizable house; the list of possibilities goes on and on and on!
Character customization also plays a large part in the gameplay experience. When starting the game, you choose what race you want your character to be from a list of 10 races. Each race has its own unique perks, powers, and weaknesses. You could choose to be anything from a Khajiit (a feline humanoid) which has increased sneaking, increased lock picking, and the ability to have increased hand combat due to their claws, or to be a Dunmer (a Dark Elf) that has increased power in destruction magic, increased power in illusion magic, and the bloodborne ability to resist fire magic from enemies. After picking your race, you can then completely customize your character with anything including tattoos, hair color, face dirt, eye color, scars, facial hair, eyebrow shape, jaw width, etc. After you name your character, you enter the world.
How you choose to interact with the world is entirely up to youthe player. When you begin, your character already has certain skill levels higher than others. When you complete quests, kill enemies, or raid dungeons, you level up. When you level up, you have the opportunity to increase either your character’s health level, their stamina level, or their magic level. With each level, you increase one of those three levels in addition to being able to select a perk in any skill you would like. You can choose to focus on increasing skills that work well together, such as destruction magic and one-handed combat. However, you could also choose to randomly disperse your skill points across alchemy, blacksmithing, speechcraft, and other unrelated skills. The point of Skyrim is that every choice is yours for the making and every item in the game is yours for the taking! Veteran players, such as myself, have learned from our past gameplay experiences. When I first started the game, I picked the Nord race (the most human-like race with basic attributes) and dabbled in multiple skill trees. However, when I got a feel for the game, I started over with a particular goal in mind. I wanted to become an assassin in the Dark Brotherhood, the assassin guild in the game. Therefore, I selected the Dunmer race so that I could be strong in offensive skills and destruction magic, while being able to sneak around anywhere necessary. The more you gain experience from playing, the more you learn about how the game works. That is perhaps what makes Skyrim more than meets the eye.
I have found between my personal deep existential prying partnered with my analysis of the game’s mechanics is the reason why Skyrim is such a liberating game. It all has to do with the main storyline. To keep it short (and to not spoil the storyline too much), you are the Dovahkiin. Dovahkiin translates to “Dragonborn” in the game language of Thu’um. The dragons have returned to Skyrim after thousands of years and are a very dangerous threat to all. You, being the Dragonborn, are the only person who can speak the dragon language to defeat them and save Skyrim. This is perhaps what makes the game as rewarding as it is. In Skyrim, you are the most important person. You are the only hope for all of the people. Not to get too emotionally deep into a video game, but that is a feeling that most people often want: to be important and valued by others. Skyrim enchants and warms the heart of the players in real life while giving them years worth of entertainment in the game!
By far my greatest bit of advice for playing Skyrim would be to just dive in. While this game was released over seven years ago, it still holds its own compared to newer games (especially with its new remastered edition which gave it next generation graphics for the old generation game). I know how much Skyrim has done for me throughout almost my entire childhood. In times of loneliness, Skyrim gave me a world where I was the most important person, fighting to save the world. A story like this gives people purpose, despite it being a video game. It was my escape from the annoyances and negativity of middle school. I’d rate this game a solid 4.9/5. There is not a single game that I could recommend more than this one. Attend the tale of the Dovahkiin!