I’ve been in something of a daze since about 12:01am early Friday morning. You see, that’s when Steam let me play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I usually write about tabletop RPGs here on TitC, but my interests are varied, and a good computer role-playing game can get its hooks into me easily if I let it. Suffice it to say, Skyrim has its hooks in me, and it has them in deep. Skyrim is, quite possibly, the best video game I have ever played. And, for me, that’s saying a lot.
To give that “best ever” statement some context, I have to give you some history. I discovered computer role-playing games when Icewind Dale came out in 2000. One of my roommates at the time had purchased it, and I spent hours watching him play it, then hours playing it myself on his computer. From there, I discovered Baldur’s Gate, and Baldur’s Gate II. The original Baldur’s Gate got its hook into me. A combination of great story, great gameplay, and the ability to master the system (to game the game, if you will), won me over. I’ve played BG1 more than any other game that I can think of, to date. It held the crown for best game I have ever played.
In 2006, when Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came out, it was again roommates that saw me get sucked in. I had looked at no media about the game, but both of my roommates were going nuts for it. On their suggestion alone, I bought it. Much like BG1, the combination of story (often a story I made up, since the world was so open), gameplay, and game mastery pulled me in. To date, I have put in somewhere well over the 300 hours mark into Oblivion. Suffice it to say that when Skyrim was announced, I was a bit giddy.
Friday, during the afternoon, I went to my friend’s apartment, the same apartment in which I played Oblivion for the first time, and played Skyrim for hours. Other friends were over as well, and we all did the same: played Skyrim. We did the same on Saturday, and the same on Sunday. Since then, I have found as much time as I reasonably could to play the game. It has its hooks into me, deeper than any game ever has before. Why? What makes Skyrim such a great game for me?
1. Graphics. I’m not talking about perfect graphics, but about a combination of design and attention to detail that is staggering. There are moments while playing Skyrim, even now, some 50+ hours into the game, that I stop, stare at the screen and just say “Wow. This game is gorgeous.” There are debates all over the Internet about the technology that goes into Skyrim, and how it’s not perfect, how it could be better, etc. That’s all probably true, but if you just look at the whole picture, it’s amazing. I could not care less if the grass textures need work. Staring off into the distance, and seeing the mountains in all their glory get painted by the setting sun is a fantastic experience.
2. Gameplay. As I mentioned before, gameplay is a big thing for me. My M.O. in games like this is to play a stealthy character that can mix it up in melee, if need be. I do the same when I play D&D, honestly. Skyrim delivers on my ability to execute this concept, and it does so in spades. Combat is visceral, the critical kill cuts are wonderful, and fighting dragons? Fantastic.
3. Environment. The world feels real, and crazy, random shit happens all the time. I just saw a twitter conversation between two folks who talked about attacking bandits, when suddenly a dragon shows up, Then a group of mammoths get tagged by the dragon’s breath. This led to a four-way fight between the player, the dragon, a bandits and the mammoths. This kind of thing can and does happen. Also, there are consequences for your actions. Steal from someone? If they suspect it was you, they might send thugs or assassins after you. Good stuff.
4. Game Mastery. I can play the kind of game I want to, and I can be awesome at it. This is true for my playstyle, and from that I gather online, this is true of many other playstyles as well. It is the mark of a truly good game that you can approach a situation in a hugely wide variety of ways, and come out of the situation having experienced something satisfying. This is an experience that many, many people seem to be sharing.
Now, is the game perfect? Not at all. None of favorite games are. However, Skyrim gives me just the right combination of all of the things I mentioned. It is tight in all the right places, and it satisfies the same kind of urges that I have has a tabletop RPG player. It lets me be the awesome focus of the scene, but it puts am amazing amount of fantastic content that I can experience around that. Every dungeon is different, and every quest has something satisfying about it, at least in my experience.
This is just my opinion, and this is subjective statement about my preferences, but it is official: Skyrim is the best video game I have ever played.