- Amazingly detailed world
- RPG systems allow total freedom
- Art and music are the best in the series
- A bit too streamlined
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is so engrossing that it’s scary. Bethesda Game Studios has taken a few more steps towards perfect virtual escapism.
Before I get hyperbolic, though, I’ll go ahead and say this: they’re not there. Not even close, really. Skyrim is about 75% of the time glaringly limited in what it tries to achieve. It jarringly forces you out of its world almost as often as it sucks you in. Glitches are plentiful. Facial expressions, while improved from Oblivion and Fallout 3, are too hilariously awful to ever contain even a glimpse of human emotion. A-list voice actors such as Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer in a video game are admittedly awesome, but they can only go so far. This isn’t a truly living, breathing world that Bethesda has created.
But it is at least a place. Compared to its ancestors, the grandfatherly text-based adventure games of old, Skyrim is like some anachronistic godly device from the far-flung reaches of the future where people no longer need to read or write fantasy novels—they live them. What I mean to say is that we’ve come a long way in a short time. Skyrim indicates an era when your own personal Middle Earth or Narnia is mere clicks away. On one end of the spectrum the comparison is to Dungeons & Dragons, but, on the other end (the one that Skyrim sits closer to) the comparison is to reality.
That is an amazing achievement. It’s also the scary part. ”One does not simply play Skyrim for ‘A Few Minutes’”, one appropriately LotR-themed meme reads. Indeed. The time spent playing Skyrim feels important somehow. Entire years worth of productivity have probably already been collectively lost. The game offers an utterly engrossing and addicting sandbox for players to express themselves in, and that sandbox is truly only limited when the game isn’t realistic enough. Roleplaying, real-time combat, stealth elements, an involving story… no game designer on the planet could perfectly balance all of these things. The sheer scope of the game’s vision and the perfect fantasy world that it is trying to achieve are worthy of the highest praise, regardless of whatever finer details were glossed over or dumbed down in the process.
Even if Bethesda hasn’t quite hit that mark, the fact that I can stare in silent awe at a shadowy mountain off in the distance in Skyrim and marvel at the same features that I admire in a mountain in real life (powerful, yet subtle lines in stark contrast to a clear, surrounding sky), assures me that someday, someone, inevitably, will hit that mark. It’s going to happen. When perfect understanding of the human brain is achieved and technology like that seen in The Matrix exists—it will happen. When it does the human race will probably look back at entertainment like Skyrim and chuckle at how quaint it is by their standards, but they will also surely remark at what is undeniable: Skyrim is a milestone.
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