Game of the Year 2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda Game Studios
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
Reviews – Giant Bomb, Joystiq, Destructoid, IGN
I’m 24 years old. I work 40 hours a week writing and editing, while having a couple writing gigs on the side (including sporadically updating here on the Examiner). I live in Cleveland, and have a modest, but active, social life. I have several hobbies that aren’t gaming-related, and I enjoy sleeping eight hours each night.
I have still found a way to play Skyrim for almost three days. I’m just under 72 hours in, and I see no end in sight for the rabbit hole I was adamant about avoiding since the game was announced.
I’ve tried five times to get into Oblivion to no avail; the combat was hokey, the main questline was uninteresting (Captain Picard be damned) and the facial art was terrifying. The character progression was an absolute joke; making someone have to keep notes to fully benefit from each and every increase in level may be the worst design in character customization I’ve come across in all my years. All of this vitriol carried over to Skyrim. I refused to believe that a game in the same vein as Oblivion could be compelling in any way. And I was already haunted by what travesties would be committed on the faces of the populous.
It was actually ex-GameSpot editor-in-chief and designer for Supergiant Games Greg Kasavin who forced those words back in my mouth. His twelve-hour marathon of Skyrim the day before it was released (which is still available in its entirety over @ Giant Bomb, starting with part one) showcased everything I had minutes earlier been fully prepared to leave behind.
Thank you, Greg. I was being a jackass.
Even after being in three days thick, I still feel unprepared to really tell anyone about it. I’ve taken a good chunk out of the game; I’ve completed three of the four Guild questlines, I’ve vanquished my fair share of dragons, and I’ve maxed out a skill or two for my Dark Elf. I feel like I’ve seen almost everything this game could possibly offer, but every time I start, telling myself it’ll just be one or two quests, I find new fallen fortresses to explore and trolls to burn alive for hours.
Game worlds are so vast these days, but few feel quite as overwhelming as the region of Skyrim, nor as varied while still feeling peculiarly similar in roots. The hamlet of Riverwood is, of course, much different than the lakeside city of Riften, which is in no way similar to the heart of the Imperial presence in Solitude. And no two dungeons are alike, making each delve a unique one. There’s a few bigger area’s I’m leaving, one almost as big as the game itself, but I’d like to leave a little to the imagination.
Talking about all the things I haven’t done on my imaginary Skyrim checklist are incredibly daunting. I have yet to speak to the inhabitants of three major holds, which means all quests and mysteries encompassed within have yet to be uncovered. I haven’t beaten the main story yet, and I’m only thane in three cities. And I’ve only really combed Whiterun for questing opportunities. Let’s not even mention the infinite quests available in certain areas, too.
I’m giving myself an anxiety attack.
For the first time playing an RPG, I feel like I’m not going to do and see everything there is to do. Half of that makes me sick to my stomach, but the other half is excited about what it means. A game you cannot ever really be done with. When I replay Fallout 3, I still find things I didn’t discover in the first few times I ran through the Wastes, and it’s a fraction of the size, variety, and potential of Skyrim. While doing randomly-generated infinite quests sending you to a hideout you’ve cleared two or three times would get tiring, I would venture and say most will never get to that point. Well, maybe if they didn’t play anything else for the rest of this console generation.
I won’t mention bugs and glitches the game has because they’re hardly a deterrent. Play through them; I doubt you’ll see them anyway.
Skyrim is the best game of 2011. It’s the best game to come out this generation. I have a lot of games I love; Mass Effect has been my favorite series of games since the first installment. But Skyrim is better than any single game offered in that series. Bethesda has truly conquered the world of open-world role-playing, and I cannot wait to see what they do going forward now that they just have to perfect it. I’m calling it now: Fallout 4’s going to be the best game of whatever year it releases. Guaranteed.