There are many games that I return to now and again, games that I have cravings to play if I have a little downtime. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of those games, and is indeed probably one of the few games that promises a different experience every time you play. While you essentially can visit the same locations, join the same guilds, and choose the same dialogue choices, you can start each playthrough as a different race with different unique abilities granted to you, and have the freedom to go in whatever direction you choose, completing quests at your own leisure. You aren’t even pressured in completing the main quests of the storyline, granting you a freedom that few other games possess. The world of Skyrim is your oyster.
I remember seeing the trailer for Skyrim back before its release in 2011—the striking voiceover by veteran actor Max Von Sydow, the gameplay and scope of a world that promised its players that if you saw a vast ocean or tall mountain, you could go there and explore without any barriers. You were promised that you could mine for ore, chop wood, listen to bards sing, and barter with merchants in addition to exploring dungeons and fighting enemies deep within them. For me, who had played mostly linear games up until that point, those promises elated me and I could not wait to get my hands on it.
Once Skyrim was released and my brother and I got our own copy, I meticulously created my character to make her just as I wanted her to look. I worked through the tutorial and marveled at the menace dragons promised to be in this game, laying waste to everything in the town of Helgen and everyone in its path. After a hiccup of learning how to navigate the world of Skyrim, I then took the time to marvel at the natural beauty that the developers crafted for me. There were forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, and creatures of all sorts that I could explore in any direction I wanted. I had only dreamed of playing such a game before, and now it was reality.
That was ten years ago, though—how has Skyrim still maintained my interest after all this time? Moreover, what about all the re-releases that many gamers now come to joke about? After all, Skyrim has had its day; it’s about time we had something new. Maybe an Elder Scrolls VI?
While it seems that we (sadly) have to wait quite some time before we get to relish an Elder Scrolls VI game, there is still a lot to enjoy in Skyrim that I feel has warranted its long staying power. One thing that I need to note here is that I have actually never beaten The Elder Scrolls V. That seems incredulous, but I began my first playthrough way back on the Xbox 360 console. I felt I had gotten pretty far in the game, too, with a high-level character, many of the main quests completed—including the infamous Civil War storyline—and was close to finishing the main storyline. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented me access from continuing to play on this particular Xbox 360, and we soon got the game on additional consoles. Keep in mind, too, that I was playing the original vanilla copy of the game. I didn’t have access to any of the DLCs that were released that added new content to expand the world of Skyrim even further.
The same story above has prevented me from actually completing the game, rinse and repeat. In a way, I am grateful for the myriads of ways Skyrim can be played now. New generations of gamers now have the chance to explore the lore and locations that Tamriel has to offer, and this may help Skyrim stay in vogue for quite a few years to come. Not only that, but the DLC is available for newer platforms now with the initial purchase of the game, allowing players to go through the complete Skyrim experience right out of the gate. I have the chance to play through new content that I initially had dismissed and enjoy the full vision of what the developers had wanted players to have.
While the infamous Bethesda bugs still can make completing certain tasks challenging, the amount of content available to players now minimizes that profoundly. The visuals are updated, with a brighter and more colorful coat of paint than what had been available on the original consoles. Playing Skyrim now ten years later feels like playing a newly released title, with its polished visuals and almost absurd amount of content.
The lore is certainly one that will take hours if not days to digest, with an incredible amount of books and journals that players can come across, some of which are quite lengthy. Some are amusing, while others shed light on the history of Tamriel and the different factions and races you’ll come across. It’s certainly worth slowing down sometimes to read through some of them, many of which are quite well-written. The detail in this aspect alone is quite profound; it’s clear that the developers and writers put a lot of effort and love into making Skyrim all that it is.
Skyrim still enchants me over ten years later. It also continues to enchant other players as well. It’s so fun to see the myriad Skyrim-related videos on YouTube. Not only are there walkthroughs, of course, but there are theory videos, rankings of followers and holds, and creative parody videos. Check them out if you have time on your hands and need a good chuckle. If you’re still playing Skyrim, what are some things that you still enjoy about it a decade later? Have you tried switching up your playing style from strictly magic to using weapons, or vice versa? Have you tried siding with the Stormcloaks instead of the Imperials? If you haven’t played Skyrim yet, I certainly hope that you get the chance to soon. It really is one of the most engaging games I have had the pleasure of playing, and I hope to continue to explore the continent of Skyrim in it for many more years to come.