Since first getting Skyrim on my PS3 at age 13, it’s been a constant cycle of playing a bit of the way through, getting distracted by side quests and locations, slowly dropping out of the game, then returning in a few months or years to try again but forgetting everything I’d played, so making a new character. Rinse and repeat.
Now, though, as I make my way through an extensive backlog of uncompleted Steam games, I’ve started to get more committed (an ingenious idea when summatives are due any moment). I’ve gotten really into crafting and enchanting weapons and armour for Ezrella – my dark-elf battlemage who wields fire spells and an axe – and Faendal, my archer companion, as well as brewing potions and becoming a werewolf. That’s one of Skyrim’s strengths: there’s just so much to do.
When I walk towards a quest objective, I’m bound to encounter a cave of bandits, a gang of necromancers who’ve overtaken a castle, and maybe even a saber-tooth tiger who has decided Ezrella would make an appetizing snack. So progress through the main quest – all about dragons returning to the realm – can be slow going. This is doubly the case because the main quest is hardly as interesting as many of the other options presented. A note found in a secret temple telling me to meet someone at an inn is all well and good, but I just found a magic beacon a goddess uses to scold me into ridding her temple of the evil wizards who have desecrated it, so I’ll have to reschedule that appointment.
The game’s age does show, and while I don’t want to be one of those people complaining about graphics, Skyrim is certainly visually-monotonous, offering few new aesthetics to encounter past the first few hours of play (not even going into the odd glitches that pop up). Its myriad of skill upgrades offer the chance to carve out a unique and perfect character, but there’s no options to improve my culinary abilities, no matter how much time I spend in front of the cooking pot (becoming annoyed when I run out of salt, which means literally all the recipes I wanted to make are now impossible).
The combat gets a little repetitive, becoming a non-stop cycle of “throw firebolts at them until they get close enough to swing my axe, and gulp down a bulk of potions and potatoes to heal when they inevitably do loads of damage to me because I’m a mage wearing robes while they swing a massive sword around.”
Despite this, I find myself really enjoying Skyrim, building Ezrella and her companion’s armoury around fire damage and poisons while exploring a world filled with neat little fantasy stories that exist in complete isolation, like small vignettes. Yesterday, Ezrella snuck into a dungeon where a ghost was telling her to leave, but was able to pickpocket a potion from the ghost that gives the drinker a spectral appearance, and on completing the dungeon I discovered that he wasn’t a ghost at all, but a man pretending to be one to ward local townspeople away from the treasure within that he wanted to claim for himself.
What it may lack in thrilling gameplay and a gripping story, Skyrim makes up for with an incredible muchness. There is always some bandit or necromancer that needs seeing to, if you would just go around the next corner or down into that cave.
Fun Factor: 4/5