The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the largest and most successful games in the history of the industry, with digital trends naming it the 16th best-selling game of all time. Proudly sporting one of the most intense and fanatical fan-bases on the internet, whether that be through still playing the game all this time later or just simply sharing memes and content on social media. Bethesda’s fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise remains a timeless hit.
However, it has been a decade. Hundreds of big budget, open world games have released and went onto to define eras in a similar vein to Bethesda’s viking-inspired romp. On the 11th of November 2021, Skyrim will be ten years old and a large section of the internet and gaming community as a whole are sick of it. With Todd Howard teasing the sixth edition in the franchise all the way back at E3 2018 yet showing nothing further over the past three years, and Bethesda’s popularity and credibility dropping lower and lower, it’s pretty clear why people don’t want to hear anymore about ‘The Dragonborn’. They want something new and they deserve it.
However, this giant of the industry still has some fight left in it. And I’m here to bat for it. So let’s have a look back and see why Skyrim is still great, ten years on.
Skyrim had a level of hype rarely seen for a title in my lifetime. Due to the success of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and the way it burst into the mainstream, far more people were aware of Bethesda’s universe than ever before in previous installments. As a result, when the trailer dropped, it caused the already exceedingly high levels of excitement to somehow reach a further level.
Due to being thirteen at the time, I didn’t have the disposable income to purchase the game on the day it released so I spent the ten month period between the trailer coming out and Christmas morning watching the trailer, at the very least, once a week. For writing this piece, I went back and watched it for the first time in years.
I still got goosebumps at the exact same points. I can still recite the words as if I myself had written them. And I still get the urge to go and play the game as soon as the ’11:11:11′ closing card fades from the screen. From that point onward until that fateful day in November, Youtubers poured over every single frame trying to ascertain brand new information to fans creating now infamous memes. A trailer is absolutely crucial to get people invested in your product- whether it be television, film or a game. So when the trailer appeared on that fateful day back in February 2011 and it somehow surpassed expectations, Todd Howard and his team must have known they had a hit on their hands.
I will be the first to admit that this game has problems. It’s been out for nearly ten years now, playable across every platform you can possibly imagine – I swear you can run it on a fridge at this point – and the amount of updates made to the game is impossible to count. Yet still: physics don’t work, dialogue constantly breaks, quests bug out and entire game saves can be deleted.
So why have both myself and the millions of players that continue to roam the landscape every day keep playing all this time later? Well, it’s because we have been grabbed by a world teeming with character, personality and emotion.
Whereas the game engine that Bethesda operates within for franchises such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls is, let’s be polite here, not the most up to date: it’s the world building they do so expertly that keeps people coming back. Whether it be the hardy and coarse natives of Windhelm to the cheery, friendly townsfolk of Riverwood all the way to the nightmare depths of Blackreach – How am I here again?! – there’s literally something for everyone. With the additions of graphics mods being updated even to this day as well, you can always ensure your game looks the best it possibly can do. It’s almost impossible to be bored when traversing the world itself as there’s such a variety of content to enjoy.
And incredibly, people are still finding things they’ve missed. I have, across five separate platforms, put over three thousand hours in Skyrim and just last week, I discovered an area I’d never been to before. It wasn’t a mod, it wasn’t a part of new DLC or anything like that. I had just legitimately missed it. A decade later and I’m still encountering brand new, exciting adventures and there are thousands out there going through the same discoveries.
Pictured below is my current character. Started last month, a bunch of new mods installed on PC and jumping back into the world I know so well. I’ve never had this level of commitment to a single game. Of course, I go back and play favourite games quite a lot. That’s why they are called ‘favourite games’ – it’s a great experience to go back and lose yourself in that nostalgia. But Skyrim has never been uninstalled since Christmas morning 2011. Regardless of the platform. Regardless of the time of year. Regardless of what is happening in my life, I have time for this game.
I’m never going to have a connection with a video game like this again. I know that. Due to being fourteen when the game released, I had time to dedicate so much of my life to the wilds, snowstorms and caves of this Nordic land. I’m nearly twenty-four now. I have a job, bills to pay and responsibilities. But there is a reason that both myself and the countless players who log onto their consoles or PC’s and jump back into the world do so.
I truly feel that, despite the jokes that get made about it (even I don’t want a PS5/Xbox Series S version, c’mon Bethesda), despite the bad wrap it gets as it’s over-saturated, that Bethesda’s fifth outing in the Elder Scrolls series can still stand up, dust itself down and give a ‘FUS-RO-DAH‘ like it did all those years ago.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to delve into Bleak Falls Barrow to get some ‘Dragonstone’ for a wizard…