Video Game Thoughts: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was a 2011 role-playing game by Bethesda Game Studios that I played on the PC. Skyrim is one of my all time favorite role-playing games and my second favorite from Bethesda Game Studios. When it comes to role-playing games, either the story or the exploration needs to be good to keep me interested. Skyrim did pretty well in both areas but most of all in exploration. Like its predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Skyrim featured a massive game world with thousands of people to meet and places to see.

The story was a good heroic tale of saving the world, but it was the little stories that shined in this game. For the most part, I found the side quests more interesting than the main quests. I liked talking to a person in need, learning their story, seeing what they need, completing the quest, and seeing how it affected them. The main quests did this too, but I was always more interested in the small-scale stuff than the large-scale stuff.

It’s kind of what I like in real life too. The media focuses on the rich and powerful, but I’ve never been drawn to that. I mean it would be nice to not have to worry about money. Everyone likes that, but I am perfectly happy if I can pay my bills and have a little extra for charity. My overall goal in life is to live simply, donate my extra money to charity, and serve others as much as I can. So the stories of the regular folk in Skyrim were the most interesting to me. I wanted to help them more than the kings of Skyrim. The kings had armies and powerful families to do their bidding. They didn’t really need my character’s help. In real life, I don’t want to be the center of attention. I want to be absolutely humble. The more I can help people without them knowing, the better I feel.

Getting back to the game, I found the graphics to be a little weak. They were slightly better than Oblivion’s graphics but times changed. Other games in the same release year as Skyrim looked much better. That was fine by me though. My computer was starting to get outdated by the time it came out.

Bethesda took all the improvements they came up with for Fallout 3 and incorporated them into Skyrim with more improvements on top. They succeeded in fixing the two problems I had with Oblivion: the monster level scaling and the generic environments.  The monsters scaled, but now only for set level ranges. If the player character was below or above those ranges, the monsters would not go outside that range. This made certain dungeons and areas either easy or tough for the player depending on the level of their character. I got a real sense of getting stronger as I leveled up, but not so much that no enemy could challenge me (as the case was in Fallout 3).

Skyrim’s world was grounded in reality (based on Northern Europe), but magic and mystery were littered throughout. My favorite dungeons were the dwarven ones. Several had notes, artifacts, and evidence of a previous time when dwarves roamed the land. In the current time, the dwarves had mysteriously gone extinct. Skyrim gave a few more details into how that came about but still left mysteries for future games.

The only downside with the game was that quests had very few choices for the player to make. This was common in Oblivion too, but it was not improved in Skyrim. The one choice I had in almost all quests was to either accept the quest or decline the quest. The story was already decided. I, the player, was just seeing it. I didn’t get to influence it. This is pretty bad for a role-playing game. If I can’t play out the role for my character, it is hard to call it a role-playing game. Luckily, the stories as they existed were still interesting to me. It hurt the replay value of the game though. Once I completed a quest, I had little interest in doing it again because I already knew the outcome. Fallout 3 actually did better in this area.

Dawnguard mini-expansion

Dawnguard added a long quest line and several new dungeons to the game. Bethesda improved on the game by at least having two sides to this quest line. At a certain point I got to choose between the good guys and the bad guys. Each of them had their own unique set of quests mostly to defeat the opposite side, but even after completing the main quest line there were several unique side quests to each side that had the player go into random dungeons around the world. The crossbow weapon type was one of the new additions.

They also added a set of skills for werewolf and vampire characters. Without this expansion, werewolves could transform into a wolf with some pluses and minuses. Vampire characters would get a different set of pluses and minuses the longer they neglected to feed on blood. With Dawnguard, instead of just that one modification for werewolves and vampires, they had several new skills to play around with. Some skills gave them new abilities while others reduced some of the minuses.

Hearthfire mini-expansion

Hearthfire added some role-playing to the game by letting the player build their own home and start a family. Unfortunately, I found it a little too rigid. First, I could only choose from a specific set of plots around the world. I would have liked to put a house anywhere there was enough space. The interior of the house was also rigid. I could choose from a few different “room types”. After that, each room was just a big list of schematics to build. The player could choose which order to build things, but not really customize them in most cases. There needed to be more options to personalize the home.

Family life was a little too limited as well. Hearthfire added several orphan children to the world for the player to adopt. Marriage was already in the game from a free patch. I was very happy that there were no sex scenes, but there were no scenes of anything at all. When I visited, the spouse and kids would make a few comments, sometimes a simple request, and that was pretty much it. I would have loved there to be some more involved dialogue here, but I guess it would have been really hard to do that. The computer isn’t actually intelligent. It would not be able to come up with good lines in response plus everything in this game had to be voice acted too.

Dragonborn mini-expansion

Dragonborn was my favorite expansion to the game. Like Shivering Isles of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it added a whole new island to the game. It was fairly small but there were several amazing quests there. Like Dawnguard it came with a long quest line, but they did a good job of making the side quests interesting too. Several new armor sets and weapons were added including several unique ones. Some of these items could be the most powerful in the game if the player started the expansion with a high level character.

I liked everything in this expansion except for the dragon riding. Flying around just attracted too much attention for my liking. All the enemies for miles would see the dragon and come running over to fight it and my character. Combat on the dragon was weak too. The player could have the dragon breathe fire on the enemies. Ranged weapons were an option, but good luck hitting anything at the high speeds the dragon flew at. I think dragon riding was only good as a form of fast travel if the player didn’t want to just teleport there with the map. Even then, they would have to be ready to fight a bunch of enemies when they got to their destination.

Dragonborn was a great ending to the game. The Dragonborn ending came full circle with the early main quests in Skyrim. Dragonborn also came full circle with the The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Morrowind featured an expansion that took players to the same island. Bethesda connected the two by putting almost all of Morrowinds music into Skyrim as the soundtrack for this island. It was a great way for veteran players to relive some of their memories of the classic Morrowind game.

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