why Skyrim is still the greatest game ever, even four years later (g2)

If anyone knows me, they know I love video games.

Sure, I have my preferences. It has never appealed to me, in virtual or real life, to emulate any form of military combat. I like camo, I like the greens that are encompassed in it, but I like a lot of other things and colors too and coming up in the Cold War era, I really just have no interest.

My first real video game endeavors were things like Pong on my cousin’s Atari. Later on, they were first-person shooters. I went through Doom (I was a late bloomer and Wolfenstein looked like shit to me by then), Doom II, Quake and Quake II (with their NIN and Tool soundtracks, hell yeah) were a blast with the stereo speakers I spliced into my sound card. Nothing like making your desk shake from the sounds of an explosion. I played deathmatch and co-op with my former spouse. Some of our best times were taking it to their dad’s office to hook up the in-laws into a massive deathmatch after Sunday dinner. My father-in-law never could kill me even once, even with cheating. And I sucked.

When people started making their own player skins in Quake, I became more fascinated by that then game strategy. Plus, there really is nothing like smacking down prepubescent boys while skinned like Wonder Woman. I stood out like a Liberace billboard and was still killing them. I found a program that would let me make skins and I was hooked.

Duke Nukem came later and was sexist and misogynistic, but it kind of mocked its own misogyny and sexism by being laughably extreme, Archie Bunker style.

I spent two weeks trying to download a 50 meg demo of Diablo on 24.4k modem before the the days of “resume.”

What ended up becoming my great love later was MMORPG’s. This is when you can log in to a world that exists even when you aren’t playing and you are surrounded by millions of other players that are helping to shape and change that world. Ultima Online was my first taste of that, even though it started out as a gift for my spouse. It isn’t as cramped as my impression may indicate, but think about people all over the world who are present and playing in the same virtual space you were. You might have just woken up and they were just logging in after work, English being their second or third language. It was a new world with lots of varied ideas and I liked it.

Right now, WoW is the mainstay and perpetual example of the longest thriving MMORPG in existence and as much as it adds a lot of fun things that would be interesting to play, it has become a haven of the worst that gaming has to offer in gamers. The game itself forces you to interact with others instead of letting that happen organically and I suspect that will be their eventual downfall. I like it, and I hate it immensely.

When 2011 came around, I heard a lot of buzz and hype about Skyrim, but I had never really played more story-rich games so I had no experience or knowledge of The Elder Scrolls series. I’m a completionist by nature, don’t start me off at 3 or 4, bring them all and let me start at 1 and work my way through! It wasn’t until Spawn said they wanted it and Steam had one of their amazing sales that I grabbed it and it’s expansion packs. I watched Spawn play some and I just thought it was gorgeous. The more I watched the more I just couldn’t stop myself from trying it.

I want a collection of real swords in real life, so swinging a virtual one was right up my alley. They tried to make it as grey and realistic as the middle ages in many ways, but with real magic and dragons to boot. It has some gore, you start off watching a head chopped off. Blood will even splash in your vision when you kill something up close. People are dirty, wind-chapped, sun-burned and wrinkled. When non-player characters don’t know you, they’re rude, but they get nicer as you do more for them and become known.

In some aspects, the game felt very unfinished and kind of half-assed in areas. I suspect there was a deadline to push out another Fallout at the time. However, they left it a game that was open to modding. If you haven’t heard this term, think of as a shorthand of “modifying.” Mods are the things you download to mod your game… see, noun and a verb, very adaptive word.

As I was from waaaaay back with those Quake skins, I was a junkie for changing shit, bending it to my will. And the mod community of Skyrim especially stepped up and really expanded the hell out of the game. First, they fixed all the bugs the game-makers themselves didn’t. It was insanely prone to crashes, so they bumped up the graphics while speeding up the game and making it run more efficiently. They made it less grey and more beautiful to behold. They pulled out stuff that had gone unused and found a place for it. They expanded areas that were half-assed. They added new ones. They added new people. They altered the people already there to be… more. They made so many mods that you could make your game easier, harder, completely different or just fucked up for no reason at all other than its funny. Seriously… (it’s kind of loud, but I promise it is worth it).

Understand, I have none of that shit installed on my own game, but it is a great example of just how much people have been able to alter the game to their own twisted desires. Randy Savage dragons bitching about Slim Jim’s in the Middle Ages is certainly a level of delusion I’ve not elevated to myself. Riding around a giant yellow rubber duck that’s dressed like a princess certain is, but I digress.

If you are perhaps piqued but really want to laugh… a lot. There is a playthrough that visits a vast series of the stupidest, most pointless, irritating, yet beautiful example of adaptability of Skyrim, start here. You will laugh, I promise. A lot (continuations show in the upper right):

The Pew Pew Bow is my favorite.

I have been playing this game on and off for three years or more now and I have NEVER been able to complete it. NOT ONCE. I don’t mean the stuff that adds to the game, I mean the base game, it tells me I’ve seen barely half of what it has to offer…. HALF. I started out grabbing every wooden spoon and tankard I came across because “OMG, Cool!” and I am a completionist. My first character was started out stupidly, I didn’t care. I was such a mod junkie that I broke my first game to the point of not being able to progress any further. My completionist nature has that game stored until I can figure out how to unbreak it. In the meantime, I’ve had to start anew. So much had happened since then, I didn’t mind since it all seemed kind of new again.

I’m an equal opportunity sexist. From the mass amounts of armor and weapons I have added, most of that which is worn by me and my crew is very risque…. but the guys show as much skin as the girls. Metal diapers for everyone!

I found a bow that makes people explode occasionally.

I’ve added some of the most fascinating player-created, non-player characters I’ve ever seen. They entertain me immensely, just on their own. People and their creations are fascinating.

I can feel real fear. There is a point where you have dive towards the bottom of the ocean and it’s too dark to see and it’s set in an area of ice and snow. It’s terrifying because it pulls you in. You feel cold and isolated with it.

The AI on those around you are based heavily on their purpose. Some can sense you even when you’re stealthy because they are blind already and their hearing and sense of smell is stellar. Many times, they have gotten closer to me without me realizing, than I could to them.

You undergo a lot of ethical and moral dilemmas, and they aren’t easy to resolve. Sometimes, the best choice is the most painful. It forces you to garner some insight on what you might do if pushed to the wall. Sure, it’s a fake life with a fake outcome and easy to write it off as such to make you feel better, but we really cannot escape who we are. We all have dark sides, and my first play was to explore that.

As you play, you’re in the midst of a civil war about to erupt and there too, at some point, you’ll have to choose sides. It doesn’t force you directly, but you’re limited if you don’t in smaller but important ways. If you really pay attention, you realize that neither are all good or all bad, it’s all grey. You just have to pick the shade that you can live with.

I have my complaints of course. It’s very ego-centric. You, the player, are the coolest, biggest badass in this virtual world and you can become leader of all major organizations (except king… unless you have the mod for it). It would be nice if you had the choice of alliances instead, maybe vote for a leader of this or that organization. But the modding community responded to that too and you can start off as insignificant as you want, even an orphan child with dreams of being a farmer.

I wish Spawn and I could both play at the same time, in the same world. That would just be fun. Co-op is kind of underrated but it really teaches so much about cooperative interaction. Skyrim only has room for one and only one, and I haven’t seen a mod yet able to change that.

As much as you are allowed to make or destroy certain aspects, with as much freedom you are given, there are some big glaring oversights, an option C if you will, that never seemed to occur to the makers. Although I’m thrilled the mod community again, stepped in to rectify this, it’s not as fluid as it would be had the openness been present through all aspects of the core game. Maven Black-Briar is an epic bitch. When her part is done, I should be able to slaughter her and hang her on the rafters of her own home. I should not need a mod to do this. I don’t care if I have to go to jail. It would be worth it.

Yes, you can be sent to jail. You can also break out, bribe a guard or just raise hell and try to kill them all to escape. You will have a bounty on your head though and the more bad you do, the higher the bounty. You will also have guys come after you to take you out sporadically.

If I had other gripes, it would be how the guys look like they are all one generation from loinclothed Neanderthals able to scratch their knees without bending, while a large portion of the women are total babes. I don’t get how girls like that would deal with guys that fugly, but then that could be why there are so little children. Really, the base game with no mods has all ugly ass men. It’s truly sad.

Again, mod community to the rescue. With their help, you can have a more polished, attractive version of lesser cavemen to something that would put a teen vampire romance to shame with its sparkly, glistened androgyny. Of course, the women have their own variations. I’m a bit surprised how popular the larger thighs and butts seem to be, though of course they always have the boobs to match. However, it’s less Angelina Jolie and more Lainie Kazan.

But the best part… the really best part, is knowing, at one point when my player has to fight an epic battle beside some epic characters, one of them was voiced by the woman who brings it all full circle for me, Linda Carter. The real Wonder Woman. I squeed through the entire quest over getting to fight, even virtually, with fucking Wonder Woman. Hell, yeah.

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  1. #1 by Polysyllabic Profundities on November 9, 2015 - 6:13 pm

    I’ve never been big into video games….but your last lines made me wonder if I should start…lol. 🙂

    • #2 by g2 on November 9, 2015 - 8:52 pm

      Definitely, it can be daunting, but I don’t think there is anybody who could not find at least one game that did it for them. Mind you, what that is looks different for everyone. I like Skyrim because there are puzzles too.

      My brain likes puzzles and thinking as much as rampant aggression-dissolving killing. Damn, forgot that point…

      But sometimes, it’s cool when you find out someone you really adore had a hand in something else you really adore. I have a knack for voices. Spawn was playing Tales from the Borderlands, and as soon as one of the characters spoke, I knew the actor had done Serana from Skyrim. I think Linda Carter will also be contributing to the next rendition of Fallout, and no other reasoning right now is making me more interested in checking it out. I’m pathetic that way. She’s not my only squee-worthy superhero, but she is such a super and influential person aside from the character, that I just cannot help my admiration.

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