Skyrim: First Impressions.


The Elder Scrolls hold a strange place in my imagination.  I avoid the fantasy genre like the plague regardless of what medium it comes in, so it’s strange that a game like Skyrim stirs up such excitement in me.  I bought Morrowind on a whim back in undergrad and was sucked in like never before, and when Oblivion came out I was blown away by just how amazing this franchise was.  The games are designed so well that even a guy like me, who likes to keep things based in realism as much as possible, will get a little giddy when they come out.  While an outsider may think fans of the series are full blown Ouija board-weilding Wiccan dungeonmasters, comfortably occupying their parent’s basements and playing Magic: The Gathering, the reality is far different.  Though when I try to explain what the game is about to those unfamiliar, it certainly makes everyone go quiet and look down into their beers uncomfortably, as if I’d told them my dog and I are no longer getting physical.

What a typical Skyrim fan may look like in the wild

And maybe I am a little prejudiced.  I mean, when Jsixgun and I went to the midnight release, we saw the entire Knoxville chapter of the trenchcoat mafia pretend sword fighting in the parking lot while others were dressed as wizards and other stuff guaranteed to repel women like an actor typecasted for his role in Herpes commercials.  We talked fantasy football while in line in a fruitless attempt to retain any semblance of normalcy.  But regardless of how weird some of those people were, Skyrim still had me terribly excited.  So when I got in from the cold that night, sat down with my dog and installed the game, I knew I was in for something big.  I just didn’t know how big the game would end up being.

The game is art. There's no punchline, that's just the truth...

See, my first draft of my “first impressions” article was written more as a gushy middle-school love letter than any sort of objective impression.  Reviewing a game of this magnitude is an incredibly daunting task, and writing anything over and above “The game is amazing.  Thanks.” is a challenge.  But to put it simply, this game has exceeded every single bit of hype surrounding it.  I was honestly worried; I had built this game up in my mind so much after Oblivion that I wondered if my expectations were based in reality.  Hype of that magnitude often leads to disappointment, and though I can handle disappointment with games like Call of Duty, I really wanted this game to be great.  And great it is.  The game is set in a fully explorable 16 square mile world.  You are no longer constrained to the class of your choosing, so whatever skills you want to use will all equally work to level you up.  The in-game menus and controls are intuitive and easy to learn, and the graphics are stunning.  Not a wildly extreme improvement over Oblivion, mind you, but daunting in their beauty nonetheless.

And it is the sheer freedom the game offers that allows it to be such a masterpiece.  While some games will make you feel like you are really “there”, this game lets you define where “there” is, and why and when you’re “there” as well.  My game is inevitably going to vary wildly from other peoples’ experiences with the game, and that is what makes it so great.  For instance, I got in a river to catch some fish just for the hell of it.  I didn’t realize it at the time but the current was taking me really far away from where I started from.  Next thing I know, I’m falling over a waterfall with no easy way to get back to where I was (I have a strict no fast travel policy).  I ended up running into some random people which began a storyline that is still ongoing.  It was a chance encounter, one I might not have had had I not been just dicking around, but this adventure has helped shape who I think my character is and what his motivations are.

The game is saturated with easter eggs, hidden items and places, and nods and references to older titles in the series.  For a big fan of Morrowind like me, stumbling across some steampunk Dwemer artifacts near the Skyrim/Morrowind border brought a rush of nostalgia over me.  I’m avoiding spoilers or hints like grim death so as to continue being pleasantly surprised by little discoveries like this.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t gotten to play for long, and in terms of the scope of the game, I’m certain I’ve barely scratched the surface.  But this game is certainly Game of the Year material, and will probably end up being on of my favorite games I’ve ever played.  As in ever played.  And though I was a little negative about some of the people I’ve seen who like this game, the overarching point I want to make is that this game is accessible; it’s for anyone, even people like me who don’t like fantasy.  Because of the breadth of this game and the overwhelming amount of choices offered to the player, this game can honestly be anything to anyone who plays it.  And there are tons of people out there who, like me, will find countless hours of some of the best gameplay available in gaming with Skyrim.  Truly it walks a thin line between game and art.  And it allows me to play as John Sylvester, an Imperial who is fighting against his homeland like an escaped inmate on death row would be inclined to do.  Plus he has great Civil War-era mutton chops which is a plus.

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4 Comments to “Skyrim: First Impressions.”

  1. My Brother Got this game. He showed me it the other night. Neat so far.

  2. great article. i like this game too!

  3. I was at both Turkey Creek release parties. I did see was a few high school children “sword fighting” in the parking lot, pissing off passersby. Boys will be boys.

    The release at the smaller Turkey Creek store was better. The only people standing outside has cigs in hand, chain smoking til midnight.

    • That does sound like a better release than ours. Hoards of 16 year olds rushing out of the store, laughing at us because we didn’t have our game yet, and then about getting into wrecks as they all drove like mad out of the parking lot to get home. I’m thinking Amazon next time, over Gamestop…

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