Game Complete: Skyrim

This ‘Game Complete’ series was introduced for 2017 with two purposes in mind.

The first was to encourage sticking with games all the way through to their most obvious endpoint. If you’re reading this then its a safe bet that you can think of certain games that have required serious investment before coming alive and that wouldn’t have left such a mark had you given up on them earlier on. Admittedly, the idea of a game actually being over upon completing the main story sounds old fashioned in these days of open worlds and post-game content, but that seems as suitable a line in the sand as any to draw.

The second purpose was to share compelling gaming experiences through word and image, as I’ve found there to be as much joy inherent in the celebration of a great game as is in the playing. And where better to share the stories and screenshots than here on WordPress?

With all of this background in mind, I have to say that calling “game complete” on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim after simply finishing its sprawling main quest-line feels more than a little unjust, but more on why that is later.

Have you ever punched a dragon in the eye whilst riding its writhing head like a bucking bull?

Have you ever opened a door and startled someone so badly that they fell to their death from a rampart?

Have you ever caused a reanimated skeletal warrior to explode like a slow motion supernova?

If you answered ‘no’ and this all sounds too awesome to be true then you need the Skyrim Special Edition in your life. Behold an enormous fantasy realm in which all the above and more is possible. There’s civil war, magic and, of course, dragons! Where else – apart from in the equally impressive Dragon Age series  – could you hope to find all of this?

As it has been around in one form or another since 2011, Bethesda‘s fifth entry in the Elder Scrolls franchise has had enough written about it to fill many libraries. I therefore won’t be attempting to add to the literature, but rather reinforce the following observations:

1. This is a game in which there is always something more to do.

If, like me, you take a lot of satisfaction in completing To-Do lists then expect to inhabit the lands of Skyrim for the rest of your natural, real-world life. Be warned: the main quest is just a gateway into endless heroic tasks to accomplish. First there are the plentiful and varied side quests that – despite being completely optional – appear indistinguishable from the key ‘story-line’ content in your character’s journal (perhaps this is to tie in with the choose-your-own-adventure ethos shared by The Elder Scrolls and its Fallout stablemates?). Then you have all the ‘radiant’ quests that arise mid-adventure and beckon for your attention from then on. Sadly I haven’t found a way to archive quests that I have no intention of completing, which results in a cluttered interface and awkward task management (another Fallout similarity!). Finally there’s the vast and artfully crafted world of Tamriel constantly seducing you with another stunning sunrise or intriguing horizon to chase.

Feel free to check out this recent Pokemon-inspired post that also happens to reflect on Bethesda’s impressive world building skills.

In Skyrim you can grow accustomed to having so much to do that it is worth reminding yourself to look up the wiki to determine which quest will get you another step closer to the arbitrary point of ‘completion’. There are financial and character progression benefits to clearing every dungeon and solving every mystery you stumble upon, but should your momentum start to wane my advice is to get back on track with the main storyline and save the world. That said, Skyrim offers some of the most engaging and well scripted busy work I’ve encountered in an RPG and has kept me questing well past that initial averted apocalypse.

10+ hours after completing the main quest we’re on the hunt for the next Big Bad.

2. Community-made mods, which in the Special Edition of Skyrim are supported without the need for additional mod managing software, are totally worthwhile.

I started this adventure with the desire to experience this modern classic unadulterated and exactly as Bethesda intended. Then after about 20 hours of authentic gameplay I realised that a cottage in which to safely store my accumulated loot would be a significant quality of life improvement. Another 10 or so hours on I finally gave up on sticking to Bethesda’s loot-carrying limits and bought myself a modded Ring Of Carry that quadrupled my protagonist’s treasure hauling capacity. From there it was on to boosting the athletic abilities of Skyrim’s horses and adding more intense weather effects because… well, why not. The latter changes may not be a big deal, but having access to the well-equipped dwelling you see below really added to my enjoyment of the early and middle stages of the game. Just be aware that applying mods disables the achievement trophy system, which is a shame but turned out to be worth the sacrifice.

3. A game that doesn’t require an internet connection to play can be really handy!

In my case Skyrim‘s offline play was a boon as I was able to complete the campaign unhindered whilst waiting to rejoin the wide world of broadband. In one sense life in the new abode has been a lot like that of my alter-ego in his isolated Hunter’s Cabin; no air conditioning and no internet… thank goodness there are fewer bandits and dragons here in Western Australia!

OK, a different sort of dragon but a dragon nonetheless.

I still look forward to the day when Telstra finally connect our house to the internet, but in the meantime Skyrim has provided a more than satisfactory diversion from the giant robot combat that came before it. And if you are one of the handful of people that have taken longer than I did to really delve into this game, what are you waiting for?!?

Just look at this place…


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