A (Short) Defense of Skyrim

Posted by believer258 (11664 posts) -

I have, for a long time, held Skyrim as my personal favorite game of the generation. To this day, it's a bit of a divisive game - some people claim it's pretty boring, some people strongly dislike its mechanics, etc. Of course those are valid opinions and I understand them, but I wanted to write down what I liked so much about the game. So I did. And I wasn't going to post it to Giantbomb, but after finishing it I thought I might go ahead and do just that. So, here it is.

I can’t sit here and tell you that Skyrim is a perfect game. Far from it. You even have good ground to stand on if you want to make a case for Skyrim as a bad game. I understand those reasons, I could elaborate on them myself in an article as long as this one if I so wished. Deep as they are, though, Skyrim’s flaws are easily ignored by me in favor of its world.

Skyrim is a place of rolling plains, shimmering ice caves, dark ruins, and great mountains. Scaling one of these mountains allows you to see a majestic vista below, full of trees, snow, plains, towns, cities, and other mountains off in the distance. Look up at night, and you’ll see an aurora borealis, a northern lights display that falls short only of the real thing. Wait until the morning and you can see the sun’s brilliance shine across those snow-capped mountains and you’ll find rays of its light shining through a tree’s leaves. On a grand scale, Skyrim is the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen. That I can be a part of this world, and I can go anywhere and do anything, only adds to that grandeur and that beauty.

Up close, Skyrim doesn’t lose any of its luster. Every plain, every mountain, every city, every cave, and every ruin has its own individuality. No single place in Skyrim is an exact repeat of another, save for perhaps the inns outside of cities that pockmark the landscape. Making a bee-line from one place to another is almost impossible as you stop to discover new places to visit and new dungeons to dive into. Towns and cities have many citizens walking about, talking with each other and going about their business. Go into Whiterun and you can hear characters chatter about the feud between two big families in the town, talk about the state that Skyrim is currently in, a woman complaining about her husband never leaving the Jarl’s palace, and more. Peek your nose into a dungeon and you’ll find various treasures, monsters and traps. If you’re lucky, you might find something that reveals a new quest or a new Shout or any other number of things that might catch your interest.

I am no Elder Scrolls lore expert, but a defense of this game cannot go by without some mention of the story and the lore. You can find books scattered about the world that tell you what kind of stories exist in Skyrim. These books encompass practically anything that can be placed between two covers, and there you’ll find plenty of information about gods, history, characters, and even details on how to, say, work a special forge near Whiterun. Outside of the written word, you can talk to practically anyone to hear opinions on Skyrim’s war, current events, gossip, and more.

The final detail I must describe is this game’s music. Previous Elder Scrolls games have had a largely triumphant soundtrack. Morrowind starts with triumph as you emerge from the boat in shackles and ragged clothes. Oblivion’s music tends to have an air of whimsy about it, especially some of the town tunes. Both of these soundtracks are great, but Skyrim’s gives a distinct feeling of bleakness. It is not a soundtrack without triumph, but it also isn’t one without sorrow. It’s largely made up of slower, deeper sounds that really help to deliver the world’s desperation.

And if you’ve made it this far, then here is where I must wrap all of this together. What makes Skyrim different from other RPG’s? After all, doesn’t practically every RPG have towns that try to give off a feeling of a living, breathing community? Can’t you talk to everyone in Dragon Age Origins? Doesn’t Just Cause 2 have some brilliant vistas of its own? Doesn’t The Witcher 2 have those small details? Yes, but none of these games come together quite like Skyrim does. There’s a certain atmosphere of bleakness and dark times in Skyrim that no other game I have ever played gives off, and it’s only compounded by the northern, harsh conditions that these people live in and the uneasy, constant threat of another war erupting. You can spend all your time diving in caves if you want to, but you would be ignoring the larger conflict sitting above ground. I’ll be the first to admit that actually participating in the conflict between the Stormcloaks and the Empire isn’t a great quest, but the talk that you hear from citizens surrounding it does so much to cement the world. The discussion of troubles and the harsh world that these people live in does just as much to tell you that, even without a war, there would be considerable issues to deal with. And yet these people keep living on, and Skyrim does a fantastic job of placing you among them.

In any other form of fiction, this would seem cliché, but Skyrim places you right in the thick of it and it does so in the best way I’ve ever seen. Are any of its parts perfect? No, but Skyrim gives off such an aesthetic brilliance and absolutely nails its bleak atmosphere and tone so well that I can’t help but forgive its inadequacies, and its high points appeal to my own specific interests so directly that I can’t help but call it my favorite game of this generation.

#1 Posted by Aelric (401 posts) -

ok

#2 Posted by EuanDewar (4775 posts) -

It's cool that you felt passionate enough to write this down and share your thoughts for a game you love with others, we could always do with a bit more of that, but I don't think Skyrim really needs defending. You'll only ever really find divisive opinions on it in pretty specific places.

#3 Posted by JasonR86 (9609 posts) -

@believer258:

There was nothing short about that dude. But I'm fine with games that are divisive. I didn't realize that Skyrim was one of those games but I don't mind either way. Games that are usually loved and often the most boring to me.

#4 Posted by GreggD (4478 posts) -

I had to start over on PC, because my old 360 save was pre-patch, therefore not compatible to port to my Steam copy. So I started a new game as a female Nord, and somehow I ended up on the thief/assassin tech path. I completely forgot where the "class" stones were located in the world, so I'm just off travelling and stealth bow-killing everyone and everything I come across. I've never played any other Elder Scrolls game like this, and I'm having a blast.

#5 Posted by TowerSixteen (542 posts) -

@jasonr86: It's divisive in the same way some of the more popular shooters may be held to be- Not "people either like it or hate it in relatively equivalent amounts", but "It is so popular among such a large group of people that even its smallish minority of people who don't like it seems big". That is not, for the record, a condemnation of either opinion, though I love me some Skyrim and very much agree with the OP.

#6 Posted by Hailinel (23928 posts) -

It's cool that you felt passionate enough to write this down and share your thoughts for a game you love with others, we could always do with a bit more of that, but I don't think Skyrim really needs defending. You'll only ever really find divisive opinions on it in pretty specific places.

I don't know. I think that it could use defending at points. At least to get people like myself to understand his point of view better. I played Skyrim, but I only enjoyed it as far as the Companions storyline took me. Once I was finished with that quest line the rest of the game that I played (I never finished it) was a dull slog. It didn't help matters that I was playing the PS3 version.

#7 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11486 posts) -

Maybe if you were talking about a Dragon Age 2 or Resident Evil 6 equivalent... but I don't think Skyrim necessarily needs defending. It's a critically and commercially successful game that has its share of detractors, but what game doesn't?

Online
#8 Posted by EuanDewar (4775 posts) -

@hailinel: Yeah and that's cool and I get that. I just found it weird that out of nowhere three years later this crazy beloved huge financial success of a product is the one game that dude felt needed defending over all others. That's all.

I'm just being nitpicky with that though, no need for me to piss on the cornflakes of a guy who's expressing his love for something. Ignore me.

#9 Edited by believer258 (11664 posts) -

@arbitrarywater: @euandewar: I kind of felt like I was writing it as a defense, though, so that's what I titled it. I'll agree that it's not a game in terrible need of defense, but that was the title I chose and I'm sticking with it.

Still, whenever the topic of Skyrim comes up, I often see someone peek in and give a snarky comment on how it's pretty boring or something along those lines.

@jasonr86 said:

@believer258:

There was nothing short about that dude.

It was only like two pages in Word, double-spaced.

#10 Posted by fisk0 (3861 posts) -

I played it on PS3, and even with that version's massive issues I had a good time with it. I especially liked that there were several lengthy but separate quest lines going on, I played through the civil war quest line and felt like I had finished what could've been an entire game after that, and barely even touched the main quests.

#11 Posted by Clonedzero (4091 posts) -

It's cool that you felt passionate enough to write this down and share your thoughts for a game you love with others, we could always do with a bit more of that, but I don't think Skyrim really needs defending. You'll only ever really find divisive opinions on it in pretty specific places.

Almost everytime i see skyrim mention on the forums here its responded with 3-4 jackasses nitpicking flaws in it. Even when the point of mentioning wasn't talking about the quality of the game. I mean sure, i could nitpick, like how i HATE that they made DRAGONS a tedious chore to fight and made DRAGONS less of a threat than some piss-ant bandit chief with a 2handed axe.

But the game is simply great. The massive amazing world to explore. I've played it for hundreds of hours and im still sure there are things and places i havent seen yet.

#12 Posted by TruthTellah (8552 posts) -

Hey, duders, he's writing a blog post about how he likes a game despite some of its flaws. We're all gamers here; I think we can all appreciate someone liking a game and wanting to express why they like it.

I definitely remember Skyrim well, and it really represents the latter-half of the last generation for me. Such a memorable experience for many of those reasons you mentioned. The world, the music, and those vistas. To me, it made the Elder Scrolls series accessible to a wider audience than ever before, and I was so glad to get to experience that world along with so many others. :)

Online
#13 Posted by JackSukeru (5906 posts) -

I don't recall finding it particulary beautiful, nor its world very interesting, even with all the books full of short stories I read. Could you really see far and in much detail on a PC? maybe I need a better computer, or maybe I looked in the wrong places, it's been a while.

Either way that game is pretty good, I liked it quite a bit when I played it. Some thing I thought were annoying and I never finished it, but its not a game that requires much defending, it's got some good strengths and a few weaknesses just like any other game, and not all of its strengths are going to appeal to everyone.

#14 Posted by believer258 (11664 posts) -

@fisk0 said:

I played it on PS3, and even with that version's massive issues I had a good time with it. I especially liked that there were several lengthy but separate quest lines going on, I played through the civil war quest line and felt like I had finished what could've been an entire game after that, and barely even touched the main quests.

I actually first played my brother's copy of Skyrim on a PS3. He wound up playing his main for 150 hours on the PS3 and who knows how many hours with other characters, even with the performance problems!

I spent most of my time playing this on the 360, but my PC hour count is getting closer to how much I played on the 360.

I don't recall finding it particulary beautiful, nor its world very interesting, even with all the books full of short stories I read. Could you really see far and in much detail on a PC? maybe I need a better computer, or maybe I looked in the wrong places, it's been a while.

Here are a couple of screenshots that show what I mean. Perhaps I should have put these in the original post, but ah well.:

And what really makes this for me is the ability to pick any spot in either of these screenshots, go there, and find several things to do along the way.

#15 Posted by ajamafalous (11862 posts) -

I love that there are people that revere Skyrim so much that they immediately label dissenting opinions as "snarky" or "nitpicky" "jackassery."

#16 Posted by Video_Game_King (36056 posts) -

We're all gamers here; I think we can all appreciate someone liking a game and wanting to express why they like it.

I think that's the reason we can't.

#17 Posted by believer258 (11664 posts) -

I love that there are people that revere Skyrim so much that they immediately label dissenting opinions as "snarky" or "nitpicky" "jackassery."

If you want to write up a dissenting opinion then go ahead, do so. It wouldn't be that hard, and I'm aware of its issues. I said as much in the first post. I just wanted to write solely about Skyrim's positive aspects.

#18 Edited by GreggD (4478 posts) -

I love that there are people that revere Skyrim so much that they immediately label dissenting opinions as "snarky" or "nitpicky" "jackassery."

I was referring to people nitpicking this blog, specifically. I get that it has flaws, and I can openly admit that. I just felt it unnecessary to critique Believer's blog. It's stupid. Like, literally, the definition of stupid is stubborn and ignorant.

#19 Posted by ajamafalous (11862 posts) -

@believer258: @greggd: I wasn't speaking to his writeup (which I admittedly didn't read, because it was way longer than (Short) implies), but to the comments I always see in Skyrim threads from people who think it's the second coming and can't seem to understand where a dissenting opinion is coming from.

#20 Posted by GreggD (4478 posts) -

@believer258: @greggd: I wasn't speaking to his writeup (which I admittedly didn't read, because it was way longer than (Short) implies), but to the comments I always see in Skyrim threads from people who think it's the second coming and can't seem to understand where a dissenting opinion is coming from.

I mean, the game is amazing. But yeah, I feel you.

#21 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

The world is about as interesting as watching paint dry. I'm sorry, but the lore is completely generic fantasy stuff and the writing quality of the characters and side/main quests are laughably bad. I really can't understand why Bethesda would put so much time, effort and more importantly money into development, but say fuck it when it comes to the writing.

The combat is pretty clunky. And the environments aren't all that great. It's either snow or caves. With a little bit of swamps and a small of land with a warmer climate near Riften. It all really looks quite monotonous.Once the joy of exploring the world is gone, there's really nothing good left.

Skyrim is regarded as a near perfect game by a lot of people. It's managed to create such hype and praise, that it simply doesn't live up to it. As it stands, it's an okay game.

So yeah. I too once considered Skyrim to be the best game of this generation. It's not the worst, not even close. But it's certainly the most overrated. Obviously, this is just my opinion.

#22 Edited by JackSukeru (5906 posts) -

@believer258: That first picture with the snow looks like what I remember the vistas looking like from memory, I'm not into it and tried for some time to put into words exactly why..but failed. It doesn't really matter anyway, so whatever.

I like the second picture more, and the sky looks really neat in both.

#23 Edited by TowerSixteen (542 posts) -

@thedudeofgaming: You know, the character writing is badish, but I fail to see how the world lore could be considered boilerplate fantasy. "Generic" fantasy is usually D&D or Tolkienesqe, this is neither, and while it is obviously calling on both the common idea of the "northern barbarian" as well as Norse influence I don't think that's a reason to be dismissive, as in the world-building it's well-executed.

"And the environments aren't all that great. It's either snow or caves." Is so reductive as to be meaningless. I could call the Sahara just "sand and dunes", or the icelandic Fjords "just snow and caves", and it would be often true and just as meaningless.

#24 Edited by Sammo21 (3213 posts) -

Great post, but as another user said I don't think the game needs defending; it won numerous game of the year awards.

I do wish there was a Skyrim like game set in a more DnD or Pathfinder situated world, but I found Skyrim to be fun. I will say I found the writing in Oblivion to be better than in Skyrim. I also found the side missions to be better and more thought out in Oblivion. I do think Skyrim had a more coherent and fun main storyline. That being said, I still think Skyrim was fun.

#25 Posted by TheHT (10906 posts) -

I thought mods would make the game better. It did for a while, but just like back when I first started playing, eventually I realize the game's just not that great. The world is boring, characters are stiff and speak... so... slowly, and the storylines are all mostly forgettable. The Molag Bal quest is cool, the hangover quest is cool, the murder mystery in Markarth is cool, that's about it.

The combat isn't amazing but I enjoyed playing it stealthily, and clunky as it is there are some fun moments to be had in straight-up combat. Going two-handed, making time slow down by blocking before an enemy attacks, side-stepping to take him out then shouting others off into the horizon might not feel particularly smooth, but is still generally quite satisfying. And yes, using a mod to stop time, fire off a billion arrows into a battlefield, and then starting time to watch everything fly away is really fuckin awesome and ridiculous.

But for the most part, the game doesn't stack up to how much I enjoyed Oblivion. My goodness, now that world was fun to explore. It might not make the most sense for a small region to have such varied environments, but it sure made for an exciting video game world. Skyrim feels so soulless, so empty. As if after making Fallout 3 they couldn't quite shake the wasteland from their mind. You might call it an atmosphere of bleakness and dark times, but even that can still have character, like Demon's Souls or Dark Souls. Skyrim is just bland.

I'd say Dragon Age Origins and Just Cause 2 come together in their own right to be better games than Skyrim. Probably The Witcher 2 as well, if not most of all. I certainly enjoyed my time with both games more than I enjoyed my time with Skyrim; all 172 hours.

#26 Edited by Guesty_01 (339 posts) -

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Skyrim has many flaws, I could easily list ten things I would like improved upon. But despite this, it still manages to be my favorite single player game of all time.

#27 Edited by benspyda (2030 posts) -

Skyrim is probably my favorite game of all time, so you don't have to defend it from me. It's just a world I could explore for hundreds of hours and still love every minute.

#28 Edited by Tru3_Blu3 (3187 posts) -

The game is quite amazing at the beginning. But once you get your steel armor and steel weaponry and go beyond Whiterun, the game really does falter in the enjoyment factor.

I, however, still play it to this day to see and do the things I missed in previous playthroughs. I'm 900 hours in and I've yet to experience the freaking Thieves Guild fully! And though the guilds are rather shallow in their structure and design compared to the previous TES games, I still commit to them for the sake of role-playing. I want to be a certain SOMEONE in this world, and I can do that by dedicating my character to certain things and not let him/her do all the dungeons and quests. It makes the gameplay all the more enthralling than for someone who is a basic completionist.

And hey, Bethesda doesn't get games out often. There's always room for improvement.

#29 Posted by HistoryInRust (6274 posts) -

Skyrim might not be perfect, but it doesn't need defending.

#30 Posted by Legion_ (1256 posts) -

@aelric: Why act like a dick? I mean really, why? Head on over to GT or IGN. You seem to be more in line with that crowd.

#31 Edited by SunBroZak (1026 posts) -

Skyrim certainly has it's issues. For a game that prides itself on freedom, many of the quests feel very linear in how they resolve. The combat is lackluster, and I always found the paths you could take with the gear to be pretty boring.

But in saying that, there are few games where I feel like I'm playing in a living world. There's so much just going on around you. Townsfolk are going about their daily lives, animals are running around the wilderness, little insects are buzzing over plants. It feels so rewarding to just walk around and explore. I feel like I'm only ever a few steps away from something to do. It's definitely one of my favourites.

#32 Edited by thomasnash (539 posts) -

I think most of my issues with Skyrim are well covered, and at the end of the day I did play quite a lot of it, so I can't really be too down on it.

With that said, I've never understood why people were so impressed by the amount of stuff in books in that game. Is it just a sheer volume thing - that there were a lot of unique books? Because I'm pretty sure Baldur's Gate managed a similar amount of lore books scattered around, and they were just as dull to actually read.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.