Skyrim. Skyrim. Skyrim. Skyrim! Skyrim.
I kept whispering "Skyrim" on the Bombcast because, you know, I'm so subtle. We're still many weeks from Bethesda Game Studios releasing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game that, based on personal history, I should have zero interest in. Yet, it's my most anticipated release of the year, a game that will most likely prompt me to tell my fiancee I'm disappearing for a week.
A number of readers have asked me about one specific comment, in which I profess a strong distaste for fantasy. That wasn't an off-hand, misplaced joke--it remains true. We moved on rather quickly, so I thought about explaining that a bit further.
But let's backtrack a little bit.
While reporting for MTV Multiplayer, I confronted my aversion to open world games. I just avoided anything like it. I had nothing against the concept of open world, but for the longest time, even in the most linear of games, I'd freeze up over simple decisions. Presented with the option of going left or right, I'd always head a few steps down the left before second guessing myself and heading right. The open world exponentially increases the moments where decisions like this have to be made. I'd convinced myself this was simply an argument against games asking you to make your own fun within a sandbox--but that was flimsy.
There came an opportunity to play Fallout 3 ahead of its release. This was a unique opportunity, too, as it was basically an all-day play session. Bethesda was allowing writers to come to a hotel and play something like five or six hours of Fallout 3. Bestheda's latest was shaping up to be one of the year's biggest games, so purely from a reporter's perspective, I could not pass this up.
And so I found myself playing Fallout 3 for five straight hours. Oh, and that early moment in Fallout 3 that everyone calls amazing, when you exit the vault? My palms were full of sweat, my heart racing. Quickly, I was totally overwhelmed.
Hours (and many deaths) later, it started to click, largely in part to Fallout 3's rather ingenius (and subtle) navigational arrows at the bottom of the screen, giving players like myself a sense of purpose. Fallout 3's world involves much more than choosing left or right, but the arrows provided a grounded sense of place in an environment with seemingly infinite possibilities.
This is where I learned the joy of the open world game, and how a landscape filled with interconnected systems can provide more fun than anything the developers themselves intended. It helped the writing for Fallout 3's side quests was far superior and more interesting than the main one, and I don't mean that sarcastically. Learning that encouraged me to keep digging in.
All told, DLC included, I spent nearly 100 hours roaming inside Fallout 3, easily the most time I've dedicated to a game since maxing out Final Fantasy VIII's game clock at 99:99:99. FFVIII, also known as the best of the PlayStation Final Fantasy games. Haters of the Junction system can take a hike, thank ya.
Besides the same studio, what's this have to do with Skyrim?
Partially as thanks for opening my eyes, largely because I've been desperate to get engrossed in a world as much as Fallout 3's, I'll play anything Bethesda puts out, even set within worlds that aren't appealing. Elves, orcs--snore. Dragons are cool. Giant spiders are not. I'm unable to fully articulate what doesn't grab me about a fantasy setting, outside of just finding the whole thing silly. At least within a science fiction context you're albe to imagine humanity evolving into that direction one day.
I won't expect to have convinced anyone with the perceived realism argument, but I have to imagine you all have at least one particular setting, look or style that simply rubs you the wrong way, no?
The caveat I'll make in modern fiction is Game of Thrones, but that's better described as hard fantasy.
I can't wait to see how Bethesda has evolved the world systems. I continue to chuckle at the prospect of walking by a humble villager hacking at trees to drum up firewood for his family, burning the town's forest when he walks away, and knowing I've destroyed his way of life. Will I actually end up doing that in the game? Probably not; I'm more evil in my mind than in practice.
But, man, I could.