Let me preface this by saying that Skyrim is possibly one of my favourite videogames that I've ever had the pleasure to play. Any adventure that allows you witness a dragon battling with a giant, whilst a werewolf tries to get in on the action is A-ok with me.
Ever since its release I’ve found myself wandering back to the nordlands periodically. Like many of you, and apparently everyone on my Steam Friends List, Skyrim is a game that I seem to have taken in at release, but never really given up long past that sparkling sense of ‘newness’ wore off. I play Bethesda’s fifth entry like an MMO - sporadically booting up my character, plumbing the depths of a newly found dungeon, and placing it away on the shelf for another time. At the time of typing I’ve spent over 200 hours in that world, across two consoles, dozens of characters, and a multitude of mods.
My own spotted history with the Elder Scrolls series began with Daggerfall in 1998. It's EU cover is burnt bright into my memory, and as a terrified 8 year I stood in EB Games (that's Electronic Boutique to us Brits) begging my brother to reconsider the game with the flesh peeled king adorning the cover and perhaps go for something nicer; something like the Monkey Island Bounty Pack; maybe even a Lords of the Realm 3 bumper edition.
Roundly ignored, the next few days were witnessed through trembling fingers as my sibling crowded around the pre-2000s Packard Bell monitor and indulged in a spot of endless dungeoneering. To say that we had only recently ditched our 16-bit Sega machine, plucking a copy of Elder Scrolls 2 off of the shelf randomly almost blew our minds and opened us up to the possibilities of RPGs and PC gaming.
Just a mere year or so ago we were playing Sonic the Hedgehog and fighting out over who could play Axel in Streets of Rage 2 - and now we were robbing portraits from the King of Daggerfall and selling them for a pretty penny. Although it seems primitive by today’s standards, the second chapter in the Elder Scrolls series was a breakthrough for RPGs, and a monumental step on my journey of becoming a card-carrying nerd.
Fast forward another three installments, countless expansions, and now an online game, it seems as though the obscure and grotesque choice my brother made was somehow prophetic. A stab in the dark that happened to clang mercifully on a pot of gold. The Elder Scrolls series is a world domineering franchise now and is hurtling towards its own ‘Online’ suffix.
One of the main criticisms of Bethesda series up until Oblivion was that Tamriel felt lonely. Like an MMO minus the players, the lone character skulked from one town to the next, entering like John Wayne and leaving like a slightly richer John Wayne. Wouldn't it be great if we could bring in our friends? Really invoke Dungeons and Dragons and pretend one of our mates was indeed a dwarf, and at any chance we'd leave them for dead in the midst of a Falmer-infested Dwemer tomb.