By William Chandler
Me (pictured above), screaming in rage from what I then percieved as an inherently dull Elder Scrolls game
I’ll admit, I was pretty pissed when Skyrim came out. Like, I only put 60 hours into it so it’s like I basically didn’t even play it. A big part of my frustration came from the complete removal of stat point allocation in favor of a more streamlined “perk” like system that would, in theory, provide more of a direct understanding of the ways your character improved over time. But, as a long time series fan, all I could see was the complete bastardization of what made The Elder Scrolls franchise an RPG and the subsequent attempt at pandering to a more mainstream audience. Plus, they took out Acrobatics as a skill and with it my ability to make an Argonian trapeze artist that could nearly leap entire structures by endgame, so fuck that. Another massive issue is the seemingly apparent choice of quantity over quality in regards to many of the dungeons, as the land mass has several times more dungeons than Oblivion (despite being smaller) but all of them felt like slight variations of the same dreary gray crypt filled to the fucking brim with Draugr and giant spiders. And can we please take a moment to shit on giant spiders as an enemy? Like, giant spiders are seriously the most generic and unimaginative trope in the fantasy genre and I would prefer a more sparing use of their stupidly disgusting asses in the future.
Anyway, the series has admittedly always suffered from having a distinct lack of dungeon variety, but it seems considerably more apparent with the increase in the number of dungeons. Plus, I preferred the style of dungeons in Oblivion to the ancient Nordic theme. But what’s truly remarkable is the fact that the main questline managed to be less immediately interesting than even the ridiculously shitty one in Oblivion where Sean Bean turns into a dragon. At that point, even the improvements made to combat, the addition of a sprint button, the massively improved quality of voice acting, and the fact that shouts are just straight up dope couldn’t stop my steadily flowing river of discontentedness. Disappointed in Bethesda and disgusted by Skyrim, I lived for two years as a Skyrim hater. However, that all changed two weeks ago.
I now present to you my guide to allowing yourself to appreciate Skyrim.
Step 1: Get drunk
Yeah, yeah, I know. Just hear me out. The ingestion of alcohol is admittedly what led to me returning to Skyrim at all. Like, to be honest, I just wanted something kind of relaxing to play and I thought walking through the ridiculously atmospheric woods of Skyrim sounded like a great idea. So, I create a new character and just start roaming. Like six hours later I find that I’m actually enjoying myself. Fucking weird.
Step 2: Mod that bitch
(I’ll add a full list of the mods I’m using to the comments later when I can see them)
And I don’t mean be a dumbass and add some fucking lightsabers or throw in a logic core from Portal just for the lulz. I mean find some mods that actually improve the atmosphere and the core systems of the game without completely changing it. For instance, there are some excellent mods improving graphical fidelity, upgrading blood textures and damage decals, improving sound design, and even drastic enhancements to the visual styles of the towns. Seriously, do anything and everything to elevate the game beyond the apparent limits of being ‘designed for consoles’.
Step 3: Change your mindset (a bit)
Expecting (or, more aptly, demanding) another Morrowind or Oblivion is what ultimately led to my inability to appreciate Skyrim for what it is. On some level, this type of thinking is ultimately unavoidable as you always want to preserve what you love about a beloved franchise or series. That said, it is sometimes necessary to judge a game solely on the basis of its own merits and try to leave previous entries mostly in the past. Don’t go all soft and completely forgive a game’s downfalls either because that shit is decidedly pedestrian. Rather, just try to keep an open mind. Feel free to apply this principle to other aspects of your life like meeting people and trying exotic new drugs.
And it really is just that easy. I can now enjoy the more streamlined and accessible Skyrim AND the fucking hardcore as fuck, ‘death to accessibility’, Divinity: Original Sin at the same time with no real consequences to my self worth.