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OnlySP’s Favorite Games #37—The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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OnlySP Favorite Games 37 - The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim

Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. Some of these are forgotten gems, some you will guess straight away. Others cover more than one game in a series, or compare two similar games.

Today we look at a massive hit that has positives and negatives with the sorts of trends that its popularity may have led to. But the game itself has a reason for being so popular: it’s really good!

#37. SKYRIM, by Michael Cripe

Roaring music built from powerful Viking-esque vocals, a setting paved by mountains covered with the bitter cold, and enough lore to fill a library are only a few of the elements that lay the groundwork for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim is the culmination of just enough great elements that the end result is an immersive world that changed open-world games forever.

An announcement for the fifth entry in the Elder Scrolls series came during the 2010 Video Game Awards, nearly five years after the previous game, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, released to the public.

The footage below came in February of 2011 and was the world’s first look at what would engulf video game culture for the next eight years.

Blood curdling dragons and a song to lift the dormant spirits of Elder Scrolls fans was all that was needed to accompany a proud November 11 release date.

Both Oblivion and Skyrim debuted on the seventh generation of gaming consoles and the differences in graphical quality alone were enough to send shivers down the spine. Skyrim was—and in most ways still is—beautifully daunting in all of the most magical ways.

The game sold seven million copies in its first week and dropped players into the world the developer had been promising for nearly a year.

Dragons reign in the province of Skyrim, where players take on the role of the Dragonborn. The story is straightforward enough to get the ball rolling, as it mostly has to do with a prophecy, the end times, and a quest to stop the bringer of said end times, Alduin.

Skyrim VR

If you have never heard anything about Skyrim’s narrative, the developer has surprisingly a good reason why. Bethesda Games’s home run of an RPG is the success that it is because of the stories players make on their own, not the story given by the developer. Despite hundreds of hours of story and side quests, creating a unique adventure has always been what keeps Skyrim in mainstream discourse.

“I used to be an adventurer like you, until I took an arrow to the knee,” is not one of the most famous lines in gaming history only because it is from Skyrim. The line is famous because it resonates with anyone with war stories from Whiterun. Everyone who has touched Skyrim has a unique story of their first encounter with a dragon.

What did you do to find the crafting pieces necessary to forge that last daedric armor component? If enough searching is done, players can find out how to turn themselves into a werewolf no different than the ones seen in movies. Skyrim is about getting lost in another land that expects the world of you and the groundwork the game offers breeds narrative.

After months of success stories, Bethesda eventually dropped Skyrim’s three DLC packs: ‘Dawnguard’, ‘Hearthfire’, and ‘Dragonborn’. The first two packs introduced new narratives and gameplay mechanics but are looked back fondly on due to new areas to discover and search through.

Skyrim

‘Hearthfire’ sacrificed story content for the ability to let players create and customize their own homes at set locations in Skyrim, but ‘Dragonborn’ reintroduced the isle of Solstheim, from the Bloodmoon expansion of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

Skyrim’s sounds make even the most mundane enemy encounter feel harrowing and every victory leads to triumphant pillaging for rewards. Composer Jeremy Soule is a seasoned Elder Scrolls veteran and has produced some of the more memorable tracks in recent memory. Aside from the main theme from the game, Soule has written for the original Prey, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

Modders have taken Skyrim past even what DLC introduced by integrating custom campaigns and more ways to diversify moment to moment gameplay. Bethesda has taken note of the modding community and has a section on console versions of the game where players can download and use some of the more popular modifications.

Where Skyrim received most of its criticisms, however, is the result of combat that is less than engaging to say the least. Rarely do different weapons impact gameplay in a dynamic way, so grinding for a special sword can feel fruitless at times. Sure, magic lends its otherworldly hand to remind the player that they are in a fantastical setting, but spells are often only truly vital in specific instances.

Skyrim

Thankfully, a redeeming and deep skill tree helps flesh out gameplay enough to vary enemy encounters. Even if Skyrim lacked a coherent skill tree, the engaging world Bethesda offers is where the core audience would find their reason to return to Skyrim’s home continent of Tamriel.

Before Elder Scrolls V, most open-world games failed to live and breathe the way Skyrim did. In a post-Skyrim world, mainstream media began to use phrases like “Skyrim with guns” for titles such as Far Cry 3 and 4, denoting an open world representative of quality as high as Skyrim’s.

One of the ongoing jokes still living in the gaming to community today is Bethesda’s desire to continuously port Skyrim over to other consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, and even Amazon Alexa each have playable versions of Skyrim.

This barrage of ports is only the result of a market that is hungry for what Skyrim gave to players back in 2011. With the exception of the Fallout series, nothing else offers what The Elder Scrolls brings to the table and it is likely that nothing will for years to come.

Skyrim

PERILS OF PROGRESS

Mitchell here. Thanks to Mike, we have wrapped up a mini-trilogy of some of our favourite fantasy RPGs, all enjoyed in one way or another here at OnlySP, and hopefully by you too.

But to the other RPG lovers—maybe you played a lot of Morrowind or Oblivion, or maybe you are just a bigger fan of talkier, more linear RPGs like the last couple of weeks’ Dragon Age or Divinity: Original Sin—I did not want to leave you out if you thought Skyrim was missing something.

Because, as enormous of an achievement these open world games are, you are not alone for wishing they had not dominated the western fantasy-RPG landscape for the past generation. Some of the changes between The Elder Scrolls IV and really make a lot of difference, and that is unavoidable thanks to the pressures of an ever-shifting industry, always trying to serve changing demographics.

Truly, Skyrim smoothed out some of the interesting edges from Oblivion, but when Oblivion came out, the same could have been said of the changes made since Morrowind. Looking at these games as a one-way progression hurts, because some of what we love from the earlier entries has been sandpapered away.

Thus, highlighting these different kinds of RPGs has become so important. If we learn from the success of Divinity, Pillars of Eternity, and other resurgent old-school RPGs, gaming does not need to have a linear progression from niche to mainstream, or from PCs to console, or from easy to hardcore.

The way that retro crazes evolve (and the way companies always want to work on nostalgia) gamers today might be mere years away from seeing 3D, open world RPGs that hearken specifically to Morrowind or Oblivion—if not from big publishers or established indies, then maybe some new developer, right as you are reading this, is working on its own tribute to the older Elder Scrolls games.

Heck, someone reading this post might be working on their own old-school RPG right now. Go get ’em!

Thanks for reading once again, and if you know of any interesting trends in the world of fantasy RPGs, share them in the comments below. Next week, we take a look at a timely but very unexpected game for OnlySP.

E3 2019

The Winners of E3, According to OnlySP

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E3 2019

The OnlySP team has been rather negative about E3 2019 as a whole, sharing undisguised disappointment about Ninja Theory, Microsoft, and Ubisoft in particular. However, we are gamers first, and the show had plenty to excite, so we wanted to share at least a small ray of positivity by rounding up some of our winners from the past week.

Best AAA Trailer

Cyberpunk 2077

Two of the most anticipated games of 2020 topped the list, with Cyberpunk 2077 just pipping Final Fantasy VII Remake. The trailer was exactly what you want from a major production with the insane amount of hype that Cyberpunk 2077 is enjoying: mystery, emotional story moments, and heart-pounding action.

As if all that is not enough, one of the hottest stars of the moment, Keanu Reeves, was revealed as a cast member.

Doubters were all but silenced, and everyone else was gratified. Even better, we got a release date: April 16, 2020. Could anyone possibly lust for more?

Best Indie Trailer

Tie: Spiritfarer and Way to the Woods

As usual, Microsoft brought the ID@Xbox goods to its E3 stage, and we just could not pick between these two.

On the one hand, the team at Thunder Lotus Games finally unveiled its new project, Spiritfarer. The game brings back the glorious hand-drawn art style that had us falling in love with Jotun and Sundered, marrying to a unique take on the Charon myth. Furthermore, Spiritfarer’s low-key charm and gorgeous watercolour was a perfect counterpoint to Cyberpunk 2077, which preceded it.

On the other hand, Way to the Woods got a sparkling new trailer. The two deer are simply gorgeous, and the bright colours and mellifluous music make the game seems a journey befitting the glory days of thatgamecompany. Simple puzzles, a moving story, an entrancing atmosphere… We just want Way to the Woods on its way to our homes.

Favourite New Game Announcement

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel

E3 2019 had no shortage of enticing new announcements, but nothing was quite so enticing as Nintendo’s “one more thing.” After Breath of the Wild set the world on fire in 2017, a sequel was basically a foregone conclusion. Even so, that brief tease set our hopes alight.

In truth, we know next to nothing about this new project—other than that it is set in the same version of Hyrule as its predecessor and Zelda is rocking a slick new hairstyle—but its mere existence is enough.

Biggest Surprise

Keanu Reeves is in Cyberpunk 2077

I may have already mentioned this, but Keanu Reeves is going to be in Cyberpunk 2077.

If we need to explain more, the world of gaming is familiar with seeing TV and film stars cross over—Kit Harington in Call of Duty, Emma Stone in Sleeping Dogs—but Reeves is a particularly hot property right now.

Moreover, the word is that this is more than just a brief cameo. Reeve’s character, Johnny Silverhand, has been a big part of Cyberpunk lore, and CD Projekt RED reportedly spent 15 days capturing his performance.

Even Watch Dogs: Legion looking as though it is finally going to deliver on the promises of the first game is not enough to beat Keanu.

Favourite Stage Personality

Ikumi Nakamura

Full disclosure: the team picked Keanu, but Keanu can’t win everything, damn it!

Therefore, this award goes to Ikumi Nakamura, protégé of Shinji Mikami, who took the stage during Bethesda’s press conference to reveal Ghostwire: Tokyo. Where most presenters—even developers—are reserved, sharing the soundbites that make the games sound appealing, Nakamura radiated enthusiasm for her project.

Put simply, Nakamura was a ray of sunshine to remind us all that game development is not always about cynicism and monetisation; sometimes, it is about genuine love and passion.

Biggest Winners

Nintendo

With “gamers” one of the options on the list, I thought this category would be a foregone conclusion. However, the outcome proved that adage about what happens when we assume things…

The team voted for Nintendo, and the why is easy enough to understand. A new Legend of Zelda game will always be an event. The addition of Banjo-Kazooie to Super Smash Bros. is a long-overdue coup. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks better than it has any right to. Meanwhile, Daemon X Machina, Astral Chain, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order all got great new showings, and we officially learned of the arrival of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (among other, slightly less exciting titles) on the Switch.


These winners were all decided by those of us who stayed at home. However, you may have noticed that we had Mike Cripe and Dimitric Edwards on the show floor, so they went hands-on with a bunch of games the rest of us could only gawp at.

Over the coming days and weeks, Mike and Dimitric will be delivering previews of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Biomutant, as well as a few interesting interviews, so we’ll have plenty of fresh details for you all to pore over.

First, though, coming tomorrow will be Mike’s hands-off preview of one of the show’s most contentious games: Marvel’s Avengers.

For all those previews and much more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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