It seems just like yesterday when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim launched because it has become this yardstick by which we measured every single RPG that launched in the years after up until The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. It’s popularity upon release is something I haven’t seen ever in my time playing videogames, it was explosive and unprecedented. It’s re-release last October in “Remastered” form was accompanied by nostalgia when the game originally launched 6 years ago.
When Eiji Aonuma gave us our first look at Breath of the Wild, all those years ago back in 2014 the comparisons began immediately. In 2012, at Gamescom, Adam Kovic from Machinima described Far Cry 3 as “Skyrim with Guns.” The fact that most games are still trying to copy ( if you can say that.) more or so less the paradigmatic open world that Skyrim is so known for, few have actually came close to replicating it. Bethesda’s own Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, and The Breath of the Wild are the only games that achieved it.
There’s a reason why Skyrim continues to mean “an open-world fantasy RPG done spectacularly well” in the realm of videogames is because it’s accessible, it’s pretty comfortable to play, and in some ways it is still one of the best RPG’s to play. Mind you, I’m a person that prefers Fallout over The Elder Scrolls but Skyrim is a game that defined 2011 for me, it occupies a sort of legendary legacy at the center of Bethesda Game Studios.
Skyrim, much like Fallout 3 did prior in 2008 let players see the pace of how they did things but also provided no end of worthwhile distractions as you progress through the main quest and the game. I’m not talking about treasures or cooking, but side quests and repeatable quests that can be done again and again to ingame lore like the Lusty Argonian or the different library of books. You could go do something else while leaving the main quest for later, it’s the smell of freedom that you can’t get anywhere else except for Bethesda games like Fallout 4. It’s a formula that Bethesda Game Studios knows well, it’s been honing in on that aspect for decades going all the way back to Morrowind.
Fallout 4 didn’t even come close to Skyrim and it released two years ago, I would defend the good aspects of Fallout 4 and the concept of it despite falling short, but let’s be honest here Fallout 4 will never achieve this legendary status and mythic status that Skyrim has cultivated or Morrowind, so many new players to the Elder Scrolls games started out at Skyrim because it was so easy to get into. Fallout is an artifact of the past, a series set in a post-apocalyptic future based around the themes and motifs of 1950’s Americana that never was where you have to play the games before to understand the story and lore and compare that to Skyrim where everything is fresh except for a few callbacks to Oblivion.
When Skyrim was re-released last October, the response to it critically at least was lukewarm as though people and reviewers alike were expecting a bit more oomph in the graphics department and to my understanding is that they’re going to update Fallout 4 and Skyrim for Project Scorpio which drops sometime this Holiday season. There’s also a few new games in development like “Starfield.” so it will be a long time according to Todd Howard and Pete Hines before we see The Elder Scrolls VI.
It’s so surprising to see how Skyrim has changed the gaming landscape since it’s original release in 2011, games are consistently looking to Skyrim to nail their open world even The Witcher 3 took some inspiration from Skyrim, it’s surprising to see how Skyrim has become this popular and this huge. I hope whatever Todd Howard does next becomes this big and popular.