I’ll probably get crucified for this by gamers everywhere but in my 27 years of gaming, I’ve always found it hard to connect with role playing games. It probably sounds crazy that the one genre that most gamers have been able to make huge emotional investments with, I found to be cold and sterile. Sure, back in 1997 I played and enjoyed Final Fantasy VII, but really, who didn’t? Final Fantasy was like the Call of Duty of the 90’s.
Year after year, I’d watch from the sidelines as my video game playing brethren would be enjoying one big name role-playing title after another, and as usual I’d be left with just another run-of-the-mill action adventure or shooter title. I tried to break that cycle when The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion originally released on the Xbox 360. I remember hearing Patrick Stewart’s voice come through my TV, asking me to save the world and immediately thought was awesome. Unfortunately, I also remember reaching my first town in the game and found that all its inhabitants were asking me to do a million other things.
In no less than four hours in, I said “f*ck this” and I marched back to the game store to trade it in. For a genre that I had already found to be too impersonal — the sense of a real narrative and worthwhile story had been lost. And once that happens, the sense of urgency, importance, or a wanting to give a damn goes right out of the window with it.
Who would have thought that five years later, the next entry in the series would have me completely changing my tune? Just about two months ago, we were invited to demo Skyrim for a three-hour preview before its release in New York City. For the two weeks leading up to it, I was honestly a nervous wreck considering my previous experience with an Elder Scrolls title.
The preview went off without a hitch. I had an awesome time playing the demo and for the first time in, well…ever, I was looking forward to the release of a big name WRPG. Skyrim couldn’t come soon enough.
On day one I picked up my copy. And it just would lay there for a bit as I worked on some stuff for the site. Every so often I would find myself glancing over at the game, and at points even wonder if I had made a mistake. Then as I saw more and more glowing reviews, tweets, and facebook chatter, I said “screw it”. There’s no way that so many people can be wrong. I unwrapped the game, slid it in, and situated myself on the couch.
I wasn’t prepared for what would happen in the next couple of hours. You see, when I sat down for my original demo, I started out at the character creation screen. The PR person in charge that day set up the scene by simply saying “some stuff happened before this”. Well from the very moment that I finally had a chance to see the “stuff” that “happened” (which I won’t spoil) was the same moment when I was sucked into the world.
The game still does show signs of its ability to throw the player off track from the main story, but I’ve made it a personal goal to keep pressing on with the one that’s most important. Doing my very best to make sure that I see this whole thing through. It’s funny because, at times, especially while traveling and because of the game’s sandbox nature, I still find myself in that Grand Theft Auto mentality. If innocent NPC’s even look at me in the wrong way, it’s on right then and there. But then after I beat them to a pulp, and my GTA-style rage subsides, I remember that I’m the hero here. I almost regret my actions. That’s the kind of hold that the game currently has on me.
Even after being hours into the title, the amazing use of scale just never gets old. Its a crazy feeling when you’re in a town and gazing at a peak in the distance knowing that your adventures will eventually take you there. The feeling after slaying my first dragon was better than dropping any nuke in Modern Warfare.
I still have much to learn. Alchemy and crafting are two areas I haven’t really delved too much into. Nor have I really grasped combat to the point where it feels fluid. The time that I’ve had with the game thus far has me now feeling like I need to know it all.
For what seems like forever now, I’ve been harassing our in-house RPG guy Chad (who reviewed Skyrim for the site) about needing and wanting to play something different. Almost every single time I find myself in a video game store I call him and ask him to suggest something that’s not another shooter or action title. Something with a story — or in Skyrim’s case, stories — worth caring about. And while he’s directed me towards a fair share of few misses, Skyrim totally makes up for it. So while I still may be a complete noob, I’m officially now a Dragon-born one.