Hey, you. You’re finally awake. You were trying to cross the border, right? No, wait, sorry. That always happens whenever I think about Skyrim.
Skyrim, or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to use its full title, is the fifth game in the long running and popular Elder Scrolls series that came out ten years ago, and is still going strong as one of the most popular games of all time.
Having been producing Elder Scrolls games since 1994 with the release of Elder Scrolls: Arena, publisher Bethesda had been expanding the fantasy universe that they’d created with each new addition to the franchise; setting each game in new, expansive locations with large additions to the lore. When it was announced that the fifth game in the series was going to be set in the new land of Skyrim this was nothing too groundbreaking for fans. We all expected a new land to discover. However, the one thing that was announced that really caught people’s attention was that the game would include dragons.
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Dragons had been a part of the series for a long time, but only mentioned in passing or in books found around the game world. They were something from the long past eras of the world, creatures that had become legends. But Skyrim was bringing them back, and players were going to get to fight them. To say that people were excited is a bit of an understatement.
Upon release The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim put players in control of a character who wakes up in the back of a cart, bound in chains, as they’re being taken to the Imperial fort of Helgen in the province of Skyrim, a land that the Empire has ruled for many years, but is on the edge of civil war, as many of the inhabitants wish for freedom. Upon arriving at the fort the player is able to chose the gender and race of their character, able to select between ten races. From here you’ll probably spend the first half hour or so of the game customising your character to your liking (even though you’ll probably never take the game out of first person view and won’t ever see their face again).
From here you’re walked to the executioner’s block where you’re about to be killed. Pretty short game really. Except, seconds before the axe is brought down to cut off your head a huge dragon lands in the middle of the settlement and all hell breaks loose. Skyrim certainly doesn’t mess around for starting things with a bang. From here you have to work your way through the fort as the dragon tears it down around you, dodging blasts of fire and frightened people as you escape to freedom. And from here the game is pretty much yours to do with as you wish. There is a main story to pursue, one that sees you investigating the return of the dragons and discovering your own special powers connected to them, resulting in you becoming a Dragonborn, but this is very much optional.
As with other games in the series, Skyrim allows you to go pretty much anywhere and do pretty much anything you want. You can follow the main quest, or you can join a magic school. You can become an assassin and try to kill the Emperor, or you can help restore the thieves’ guild to former glory. You can hunt down the emerging vampire threat, or join their ranks yourself. Or you can ignore every faction and every quest and just wander around collecting flowers and catching butterflies. The amount of freedom you get is exceptional. I’ve played this game for literally thousands of hours over the past decade, and I’m still finding new things every time.
Skyrim received huge critical acclaim on release, quickly generating perfect or near perfect scores and reviews from multiple publications. The game was praised for its visual improvements over the last entry in the series, as well as game play improvements to things such as the user interface and the removal of the class system for a more customisable approach to character progression and skills. It also sold extremely well, with 3.4 million physical copies of the game sold in just the first two days of release. Sales of the game remained strong, making it one of the highest selling games of all time, and was reported to have sold over 30 million copies by 2016.
Whilst there has been no Elder Scrolls game since Skyrim (a sixth entry in the series has been in development for a number of years), Skyrim itself has been re-released across a number of platforms, as well as having received a remastered edition due to be released on the 10th anniversary. However long it takes for the next game in the series to come out one thing is sure, Skyrim will be there to keep players entertained until it arrives.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released on 11th November 2011.