Best Videogames of 2011: ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’

I’ve been trying to find a good approach to making some sort of list to honor the best videogames of 2011. Sadly, I’m only one man and haven’t been able to play every single game of the year. I’d have to leave so many great titles out simply because I didn’t get a chance to try them. Instead, I’ll highlight the best that I’ve personally played on an individual basis. First up: ‘Skyrim’.

I’m a videogame fan. I celebrate the medium from the best of the best to the absolute worst. Everything can be enjoyed on some level, but it’s very rare that a game completely captures me. One of the very few games to do so was a 1996 Bethesda title called ‘The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall’. It was buggy as hell, crashed every hour or so, and had a completely broken spell creation system that let you become indestructible. Despite all that, ‘Daggerfall’ was the first truly open-world game I played. I could play it however I wanted.

The followup, ‘Morrowind’, let me down. It didn’t have the size and it didn’t have the right feel. ‘Oblivion’ got closer, but there was still something that didn’t work for me. I didn’t think anything would come close to the glory that is ‘Daggerfall’, but Bethesda proved me wrong last year with ‘Skyrim’.

I bought ‘Skyrim’ shortly after it came out based on praise from both critics and other people whose opinions I respect, yet I was severely let down when the game started. I was forced to wait while story happened in front of me, without having any control over what was going on, without even getting to create my character first. This was far from the masterful introduction to ‘Fallout 3’. Still, once I was able to create a character and get through the overly-lengthy escape tutorial, things changed.

Once out of the initial dungeon, you’re free to do pretty much whatever you like. You can venture to whichever town you want, join up with whichever faction you like and completely ignore the main story if you so choose. I so chose.

One thing that’s become clear about my gaming habits is that if there’s something I can break, I’ll break it. If there’s a way I can play the game that was never intended by its makers, I’ll do it. And when I’m given the choice to either play along a fixed storyline or blaze my own path, consider that path blazed.

‘Skyrim’ gave me plenty of opportunities to play without having to complete the quest that was handed down to me from the beginning. I got to craft my own stories based on my own gameplay choices instead of being told what to do at every turn.

My initial character was a magic user named Tussk. When I left the first cave, things got awkward. I accidentally attacked the man who I had traveled with up until that point, but when he turned on me, I had no choice but to slay him. However, as it turns out, I hadn’t really killed him and I had to run to escape.

I stumbled upon a hut full of spell books and alchemy ingredients. Seeing no one but an old crone, I snatched up the goods, only to find that she was a fairly proficient caster herself. Luckily, she wasn’t as good as me, and I took her down quickly. After an attempted murder and a wholesale slaughter, there was a pretty big bounty on my head. So, I took off towards Winterhold to learn the ways of the mage.

The really satisfying thing about the story above is that it was created by me through gameplay. It wasn’t part of any quest and it wasn’t told through a cut-scene. Certainly, ‘Skyrim’ has traditional quests and the same kinds of storytelling techniques you get from any other game, but none of it is actually required to enjoy the game.

People go on and on about the visuals and sound and voiceovers and all the other things that help to define the quality of a game, but it’s the player-driven narrative that really sets ‘Skyrim’ apart for me, and that makes it one of my most highly recommended games of 2011.


  1. JM

    137 hours in, ‘Skyrim’ is still my temptress.

    Is there anything more satisfying than hitting an enemy in the face with an axe?

    In the cold blowing snow, it makes me tingle in my secret places.

    400 damage x6 while sneaking.

    I once killed an innkeepers daughter, for her dress.

    At night I dream entire dreams of ‘The Elder Scrolls X” on the PS7…

    • And I thought my 121 hours was something to brag about!

      There is nothing that feels as good to me as getting those sneak attacks off. I enjoy the blade, but I prefer the bow. Killing off a group of enemies before they even get near me is such an amazing feeling.

        • I think the idea behind Amalur seems really interesting, but I have my doubts about how it’s going to turn out. I would love it if the game broke down boundaries and turned into a mega-success but I just don’t know.

          I haven’t played the game obviously, but to me it seems like it might be more a proof of concept than anything else. Kind of like how Molyneux games were back in the day. That’s my gut feeling anyway, based, admittedly, on not a ton of knowledge.

          Also, maybe I’m jaded, but I don’t trust a supergroup of people that have nothing to do with gaming. Obviously, Ken Ralston has plenty of game knowledge, but as Morrowind and Oblivion were my least favorite of the Elder Scrolls series I’m not getting my hopes up too high.

          • JM

            I want to like it, because of the genre, but I find the art style off-putting.

            I wish they would have borrowed ‘God Of War’s R-Rated sensibility.

    • I haven’t played ANY game in about a month. Right now, I am all in Doctor Who mode. Been spending about 5-10 hours a day watching the new series (up to season 5 now), the classic Doctor Who (just finished season 1), Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures. I’ve got Oblivion in next to my game system right now, and Alice Madness Returns in the PC right now.

      I’ve been playing SimCity 4, Sim Society and Tropico on my laptop a lot lately, as it is something I can pull out and kill about 20 minutes of time in places without an internet connection.

      I figure once I tire of Doctor Who, I will be back in gaming mode again. I got a slew of games I have started and never finished, and Fable and Final Fantasy 9 and Oblivion have been calling me pretty loudly lately!

      • “once I tire of Doctor Who.” Will, don’t be ridiculous!

        How’s Tropico treating you? Are you playing the first one? I tried playing the older titles but there was just so much stuff I couldn’t do in terms of rotating the screen, zooming in, rotating with the mouse and such. Too hard to get used to those old-school controls.

        • I still like the first Tropico the best. I have all four installed, but there is nothing quite like the classic. Many older games, you can tweak the config file to get it to support higher resolutions and such. Tropico at least stretches. I got SimCity 4, Harry Potter Quidditch World Cup and the original Alice to render in widescreen resolutions, with SimCity and Alice actually rendering in HD resolutions.

          As far as rotating and zooming and such with Tropico, I am playing on a laptop with a touchpad, and my main computer has a two-button trackball. I normally end up having to reassign zooming and such. With games such as this, though, I normally just use the zoom icon in the game. I tend to play at a certain zoom-level and rarely zoom in or out during gameplay.

          As far as “tiring of Doctor Who”, this will be after I catch up with Season Six of the new Doctor Who. I am more or less talking about tiring of the classic series. There are some good episodes in there, but, at least in the first season, the show goes “We land in an Aztec temple or something, the Doctor insists that absolutely nothing is wrong, and five seconds later one of the companions does something stupid, and either someone in the party is going to be killed, or they can’t get back to their ship, or their ship is disabled”.

          The old classics are badly made too. There are several episodes where actors just completely stumble over their lines, and there is one (I believe it is the Aztec episode) where two actors try to deliver their lines at exactly the same time, one says sorry, the other delivers his line, then the first delivers his line. It obviously wasn’t scripted that way, and I honestly cannot beleive that take made the final episode.

          The episode I am watching now takes place during the French Revolution. The French nobility and the French peasents have exactly the same accent, which is not French at all, but rather looks like the BBC just went out to the West End and rounded up some out-of-work Shakesperian actors.

          I do know the show gets better, I have seen several of the later Doctors, but this first Doctor is really painful to watch. I sure hope they kill off Susan – I honestly cannot believe that she is of any relation to the Doctor at all.

          I am also watching the Dr. Who movies from the 60s. There were two technicolor movies from 1965 and 1966 where Dr. Who (that’s his name, he is not The Doctor) is an earthling, who travels with a companion and his granddaughter Susie to the future, where London is ran by Darleks and RoboMen (not Cybermen, but same concept).

          There are also something like 26 seasons of the classic Doctor Who. Trust me, I will tire at some point. I am hoping to get at least until the show was in color.