In the wake of a few of epic months for the video game industry — first the release of Battlefield 3, then the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 — comes the most highly anticipated role-playing game of the modern era: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth game in the prodigious series of RPGs from the gaming developer Bethesda Game Studios, and people are already raving about the size of the worlds and depth of the storyline. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim seems to have captured what most fans of the RPG like — immersive experiences and inexhaustible interaction with objects and characters.
In an age of video games when first-person shooters and sports genres dominate most of the best-selling charts, the developers at Bethesda Game Studios have remained dedicated to RPGs. The Elder Scrolls has been called a role-playing juggernaut series by Game Informer and one writer from Destructoid has gone a step further: Preparing for a new Elder Scrolls game is like preparing to die. One must ensure they get all their worldly affairs in order, speak with the people who mean everything to them, and have a final meal. After all, once that disc goes in, the user may as well have departed from our mortal world.
The Elder Scrolls series didn't begin to garner any attention until the third chapter of the series, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which was released in Xbox 360 in May 2002. Before that, the games had been released for PC and the long-forgotten N-Gage handheld gaming phone developed by Nokia.
When The Elder Scrolls hit video game consoles for the first time, it immediately became a huge success: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind sold more than 1.36 million games on the Xbox in the US alone. The follow-up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion sold 1.49 million in the US as of Dec. 2007, which was just over the one year since the game had been released. It was eventually ported to the PlayStation 3, and sold well on that system as well.
The Elder Scrolls, at this moment in time, is the king of the RPG series. There are very few RPGs that are even produced in this era of gaming, and most that are produced haven't done enough to push the genre forward. Even games like Final Fantasy and the Legend of Zelda have been unable to generate this type of hype over the last several years.
Though Oblivion has a few issues, it thankfully avoids any major blunders, making [it] the best single-player role-playing experience to come along in years, said an IGN editor in a review of Oblivion, the predecessor to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will expand on that tradition. In a article in Wired, the game's director Todd Howard revealed that the game will run on a Radiant quest system that randomly generates new objectives as you develop your character in the game. While you'll be able to perform simple objectives — such as kill this person or find this thing — you'll also be able to do work for factions (or species) in the game. Howard says that the best part of the game is no longer completing larger objectives, but instead, discovering things in the expansive world as you explore, such as an enemy-filled fortress or haunted lighthouse. Every interaction and every choice in the game has a consequence.
One writer at Kill Screen dedicated more than 1,300 words to just the things his character ate. Some of that included a monarch butterfly, perch and salmon, bee, dragonfly, torchbug, beef and chicken breast. The list goes on and on.
[Edler Scrolls V: Skyrim] gives you a large blank canvas and tells you to do what you'd like with it. You guide your own narrative, control your own fate, choose your own adventure. You are your own hero, wrote one reviewer from Wired.
The game is like a user-defined opera, not a quest in which a player must follow a strictly defined path. There's a memorable beginning, when the user customizes his character, but there's never an end. Gamers can create their own story, develop their character's attributes in several different ways and align their character with any species, guild or group that they choose. When villagers are killed at random, they no longer regenerate. They remain dead forever. While some may choose to go around killing entire villages, others may decide to be thieves, leaving the villagers alive but with ownership over almost nothing. Some gamers may spend time learning to cast spells. After choosing one of the 10 species in the game, the player is immersed into a self-written masterpiece.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will likely sell in huge numbers, especially with the holiday season on the brink. The one threat it has to fend off is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which will be released Nov. 20. The Legend of Zelda holds a special place in most fans of the RPG, largely because The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. Releases from The Legend of Zelda series have historically performed much worse than Ocarina of Time, and none of those releases have seen the same level of success as Ocarina of Time. While the new Legend of Zelda does look fun, it seems as though The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has set the new standard on what the modern RPG.