Coming in at number 2 is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Jen Shaffer shows us why slaying dragons, rubbing elbows with jarls, and taking arrows to the knee helped make Bethesda’s latest Fus Roh D-awesome.
When I picked my top candidates for 2011’s Game of the Year, I listed a lot of indie innovators, games that broke, redefined, or refined the design mold. Normally, I pride myself on backing smaller developers and leaving the blockbusters to the masses, but that went out the window this year. No matter how many times I revised and rewrote my GOTY list, one title consistently came out on top: the epic, open-world fantasy RPG, Skyrim.
With around 130 hours under my belt, Skyrim has become something of a kickass part-time job where I am everyone’s hero. All other games has ceased to exist, and for a TF2 addict like me, that’s saying a lot. Titles like Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Skyward Sword, games I had been waiting months to devour, are collecting dust on the shelf while I level up my high elf.
Skyrim has solid game mechanics and two key elements necessary for a successful fantasy title: a fully realized, expansive world and, more importantly, a distinctly epic nature. Your experience in Skyrim is what you make of it.
Although the plot can be a little cheesy at times, it’s a fantasy RPG to the core. Sticking to the kinds of quests and characters you’d expect from The Wheel of Time, The Lord of the Rings, or other iconic high fantasy series, this game feels like a collection of my D&D nights when I was in high school, minus the awkward sexual tension. Beginning as a small and mostly insignificant character, you organically evolve into a master (and possibly destroyer) of everything you see.
Skyrim offers so much in terms of gameplay and pure satisfaction. It really is the open-world RPG that I’ve been dreaming of since my first step into Oblivion. From “A Night to Remember” to the full set of Dark Brotherhood quests, Bethesda brought an elevated level of creativity to the side of RPGs that normally suffers from mindless repetition.
The variety of the characters inhabiting Skyrim is likewise refreshing. With diverse personalities and defining characteristics, Bethesda managed to keep the plethora of NPCs from fading into a giant sea of unmemorable interactions, an all too common trait in open-world titles like this.
Being heavily invested in a game ultimately spells success. I am a very easily pleased gamer, but there is a large gap between simply being sated and having true emotion pulled forth through plot. I will admit, for the first time in a long time, I cried during a side quest. I know, with me being a woman, you might assume I cry constantly at every tender alliance, but getting tears out of me is like trying to squeeze water from a rock. By focusing on a few key interactions and creating a handful of very strong bonds, Bethesda stays away from oversaturation of emotion and keeps friendships meaningful.
Many people have criticized Skyrim for being far too buggy and needing more patches than a 1950s hobo, and I did suffer through some of the game breaking issues. When weighing that into my decision, I had to answer the question: Did any of those bugs cause me to quit the game? The answer is a resounding “no”. Nothing can pull me away from Skyrim.
I doubt there are many people reading this who haven’t heard of the game before. In reality, if you haven’t played Skyrim yet, you’ve probably had at least one friend call you a heathen (or something less couth). For as horribly annoying as these so called “friends” may be, there is truth behind all the hype.
Everything about Skyrim screams Game of the Year. It is the most realized open-world RPG I have ever played, which makes the execution a triumph, something that will be marked as a proper example of how future titles of this manner should be created.
Skyrim is an experience, one that allows you to become completely immersed in gameplay and to really embody the character you have created, all while allowing you to effect a true impact on your surroundings. It’s a game for gamers.