In a thread elsewhere about which video games were the most like old school RPGS, I had two main suggestions, one of which might be surprising. I thought it might be worth it to discuss them, starting with the less surprising one: Skyrim.
I don’t think Skyrim is the most like old school RPGs because there’s a lot of dungeon crawling, or because it’s so dangerous. I think it’s the immersion. Not in the usual sense of immersing in a character, but in the sense of immersing in a world. That’s why I like OD&D. It’s the most immersive of the RPGs, and that’s why I enjoy Skyrim.
It’s not as immersive as it could be. There’s the on-screen compass pointing to things you haven’t discovered yet, and the annoying HUD. I fix that by using the iHUD mod. There’s the annoying on-screen notifications that you’ve “begun” a quest, whether you actually chose to start it or not. I hope I find a mod to suppress that as well. But at least you do start in a world where you can choose to head in almost any direction and just react to what happens around you.
There are other elements relevant to old school play. For example, Skyrim follows the empty room principle of dungeon design. It may not seem like it, because there’s a lot of clutter in each room: debris, embalming tools, linen wraps, ruined books, furniture. But there are several rooms that have no monster in them, and some even with no treasure, or no significant treasure… perhaps too many with no significant treasure, actually; almost every locked chest I open turns out to have a handful of coins and some cheap items rather than something worth taking.
I’d also say there are more puzzle traps in Skyrim than in other video games. And a lot of non-puzzle traps that you can avoid or be prepared for if you are observant.
But for me, there’s another video game even more immersive than Skyrim… but I’ll talk about that next week.