... now with 35% more arrogance!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

My Favorite Games, Part 1: Skyrim

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.


  1. Skyrim was fun, for a while.
    I appreciated the breadth of the world... but found it to be lacking depth. The dungeons linear and are not convincing as living places or tombs. The various quest strings are short and devoid of interesting choices.
    Along with World of Warcraft, such games showed me the real strengths of TTRPGs.

    1. Definitely, TTRPGs beat any CRPG, or any other game. I cut a paragraph or two describing my very narrow tastes in gaming: I've played a reasonable number of card games, board games, and video games and found I really don't enjoy them, so I'm hyperfocused on D&D and a very small number of video games that come closest to it.

      There's a lot in Skyrim that could have been done to make it more immersive and thus more enjoyable for me, without a doubt. Like the quest lines. If there were a little bit of randomness added and more opportunity to "fail" a quest, that would be a huge improvement. Even radial quests could be improved by things like having the quest object occasionally be stolen by or sold to another group before the player finds it, or replacing some bandit groups with "colonists" that the player isn't supposed to kill, or Stormcloaks/Imperial soldiers you are only allowed to kill if you've chosen the opposite side.