A Strange Return To Skyrim

The Skyrim special edition hasn’t much moved me in terms of upgrades, but in fairness that’s at least partly because, the last time I played it, I had so many graphical mods installed that the place looked better than Bethesda could reasonably achieve with an update primarily intended to achieve 1080p on current-gen consoles. That said, I do keep firing it up now that I’ve got my old saves working.

Whatever ancient interests I had in levelling and questing and, particularly, crafting, are now long burned-out, as it’s simply too hard to get a grasp on what my motivations were so many years ago. If I started afresh, it would all happen again, but I don’t want to, because revisiting it with my ridiculously overpowered level 50 character but no particular place to go is immensely liberating. I like a walking simulator and a lovely environment, but Skyrim’s pinata of fights and quests and loot meant I could never treat it as simply somewhere to explore, despite best intentions.

Now, I have the double-whammy of having forgotten all my concerns and a character so powerful that there is almost no realistic threat to me. I can explore.

Look, I’m not going to pretend that this magically means I don’t end up killing a whole lot of animals or rummaging through corpses for coins. Some habits you just can’t break. But I really am doing it directionlessly, just seeing what’s out there rather than feeling I have to achieve something specific – be it levelling up a particular skill, improving a certain weapon or polishing off some guild quest.

It’s genuinely liberating, and thanks to whacking uGrids all the way up to 11, I’m stopping to admire the scenery a whole lot more. Whatever its other problems, Skyrim has wonderful ambience once you’re in the mountains, away from people and towns and just taking in the scale and loneliness and the sound of wind.

I’ve often found that my feeligns towards Bethesda games corrupt over time. I start off with awe at the scale, fall into a trap of obsessively pursuing loot and upgrades, then have a Truman Show moment where I become conscious of the tricks used to fake the illusion. My feeling morphs from fondness into contempt, and while there a just reasons for it, it’s never been entirely fair.

I had a great time with Skyrim until it became the Arrow To The Knee game, and I realised that all I’d really done is kill. Feeling that Oblivion was a little bit embarrassing makes even less sense – some of its presentation was ridiculous and it leant too much towards generic fantasyscapes, but it was a better game for mining strange things out of. (Their Fallout games a different. I never enjoyed 3, and 4 I thought was a huge improvement but became quickly fatigued by its relentless kill focus).

It’s good, really good, to go back to Skyrim with my feelings almost reset. I have zero intention of investing dozens of hours into it again, but I am looking at its cold world with clear eyes anew, appreciating what was built and why so many people fell for it in the first place.

This article was originally written for the RPS Supporter Program.


  1. Nauallis says:

    Probably best that this is a supporter article; the tone and opinion is entirely too reasonable for the hardcore crazies that are mixed in with the mainstream PC audience. Especially the part where you admit to choosing to like a thing for what it is, and because it exists.

    That title picture, is that a Forsworn riding an elk?

    • MrFinnishDude says:

      Hmmm. No, it appears to be a Riekling riding a boar from Solstheim… attacking Miraak? What sort of scenario created that screenshot?

      • Nauallis says:

        Thanks for that clarification – I’d probably know if I ever bothered to finish that DLC.

      • BWeaver says:

        This player has already defeated Miraak and is wearing his mask on Stahlrim armor.

    • ChrisT1981 says:

      Nope it’s a Goblin riding a Goat. Those you find on Solstheim in the Dragonborn DLC.

      Edit: MrFinnishDude is right. Of course he’s riding a boar and called a riekling.

  2. Andy_Panthro says:

    I got bored with Skyrim, I liked wandering about at first but I just didn’t care enough about the world. I persisted with it for quite a while, but I just couldn’t get into it.

    I lasted a lot longer with Fallout 4, which has just as many if not more flaws, but I preferred the more colourful world, and although it was exceedingly heavy on the combat, at least the combat for once felt a lot better.

  3. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    I’m looking forward to getting back into TESV in a month or two after the modding & tweaking scene has stabilized a bit.

  4. Stevostin says:

    When you, as a journalist, fail to realize that Fallout 3 is far less about killing than any other Bethesda games, you contribute to a context that push Bethesda to make Fallout 4 a game that’s back to killing and little more than that. This despite dropping the excellent yet underrated TES progression scheme (the one where you don’t have to kill) for the stupidly overrated Fallout-but-actually-any-other-RPG that does (killing things bring XP, and things respawn).

    We get the games you deserve, in a sense.

    • Otterley says:

      As far as I can tell, Alec doesn’t make any claims about Fallout 3, he just mentions that he didn’t enjoy it. The complaint is about Fallout 4.

  5. geldonyetich says:

    Sounds like the Kyne’s Peace shout was made for you. It’s walking simulator mode for most of the things you are likely to encounter.

    As for me, I’m still working towards my goal of bringing down Alduin. It’s looking like a week off won’t be long enough.

  6. Ghostwise says:

    Alec, if you like vistas, I assume you already experimented with Sheson’s DynDOLOD, errr, thing ? It’s pretty spiffy.

    link to nexusmods.com?

    • ChipDipson says:

      he wouldn’t get as much use out of it as you or I might with his ugrids turned up to 11 (which is completely insane by the way, and it’s a good thing you don’t intend to return to this save in earnest because by playing it that way for one minute you have drowned it in its own vomit.)

  7. Orix says:

    My own return was purely in order to explore Solstheim, which I had overlooked first time. So I made a new toon and as soon as I unlocked the ability to learn dragon shouts I set off there. Having loved Morrowind and Bloodmoon to bits, the entire Dragonborn expansion is basically one big love letter to both, mentioning much of the same lore, featuring some of the characters from both and generally trying to shoe horn in as much fan service as possible. But I like it :D

  8. tslog says:

    Skyrim’s exciting set up for exploratory and aimless wandering potential is one of the best I’ve ever felt, but then the gameplay, writing, story, animation…. happened.

  9. April March says:

    I kinda want to play a walking simulator that has the combat and loot-grabbing of Skyrim as a pointless afterthought. Someone call J Chastain and thecatamites.