It is difficult to think of a game that has been subject to just as much revision as Skyrim. Maybe that is to be expected, provided its dizzying success. The game is at all corners, and its cultural reach is almost unimaginable – so much so that the jokes regarding climbing mountains, acquiring arrows, and porting to toasters have all been unfashionably irksome for a longer time than they were ever hilarious in the first place.
And with all that success arrives the inevitable and insufferable “not that good actually” people. But they are incorrect! Skyrim is beautiful, actually. Exactly as lovely as everyone claims it is.
And it is excellent for a lot of reasons but none of them as indeed unique, I believe, as its world – or instead, more particularly, the ineffable rules that have it. There is a hard realism to Skyrim’s world that I have not actually felt in a game of its budget and scope from that time.
It is in the building of it – the actual mechanics; the basic billiard balls of the physics – and the fantastic example I can wonder of, for some reason, is sending people off a ledge. Let someone go off a shelf in a huge-budget, huge-sized, after-Skyrim open-world game and discern what happens.
Animations. They will stagger slightly, and then they will kind of shimmy themselves through the edge of the ledge itself, and then they will begin a ready-made, very beautifully animated falling part – designed for precisely this time, to balance the realism and the inclusion and all that – and then they will not succeed. In Skyrim, they will just come down.
It might seem kind of backward, as compared to those other games, as the conjoining parts that we humans naturally make when we come down from things are not all there, but the gentle falling of Skyrim does something for me that the canned stumbles of far more advanced and technically accomplished games do not. It forms sense – and it creates sense at every hurdle of the way.