The Backlog: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Backlog endures! Each week, we bring another game from our stacks of shame, those games we should have played long ago. This week is no different. This week, we bring you Bethesda's critically acclaimed hit, Skyrim. But, if you missed last week's Backlog, you can checkout Hiram's look at the first Metroid Prime here.

It may be because I write about video games, but I often feel the need to play video games that I don’t want to because they’re important to the larger games conversation. Sometimes I’m deathly opposed to the style of gameplay they provide (such as the Final Fantasy series), while other game scare me far too much to ever truly broach (like anything made by Firaxis). But sometimes one of those game breaks through and I end up picking it up. Such is the case with Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

This game needs no introduction. Hailed as one of the best games of 2011, it has reached levels of popularity often reserved for games like Grand Theft Auto and Halo. But what drew me to the game, besides the burden of needing to play it, was the promise of modifying the game to suit my desire. I didn’t pick up its predecessor, Oblivion, until just a few months before Skyrim was released. I was less than impressed. With Oblivion I felt like the game was oddly less than the sum of its parts. Graphically and gameplay-wise, it was completely underwhelming and the voice acting was kind of atrocious. On top of that, the game just felt incredibly unpolished, buggy and un-authored. That is, until I got ahold of it. After my initial disenchantment, I decided to install a dozen mods or so. With them, I crafted a game that was much more to my liking. Better visuals, tweaked combat and music that flowed between cues much more smoothly. But as soon as I had it the way I wanted, I just stopped playing.

With Skyrim I decided to take a different approach. Instead of putting 10 hours in and then adding a few mods here and there, I figured I should just mod it straight out of the gate. Before I even booted the game for the first time, I had a handful of modifications downloaded and installed. But then things started to get out of control. 10 mods became 20. 20 became 40. Soon I had nearly 80 mods installed, changing everything from the density of the grass to the speed arrows fly to granting my dragon-souled warrior the ability to call for his last horse. But it wasn’t until I installed the amazing rendition of The Dragonborn Comes by Malukah as the menu music that things started to go sideways (she also does a killer version of Misty Mountains from The Hobbit).

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At that point, I was no longer able to save my game. It would simply crash to my computer’s desktop. If I enter a building or went through any loading screen? Crash to desktop. Walk too far away from where I started (so that it had to load more terrain)? Crash. To. Desktop. So with a heavy heart after reinstalling the game, removing every mod I installed and trying to load earlier saves, I restarted the game from scratch. This time I took yet another slightly different approach. I weeded out 50% of the mods I had installed previously but deemed unnecessary and locked everything into place. Since then I have added nothing. I have uninstalled nothing. And thankfully everything is running great.

The crazy thing about doing all of that is how easy it actually was. WithSteam's Workshop, you can literally just subscribe to a mod in order to download and install it. Previously you had to go websites like ModDB or the Nexus Network to download mods. Then you would need to read the ReadMe file because different mods needed to be installed in different spots. If it was a mod that went into a folder specifically designed for mod files, then getting rid of a mod was a piece of cake. But if it wasn't... Let's just say that I went through my share of  uninstalling and re-installing Oblivion because certain mods do not simply add files to the game but replace them completely. Thankfully, getting a rid of a mod in Skyrim can be as easy as unsubscribing from on Steam's Workshop. Though, to be fair, those other option are more powerful in the ways they can change the game.

Sadly, having made what I feel is the best version of this game, I no longer want to play it and I doubt that I have made it even halfway through the main story line. The same thing not only happened to me with Oblivion, but with the multiplayer in Halo Reach. I set goals for myself for how I wanted my multiplayer avatar to look. Once I had achieved the rank needed to buy the armor permutations I wanted, I simply stopped caring about them. It's a weird dilemma to have and something I rarely experience but there's something about modding an Elder Scrollsgame that I find more enjoyable than actually playing game.

Maybe someday I’ll head back into the land of Skyrim to finish fighting the dragons, who knows. It’s at least far more likely that that will happen than my return to Halo Reach or Oblivion, considering I hate most multiplayer games and can honestly say that Skyrim is vastly superior to Oblivion. Well, in every regard except for the melee combat. As for right now, I’d rather play through Alpha Protocol again, which may sound weird, but I really liked that game.

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And so ends yet another edition of the Backlog. Hope you enjoyed it. Be sure to return next week, we definitely will! But until then, tell us about your Skyrim or modding experience in the comments below.

Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.