Farewell, Skyrim

Yesterday, with minimal pomp and circumstance, Bethesda announced that there will be no more official expansions for Skyrim. Just like that, the era of the Dovahkiin drew to a close.

This is a good time to end it. It may have been somewhat unexpected that, a few months after releasing the Dragonborn DLC, Bethesda would just up and say, "Welp! No more Skyrim!" But really, the game's hour has more or less passed.

It does seem to be a time for ending eras, doesn't it? First Mass Effect, now Skyrim — two of the most talked-about, cosplay-inspiring, widely beloved games of this console generation have been put to bed. And as with Mass Effect, with Skyrim I think back to how I felt when I first played it, before the memes and the spoilers, before the glitches and the mods, when it was new.

We all knew Skyrim was going to be big. Work at this site long enough, and you learn to gauge how interested people are in a given game by the number of readers it attracts. Suffice to say: People were very, very interested in Skyrim. Every time we'd write about it, thousands of people would be irresistibly drawn to learn more. Even before it launched, Skryim was huge.

After it launched, Skyrim was even bigger. I don't believe I've ever seen a game capture the public imagination to the degree that Skyrim did, before or since. They had been showing trailers in which a Dovahkiin was taking on a dragon in a clearing atop a rocky mountain. You can go there, the ads would say. You will be able to do that in the game. And you'll be able to do so much more.

As it turned out, you really could. In this video game, you could literally ride a horse across a valley, make your way through a forest, stop off at a local inn, climb a mountain, and fight a mother effin' dragon at the summit, all in the course of about an hour. Then, you could go back to your job at the local mill, and marry the girl in town that you've had your eye on.

A vast world made just for you; that's always been the promise of Bethesda's games. It's a seductive promise. I've now sunk countless hours into Skyrim (truly countless — I've run the game through the mod manager and left it paused to the point that Steam's play-time tracking feels wholly inaccurate). But as with all things, familiarity has caused the magic to diminish somewhat. I no longer feel the rush I felt the first time I made my way to Riverwood, when it seemed like anything was possible. I'll never laugh again the way I did when that first giant blew me to kingdom come. I've farmed my armorsmithing and enchanting skills and wrought armour and weaponry that can fell the mightiest giant in seconds. But I'll never covet any of it like I did my first ebony sword.

Over the course of about a year, I more or less strip-mined Skyrim for all the gaming ore I could. I played my first dozen hours of the game on Xbox 360, since I didn't have access to an early PC build, before switching to PC and starting it up all over again. I dawdled my way through the main storyline, so often getting distracted by sidequests and exploration. I played until I fell asleep in my chair, and still there were scores of dungeons and cliffsides left unexplored. After several months of increasingly sporadic play, I got into modding, and the game was briefly reborn. I tried to make a new character, but it didn't really stick. I got even more into mods. I finally completed the storyline.

As I was doing that, the game infested popular culture. Memes came and went, then resurfaced. Dovahbear. Harp twins. "Fus-ro-dah". Skyrim COPS. Real steel helmets. Cosplay. "Like Skyrim with guns" Unnecessary Censorship. And of course, arrow in the knee.

It hasn't all been sunshine and procedurally generated butterflies. As time goes by and the magic wears off, the game's age has started to show, and even with a ton of mods installed it's really showing some crustiness at the seams. PS3 owners never really did get quite the same game as everyone else, and I would understand if those using Sony's console had a less than fond view of the game as a whole. And, after all Todd Howard's talk of how the DLC would feel like expansion packs, there's the fair question of whether the three packs we got lived up to that promise.

First came Dawnguard, which left Jason underwhelmed and which I, actually, haven't even completed. Then the homemaking tools in Hearthfire, which were actually a pretty interesting idea, if not a satisfying chunk of new quests or dungeons. I never really did make that house, though. And then, finally, the satisfying, meaty Dragonborn, which felt like the sort of expansion pack we'd been expecting for Skyrim all along. I'm sure I'll finish it one of these days.

Hmm. As it turns out, I never managed to complete any of the DLC. And when I think about why, the answer is pretty evident: I think I've had enough Skyrim. I boot up the game now and I feel a slight melancholy mixed with a vague feeling of paralysis. I may finally be beyond this game's ability to surprise me, but there's still too much to do.

Here I am, standing outside Winterhold, watching the snow blow in gusts down the path. There's that bridge to my right, and that mill to my left, and the docks beyond the bridge. I hear a dragon somewhere. I still have no idea what else is up in the mountain behind the city, despite having sojourned to its peak multiple times. I've still never collected all of the types of blood that one demon asked for. The Forsworn Conspiracy quest in Markarth is still glitched, and I'll never finish it. I've never really learned much about magic, and I never did get around to making any Dragonbone armour. There's still so much of Skyrim left to see, and so much Skyrim left to play. But I've probably seen enough.

That said, just because I've had my fill, just because Bethesda won't be making any more content, doesn't mean that Skyrim will stand still. Throughout the game's run, there have been two constants: The Skyrim Nexus and Dead End Thrills. The former provided a place for modders to organise and share their many tweaks and overhauls, and if past Elder Scrolls games are anything to go by, we'll be getting incredible Skyrim mods for years to come. The latter is where Duncan Harris stores his galleries of incredible in-game photography. Hopefully his galleries will continue to grow, as well.

Harris' screenshots of Skyrim (four of which are featured in this article) have always encapsulated the magic and promise of the game for me. Still shots, they mask the often ugly way Skyrim moved, and their careful composition displays the mountains and forests at their most evocative. Every time I scroll through his site, I find myself wanting to return to the game, to throw caution into the wind and make a new character, to see if I can recapture some of that old magic. The images are mysterious, lonesome, and iconic in the same ways that Skyrim so often could be: A lone figure, chasing a dragon into the night. A woman warrior, sword slung over her back, looking out on the valley below. A dragon breathing flame atop a mountain. You can go there, they say. And so we went.

Pictures: Dead End Thrills

WATCH MORE: PC Gaming News


    Say it ain't so... ...I still don't know how I'm going to break this to my wife.

    I never liked Oblivion. Didn't play Morrowind until a bit after Skyrim. And yeah, Skyrim had problems, a fair few. But it's one of the few games these days that I play not out of finding a rush or to test my mind. It was for the immersion. Because although the terrain wasn't varied, it was still damn pretty. Fast Travel not an option for me. Combat was shallow, but I'll be damned if fighting dragons and shooting bows in the shadows didn't feel satisfying as all hell. The people were one-dimensional, but the quests contained a fair bit of nice writing, sometimes silly, sometimes quite engaging, sometimes fun as all heck.

    Like I said, I still play it, many people do and will due to mods. But I suppose I'll follow along with it's 'death.' And all in all, it's a pretty good game.

    You can go there, they say. And so we went.


    Last edited 17/04/13 11:22 am

      Speaking of immersion, Oculus Rift can be used with Skyrim apparently. As much as Skyrim sucked me in (and it did a great deal), I'm so eager to see it with 'my own eyes', as it were.

        Bought the game at launch, I am glad I've waited to play because of this! Not that I waited on purpose, just too many other games to play.

    I'm still hung up on how they abruptly announced there'd be no more DLC months after Dragonborn came out. I just don't get it, unless they had something else planned which they cancelled. Otherwise why not just announce Dragonborn was the last DLC at the time of release? Well, anyway, time for me to go back and actually play the DLC I guess. I've bought it all but not played it yet.

    Last edited 17/04/13 11:23 am

    I'd have to say that what Skyrim lacked for me was the nice surprise of loot that you would find in a chest at the end of a dungeon/Fort etc. The ability to easily forge your own weapons and armor/Enchant weapons&Armor for me detracted from finding something special in said chests. It doesn't particularly motivate me to explore every cave or fort unless there is a mission pointing to it.

    Oblivion however I can spend hrs just wandering around and exploring everything I come across without fear of a dragon dropping on my head at a low lvl and being thoroughly dominated.

    I think the 2 biggest hooks for the games popularity were the popularity of Oblivion and the pervasive chant that was in the trailer.

    I still remember the announcement that had a group of hooded monks walk out onto the stage during the VGA's and begin chanting.

    Count me among the players who paid full price for the PS3 version which was never fully fixed. Bethesda may have won the love of most gamers, but they forever lost me as a customer.

      The PS3 version of Skyrim (for which I too paid full price upon release) was one of the biggest stuff-ups of this console generation. The fact that both the Xbox 360 and PC versions were vastly superior in terms of both playability and expansions is unforgivable in this day and age. There's no good reason why the PS3 versions lagged (and still lags) so far behind.

      Last edited 17/04/13 12:34 pm

      It's really shitty about what happened to PS3 users.

      That said, as someone who played in on PC, Skyrim was something special.

    I still haven't gotten into it. I'm just waiting until I have enough time to actually play a game like this.

    Can't wait to be honest. Looks great.

    I want a morrowind remake, using skyrims game engine. Hmmmm mmmm mmmm.

      I agree. Morrowind was (as far as I remember) probably the most awe-inspiring of the three, so to see it running on a modern engine such as Skyrim's would be amazing.

        You mean like Skywind? I haven't downloaded and tried it (I think it is still pretty Alpha level) but that is exactly what the are making!

      This. Get rid of the arcade style combat too.. Dumbest move they ever made was trying to get 'regular' fps gamers into it.

    Does that mean it's the end of the Elder Scroll series?

      That comparison was weird ... I doubt it's the end of the series, so why compare is to Mass Effect?

    Just because the DLC stops doesn't mean it's the end - nothing's stopping the huge modding crowd from making more stuff, and to me half the experience are those community mods.

    I don't even own any of the DLC, heh.

    I bet, had Kotaku been around after Tribunal was released, Kirk would've written how it was the end of Morrowind.
    (Morrowind is STILL being modded today.)

    My point is, Skyrim is likely far from from being farewelled, just because Bethesda aren't doing anything anymore.

    EA and Activision are rubbing there hands with glee on this one.

    Oh man. I can't play Skyrim now because it's dead and gone?

    Wait, I am still able to play and enjoy it despite the last DLC having been released? You mean games can be played for as long as I like? Wow, I never knew. *Removes tongue from cheek*

      The Courier is still well and alive on my PC, and New Vegas-content finished being released a fair while ago. This is a melodramatic article apparently written in a slow-news-week (or month, considering the avalanche of trivial Bioshock-articles).

    I still haven't purchased the final DLC release for the PS3 so I still have a bit of adventure time ahead of me. Really happy with the game despite it's flaws and much delayed PS3 DLC. I can only imagine lots of effort going into the 'next gen' at the moment.

    what happened to the last two pieces of dlc that where already registered and trademarked???

    Oh dear, no more new wedding-cake snow and buggy bookend quests, whatever will we do?

    I would TOTALLY just GIVE my copy of this 'game' to anyone who wanted it, if Steam would only let me. Doesn't seem right - me having the game and hating it so fiercely, when there could be others to whom it would bring joy, instead of a reminder of wasted money. I bought the CE too. What a waste (because someone else could be playing it).

    Anyway, hopefully TES VI will make everything better.

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