Skyrim and the DLC Return
Skyrim is just as I remembered it. The sky is overcast and full of dragons, the mountains snow-capped and the rivers overflowing with mead. Skeletons are restless, Eorlund Gray-Mane is still fond of praising the gods, and Lydia is as lovely and obedient as ever. Doors open slowly, and sometimes not at all, and the arrows I dropped back in 2011 still litter the pavement outside my homestead. All is as it should be, only now I have new lands to discover, beasts to slay, children to adopt and houses to build.
Bethesda finally released the PS3 Skyrim downloadable content in February, the oldest of which had been available on other platforms for almost nine months. Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn are serving as the perfect excuse to spend another fifty hours in a game that I hadn't touched for a year (you can find my original review here). Despite a year of patches, Skyrim is still as glitchy as it is wonderful, full of Alpine sunsets and floating goats and plagued by incessant load screens and frequent crashes, yet my wanderlust ensures that I keep slogging on regardless.
Despite its technical failings, there are few, if any other digital spaces I'd rather explore, spending time slaying, creating, conversing and trying to kiss Lydia. Even ignoring the DLC, there is still so much left to do, and the outstanding trophies from my first hundred hours lend structure to a world that can sometimes overwhelm. I've sucked down all the wordy shouts I can find, escaped from jail and battered an inn-keep with a fish, though unfortunately the platinum is off the table, thanks to some missing Daedric items.
I've yet to touch the Dawnguard expansion, as vampires are rubbish, but I've experienced much of Dragonborn and Hearthfire. Dragonborn opens up a brand new island, Solstheim, full of unfamiliar flora, fauna, and a meaty quest line. You can ride dragons, forge new armour, battle subterranean mecha-twats, hang out with home-invasion goblins and immerse yourself in a culture that differs to that of the mainland. Hearthfire is far more limited, but it satisfies my overwhelming urge to make cabinets and fill them with children. Building a house and starting a family adds yet another dimension to a game that was never short on distractions.
It's unusual for me to return to a game after an extended absence - once the box goes back on the shelf it usually stays there, no matter how fond of it I may be. I was counting on Dragonborn and co. to bring Skyrim out of retirement, and that is exactly what it’s done. I rarely purchase extra content, though I will make an exception for true expansions such as Dragonborn; variations on existing missions or modes, and a pack of colourful new trousers are of little interest.
Burnout Paradise and Red Dead Redemption are the perfect examples of great games that were made even better by new content, content that became an integral part of the full experience. Big Surf Island was an irresistible new playground, and Red Dead Redemption kept plying us with new, free content. And let us not forget the hugely entertaining Undead Nightmare, which added humour and a splash of supernatural to the Wild West without affecting the more serious tone of the main narrative. These additions kept me coming back months, and even years after I had first moved on.
As I push forward with Skyrim, I'm also considering revisiting a few other games, instead of moving onto the latest shinnies. I've let a number of high profile new titles pass me by this year and I’m in no great rush to catch up on what I've missed. I'm not sure if this says more about my current approach to gaming or the quality of the latest releases. I have a hankering for singing and scratching my way through DJ Hero 1 & 2 yet again and I'm considering a full Mass Effect run-through with a brand new Shepard. I never finished Mass Effect, something that I hope to remedy with its appearance on PSN; I can't get enough of Mass Effect 2 and would like to play three again, encouraged by the Normandy knees-up in the Citadel DLC. I'm very much looking forward to downing some space whiskeys, playing strip poker with Wrex and discovering where Miranda keeps her wallet. I still have delusions of a successful return to Dark Souls, and am even trying to enlist my wife into a pass-the-controller nightmare. I thought I'd moved on, but a bizarre dream where I was playing Dark Souls with Dennis Rodman has me mulling yet another ill-fated attempt to re-join the dead.
I was excited for the first half of 2013, but this new found desire for relative familiarity has taken precedence. Perhaps I'm starting to tire of the constant turnover of new games, rushing through the latest title so I can move onto the next, or maybe I'm being subconsciously frugal in preparation for PlayStation 4 bankruptcy. No, I think I just really like Skyrim.