Skyrim may seem like old news now, it's been around for months, and most people who were waiting for it have probably played their fill. A significant number of players, like myself, while having already played extensively are still playing. Enticed by the inexhaustible supply of content and the promise of mod development tools due any time now we just keep coming back. I'm approaching an incredible 200 hours of gameplay and still feel like I've only just scratched the surface, and for a kid who used to daydream about magical swords and slaying dragons this game really is fantasy fulfilment on a level that a computer game has never achieved before.
It is a stunning game. I regularly have to stop and grab a screenshot of the landscape, which is endless and beautifully rendered. In fact I've built up quite a collection of 'postcards' from my adventures, a few of which you can see here (I tried to pick a few that really showed the game's varied and often haunting atmosphere).
If ever there has been an argument for computer games as an expressive art form in the skein of movies and books, this game makes the case more eloquently than anyone could argue the point. While imperfect, the talent involved in it's creation is apparent and undeniable, and to discard gaming as a children's hobby is a clear misjudgment of the emotional investment a creation like this can evoke in the player, which unlike a movie or a book, is a wholly unique and personal experience every time.
It has flaws and concessions, some of which are understandable given that the subject matter is often quite dark and almost ubiquitously violent. You can't, for example, harm children. They are simply invulnerable. I understand why even though the game deals with honour, war, law keeping, murder and theft with a fairly reasonable sense of the morality involved in the acts (even if the mechanics occasionally fall short). You can be the shining Hero of the Day, or a cold-hearted, murdering thief - the latter will get you killed if you get yourself caught!
Sometimes consequences rely on the player's own investment in the act and own moral compass to provide that emotional feedback and sense of right and wrong. Books have relied on this kind of character empathy since the dawn of time, and while the game's mechanics could in some instances provide more feedback and consequence I don't really feel that this is a significant failing.
Gameplay is smooth, and the number-crunching behind the scenes really does keep itself out of sight and out of mind, allowing for the player to settle pretty deeply into the action. It rarely reminds you that you're playing a game, and when it does it's most often between 'adventures' when you're resupplying in a town and offloading your latest hoard of magical flaming swords and staffs of wizardly awesomesauce.
If you own a console or a PC capable of running it (and it has surprising performance quality given it's graphical excellence) then Skyrim is an experience not to be missed.