Apr 22, 2016

Posted by in Opinion, PC/video game, RPG | 0 Comments

The Perfect Game [It’s Skyrim]

The Perfect Game [It’s Skyrim]

Looking for the perfect game…

It took me a long while to find the perfect game for me. I’ve played different genres, from match 3-games to complex MMO’s, and for a long time, I always found something was missing. If my games were potential spouses they all started off very charming, they were interesting dating material but not enough to propose to them. Eventually, like in a relationship, I ended up listing the characteristics I found most important. Out of those specific ingredients, I made the perfect meal. And now that I know exactly what my perfect game is, I would probably eat the same damn thing every day.

As you can imagine, this is a very subjective topic. I’m very interested to know what your perfect game is like and with which parts you agree or disagree. Please, let me know in the comments section.

Genre: RPG

First and foremost, my perfect game is an RPG. My first games were adventure games like Myst, Riven and the rest of the series. There were even some ridiculous ones like Monster Mix and Monster Palace. I loved to look for clues and grab anything I could find to help me solve puzzles. I also loved escape games and ‘wannabe entrepreneur’ games like Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Dragon Quest Sentinels of the Starry Skies RPG

My first roleplaying game ever was Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies on Nintendo DS. I loved the feeling I could explore an entire world and actually create the main character and its companions myself. After that first RPG a whole new gaming world opened up to me and I realized there were also RPGs on Xbox 360 in a more realistic style than the cartoony look of the Dragon Quest series. Now that I am able to compare a number of games, I have a pretty clear idea of what the perfect RPG is for me.

I know it’s traditional for an RPG to have a system of classes of which you have to pick one or, in some games, combine two. But I discovered I didn’t really like the limitations of that. For me, roleplaying, whether table-top or in a video game, is all about immersion, about actually living your adventures yourself. No game pulls this off better for me than Skyrim. It’s the number one reason why Clark Kent without Glasses and I left our home planet and came to live on earth. I know a lot of gamers think RPGs should be for a select audience of nerds who know how to count dice but the essence of roleplay to me is not the odds of dice, it’s maximum immersion. That is what I think an RPG should focus on in all its aspects.


Maximum immersion starts with being able to create your own character. It’s great if you can fully determine what your character looks like. Some games offer marvellous character creation, like Dragon’s Dogma, Skyrim and even Fallout 4, although in the latter case your backstory is actually determined for you. Games like The Witcher, which oblige you to play with a fixed character, just don’t fit the term RPG for me. In my view, maximum immersion means maximum freedom. This allows me to actually roleplay and invent my own background story, set my own character restrictions and act accordingly.

For example:

  • I have a vegetarian pacifist character called Sunshine Skyblossom.
  • I have a character Clarke Steelskin who only fights with his bare fists. Yes, that includes dragons.
  • I have a character who always sells all his items and enters every dungeon in plain clothes without any weapons or armour, just because he loves a challenge. That’s actually my favourite.

Skyrim - MarcurioThis is why Skyrim is my absolute favorite RPG. You start in Helgen as a prisoner of the Imperials but where you come from, why you were captured and what you do after your escape is up to you. I love that! Some people like to be dragged through a more linear story. Not me. I love it that you can play the main quest and become the Dragonborn, join the college of Winterhold, the thieves’ guild or the Dark Brotherhood. You can become Thane of a hold or just plain rich by doing side quests.  You can go on a crazy vampire hunt, craft your ass off and sell stuff, adopt children and teach them manners, build a house or just… explore, all in that order or in a completely different one. You can even have a lame existence reading books by the fireplace and going on lonely fishing trips. You can dance naked on the dining table of every Jarl and expect to get paid. You can be a creepy pervert who spies on red-haired NPCs or the fat bastard who spends his days eating and drinking mead. You can give all your money to flower-selling children or other charity. You can actually have your character develop. For example, one of my characters had an aversion towards magic but circumstances force her to hire a cynical mercenary-wizard. After long journeys together, she starts warming up to him and towards magic and finally decides to join the college of Winterhold for her first baby steps into the use of magic. I prefer the freedom of a thousand smaller stories and exploration to one big epic quest. And when it comes to ‘epicness’, Skyrim’s main quest certainly fulfills all my needs.

What kills the immersion for me is cinematic cutscenes and quick-time events in an RPG. I don’t need to see my character act. I want to feel like I AM that character. That’s why the possibility to play in first person is very important to my sense of immersion. If I want to watch movies, I’ll watch YouTube videos or Netflix on my Xbox instead. I won’t look for that experience in video games.

More immersion to me means goodbye to the restriction of classes. I think Skyrim, again, has the best system there. You become better at what you practice more. Isn’t that how things work in real life as well? And as a player, you actually experience that when you pick the right perks. If you ‘favour the bow’, and you imagine your character to be good at it, you use it a lot and you can pick perks like Eagle Eye that actually make you ‘feel like’ your character becomes better at it. It’s all about the experience. When picking a class restricts the armour you can wear and the weapons you can use, that makes it less immersive for me and less fun. After all, if you were a flight attendant and you were unable to wear a nurse’s outfit, wouldn’t you be frustrated? Well, maybe your boyfriend would be… Moreover, no class allows for awesome self-imposed game restrictions like always entering enemy territory empty-handed and fighting with whatever you can get your hands on. Classless gameplay also allows you to change your play style in the game whenever and how often you want. If your RPG was real life, you’d be allowed to change your mind too.


From the RPG perspective, I would have to say different things about the game protagonist than if my favourite game had been a shooter or an adventure game. In another genre, I might say I preferred the main character to be a cop or a detective, a criminal or a morally good person, a handsome dude or a beautiful woman… But I want my character to be all of those things, so I prefer to create my own character: the looks, the personality, the background. In some MMO’s, like Guild Wars 2, you get to make a number of background choices, which are determined by the class and race you picked. I love to have carte blanche when it comes to that. That’s why Skyrim is the only game I can play over and over again for years with different characters (I believe I have about 10 now).

For that same reason, I’m not fond of having a voiced protagonist. In some cases, it can add something to your game. For example, in Fallout 4 I named my character Jennifer Lawrence (because she kind of looked like her) and the female voice actually turned out to be quite fitting for that character. But what if I wanted to create an old, fat and ugly character, which I could have created? If the voice does not match your character, it destroys immersion. More time invested in different voices means less time invested in gameplay…


Don’t we all love rewards in games? Especially if we miss them in real life… On our home planet, Xerox, good behaviour is rewarded with toenails. In earth games, you can get a reward after you’ve finished a quest, after you’ve killed an enemy, … Whether it’s a reward in money or in rare items, or even just in a cool sound effect, as long as it’s a reward, it gives you joy. Shoot an enemy in Fallout 4 and you get a cash register sound. The game also has a very cool ‘critical bar is full’ sound! Skyrim has an awesome kill cam sound and both games have terrific level-up sounds… I will come back to sounds when I talk about gameplay. MMO’s are of course most rewarding. Most MMO’s give you all kinds of achievements. Some even give you achievements for collecting a certain amount of achievements. That’s always nice in offline RPG’s too. I’ll discuss loot as the ultimate reward system in the part about gameplay.

Skills, perks, and attributes

table top RPG 13th ageA typical RPG way to reward players is to grant them ways to invest in their characters. Usually, this comes in the form of skills, perks, and attributes. I think this system works best if it’s very simple. That’s why I love it that Skyrim only indirectly allows you to choose which skills you want to improve simply by practising them. And then you can pick the perks you love based on how high your skills are because, naturally, you’ll want to pick perks in disciplines you love and practise. In Fallout 4 you have your attributes and you can raise them in an all-in-one perk system, which is simple and great. Those perks are so awesome and sometimes, they make you play much longer than you intended to, just so you can pick a new perk. Just like in table-top roleplay, an overly complex levelling system can kill the fun because it’s so time-consuming and it keeps you from the cool combat and puzzles. I really like perks that give you freedom. In the table-top RPG 13th Age there’s a ‘feat’ that grants you a more powerful spell if you can come up with a cool new improvised name for it. Similarly, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition, a table-top RPG that uses board game components, has an action card that allows you to do any acrobatic stunt you like for extra damage, which feeds the player’s creativity.


So, in conclusion, an RPG should be so immersive you’ve completely forgotten who you are after a number of playing hours. And therefore, it should give you complete freedom and control over the game. Some people say that feeling of control and thus the RPG-ness of a game depends on the moral decisions you have to make. I say it’s about you deciding what you do, where you go and the order of those actions. It’s about complete freedom to have your character do whatever fits its build, personality and background.

Landscape in SkyrimI think games should be fun, inspiring and thought-provoking. This does not mean a good game should be full of political statements and tough moral choices. In games that tend to give you a boatload of moral choices, this is usually almost the only freedom you have. Most of the time, those games follow a linear storyline interrupted by cutscenes. Since that is not nearly enough immersion for me and I cannot quite get into my character in games like that, I tend to make moral choices from my own perspective, not my character’s. As a result, this kind of RPG turns out less re-playable for me. Fans of BioWare games say they often replay games because then they can make different moral choices and see an alternate ending. But I cannot bring myself to do that. What also bothers me is that there is one choice you cannot make in that complete moral freedom: walk away from a quest.

What I really don’t understand is that people want particularly complex moral choices. There are enough simple moral issues in real life that people still cannot agree on, so why would you want complex moral issues in a game? It really kills the fun if it’s not clear to me whether my decision will have a positive outcome for my character or not. And I think it’s ghastly if either option gets you disadvantages or causes tragedy. Granted, you don’t have the luxury of looking up the outcome of a quest in real life, but then again, [newsflash] a game is not real life. How often do you have to make your pick in real life between something like ‘killing 10 orphans or your best friend’, for example? The choice that determines which one of your companions will eventually die or the situation where you can only save one of your friends or family members is so overdone by now it makes me nauseous. And still, a lot of gamers seem to think that’s what roleplaying is all about. After smugly preaching to you about dealing with tough choices and having to accept the outcome of your decisions, those are usually the ones immediately reloading after each inopportune outcome. It’s not credible at all… Maybe they just love the kind of over-the-top, overly dramatic moral choices that only occur in games. The perfect RPG doesn’t have to tell me deep and meaningful things about reality. Fantasy usually does that best anyway, when it’s not trying to be an imitation of reality. And that brings me to my favourite setting.

Setting: fantasy

Fantasy is my favourite genre in books, movies and games. So, obviously, my perfect game would be a fantasy game. I prefer a fantasy setting that has a historic feel to it. One of the things that kill my immersion in modern fantasy games is that they still feel very modern to me, in conversations and actions of NPC’s for example. Since so many games want to ‘elevate’ themselves above casual fun, they automatically turn to political statements and tough moral choices. I’d much rather have a more credible, ‘historically’ correct game, than a ‘politically’ correct one.

The Witcher 3Nowadays the number of awards you win for a game seems to correspond to the number of things you can check off your political correctness list. For me, gameplay is a key element to a great game, as that’s what the medium is all about. If it were about educating people about morality it might as well be a movie or a book. Also, as far as I know, the only planet that has game developer-priests is Moronia. Also, if you try not to offend anyone you’re bound to fail. Chances are high the very people you’re so frenetically trying to reckon with, will be the first to attack you. It’s a lesson that BioWare learned the hard way.

I’m just saying, if the fantasy setting is one that has the feel of the Middle Ages and has a character that is burned at the stake for accidentally showing her boob, it’s kind of hard to believe that an openly transgender character in a rainbow T-shirt is watching her burn. If it’s inspired by 4th century Scandinavia, it shouldn’t have 50% black people in it. But since RPG’s should give you absolute freedom I think you should have the possibility to play a gay character or to create all types of races that are represented in your fantasy world. In a futuristic fantasy setting, go nuts and do whatever you like, game makers. Just put freedom and immersion first if you want to count me as one of your fans. Because anything is possible in a futuristic setting, I don’t mind modern dialogues and current day situations so much in Mass Effect as in Dragon Age. And I think The Witcher suffers a bit from that too, in its gorgeous atmospheric fantasy setting. Lots of games could also do without the modern varnish of feminism. It’s kind of new to me. On our planet, females are so genuinely awesome… We don’t need feminism to feel good about ourselves.

My favourite fantasy setting of all time would be Middle-earth. In games, I think The Elder Scrolls comes closest to that kind of setting because of its wonderfully rich lore.

LoreLandscape Fallout 4

Lore is a very important aspect of a great roleplaying game. I like lore to be deep, expanded, constantly present under the surface and credible. What is credible, is of course very subjective. I think the lore of the Dwemer is more credible in The Elder Scrolls than the lore of the Azura in Guild Wars 2. Although I’m not as fond of the post-apocalyptic setting that Fallout offers as I am of the Elder Scrolls setting, I think the developers did a great job in Fallout, lore-wise. Good lore makes you feel like you’re actually part of the reality of a setting. It always reminds you that there is more to the world around you and it makes you feel like you’re living and breathing it. In Fallout 4 you can almost smell the creatures and strange toxic fogs you encounter. I love it when lore is all over the place, in the small things, not right in your face. A talking lore stone like in Kingdoms of Amalur would be an in-your-face example. It may be well done but it’s kind of a lazy solution. I love the world to be gradually revealed to me in surprising little experiences and items. This is another big strength of Bethesda games.
[And no, I don’t get paid by them to write this, but since you mention it, I could use the money to pay for our latest expensive UFO repairs bill.]

Don’t you love it when you’re questing or exploring the Wasteland and you find a raider’s love poetry on a terminal that he’s obviously embarrassed about? Or when you find a dead postman with a number of personal letters? Do you remember the mage who needed to kill her own mother to liberate her from an evil cult in Skyrim? Have you read the numerous awesome tales and stories that you found in the wilderness in diaries and on pieces of paper? Underneath a washed up rowing boat wreck, behind a bush next to a perished horse or even in a tree… I prefer a world of multiple story elements to just one big story accompanied by several fetch quests. I don’t mind fetch quests so much. They’re very cool if they lead you to new undiscovered places but not if it’s the only thing your character is asked to do.


Good stories don’t need to be complex.

  • Scientists succeed in cloning dinosaurs and want to build a theme park around that scientific breakthrough. Then the dinosaurs escape…
  • Alien strands on earth, meets a young boy and discovers true friendship before his family finally picks him back up. [A classic on Xerox!]
  • Man is sent to infiltrate a tribe to destroy them but as he learns about their customs he’s no longer sure which side he’s on.
  • Bus can’t slow down or it will explode.
  • Man winds up on a desert island and spends four years talking to his volleyball.

Total LostSome great movies actually have pretty uncomplicated plots. But it is not because a story is not that complex that there can’t be a lot to it. There can be deep and powerful values or themes in them. To me, most good stories have them. And by values and themes, I don’t mean social value or societal value, hell no! A good story usually has a good narratological structure and no loose ends. Mysterious stories, fantasy stories, and science fiction stories appeal to me because they often carry a lot of (moral) values and mystery. Just mystery is not enough. e.g. I loved the first season of Lost! The setting, the characters, … It was awesome! But then they screwed up so bad it was ridiculous. Because as an audience you don’t invest all that time of your life just to get some wishy-washy semi-spiritual ending with more loose ends than things that actually made sense. That is why, on our planet, they refer to brain damage as ‘suffering from J.J.’

Nowadays, apparently, at least for so-called experts, academics and other intelligent folks, creating a good story is simply following a boring checklist. When do you win an academy award as an actor? When you play a member of a minority group, a historical figure (preferably an eccentric one) or someone with a psychological problem. Is that really so praiseworthy? Isn’t it harder to make a creature that does not exist credible on screen, like Andy Serkis does for example than to play a historical character that no one has actually met but that everyone has access to through information on the internet? In fact, since we can just magnify our own minor mental issues, it’s easier to play a mentally deranged character.

A good story doesn’t need to be one about the unlikely friendship between a positive black, gay transgender character and a psychologically messed-up feminist. A good story is one that draws you in and makes you feel for the characters. And in my experience movies are a more successful medium to move an audience than games. Games should not try to be like movies, like audio dramas should not try to be like movies. All media have their assets and their limitations, their perks and their problems. Games are the perfect medium for immersion so that’s what I desperately want in a game, first and foremost! It’s only logical the core element in a ‘game’ is ‘gameplay’, right? Why else would you make the distinction between a game and other media?


Since immersion is my main reason to play games, I really need a balance between credibility and fun in the gameplay. Credibility is important because it doesn’t help the immersion if there are pink sparkles on lootable corpses, for example. Fun is important because if a game is credible but not fun, why bother playing? You can just stick to your household chores and actually do something useful instead. Being able to go anywhere you like, whenever you like is like the ultimate boost to your credibility.

Open world

As I have established before, a truly immersive game should be an RPG to me. Moreover, I think it should be an open world game. Nowadays game developers throw that term around with each new game, but other than Bethesda I don’t think anyone has ever succeeded at making a real open world roleplaying game. This is why:

  • There are no loading screens in Skyrim and Fallout 3 and 4, unless you enter a building, which makes sense. I simply cannot get used to them in other games. In Fallout 4 buildings, they solved this with elevators. You take the elevator in a way that is credible and that takes a while. This cunningly masks what would otherwise had been an annoying loading screen.
  • You can jump anywhere! I’m a real jumper. I even jumped my way to the highest peak of the Throat of the World where I found this cool pickaxe Easter egg! I can jump my way all the way up to the roof of a building where I can take out all the ghouls in Fallout 4 and not get harmed. But when I encounter a jumping platform in Kingdoms of Amalur, I just get depressed. How does it match the ‘open world’ concept if you are only able to jump down in specific places where these platforms are neatly placed?
  • Unlimited exploration: to be able to find stuff and carcasses in the wild or in the Wasteland, stranded carriages with a story behind them, to simply walk around in a world and occasionally cross an enemy (that may or may not be engaged with another enemy), discover a cave or shrine, an unclaimed chest, a cosy sightseeing spot, a wonderful panorama, … That’s the stuff!Fallout 4 ghouls everywhere
  • A true open world does not acquire any grinding. Because, let’s face it, that’s boring! I was patient enough with my first RPG Dragon Quest: Sentinels of the Starry Skies to grind a lot. But once I had discovered Skyrim, I just didn’t have the patience for that anymore. In Fallout 4, some of the areas are accessible in theory but unfit for your level, which I think is really disappointing. Because when you truly roleplay, it doesn’t make sense that you postpone certain quests because your level is not high enough yet. You want to save your child asap! It might be too late if you waste your time on more radroaches or ghouls. Sure, Skyrim had a nasty frost troll on the 7000 steps to High Hrothgar but with a bit of creativity (basically climbing on a rock where it can’t reach you, fry him to death or take him out with a dozen arrows) you can defeat that one difficult enemy on your way. This keeps a bit of suspense in the battles. Being chased by scores of ghouls in a Wasteland area is, even for the overly optimistic, an inevitable death sentence. If you happen to have saved your game right before they turned around the corner to attack you, you have a problem…


My favourite combat is – you’ve guessed it – immersive, but also surprising and dynamic! Skyrim does a brilliant job at that and – who knows – maybe World of Tanks too but I’ve never played that. The Elder Scrolls V allows you to fight in first person, to actually experience shooting a bow, even though it’s still very different in real life. But at least firing a crossbow doesn’t feel like you’re holding a frying pan that shoots unlimited arrows, like in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for example. In Bethesda games combat feels real and it finds the perfect balance between a turn-based system and a real-time combat system, for example by granting perks that can slow time or make you aim better and shoot faster. And of course you can always pause in the middle of your combat.

A lot of nostalgic RPG players who believe that an RPG is all about numbers, think success in combat should be left more to chance. I sooo disagree with that. Real life combat depends on skill, not on odds. Their counter argument would be: but it’s your character’s skill that counts, not your skill with a controller. I think you need skills with the controller anyway if you truly want to enjoy a game (or mouse, for PC players). It takes some getting used to. It takes lots of practice. If I want my husband to laugh his arse off, I need only to mention my first time on Xbox with a controller playing Skyrim. But once you get the hang of it, Bethesda games give you the best illusion of a character growing in combat. Their perks actually make you, as a player, experience what you do as easier, as your character makes progress. If your character is a terrible marksman but still wants to use the bow all the time, don’t pick the perks that make it easier. Just clumsy on to the next dungeon!

Fighting a dragon in SkyrimI love it when you can really use your environment in combat. You can sneak behind a barrel, hide behind a tree to dodge incoming arrows, dive into a nearby lake to avoid a fireball, … This makes it much more fun than in other games, where this is impossible. Bethesda excels at this again. [Please, hire me oh great and powerful Bethesda!] In no other game do I experience more fun in combat than in Skyrim and Fallout 4.

I love diversity in combat and by that I don’t mean there should be black and white guns, gay daggers and transgender bows. I love it that Fallout 4 offers so many different weapons and ways to improve them and tinker with them! Both ranged and melee weapons can be subdivided into categories and modded. There are things you wear around your knuckles that vary in the damage they inflict. There are all kinds of knives, even baseball bats, boards, sticks, … You can basically smash someone’s head in with anything you can find in the wasteland. Maybe Fallout 5 will allow you to poke someone’s eye out with a pencil or stick paperclips in your enemy’s nose. There are so many explosives, like grenades and mines, that you can find, steal or craft with baseballs, lunchboxes and other junk. There are so many different guns with different kinds of ammo, long range, short range, automatic, big, small or huge, pistol, gun or rifle, … There are so many options it makes you dizzy. But it’s awesome. Skyrim even offers weapons that can be conjured by magic! But magic is another matter… so I better put in a new subtitle.


Lightning magic in SkyrimI think magic in combat should be simple and logical. I think in Skyrim there is a very logical division in kinds of magic. You can destroy your enemy with fire, frost or lightning using magic balls or runes. Elements make for very efficient classifications when it comes to an easy magic system. Look at the Avatar animation series! Then you have illusion and conjuration, two other very logical and amazing categories with lots of possibilities, like conjuring creatures, spirits and even weapons or a horse. Alteration is another very handy kind of magic. And as a classless character you can choose to focus on one or several or all of these magical abilities. You can even decide to never use it and stick to potions or get yourself killed if you prefer that. It’s all possible!

And spells are so easy to cast! Spells that are too complicated are just not as much fun to cast. Controls play a big part in making the gameplay fun. In an MMO or a multiplayer game you can use combo-spells to increase their impact. In Divinity: Original Sin, this is done in a very witty and logical way. This is something that’s missing in Skyrim. [Yes, I can still live with myself after saying this.]


Controls should be smooth and intuitive. They should be logical and easy to remember. The best invention when it comes to controls is using the trigger to attack. Unless you attach a controller to your PC, I simply cannot understand how using a mouse to click on an enemy to attack or to press or click the attack-button can be more fun than using a trigger to shoot both arrows and bullets.

Dialog system

A great immersive open world RPG should have a simple and clear dialog system. For me, that means that whatever a character is going to say, is just there, the entire sentence. Plain and simple. In Skyrim and Fallout 3 they just show the lines of the characters. In Fallout 4 they took a step back and replaced this logical system with one or two keywords per sentence, which does not work at all. You cannot possibly anticipate what your character is going to say based on a keyword.


sorting / structure

Skyrim inventory armourAn awesome inventory should be user-friendly. So, there should be a clear structure with logical categories. You may accuse me of repeating myself but the perfect inventory for me is… *drum roll* the inventory of Skyrim, although it’s far from perfect. In Fallout 4, the inventory is a bit messier because the items are arranged alphabetically and you get prefixes like ‘sturdy’ or ‘leaded’. This makes it hard to see all your pieces of armour in one place, let alone see all arm pieces, leg pieces or helmets together. Fallout 4 is also a bit more complex when it comes to armour in that you have more different pieces. In Skyrim you have armour, gloves, boots and helmet; in Fallout 4 there’s even a distinction between the left and right arm piece. For this kind of setting, that’s amazing but it makes the inventory messier and sorting your stuff harder. Because it is not a fantasy game, you end up with combat armour, raider armour, leather armour, etc. Post-apocalyptic (more realistic) names like ‘steel ambassador armour’ are simply harder to sort than fantasy names like ‘armour of icy awesomeness’, ‘armour of lightning bolt’, … Everyone knows fantasy names are inherently more alphabet-friendly. At least it will get your different armour pieces listed together. It’s something. Fewer types of armour helps of course when you want to structure things properly. I guess no game inventory is ever really practical. Of course, custom names for your apparel can solve a lot of structuring problems.

encumbrance limit

The encumbrance limit of your inventory in the perfect game should be high. The best balance I’ve encountered so far can be found in – you’ll never guess – Skyrim. The encumbrance limit should be somewhat realistic. No limit is a bit of missed opportunity because limits can make a game more fun. But when I have to choose between credibility and fun, fun is always more important. In Skyrim this is balanced out perfectly. You start with 300 but you can increase that number by investing more XP in stamina. Moreover, you have several kinds of magic armour to improve your carry weight. And then there is the Steed Stone, should that not be enough. And then you can always get a mercenary ‘pack mule’ to carry your things. This allows the player/character to decide what is most important. In Fallout 4, the relatively low encumbrance limit often annoys me. And, yes, I have all the perks that should help me overcome that. I want to carry all those cool weapons with me, dammit!


I LOVE looting! My opinion on looting is: everyone and everything should be lootable. This is only logical. No corpse carries nothing. All humanoid corpses wear clothes I might hope. If you kill an animal, you can take its pelt or scales or whatever. That makes sense! Only Bethesda games satisfy my desire to loot everything. People who see me playing will be annoyed by the amount of time I spend looting things, selling and arranging stuff. I can’t help it. In real life, I’m not even capable of putting something back where I found it after I’ve used it or even wear two matching socks. But in-game I am a real neat freak. Of course, there are no cupboards with unlimited storage on earth. Too bad…

Systems where bodies or items glow or make noise or make your Xbox controller shake when they are ‘lootable’ just kill the immersion for me. I consider them very annoying so I’ll quickly address another matter…


Aetherium itemsCrafting for me should be simple and fun! Weapons and armour shouldn’t have too many characteristics for me. Weapons in Fallout 4, for example, are a bit too complex to my taste. It makes crafting a chore. It became a bit more fun since I looked up information about actual firearms on the internet but for people who are usually not familiar with weapons, it’s kind of hard to grasp. In Skyrim, there are a lot of crafting options but they are inherently simple:

  • Alchemy > alchemy table
  • Improving armour > armour bench
  • Improving weapons > grindstone
  • Enchanting > enchanter

And then there are some beautiful extra crafting gems, for example in the Midden (Atronach forge) and in DLC areas. You can craft exploding spiders, your own scrolls and spell books, Aetherium items, etc. No game has a more fun crafting system for me. Armour and weapons are also very simple. They can be enchanted or not. Their name reflects the material that they are made of and the upgrade level (amount of damage it deals or defends you against). It’s just… awesome!


Another thing that is awesome is lockpicking! You don’t have to ask… Best lockpicking system: Skyrim. I once read criticism from a fan that you’re not really roleplaying while lockpicking because it’s you picking the lock, not your character. I don’t agree. No game can give you a better experience of performing actions ‘as your character’. I experience lockpicking as harder when I encounter a master lock. A novice lock actually ‘feels’ easier to pick. An expert lock with the right perks is actually not too hard. As a player, I experience the difficulty or skill of my character. No other game gets that! Not even Fallout 4.


If you want maximum immersion for your character and you like to make room in your inventory for more loot, a chest in a village simple won’t do. You need to be able to buy or build your own house (or both)! Although quite limited in building options, I love the Skyrim Hearthfire DLC. I adore the Minutemen quest and the Vault-Tec Workshop DLC. And I really like the extra Wasteland and Contraptions Workshop. It’s so much fun it’s often very time-consuming and kind of distracts you from your main quest and your roleplaying intentions.

“One more roof panel and my house is done. Oh, still have to clear my inventory and organise my cupboards. On my schedule for tomorrow: build a new vault. Oh, right, my son got kidnapped! Forgot about that!”


Riverwood screenshot SkyrimI know that a lot of gamers will disagree and will call me shallow but graphics are not that important to me. A game should be fun, the story should be cool and the world should be awesome. I’m still nostalgic about my first RPG experience playing Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. It’s a 2D game where graphics just don’t matter. It’s all about gameplay. Sure, I see the difference between games with different levels of graphics, sure I think Skyrim special edition is gorgeous compared to the first version and maybe less beautiful compared to other games that focus more on graphics. I liked playing Oblivion while it’s actually a big challenge there to create a beautiful female character. I don’t even know anyone who succeeded at that without mods… but it’s still fun. Fallout 4 got a lot of criticism falling behind when it came to graphics but I didn’t really mind. Who needs to see the hair on a mutant’s nipples or the spinach between his large teeth anyway? Sure, the structure of piles of garbage or clutter didn’t always look that realistic and had graphical flaws but if I’m having enough fun, I don’t even notice anymore. It’s like when you have an ugly friend who’s very funny and witty, you soon don’t even notice the ugliness anymore. [To my former neighbour on Xerox: Homer Simpson with a Wig, I was not talking about you…] Sure, I see the difference between a DVD and a Blu-ray but if a movie is really good, I get carried away by the story so much I don’t even notice the visual quality anymore. But I guess that’s just me. If you create a compelling story with flying turds and small sticks, I’ll probably like it.

Interface (UI)

For maximum immersion, the user interface should be minimalistic: not too many buttons, nearly invisible. In Bethesda games, and some other games as well, you can customize the number of items you want on your screen. If you’re annoyed by the quest marker, instead of whining about your game being ‘dumbed down’ to other gamers, you can simply deactivate it, move on and have fun gaming. Like I said before I’m especially annoyed by large amounts of glitter on my screen. Seriously, if I want glitter on my screen I will play My Little Pony IV: Rainbow Realm of the Glitter Queen or something like Candy Crush or Bejeweled. But keep your glitter away from my RPG! If something could be called dumbed down at all, it’s that ‘Look, here is something or someone you can loot’ glitter on screen. Toddlers might like that but I sure don’t. Sadly enough, you usually cannot deactivate that.


Graphics are not that important to me but design is, because it’s a very important part of the in-game atmosphere. It needn’t be too artsy for me, like a painting. I prefer a more realistic design that still invokes the fantasy feel. Like in… What game did you mention? Indeed, like in Skyrim! You’re starting to get it. A fairy-tale-like design can be gorgeous, like Kingdoms of Amalur, Guild Wars 2, … Even The Witcher 3 has a fairy-tale-like quality to it… Granted, the trees in The Witcher 3 look stunning but I think they have an unrealistic quality about them because of that, like someone painted the leaves.


I want to add something about ‘re-playability’. The perfect game is re-playable to infinity and beyond. Skyrim is that kind of game. Since its release it has given me many hours of enjoyment (I will spare myself the embarrassment of telling you how many exactly) and it will probably do so for a very long time. I will probably still be playing it when I’m retired, or playing it again since I currently don’t have much time to play anything anymore. Whenever I make the resolution to keep levelling up with a character I get this very cool idea for a new character and I start all over again. The ‘tutorial dungeon’ at the start of the game has the perfect length to replay. It doesn’t take ages, just enough time for you to get into the story and introduce your character to those stupid head-cutting Imperials. The part with Alduin is so awesome I don’t mind replaying it a hundred times.


I believe fantasy often brings out the best in composers, especially epic fantasy with great world building. Music is a very important part of a game for me. It sets the mood and atmosphere. And there is some gorgeous game music out there. The last couple of years a lot of game music even transcends the level of most movie soundtracks. Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 4, Oblivion, Skyrim, Divinity: Original Sin, Castlevania, Dragon Age, etc. These are all examples of games with brilliant scores. Jeremy soule – not surprisingly – is my favourite game score composer. He is extremely talented. So, I think I can add that the perfect game for me has an awesome score that supports the in-game atmosphere.


What is the perfect game for me?

  • It’s an immersive single player epic fantasy open world RPG.
  • Its gameplay, crafting and interface is simple and fun!
  • It offers a surprising, dynamic real-time combat system with smooth controls.
  • It harbours a large number of NPCs that are not just there to serve your character but who actually lead their own lives.
  • It has a structured inventory and lots of different items to find, buy, sell and store.
  • It has extensive worldbuilding.
  • It has surprising little story threads and a couple of main quests rather than one big main quest with a huge number of subordinate obligatory side quests.
  • It gives you complete freedom!
  • It encourages you to roleplay your character and allows you to do so without the restriction of a class system.
  • It offers a large number of perks, attributes, updates, loot and other rewards.
  • It has realistic graphics and great music.

You know it: It’s Final Fantasy X! No, it’s Tetris Deluxe. No, actually, it’s Skyrim. [You did not see that coming, right?]

If I were a game looking for a date, my perfect match, my soulmate would be Skyrim. I realise now, after writing this entire article that Skyrim scores highest for me in almost every respect. [You probably realized it after my first paragraph.] It is exactly what I’m looking for in games. I hope they don’t fundamentally change the way they make games because a couple of fans like BioWare games and want Bethesda games to be more like those. Those fans should simply play BioWare games and leave Bethesda to its awesomeness. Or they will have to deal with creepy fans like me.

So, I’m quite curious… What is the perfect game for you? [I promise I won’t eat you if it’s not Skyrim.]

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