The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (TES V) is one of the most popular games of all time. Typically, TES installments have separated by 4–6 years, but Bethesda studios have kept fans waiting for longer this time. On June 10th, at Bethesda's E3 conference, they released a 36-second teaser of TES VI. However, it's likely to be another few years before we can finally play the game. The release of the Elder Scrolls Online in 2014 was an underwhelming substitute for TES VI for many, and certainly lacks the impressive combat options and graphical beauty of Skyrim. In response, many fans have turned back to TES V for their Elder Scrolls fix. But how can the average gamer continue to enjoy Skyrim whilst they (un)patiently wait for TES VI? Here are 5 suggestions from someone with hundreds and hundreds of hours of Skyrim gameplay.
1. Get the DLCs.
Admittedly, this is something you've almost definitely already done, but it must be mentioned. In 2012, Bethesda brought out three DLCs for TES V: "Dawnguard," "Hearthfire," and "Dragonborn." The special edition of Skyrim, released in 2016, already includes these, but you can buy all three together for less than £10 (from Steam and similar platforms).
"Dawnguard" incorporates a Twilight-esque narrative which revolves around vampirism and lycanthropy. Granted, these options were involved in the base game, however, in "Dawnguard," these "traits" both have their own skill tree. The player can choose whether to side with Castle Volkihar (vampires and vampire lords) or Fort Dawnguard (vampire hunters). The crossbow is a notable weapon addition to this DLC which is really fun to play with. I also, personally, really enjoyed playing with Serana (a vampire) as my follower. Plus, you can play this DLC multiple times, choosing to side with each party.
"Hearthfire"—coming from a Sims fan—is a great addition to ES V. This DLC allows you to build your own houses and adopt children. The player can gather materials, such as lumber and clay, to build and improve their house. However, in order to acquire land, you have to please the Jarl, which adds more enjoyment to the process. Once built, you can house your husband/wife, children (up to two), a housecarl and even a bard.
Finally, the "Dragonborn" DLC involves travelling to the island of Solstheim, off of the northeast shores of Skyrim. The plot consists of the player meeting Miraak, the first dragonborn, who is enslaving the inhabitants of the island to achieve his goal of taking over Tamriel. Many happy hours can be spent exploring the island (search "The Hidden Peaks of Solstheim"), completing the new quests and interacting with new wildlife, opponents and characters. In addition, the main quest allows the player to travel to Oblivion via numerous "black books." Whilst less pleasant than wandering Solstheim, it certainly adds a new dimension to the gameplay.
Overall, the three DLCs can drastically increase the hours of fun spent on Skyrim, and are worth trying if you're bored of the base game.
2. Roleplay as your favourite fantasy character.
One of the great benefits of Skyrim's customisable and in-depth character creation is the multitude of ways you can play the same game. For instance, in one game you could be a do-good Nord with a greatsword. In the next, an assassin mage working for the Dark Brotherhood.
Taking inspiration from your favourite fantasy characters is another way to spice up your gameplay. I recently begun a game playing as Melisandre from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Utilising the character creation and skill trees, I created a red-haired, red-clothed fire mage who has somewhat questionable morals. In the past, I've also played as Legolas (e.g. high elf with Auriel's Bow) and Arya Stark (e.g. one-handed sword, Elven dagger and lots of sneaking).
Doing this can produce a whole new dimension to the game in which the player can stop and think: "what would ___ do in this situation?" 'Alternate Start' mods are great if your character isn't necessarily an adventurer or warrior—you have the option to begin the game as a peasant if you wish.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm a Sims fan, and I enjoy creating and executing a detailed narrative for my Skyrim character, and perhaps you will too.
3. Experiment with mods.
There have been a huge amounts of mods created for Skyrim across all platforms. These mods range from those that provide relatively straightforward aesthetic changes—such as adding more trees or changing the water texture—to those with detailed quest lines, beautifully-designed armour and even new areas of the map. This short list from Paste Magazine, though slightly outdated, offers the reader an overview of the different types of mods one can expect.
At it the time of its release, Skyrim was one of the most visually breathtaking games of all time. Though no one can deny Skyrim remains easy on the eye: age is cruel to us all. Some mods provide a lick of new paint to the game and revitalise the graphics enough to provide a whole new player experience. My personal favourite, for example, is a very simple but detailed mod which adds more trees to the map. For others, a little makeover won't be enough. Luckily, there are many mods that provide new quests and missions such as "The Forgotten City" and "Falskaar" to name but two.
Creators are producing new and interesting mods constantly, so expect to be entertained for a while. Many more recent efforts, such as Enderal: Shards of Order and Beyond Skyrim, have created entirely new maps and locations.
Though you've probably already dabbled with mods, and were expecting a more imaginative suggestion, it's undeniable that using mods can provide much amusement.
4. Fully explore and photograph the map.
Skyrim has such a huge, beautiful and varied map that you can guarantee, no matter how many hours you've spent on it, that there are remote areas and secret locations that you haven't discovered.
Once I'd completed most of the main quest lines for the fourth time (I'm obsessed), I began travelling the entire province by horseback looking for more obscure quests. Playing the special edition of the game with a few mods that enhanced the beauty of the landscape, I found a new appreciation for some areas of the map I'd previously overlooked. Some of my favourite experiences are: visiting Ivarstead at sunset before trekking up the Throat of the World to view the Aurora; floating in the blue waters of Lake Ilinalta; contemplating at the Cliffside Retreat in The Reach; discovering the stunning Ancestor Glade ("Dawnguard" DLC).
I could go on (and on and on).
Depending on the time of day and the weather conditions (don't forget to use the Clear Skies shout to get the sun whenever you want it) the same landscapes can provide a completely different experience. Making it your mission to find and photograph—screenshot—the most interesting, beautiful and quirky scenes in all of Skyrim can make exploring that bit more fun and revive your adventurer spirit. There are loads and loads of articles across the internet listing "The Skyrim Locations You've Definitely Never Visited" so I won't regurgitate them here, but these articles offer lots of fascinating ideas.
I currently have a photo album with over 100 enchanting screenshots of Skyrim, some of which have been printed and framed in my house. Even now, I still find it entertaining to find, compose and screenshot a beautiful Skyrim vista—hopefully you will too.
5. Become a collector.
Note: This is made even more fun with the Hearthfire DLC or a mod which allows you to display lots of items in a larger house.
Collecting in real-life is fun—stamps, art, shoes etc.—but in Skyrim you don't go to thrift events or sit bidding on eBay. Oh no. You have to fight and search for your collection.
You could build a collection of every kind of greatsword, books, rare armours, ingredients, necklaces, daedric weapons, gems, dragon masks, bugs in jars or city guard shields, to name but a few options. Let your imagination go wild: during my Melisandre playthrough, I collected as many items as I could find that were related to fire and religion.
Not only is fun to locate and acquire these items, finding an appealing way to display them in your home is also entertaining. The "Hearthfire" DLC allows you to build a display room or armoury in your house, as does the house Hjerim in Windhelm in the base game. But mods can take this to a new level; most larger mod houses will have some sort of display room including mannequins, display cases, wall mounts and shelves which you can add your loot to.
Spending time finding, obtaining, displaying and appreciating your collections is a fantastic way to increase the amount of pleasure Skyrim can give you.
That concludes my five suggestions for how to continue enjoying The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Such a brilliant world can continue to provide joy and surprises well into its 6th year of existence. Hopefully at least one of these propositions has inspired you to revisit and re-examine the magnificent province of the Nords.
Now we know that TES VI definitely is coming, we are, perhaps, coming to the end of Skyrim's era and should take time to appreciate the wonderful game before its successor takes the spotlight. However, Skyrim will always be special to the players who have spent (and continue to spend) many, many happy hours under its spell.
Tiid Bo Ving. Vah Su'um Ven.