After my less than little screwup, I haven’t quite got back to where I should have been, but I’m close enough to be happy with my progress. It also, for whatever reason, helped me solidify some thoughts that have been lurking at the edge of my mind.
I’ve just realised that how this game makes me feel as I explore new territory, and make interesting discoveries, reminds me a lot of the Ultima Series. Ultima IV, where I started, was one of the first ‘sandbox’ games that I remember playing. The world was huge, with a lot of varied terrain, and people you could talk to. Quests could be picked up all over the place, and sometimes you’d be darting back and forth between the ends of Brittania to finish one. The next three games I played (V – VII) kept up that theme, while making the graphics prettier and the world apparently larger. In many ways, Skyrim shows me how Ultima IX could have turned out.
That’s not to say that The Elder Scrolls and Ultima are the same, or even have quite the same atmosphere. However, both give me the same feeling of really exploring, of excitement at a new discovery, of vast distances. They also feature a multitude of people to talk to and quests that can take you the length and breadth of the land as you pick up various threads of rumours and investigations.
The real difference, of course, is that Skyrim is more first person (most of the Ultimas were overhead views) and so you’re more immersed in the world, and that makes the joy of discovery that much stronger. And the spiders that much scarier.
I’m glad I finally worked that out.