I knew that when the day came for Skyrim‘s release, my social life would be taking a hit. And I was was. But you never expect how it will take over.

When I first played Oblivion, I found that I couldn’t. There are few games that offer you that much of an open world. That much freedom. And it overwhelmed me. But one day I sat down, convinced that I would master its expansive world. And it eventually all began to make sense. And took over my gaming time.

Skyrim, while seeming less unfamiliar, and less daunting, is no less impressive. In fact, it helps to make the last game that much more of a tangible place, and this is merely an expansion of that world to make it all the more “real”. It’s like going on a vacation: You may have never been to that new place before, but somehow you know this is all part of the greater whole. You almost wish that the games could be connected as one.

There are caves and towers and fields and snow covered mountains. There is the main quest to finish, but there is a staggering amount of side quests to do, or not do. Even the smallest of tasks become engrossing. You don’t merely play a game like Skyrim. You live the experience.

That’s not to say that the graphics aren’t a step up from its predecessor, or the music, while subtle in tone, is so beautiful that I’ve set down the controller to let the piece complete its work before moving on. And while the music is subdued, haunting and beautiful, it also tones up to majestic battle scores when things start to hit the fan.

I’ve fought dragons, and they are fun affairs. NPCs drop what they are doing to join the battle to make the event seem all the more epic, and if it happens in town, people actually stand around and talk about it, not pretending it didn’t happen. The dragons are everyone’s concern, and it feels like it.

The menus have been simplified. You can’t level up stats just by jumping around anymore, and more trivial stat increases have been eliminated or streamlined. It took me a while to get used to the new interface, and I somehow found “easy” to be more difficult to grasp, but it was momentary, and now familiar. There is a sense of usefulness and purpose to even the most mundane of tasks. Somehow even the mundane makes the world seem all the more “real”.

That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have bugs, because it does. It’s a big game, and while not excusable, then certainly understandable. Most of the bugs, however, are humorous, and have to do with the horses, which are inexplicable juggernauts that defy the laws of physics.

I found a free roaming horse in the forest, and took it as my own, as we rode to a fortress, we got ambushed by battle mages. The horse took to slaughtering the mages, though it got in my line of fire (literally), and then took to attacking me. Sure, I could mount and ride the horse, but every time I dismounted, it took to attacking me. In my weakened state, I again had to dismount, where the horse finally succeeded in killing me, then took out the surrounding wolves in the area.

You don’t mess with the horses of Skyrim. They will climb up straight walls, and take down dragons.

I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of the game, despite all the caves searched, towers climbed, and dragons killed. There is always something to do here, and you can do it, or not do it. It makes no difference. The game becomes your story, one that I’ve eagerly spoken to with friends as we discuss the previous night’s journeys, and has been well worth the wait.

In fact, I may be returning before this evening ends….

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