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Skyrim - Healthy Obsession with Achievements
The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda

As part of my efforts to enjoy games more without too much worry about achievements, I like to encourage myself to do blind plays of games, playing how I feel like and accepting whatever achievements I have amassed by the time I feel like stopping playing. This blog will document these playthroughs, think of them as a review, with the added information of how easily and enjoyably you can earn some achievements without having to play with one eye on a walkthrough.

Heading North
I do love Bethesda for their single-player RPGs, but they do seem slow to put out games when compared to other big name developers. I remember what was happening in my life nine years ago, and I remember buying Skyrim at launch, but the two things don't feel like they should occupy the same spot in my timeline. It's been so long since we had a new (proper) installment of Elder Scrolls, we've been a whole console generation without a new one. The Xbox One/PS4 era saw only a single Fallout and countless add ons to Elder Scrolls Online. With the previous generation having seen Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and New Vegas... we apparently were rather spoilt back then. But what this nearly decade long drought has meant is that enough time has passed that I can play Skyrim again and have it feel somewhat fresh. So a few weeks ago I booted up the special edition version of the game, with a nearly pristine achievement list and got to work grinding levels and shouting at dragons.

Home Sweet Breezehome
There seems to be a corner of my brain devoted to Elder Scrolls and Fallout that logs away details and habits like they are a town I've not been to in a while. I escaped Helgen and migrated towards Whiterun like a homing pidgeon without the need of directions or the map. I made myself at home, visiting the ample vendors, the blacksmiths, helping myself to Farengar's alchemy table and sneaking into the house of that loudmouth Talos preacher at night to shut him up for good. From there, I ventured out to fill my map with fast travel spots.

It was nice being back in Skyrim, but I wondered sometimes if my familiarity of it and desire for achievements made for a less enjoyable experience. I started out looking for new things to do, but usually fell back on the main quest lines because I knew there were achievements to be had. Additionally, I under stand the way the enemies level with your character, so was vigilant about not grinding up skills that wouldn't help me in combat. Before long, I was too strong for the game and started breezing through content. No challange, I could have put the difficulty up, but this was an exercise in comfort gaming. The main quest and guild quests melted away before my battleaxe skills that could cut down dungeon bosses in only a handful of power attacks.

The most enjoyment came for me in the things I hadn't experienced. I never gave the DLC packs much playtime in the past, so it was refreshing to see this content. Dawnguard was interesting if a bit padded out, but Dragonborn was great, not just a single quest line, but a whole new island with many things to explore, like a self contained mini skyrim. Also I got a bit too involved with the house building, filling out and decorating every corner of my manor. Other times I simply pointed myself at an empty bit of map and wondered about exploring. It wasn't the most protductive use of time, but I liked poking around and stumbling upon new places.

And then the completionist compulsion set in
Eventually I was running out of major quests to complete and looked to tidy up my remaining achievements, which turned things into a bit of a chore. I rampaged across the wilderness as a Vampire Lord and a Werewolf to get the perks achievements. Only to immediately cure the conditions which were frankly more pain then they were worth. I killed guards in each of the nine realms for the bounty, and spent over an hour with the trigger on my controller taped down to levitate a wooden bowl to boost my alteration skill from 15 to 100 about eight times. The highlight of the achievement wrap up was the Aetherium Wars quest. I'd overlooked it before, It's a quest you get from reading a book that on the surface appears to be little more than a dungeon crawl. it doesn't appear much different from many of the smaller quests but it was interesting and took me to some cool locations I hadn't seen before.

I felt bad walking away from the game after getting the 100%. there were many open quests in my log, and much more I could have done. But after many hours in a fairly short timespan, I was ready for something else. Hopefully, by the time I feel like playing it again, there won't be another re-release of it, and I can play without the thought of achievments nudging my gameplay. It would be nice to explore some different things, read some books, do side quests for unimportant NPC's. The amount of content in this game is amazing, and I have been often guilty of overlooking it by skipping dialogue and sprinting at that every present quest marker. maybe one day I will speak to that Redguard woman about finding her lost daughter or whatever it was.

Completion after I stopped playing: 100%
Playtime: Over 200 hours spanning a few weeks
Notes: I got lucky with the completion, turns out there are a few achievements that I could have easily blocked myself from getting but thankfully none of them were a problem. I'm sure if you wanted to, you could follow the guides to complete the achievement list in far less time and with less hassle than I did.

Whether you want the gamerscore or want an immersive game, I would recommend Skyrim. If you are new to it or haven't played in a while, considder jumping in. It's a credit to the game that it can be anything you make of it. Want to immerse yourself in all the lore and story? It will keep you busy for weeks. Want a challenge? Up the difficulty or impose a handicap on yourself like spellcasting only. And if you are just coming for the achievements, I reckon you'll have a fair bit of fun in the process

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