Skyrim did an excellent job at setting itself apart from other fantasy games, but could have gone deeper in parts, according to a new interview with its director.
Bethesda Game Studios boss Todd Howard recently went in depth on the legacy of Skyrim on the eve of its 10th anniversary in an interview with IGN (opens in new tab). Aside from hinting at a potential Elder Scrolls 6 release date – which may be further off than you expected – and discussing how Starfield was a now-or-never decision for the studio, he also touched on both Skyrim’s strengths and weaknesses with the frankness afforded by a decade-long remove.
Assessing Skyrim’s strengths, Howard immediately praised the tone of the game, and how it carves itself out a distinctive spot amongst the crowded fantasy genre. Beyond that, he pointed to how Skyrim gives you “a million ways to play it,” and in so doing gives players a unique ability to express themselves – something he also points to as a unique strength of video games as a medium.
“The ones that we really enjoy and that we try to make – there’s a space that the creators have made, and then when you come into it, you’re making it better, and you’re giving yourself to it,” Howard said. “And when you put it down, you have different emotions than you do when you’re playing a game where a creator tries to drag you along. You feel something about yourself, you think about it when you go to bed. When you accomplish something, you feel like, ‘look what I did today.’ And that’s a real emotion, and I think that’s what makes it so powerful.”
Breadth of experiences often comes at the cost of depth. That was the primary problem with Skyrim as a Bethesda project which Howard pointed to ten years later, along with issues with its (sometimes famously silly) NPCs.
“There are a number of parts of it where we don’t go deep enough, where it’s a veneer in terms of its interactivity,” Howard said. “You can say that about anything, but when we think about games and what we would want to do going forward it’s ‘ok, whatever that system is, how deep can we make it?’ The other part is the way the AI and the NPCs react to you, is something that I think we have a long way to go with.”
Todd Howard also talked about his favorite Skyrim mod, one which was so simple yet helpful that it made him think “why didn’t we do that?”