The infinite paths of Skyrim

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim will be hitting store shelves tomorrow across the United States. And wow, was Bethesda’s game of the year (or maybe decade?) worth the wait.

Seriously folks, you can play this game forever. Oh, yes, I mean that quite literally, as Skyrim renders an infinite stream of procedurally generated content – meaning players can participate in a never-ending series of quests.

All this is made possible, explains Elder Scrolls director Todd Howard, by Skyrim’s Radiant quest system which randomly generates fresh tasks based on a player’s progress in the game.

For example, Howard tells Wired, an innkeeper might ask a player to hunt for bandits in an unexplored location, or an alchemist could request that you bring him 10 new species of flowers.

Players can also do extra “work” for various factions, such as the Dark Brotherhood or Thieves Guild, many of which offer randomly generated missions at their respective hubs.

“The world is probably the one thing that sets [Skyrim] apart from other games,” says Howard. “It feels really real for what it is…It’s just fun to explore.”

And the entertainment world wholeheartedly agrees. 

“Preparing for a new Elder Scrolls game is like preparing to die. One must ensure they get all their worldly affairs in order, speak with the people who mean everything to them, and have a final meal. After all, once that disc goes in, the user may as well have departed from our mortal world,” writes Destructoid’s Jim Sterling.

“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a game that will murder you, for the time it steals from your life could rightfully be considered criminal. It is a game that will literally never end while simultaneously bringing you closer to your own end.”

Meanwhile, Joystiq’s Justin McElroy dubbed Skyrim the “deepest, loveliest world” ever created for a single player to explore.

“This is a game about following Emerson’s advice, leaving the trail and finding that the most powerful force on Earth or Tamriel isn’t fire or sword, but the ever-insistent desire to know what lies beyond.”

And GameSpy’s Scott Sharkey feels that a game like Skyrim always seems “less like purchasing an entertainment product” and more like buying a house.

“This is something you’re going to be living with for hundreds of hours, and it’s full of little quirks that will alternately delight and infuriate you. More the former than the latter, hopefully.

“Personally, I’m having a hell of a time tearing myself away long enough to write a review. There are still houses that need robbing, snotty shopkeepers that haven’t been set on fire, piles of bones that have yet to be rearranged to spell out rude words, and I suppose I should probably get around to doing something about all those dragons eventually.”