And Skyrim is full of these occasions. Bethesda's latest title in the longstanding franchise has the relative beauty of Ultima VII, the magic of Daggerfall, and the emergent narrative of Far Cry 2. I get sequences in Skyrim where I'm faced with an impending dragon attack, introducing a beast much too powerful for my character. Worried about my survival, I duck into a tomb for safety only to be greeted by the most powerful undead adversary I've yet to meet. Stuck between both, and at the edge of a cliff, I fall and hope to catch tiny ledges on my way down. If I survive, the music calms and I can limp into town to lick my wounds and consider my next step.
But as fantastic as those moments are, they're matched by problems elsewhere throughout the game. Skyrim's quest system is a constant annoyance to me, with compass arrows proving both necessary and over-deterministic, ruining the exploratory feeling that was Skyrim at its best (I wrote on the quest issue specifically before I had this column). Its characters and plot, to me, felt thin. Its character progression and crafting progress are occasionally effective, but more often the experience was lukewarm. Its world is big and beautiful but the only task I felt players could effectively accomplish was to go out and kill monsters via a combat system that lacked any kind of depth.