2012 has been something of a slow burn for big gaming releases.

Things certainly look promising for the latter half of the year, with such hotly anticipated games as Max Payne 3, Bioshock Infinite and potentially even Grand Theft Auto V. Nonetheless, it has to be said that the early months of the year have been rather sluggish when compared to last years cascade of huge gaming blockbusters.

Sure there’s been the critically acclaimed Mass Effect 3, but that’s also been a game which has been the subject to multiple controversies and debates since its release. Many of 2012’s best games thus far have been relatively hidden away on portable consoles, including the stunning Kid Icarus and Resident Evil Revelations on Nintendo 3DS, and the impressive Uncharted: Golden Abyss on Sony’s Vita.

Thank god then for Bethesda’s sprawling epic Skyrim, which continues to be a solid source of entertainment long after its release in 2011. Even after ploughing hours into exploring every nook and cranny, Skyrim’s shiny disk of perfection continues to spin proudly in our consoles.

Here’s just six reasons why we’re still playing Skyrim, and why you probably should be too.

Spoiler Warning

1. It’s The Never Ending Game

If ever a game deserved the title of ‘The Never Ending Game’ Skyrim would be a considerably fearsome contender. Raising the bar once again in terms of immersion – and putting the measly 8hr campaigns of rival games to shame – Skyrim continues to offer a world rich with opportunity and endless exploration. Once you’ve finished the main quest, there’s still the storylines of the numerous guilds and factions, while just exploring the vast landscape will let you encounter hidden quests and new characters.

To add the wealth of depth that Skyrim already offers players, PC gamers have been hard at work on a multitude of stunning mods and patches. Early mods have seen Skyrim’s graphics being evolved to new levels of HD clarity, while many other mods have added new weapons and creatures to Skyrim’s map. There’s even a mod specifically created for Arachnophobia suffering gamers – hilariously replacing the spindly insects with slightly less frightening stuffed bears.

2. As Long as There’s Dragons, They’ll Always Need Slaying

Skyrim’s dragons have a pesky tendency to swoop in while you’re already occupied, making them the gaming equivalent of an important phone call during sex. Yet as the only dragonborn of the Elder Scrolls world, it’s our personal allegiance to the people of Skyrim to keep them safe. Therefore, as long as there’s dragons, we’ll be always be there to brutally kill the stunning creatures and absorb their souls.

Despite the fact that dragon encounters can vary between being inconveniently annoying and gloriously epic, there’s plenty of reasons why its essential to continue battling with the creatures long after you’ve beaten the storyline. You’ll need plenty of dragon souls if you want to unlock all of the shouts, while the skeletons of dragons are often rich with gold and other useful resources. That said, once you’ve reached level 35 and begin to encounter the dreaded Ancient Dragons, running away becomes a more acceptable option.

3. It’s Sort of Like Game of Thrones

With George R. R. Martin’s fantasy saga continuing to be a mammoth hit in both book form and HBO’s acclaimed TV series, Skyrim is easily its closest relative in the world of gaming. Both are set within a dense and richly populated fantasy universe that’s full of violence and treachery, as well as various mythical creatures and tyrannical families. You’ve also got similar scenes of graphic torture – including many a beheading  – and the obvious links between Skyrim’s dragonborn and the dragonlord Targaryens of Game of Thrones.

While there’s an official Game of Thones game coming to consoles soon, it’s hard to see any video game feeling closer to the hugely successful fantasy series than Skyrim itself. Perhaps the only major difference between the two is the raunchier side of Martin‘s world, but I can’t see Bethesda adding incest or mass orgies to The Elder Scrolls series any time soon.

4. There’s DLC Inbound….. Eventually

There’s so many of us still sinking hours into Bethesda’s masterfully constructed world of Skyrim that it’s hard to believe we even actually need additional content. Still, we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us – especially following on from the fantastic DLC that they created for Fallout 3 and Oblivion. These previous expansion packs like The Shivering Isles and Point Lookout have not only expanded the existing story of the earlier games, but acted as engaging standalone experiences.

Bethesda have been rather tight lipped, revealing little other than the fact that DLC is certainly coming in the near future. However, while its unclear what direction Bethesda will take any additional content for Skyrim, their previous examples of DLC show us the kind of possibilities and potential that they’re going to take in expanding the already epic world. That’s unless they’ve gone mad and are planning on releasing a new batch of horse armour.

5. We’re Still Talking About It

One of the great things about Skyrim is the anecdotal experiences which you’ll want to talk about at length about to friends and confused family members. There’s that time when you tried to kill a giant but ended up getting flung 200 ft across the landscape, or the moment you entered a house to find a Pac-Man reference sculpted in cheese. Perhaps you’ll talk of the night that you stayed up till 4am trying to steal a goat after a virtual hangover.

If you’ve not actually played it yet, then perhaps you’re undoubtedly sick of hearing about everyone’s tiresome Skyrim anecdotes. However, with every gamer now having moved on to moaning about Mass Effect 3 at length, it’s the perfect time to dig in and discover why “Arrow in the Knee” became the most needlessly dragged out gaming meme since “The Cake is a Lie”.

6. You’ll Soon Be Able To Shout At Your TV

On April 24th you’ll finally have a legitimate reason to shout “FUS RO DAH!”, as a patch will be released for Skyrim adding Kinect integration.

As well as annoying neighbors by unleashing dragon shouts, you’ll also be able to load and save your game, easily navigate once difficult menus and even issue voice commands to your followers. All of this thanks to the mythical power of your very own voice.

You could argue that Skyrim worked perfectly fine without you having to shout at a lump of glowing plastic, but the patch will prove to cynics once again that Kinect is more than just a pointless gimmick….. Honest !

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Are you still playing Skyrim ? Or do you actually feel that you’ve seen everything there is to see ?

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This article was first posted on April 17, 2012