I just finished playing through (my 3rd attempt, first to completion) of the brilliant game from my brilliant countrymen Endnight Games; The Forest.
I can't say enough good things about this game. I'm posting here because I think it shares a lot of aspects in terms of gameplay with the Bethesda titles we all love, yet offers a very different experience. I think a lot of people on these forums would really enjoy it.
The brilliance lies in the simplicity. Your plane crashes on an island. A man takes your son as you lie wounded. You wake up. What to do?
There is almost zero handholding. The developers place you, the player, in a very similar place to your character in the game; you're lost in the forest and you have to figure out how to survive. You have a survival book on you which will explain some basic crafting recipes, serves as your building menu and to catalog your discoveries in various ways. Neither the book nor the crafting mat pause the game; you are always in real-time. Days pass quickly and hunger/thirst/sleep/cold need more or less constant attendance. The crafting screen and your inventory screen are simply your bag and a mat with all the stuff you're carrying around laid out on it. Inventory is based on item-type and generally you can only carry very limited quantities of anything. Building anything large takes real time and work, and you are forced to constantly be gathering supplies.
The story is communicated almost entirely non-verbally. You can pick up photographs, bits of paper with writing here; a magazine cover there. Watch a brief video snippet, get a tantalizing little glimpse of a room, some people - what does it mean? It's told in the environment, in the clutter strewn about in certain locations. The gameplay, the story, and the player-experience are all so harmonious here it's really beautiful. You feel so much like your character - having to stumble through, learn on the fly, cope with new situations, study your environment, take calculated risks, and keep putting pieces of the puzzle together. It also has aspects of a Link/Zelda type game - certain items you find will give you access to new areas which might contain new clues or items. And of course it gets a little bizarre as you explore further...
There is combat in the game and it's quite fun though once you get the basics it's a little overly simplistic. Depending on how you play, it can be extremely challenging even on the normal difficulty though - I'd go into specifics there but I don't want to get into spoiler territory.
Anyway I really loved this game, if any of that sounds appealing to you I highly recommend checking it out.