When you hear news of a new Elder Scrolls game being released, it strikes more fear in you than happiness and hope. Fear that your life may come to a short-term end, or fear that you will lose all closest to you. But it’s okay, because The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the only friend you need. When Bethesda released Oblivion in 2006, many gamers were blown away by the vast open worlds, beautiful visuals, and addicting gameplay. It was one of the first Xbox 360 games to really push the technology. Upon completing Oblivion, we all wanted more and couldn’t wait for the next Elder Scrolls game. Sure, Bethesda quenched our thirst with Fallout 3, but it just wasn’t the same. Thankfully the wait is over, and Skyrim is finally here, and it does not disappoint.
In regular Elder Scrolls fashion you start off as a prisoner, and little do you know, that you are the last of the Dovahkiin (Dragonborn). Set 200 years after the events in Oblivion, The land of Skyrim is now on the brink of a civil war between The Imperial Guard and the rebellious Stormcloaks. Amidst the ever growing war, the dragons have returned led by Alduin. It is up to you as a Dragonborn to slay Alduin and any dragons you face on your journey, as you are the only one who can really defeat them by absorbing their souls. New to Elder Scrolls games is an ability called “Shout” or “Thu’um” where as Dovakhiin you have the ability to use the language of the dragons as a shout, each shout has a different affect, like changing the weather or force pushing some one into oblivion (no pun intended). Each shout you discover must be unlocked with a dragon soul. One of the main aspects of Skyrim is, of course, defeating the dragons and nothing is like your first encounter with one, but eventually the fights become a bit repetitive and you find your self just kind of farming the fights for dragon souls. The main quest line feels rather short and incomplete but is entertaining and engaging up until the 3rd act where it ultimately becomes stale and leads to a very (and I mean VERY) unsatisfying ending.
Bethesda completely re-worked the leveling system and character creation system. Before you were able to choose a class, and star sign you were born under, along with your character creation. Now all that is available is choosing your race and appearance. This leaves the player to literally make whatever he wants, adding a whole level of immersion and depth. As far as the leveling system goes, you no longer need to be a mathematical genius to build a character, nor can you accidentally ruin your character. Leveling up require you to level your skills and to level your skills you must use them a lot, such as using maces/swords/axes will level your one handed skill, or using spells like fire will level up your Destruction skills. Crafting also takes a big role in Skryim, Enchanting and Alchemy are back with a few alterations, newly introduced are mining, smithing, wood cutting and leatherworking. The new crafting set up works great and only adds to the amount of immersion and detail Skyrim has to offer. Upon leveling up you can choose which of three you would wish to increase Health, Magicka or Stamina. After selecting which stat you wish to level up, you are allowed to choose a perk for which ever skill you would like.
Bethesda has managed to make a world feel as real as it could get with the new engine they built, each NPC has their own personality, own life, own look and feel to them. Although Skyrim has over 70 voice actors you do sometimes encounter multiple people with the same voice, though it only merely damages the experience but you quickly forget it. Each conversation is now in real time and no longer do you use your mystical powers to stop space and time to talk to some one. If an NPC is working, cleaning, or cooking, they continue those motions and acts while speaking to you. Most NPCs have requests which are Miscellaneous tasks, making each NPC unique while also giving you something to do rather than talking to them about nonsense. The Miscellaneous objectives also give room for more flushed out and important side quests of a much larger scale.
Along with the NPCs, the environment feels as real as ever, and the visuals are spectacular. The trees and plants really do come to life, and nothing is as breath taking as the first time you encounter snow on top of a mountain. The animals also have their own personality to them and I felt kind of taken back when I first bumped into an Elk, needless to say I then burnt it to a crisp, for a second I felt like I slaughtered a real Elk and that in itself is something special. Around the map are camp sites set up for Giants which roam the land and protect Mammoths as their own kin and to see that kind of interaction between two AIs is really something.
Skyrim is huge, and will take months to complete (not to mention there are infinite quests). There are over 120 dungeons to explore and even more location to discover, each dungeon takes around 30 minutes-45 minutes to complete. Some dungeons require you to solve puzzles, yet all the puzzles were the same and felt a bit old after a while. As it is a Bethesda game, no game this huge is safe from glitches. While most of the glitches are hilarious, they do detach from the core experience, and I even encountered a glitch in a quest where I was supposed to kill and NPC but the NPC wouldn’t die and the quest disappeared all together. The character movements are still a bit clunky and ridiculous as they flail their arms about.
The controls are about the same as Oblivion but you are now able to dual wield weapons, spells and staves, adding another layer of character customization. Along with those changes is also a complete overhaul of the menu, it’s much cleaner than before and each item has it’s own display and can be rotated and inspected. Though I do miss seeing your character in the item selection menu. Spells are no longer binded to a hotkey menu, but can now be added to a list of favorites, as well as weapons and armor. This allows quick and easy selection of spells/weapons/armor in the middle of a battle, and is easily one of my favorite additions. The character movements though are still a bit clunky and ridiculous as they flail their arms about.
To say the sound in this game is remarkable is a severe understatement. The soundtrack is brilliantly crafted into a fantasy work of art and makes Skyrim feel like an authentic fantasy experience. The main menu theme even sent chills down my spine when the Viking choir of Dragons are singing their lungs out. Weapon clashes, grunts and spell explosions sound as good as ever and hearing Dragon shouts are just awesome. The Voice acting is great with over 70 actors as apposed Oblivion’s 10.
The true beauty of Skyrim is the fact that no two experiences are ever the same. I can talk to eight of my friends about Skyrim and their experiences and we’ll never hear the same thing. It really proves the amount of variety there is in Skyrim and the shear vastness of it. Each person can have their own character, own personality, own story, own journey. It really feels like you’re living out your own fantasy novel.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a landmark in game design, Bethesda has created a virtual world that behaves and feels much like the real world, but in a fantasy setting, allowing us to live out our wildest dreams and letting our imagination run wild. Unfortunately the main questline feels short, and becomes stale during the third act and leads to a less than spectacular ending. Thankfully the sidequests and shear vastness of the game make up for it, giving you complete control of your character and his journey through the province of Skyrim. Dragon fights and dungeon puzzles start to become a bit repetitive, but there’s enough variety in between each of these that makes you forget. Skyrim, like everything, isn’t perfect, but it cannot be missed, as it is easily one of the best RPGs of our time, and one of the best games this year.
- Truly remarkable experience
- Enormous world that looks and feels real
- Complete control over your character and his journey
- Main quest becomes stale during 3rd act, leads to a very disappointing ending
- Dragon fights and dungeon puzzles become repetitive
- Glitches (while most are hilarious) get in the way of the core experience, and can some times break quests