The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
From its humble beginning on MS-DOS in 1994, The Elder Scrolls Series has stayed faithful to its vast open-world role playing, the latest addition: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim being no exception. Set in the land to the North of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s Cyrodiil, Skyrim is nothing less than magnificent. Skyrim’s main story unfolds around the player’s chosen profession as they begin their quest to defeat Alduin, a Dragon God who is prophesied to destroy the world.
From the ashes of Oblivion and the wastelands of Fallout, Skyrim is a world that is living and breathing. The best part of this is undoubtedly how realistic it feels; it’s surprising that you can’t feel the bitterly cold mountain air on your face. From the broken glaciers on the northern shores to the heather fields of Skyrim’s south, Skyrim is visual treat that is alive. When you factor in the wildlife and people you come across as well – despite the ‘arrow in the knee fad’ – you’ve got a world that isn’t just beautiful but majestic. It deserves an Attenborough documentary.
What’s best is within this world you are given total freedom. You can choose any profession you like and create your own personality through the actions you undertake. You could be a Robin Hood character, who hunts with a bow and arrow, steals from the rich and donates to the poor, a cantankerous trader, a vampire or even a werewolf? The enormous customisation available could rival Saints Row: The Third. What’s more, if the weapons discovered aren’t suitable, characters can make their own. Smithing plays a major role in creating new weapons and armoury; then it’s possible to sell them on or keep them for personal dragon-slaying use.
In addition to this, there are scores of quests that will play upon your abilities producing hundreds of hour’s worth of adventuring across cities and dungeons. Quests often spin out from the most menial of conversations, so speak to everyone. Quests also appear from random encounters and books too. Hours can be spent scouring in just one of Skyrim’s libraries, and during that time it is possible to level up a few skills, learn some new recipes to try out in the field and even come across a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure Book’. This contains information on a few Lost Legends including that of the Red Eagle Sword. Needless to say, a few missions, including the one for said weapon, appeared in the quest log.
That’s the nature of Skyrim, not only is the world big enough to constantly find new locations, not only is it pieced together with unimaginable beauty, but it’s rammed with meaning. As for the main quest, it is far more sophisticated than Oblivion’s whole story put together. Starting in Whiterun players then have the option to go to Winterhold College and become a wizard or go to Riften and uncover the mysterious Brotherhood. If that doesn’t take your fancy, then why not just head into the wilderness and discover trolls herding mammoths. Respect their personal space and they’ll leave you be. Don’t and you’ll be attacked. All the guild quests have been superbly written too but if you’re playing for these storylines then you are playing it wrong – Skyrim is there to be explored.
The Elder Scrolls subverts expectations by making the primary story something to be postponed and promotes hundreds of incidental side-missions. In those quests you’ll find anything and everything: comedy, betrayal, tragedy, adventure, romance, terror and more. Also, more importantly, the ability to use Dragon Shout for spellbinding results.
Game-play in Skyrim has been made easier through a quick-select menu. This makes skills, magic, levelling up and items accessible at the push of a button. This is handy when your character is on death’s door about to be mauled by a dragon. The stats screen can be accessed in much the same way, choosing perks has never been easier. The melee combat system also makes Dragonborns more powerful – improved blocking and the use of dual-handed weapons only adds to the ease of combat. If spells are cast in both hands, they can be combined to form ‘overclocked’ versions that are so debilitating they can melt off the faces of foes. The D-pad can be used to access favourite spells and weapons too. For those who don’t like first-person, third-person is presented as an option too. Transporting around the map is quicker than a magic carpet, access the world map and as long as the area has been visited, players can quick-travel there or hitch a horse/carriage to the next town.
Previous players from the series will soon notice that Skyrim stands apart from its prequels, it presents itself as robust. In Oblivion, you only had to watch the screen a few minutes to see clipping issues, crazy AI or terrain that simply blocks your path too often. Skyrim too isn’t perfect; residents love blocking your path, trekking often leads to getting glued to a mountain where a re-load is necessary and when riding a horse, the frame-rate often needs time to catch-up but it’s been built to withstand the abuse from those who are eager to tempt fate, producing minor improvements. The only other negative of this title are the companions – don’t use them – they only set off traps in dungeons but they do carry things. Those who have played Fallout will know this may be handy after being weighed down.
Another delightful addition can be seen some 35 hours after cleaning out a dungeon and returning to the scene of the victory. There, precisely where they were left them with flames licking at their faces are the bandits who stood in the way. The dead remain visibly dead. Bodies don’t fade in mere moments like in your average shooter, further enhancing realism.
Skyrim is full of possibilities of epic proportion, culminating in years of medieval stories of dungeons and dragons (no princesses though), fantasy-fiction and visual creativity. Tolkien himself would have