In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
the action takes place in the northern
realms shortly after the murder of Skyrim's
is breaking out and, to make things even bleaker, dragons have returned
to threaten the world. The player takes on the mantle of a prophesized
prophesied hero, a Dragonborn, who has the power of The Voice and can
stand against the dragons.
Personally, I’ve been dying to play Skyrim
to emerge from E3 2011
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
is one of
my favorite RPGs - the Assassins’ Guild storyline was one of
the best story arcs I’ve ever seen in a computer game - and I
couldn’t wait to get back to the sandbox style of gaming
found in The Elder Scrolls
series. So does Skyrim
live up to the
This is how the game begins.
Guess which unlucky person you are?
CautionsThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
is rated Mature (17+) for Blood and Gore,
Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, and Use of Alcohol. While these
cautions make it sound as if you’re going to be riding
waist-deep through gore-drenched scenes of hellish descriptions, the
fact is that the bite is much worse than the bark. The game has
standard video game style violence. You’ll see worse watching
The Walking Dead
I normally play RPGs on the PC, but this time around, I got the chance
to play Skyrim
on the Xbox 360. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy
and natural it was for me to play the game on the Xbox controller, even
with my middle-aged sloth-like reflexes. Controls and menus for moving,
fighting, accessing inventory, and looking up quests and maps were
Long time fans can rejoice as Bethesda continues their open gaming
style with Skyrim
Players begin by creating their character by
choosing from a number of humanoid races and then customizing their
appearance. Each race has certain abilities that make them more suited
to a certain play style, but it’s not as restrictive as it
sounds. There are no classes in The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
chooses their own path by deciding on which of the eighteen skills to
improve. As the player levels in Skyrim
they can spend perk points to
increase the effectiveness of the individual skills. For example, a
player who wishes to fight with one-handed weapons on a regular basis
can spend points to increase the damage dealt by one-handed attacks. If
a player wants to concentrate on certain magical skills, they can lower
the cost of the spells or increase their effectiveness in the same
manner. A player can choose to play as a fighter, a mage, a thief, an
assassin, or any combination thereof. I chose to play as a
fighter-mage, wielding a sword in one hand while casting spells at my
enemies with my other hand.
Looks like this fight might
not go so well.
The freedom of being classless also extends to the sandbox nature of
fans love. In Skyrim
have to stay within the lines and concentrate on the main quest. Tons
of side quests abound in the game, and if you were feeling particularly
silly, you could ignore the main quest entirely. Multiple factions
exist throughout the realm that you can join, each with their own
unique quests to take. For those intrepid explorers who love to
boasts over 150 different dungeons for you to go
dungeon-crawling in. If you ever get bored with questing (but why would
you?), there are other activities for you to do such as alchemy,
blacksmithing, cooking, and enchanting.
What really makes The Elder
Scrolls V: Skyrim
come to life
attention to detail within the game. The NPCs that inhabit the world
have their own lives and as the hours pass each day, they go about
their daily routines. You’ll find people working their
fields, fighting with one another, and talking about events happening
You can even get some NPCs to join you as a companion. You
can have one companion at a time, and you usually get them from doing
them a service. Some companions you’ll be able to hire and
there are those that you'll need to impress before they’re
willing to join you. My favorite was a warrior woman, so hot-headed and
headstrong that not even the Companions would take her, who became
available to join me after I beat her in a tavern brawl.
The world of Skyrim feels
alive and vibrant.
Combat is simple enough, provided you settle into a single combat style
and avoid the temptation to experiment overmuch with different weapons
and spells (swapping can get tedious). The left and right triggers of
your controller control the actions of your character’s
respective hands. You can easily assign different spells, weapons, or
shields to each hand and the game pauses as you swap items. Pushing
down the left stick switches you from first to third person quickly if
you need to bob and weave around in a fight, while pushing down the
right stick makes you go in (or out) of stealth.
Overall, the gameplay of Skyrim
is about giving the players the freedom
to do what they wish to do. Want to play a pure fighter? How about a
thief who steals everything he can get his hands on? What about a
spell-slinging caster who is also adept at combat? Do you want to piss
off this city by looting them like mad, then run and live in another
city? Which factions will you join and how loyal will you be to them?
What quests will you take or decline? The choice is up to you, the
player, and it’s amazing. Skyrim
is the closest
that video games have come to tabletop pen-and-paper
The visual style of The Elder
Scrolls V: Skyrim
from Nordic architecture, dress, and environments and does so
extraordinarily well: the game looks gorgeous. The cities, countryside,
denizens, and dungeons are painstakingly detailed and the
setting looks and feels alive.
The people of Skyrim
don’t have the cadaverous appearance
that I found in
here they look, talk, and move around like
real people. The enemies that players face look damn cool, especially
the undead and dragons. The undead appear menacing and deadly, unlike
the reggae-looking zombies from
World of Warcraft
Getting a face full
of dragon breath is an extremely memorable visual experience,
but isn’t so good for your health.
The visuals are just beautiful
to look at.
Weather not only looks realistically miserable in Skyrim
but it can
affect gameplay. Fighting bandits (or a dragon!) in a snowstorm when
there’s only a few feet of visibility can be daunting. While
I loathe snow in real life (born and raised in Florida), I do admit
that it looks beautiful in Skyrim
My one knock on the graphics in Skyrim
is that some of the fight
animations can look a bit stiff.
As with the Skyrim's
, some of the killing blows
just don’t look all that
special. While there were plenty of times I ran my sword through the
belly of an adversary in slow-mo, there were some instances where at
the end of the fight, my big spectacular finishing move was simply my
axe gently tapping their forehead or chest.
composer Jeremy Soule makes his return, and his Skyrim
soundtrack helps set the tone as you travel through the realm. While
the orchestrations vary from sublime to pulse-pounding excitement, it
can get repetitive after a while. However, this is to be expected in a
game you'll be playing for dozens of hours.
What sound does a giant make?
It's usually "squish" with its club beating on your noggin.
All of the NPCs in the world are voice-acted. While quite a few NPCs
have only a few canned responses, many others have a surprising amount
of dialogue. The vast majority of the voice acting is extremely well
done. - I can only recall one or two instances where the
delivery fell flat.
The ambient sound effects are simply superb. The clash of swords, the
swirl of water, and the chatter of conversation is magnificent. As you
get closer to the source of a sound, it increases in volume. If
you’re sneaking down a corridor, you can hear your enemies
speaking from the next room. As you approach, the conversation becomes
more distinct and louder. The sound is also directional. If somebody is
walking towards you from the left, you’ll hear their
footsteps (or speech if they’re talking) from your left. If
you swivel towards them, the sound flows from the left to center stage.
While other games do hav directional sound, the quality and production
values found in Skyrim