Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The coming of an Elder Scrolls game is always a monumental occasion in the world of video games and the release of Skyrim was no different. Hype for this game was incredibly high and it even knocked Counter-Strike: Source off the top-played list on Steam for a short while. It seemed like the entire world was waiting on baited breath for Skyrim, but does it keep up the legacy of the Elder Scrolls or take an arrow to the knee?
The World and the Quests
Taking place in the titular province of Skyrim, the game opens some two hundred years after Oblivion and the realm is in turmoil. The Empire has bent the knee to the Aldomiri Dominion and is forcing the Nords of Skyrim to give up worshiping Talos, one of the Nine Divines. The self-proclaimed High King of Skyrim won’t take this lying down so he starts a civil war to free Skyrim. Oh, and there’s dragons coming back.
The backdrop of Skyrim is so rich and detailed that every town you visit will fill up your quest log almost instantly. There’s the Bard’s College to visit, the Mage’s College to study at, and when you’re done saving the world from Alduin, you can take sides in the conflict between the Stormcloaks and the Empire.
Skyrim itself is gorgeous, ranging from wide open fields to snowy mountains to deep dark caves and abandoned Dwarven cities. Skyrim can produce some incredible visuals and using the Clear Skies shouts on top of a mountain being wracked by a blizzard needs to be seen to be believed.
Just wandering through Skyrim is its own reward as there are a ton of small hamlets to find, each embroiled in their own issues. The world is so richly crafted that the Nords of Skyrim even have different accents depending on which area they’re from.
This is a world that begs exploration and rewards you for it. Skyrim has over a hundred hours of content in it and it’s up to you to find it all. There’s a heck of a lot of stuff to do here and you’ll never want for more. Some of the quests do run a bit stale after a while, especially the miscellaneous quests, but all of the big storylines are richly rewarding in their payoffs.
Fighting has been changed up quite a bit in Skyrim from previous iterations of the Elder Scrolls series and even the more recent Fallout games: instead of locking you into one class from the outset, Skyrim allows you to try out all of the different ways of causing harm to your foes. In one game you can go from magic user to stealthy assassin to a broadsword wielding warrior or a combination of different skills. There are still three overarching classes (Thief, Warrior and Mage) but it’s kind of a thrill to try and wield a sword in one hand and a stream of fire in the other.
As you gain levels in Skyrim you can apply points to various trees which will grant you perks, and these are either passive or active. The game fortunately has a very high level cap (you stop leveling when all of your skills reach 100) so you’re open to experiment. The only class that suffers in this new style is the Warrior class as it lacks the flair of the Mage or the stealthy tensity of the Thief. You hit guys with weapons until they die, and paired next to a raging fireball or a perfect assassination, that seems kind of lack luster.
The new magic system in Skyrim layred on top of all this is the Thu’um, or “Shout”. As your Dragonborn explores the world you can face down and kill dragons and absorb their soul in the process. By finding various Word Walls or advancing in the main questline you can learn words in the Dragon language. Each Shout is comprised of three words and the more words you learn the more powerful the Short becomes. Everyone knows the Unrelenting Force Shout (FUS RO DAH) but you learn many more by the end of the game and they’re all a blast to use. This is seriously a really cool mechanic as tying your power to the creatures you’re trying to kill creates a metagame where you’re constantly hunting for new Word Walls and the Dovah souls to power your Shouts.
Given how dense Skyrim is, it’s a hard task to relay all the experiences you can have in it. There are various menial jobs to take up, skills such as Blacksmithing, Alchemy and Enchanting to level and other ways to lose yourself in the frozen homeland of the Nords. Skyrim is one of those games that sucks you in and takes up all of you time, but you’ll love it for it. It really does cater to a lot of ways of playing. You can delve deep into its multitude of quests and storylines or you can just roam outside of Whiterun for a few hours and collect flowers.
Skyrim is just so dense and well put together that it’s easy to lose yourself in the hundreds of little stories that crop up seemingly out of nowhere. Very rarely is there a patch of land where nothing is happening, and you always want to see what’s over the next hill.
Like any Bethesda game, Skyrim is fairly plagued by bugs. Since the game’s release there has been a series of patches but with every fix new problems crop up. In a game this size, with all of its moving parts, it’s a daunting task to make it bug free. It’s nothing to hold against the game but be warned that there a few incompletable quests and things of that nature. The main storyline is mostly bug-free, it’s just the sidequests that have the issues.
As we’re fond of saying here at GamerSushi, bugs in games of this scope are like the sweat on an Olympic athlete. They’re just the unfortunate downside of such a massive undertaking, but don’t let a few minor hiccups stop you from enjoying Skyrim. With the inevitable Downloadable Content on the horizon, this is a game that really keeps on giving.
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