The lights are on
Werewolves, vampires and dragons, oh my. After a five year
absence from the tumultuous land of Tamriel,
Bethesda has returned to deliver a new
iteration in the Elder Scrolls franchise; this game set in the dragon riddled province
of Skyrim. As the fifth installment
in the monumentally popular series, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was expected to
do well, and thankfully the final product does not disappoint.
Set 200 years after the events of the fourth game, war has
broken out once again, now between the Imperial Empire and the rebellious
Stormcloaks. As a malleable character, players can choose to join either side
or simply avoid the world war altogether. Roiling in the shadows of this
skirmish, unseen, yet all the more dangerous because of it, is the rise of the
dragons. Thought to be extinct from Skyrim centuries before, these dangerous
creatures have been resurrected from the past for some unknown purpose. It's up
to your character as Dragonborn, human in appearance but dragon in soul, to get
to the bottom of this mystery before all of Skyrim is overcome by war and chaos.
Starting much like other Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim puts
the player in control of a prisoner, condemned to execution. Before the
glinting executioner's axe can shorten your life, and neck, a dragon appears
and disrupts the assemblage. After a quick dungeon escape, players are free to
roam the land. The game's true vastness and magnitude is palpable from the
moment you gain access to all of Skyrim. Hundreds of quests, thousands of items
and infinite possibilities wait to be explored and discovered.
The star of the game has to be Skyrim itself. Bethesda
has proved in the past that they can handle large open worlds, but the land
of Skyrim has to be their most
impressive to date. From picking flowers to fighting bears, the amount of
detail in the virtual space is astounding. Playing into this massive detail is
the aspect of choice. No two players will have the same playthrough, making it
the main appeal of the game. Years of perfecting choice in their games has paid
off for Bethesda. One difference
does exist in that the traditional karma mechanic in most of Bethesda's
games has been done away with, making evil acts no more consequential than taking
a nap. While seemingly taking away from the amount of variation, this act
simply highlights the story and player's experience, creating a better game.
Choice is also more noticeable in the gameplay. Instead of
choosing a specific class at the forefront of the game and having to stick with
that choice throughout, Bethesda has included an innovative upgrade system that
takes into account the intended play style of the player. Players begin by
picking a race, each race having their own specific abilities; however, the
races are included more for cosmetic reasons than for their associated perks.
Once a character is created, players simply continue through the game, their
skills upgrading based on usage. For example, a mage character that uses
primarily destruction spells would have a relatively low two-handed skill tree.
Furthermore, once a specific level is reached within a skill tree, perks can be
equipped to enhance a character's abilities, thus further accentuating choice
The traditional RPG has been redefined with Skyrim. Coming
fresh off of Fallout 3, Bethesda
made headway in their design department since Oblivion. Most role playing games
feature looting, extensive sidequests, and menus. Skyrim contains these
criteria, but streamlines them, which allows players to spend more time playing
the game rather than finicking with the mechanics. Switching between weapons
and spells is done on the fly with the inclusion of a favorite bar. Also,
repairs and condition ratings for items and weapons no longer exist. The latter
point cuts out the long hours that players sometimes spend fixing up their
equipment, and instead replaces it with a more enjoyable story and adventure.
As a Bethesda
game and large open world RPG, some technical issues are expected. Glitches,
frame rate drops, and broken quests are present, but not to the point of
ruining the game completely. Also, while the world above ground may be
beautiful in both design and appearance, the hundreds of dungeons littered
throughout Skyrim are forgettable and sometimes frustrating. However, as the
games only true missteps, these are simply nominal complaints.
100 plus hours are needed in order to tackle all that Skyrim
offers, not to mention the second playthroughs and the possibility of future
downloadable content. Much like past Elder Scrolls iterations, Skyrim will be a
relevant game long into the future, that is, until the next sequel
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