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 and variety.

 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 surfaces.