Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Biggest RPG

It’s here! The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has finally been released. The sequel to the 2006 game of the year TESIV: Oblivion, Skyrim is set to surpass the previous instalment in the series by a country mile. As one of the most anticipated games of 2011 Skyrim has a lot to live up to. So does it climb to the top of the gaming mountain? Or is it nothing more than dragon prey? Read on to find out!

Skyrim is set 200 years after the events of Oblivion in the province of… well… Skyrim. The high-king has been murdered by a rebel force called the “Stormcloaks” who are fighting for Skyrim’s independence from the Empire of Tamriel against the Imperials. Whilst this civil war is unfolding, dragons which were thought long extinct have returned and are causing havoc throughout Skyrim. These events shape the main quest of the game. But if you so feel it you can head out into the world ignoring the main quest (although it is recommended you complete some of it to reap the rewards and gain some insight into what is going on around you) and explore, undertake quests for the locals, buy a house, get married, join a guild, become a vampire or werewolf. The possibilities in Skyrim are almost endless and you can choose what to do at your own pace. You can choose what style of character you play. Fancy being a battle-mage? Go for it! Want to be sneaky and take out your enemies from the shadows? Sure thing! Want to wield a two handed greatsword and smite everything and anyone in your path? You can do that! And the best part is if you get bored playing one way you can switch your play style as you please.

The Elder Scrolls games have always been renowned for their massive open worlds, vibrant NPCs and easy to use combat system. Skyrim improves on these areas more than any of the previous games. One way Bethesda Game Studios have done this is by developing a completely new engine for the game. The Creation Engine. One small but VERY useful inclusion tot the game is the ability to “favourite” certain items, weapons and spells. These can then be accessed by pressing up on the d-pad (On the Xbox 360) so you never have to look through screens of text to find the one weapon you need. Combat has been heavily improved through one feature I love, dual wielding. Now I never have to choose whether I want to use magic OR a sword, because I can now equip magic to my left hand whilst using a sword in my right. This opens a whole new perspective on combat with many different combinations and techniques to try, it’s just fun to experiment with different weapon/magic combos and see what results you get. A completely new addition to Skyrim is “Shouts”. As the “dragonborn” (A mortal with the soul of a dragon) you have the unique ability to use different powers by “shouting”, for example you can have frost breath. Pair this shout with a fire spell and a sword and you do a pretty hefty amount of damage. However, you require dragon souls to unlock these shouts and to upgrade them. I’m pretty sure you can figure out how you go about acquiring some of those. Another improvement I have noticed is the third person mode. Third person mode has never really been fleshed out in an Elder Scrolls game, nor in Fallout 3. However I can say that in Skyrim third person is now a viable option if you do not like to play in first person. It still isn’t perfect since I find it hard to tell what I’m exactly trying to hit in a fight, but it is better none the less.

Skyrim Wallpaper

However, there is one aspect of Skyrim that for me is rather disappointing. It starts with the letter “D”, is big and scaly and breathes fire. Yes. The dragons in Skyrim are not as epic as I thought they would be. After your first few encounters with a dragon (which are actually pretty fun) you begin to find they get boring since they become very routine and easy to kill. The dragon AI is also incredibly stupid, they seem to be confounded and have no clue what to do when you cower behind a rock from them and also become distracted in a fight and decide to attack random animals instead of you. And after spending a good amount of time with the game, dragon encounters eventually become more of a “Let’s get this over and done with then…” moment rather than a “Oh my god it’s a dragon!” one.

That’s not to say ALL the AI in the game is bad. The NPC characters are brilliant, you actually feel like you are part of a living breathing community when entering on of Skyrim’s cities. Gone are the mundane monotone NPC’s of Oblivion. In come NPC’s who actually have LOTS to say and do and more importantly, time continues to flow when you converse instead of freezing suddenly (ala Fallout 3 and Oblivion) Every NPC seems to have a back story or something for you to do, which adds to the scale of the game. Not only that but quite a few of the NPC’s are actually able to become your husband/wife if you so desire.

Fallout 3 has obviously had an impact on Skyrim’s development too, gone are the major skills you had to pick in Oblivion. Enter a perk system similar to Fallout 3. Every time you level up you can advance a skill tree and pick a new “perk”. This is good because I found Oblivion’s skill system could be rather annoying at times since you had to focus on certain skills.

What can I say about the sound in Skyrim? Well, what I can say is that it has one of the best soundtracks in gaming from the last few years. Jeremy Soule has gone all out with Skyrim and every time I hear the main “Sons of Skyrim” theme I can’t help but either hum or (attempt) to sing along to it. The game has some stellar voice acting, everyone sounds different in a respect which is a step up from Oblivion where you begin to realise most people sounded the same, however, most of the town guards still do sound the same and to be honest, I miss “Stop you violated the law!” from Oblivion. Skyrim also has a certain ambiance to it, something that actually makes you believe you are walking through a living breathing world, the howl of a wolf, the roar of a dragon in the distance, the rustle of trees. I can say with full confidence, the sounds of Skyrim are the best thing to grace my TV speakers in a long time.

Skyrim shines through graphically when you look back at previous games in the series and Fallout. The environment is gorgeous, there are a good mix of wide open plains, rugged mountains, rolling hills, lakes, and snow capped glaciers. To think that 5 years ago Oblivion was one of the best looking games there was, yet look what can be achieved on the same hardware in Skyrim! One highly notable improvement is that NPC faces no longer looks like hideous globs of plastic, they actually look believable to an extent. I personally have had no problems with texture popping of any sort too in my experience whilst playing Skyrim, which is a fantastic improvement.

As for replay value, let me put it simply, I have played Skyrim for a good 30 hours. I am not even half way through the main quest but have undertaken so many quests and have not even explored the whole world yet. Skyrim is by far a game that is going to keep you occupied for years! Using the Creation Engine, Bethesda have created “Radiant Story” which essentially allows for an infinite number of quests from NPCs. Not only that but downloadable content has been confirmed and will release on a scale like that of Shivering Isles for Oblivion.

The Verdict

Skyrim is by no means a good game. It is a FANTASTIC game, a masterpiece. It is a very big contender for game of the year alongside Batman: Arkham City, Skyward Sword, Uncharted 3 and Portal 2. Even if you have never played an Elder Scrolls game, or even a Bethseda game for that matter, you owe it to yourself to go out and try Skyrim because you would be missing out on one of the best games of the past few years.

Rating: 9.5/10

+ Be the character you WANT to be
+ Massive open ended world to explore
+ Brilliant soundtrack
+ Almost infinite replay value
- Dragons become tedious

Official Website
Skyrim Wallpaper

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