Review for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Not being a serious gamer, and never having played any other RPGs, I was a little dubious when given the chance to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Upon reading the above description I became intrigued and decided to give it a go. The main reason I had previously avoided this type of game is the insistence the makers have to include numerous drawn-out cut scenes to fill your game-playing time. Skyrim commences with one such cut scene. I left it to play to an empty room to avoid being deterred from continuing before even picking up the controller, and returned to start my new gaming experience once I was able to create the character I would lead through the adventures and quests that lay ahead.
The fun begins from this point. Choose from the various character races available, all of whom possess their own different strengths and abilities, and customise your character to your own personal preference. Along with the standard gender, build and hair options, there are more intricate details to change, such as your character’s jaws and cheeks. Once you have chosen the name you wish to be known by, you are ready to jump away from reality and embark on a world that requires some demand lightning-fast reflexes and the commitment to master the depths of their control, a willingness to think outside the box, and some degree of intelligence for puzzle solving.
The journey starts with you facing execution at the headman’s chopping block, only for a surprise return to allow you to escape the town of Helgen with the assistance of an NPC. Follow the instructions they give to you and get ready to be cut loose to experience the massive world of Skyrim with the barest essentials in information about both yourself and the land you will now inhabit.
How you progress through the game is a matter of personal choice. There is a main storyline to follow, which having completed I would say could have been longer. If you start the game simply to beat the main quest and nothing more, you could be in for a disappointment. However, the vastness of this game emerges when you start to explore the nine different holds, and, whether travelling by foot or horseback, you will start to discover new locations. Once new locations have been found, you have the option to fast travel between them. There are many side quests that could easily be main storylines for lesser RPGs, rather than fillers. Whether you decide to complete a quest before moving on to the next or work gradually through each one bit by bit, you will experience a wide range of foes waiting to test your chosen combat skills. From Bears to Bandits, Dragons to Draugrs, Wolves to Wispmothers, Frost Trolls to Forsworn, most of the quests see you fighting a different enemy to the previous one you encountered. You will also run into an assortment of interesting characters, seeking your assistance or just going about their daily duties.
The amount of things to do in Skyrim will make you feel like you are a living, breathing part of its world. Whether you decide to while away the hours creating weapons and armour at a forge, mixing potions at an alchemy table, chopping wood, practising archery or investigating subterranean caverns, you will be able to increase the skills available. You can buy a house, join a guild or even marry an NPC. And in addition to all of this, you have an edge over most opponents in the form of your Dragonborn “shouts”, a magical power acquired by reading runes carved into walls of dungeons and caves.
You will encounter dense woodland, majestic cities, snow-capped mountains and crystal clear rivers. Stand on an outcropping rock beside a waterfall and listen to the howling wind, see the leaves from the pine forest above blow around you, look down to the crashing water below and watch as they move around rocks and continue downstream. Jump from ice slab to ice slab in the northern wastes before tangling with a snow bear. Observe a group of giants herd mammoth, or a dragon swoop in out of no where and dispatch of other creatures before turning its attention to you.
The graphics and attention to detail are awe-inspiring. As you travel through the various different locations you will experience a full range of weather conditions. You will plough through blizzards, fight to find your way in the dense fog, wade on with the rain beating down on you and the thunder and lightning accompanying your steps. You even get to witness blue skies and sunshine! As night descends, gaze up at the sky and see the blood moon and reddish auroras that can literally stop you in your tracks and completely obliterate any traces of the outside world.
The sound effects, including both voice talent and music, only strengthen the visual effects. Neither intrusive nor repetitive, but perfectly ambient, they set the mood for any situation you find yourself in. I only wish I had a surround sound system to further enjoy the dramatic music and intricate sounds of the wilderness, the noise of the rivers flowing through the map or the roar of the next predator you will face.
There are some niggles and bugs present. You may notice characters attaching themselves to pieces of the environment, or walking in mid-air. Some animation glitches exist and quests that have been completed may still show in your journal. There is also the rare instance where a previous save needs to be loaded after the game freezes. The load screens can be quite long at times but the gameplay itself is worth waiting for.
A game that is easy to completely lose yourself in, Skyrim demonstrates aesthetically beautiful landscapes, true-to-life weather simulations and great combat systems. Skyrim awaits adventurers. All it asks in return is your life… or a large chunk of it anyway.