November 11, 2011
PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developed by Bethesda Game Studios
Published by Bethesda Softworks
Skyrim is as engrossing an experience as the medium as ever seen.
Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the most memorable launch date of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. On 11/11/11 I was in line (like many fans across the country) for the midnight release of the latest installment in Bethesda Game Studios' successful franchise. The Elder Scrolls is the quintessential medieval-fantasy role-playing game for the Western world. Many players jumped aboard during 2006's Oblivion, less discovered The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back in 2002, and so on to the series' launch in 1994. I still cite Morrowind as my favorite game of all-time for reasons both nostalgic and ground-breaking despite the game's infuriating mechanics (then and even more so now). With nearly two decades of related games before it I am confident in ascribing Skyrim has not only the greatest entry in the series but among the crowning achievements of our current generation of video games.
I write this review even though I have yet to complete all that there is to do. It's debatable if that is even possible as Bethesda programmed ways for the experience to literally be infinite. There are entire quest lines I have yet to touch and all this even after clocking in some 80 hours into the game over the past year. So please keep in mind as you read this review that I am far from being done with Skyrim; and I like to think it is far from being done with me. Of course I have completed the main quest, which happens to be the first time I have done so in the series. I believe this is primarily because Skyrim is the most accessible of all The Elder Scrolls games. The technical advances in gaming since previous installments have certainly helped make the story in an open-world game such as this more detailed and thus more personable.
|A map of Tamriel. This time we are in the appropriately white province of Skyrim.|
|Character creation has more details than you could ask for. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)|
This time you play Dovahkiin (or Dragonborn), a being with the body of mortal and the soul of a dragon. As such you are capable of using "Dragon shouts," one of the new additions to player's arsenal. These let you do anything from summoning a terrible storm to take place over your battles (did I mention the game has a vibrant weather system?) to slowing down time itself. The force push shout "Fus-ro-dah" has gained Internet meme status as it is among the first you learn to use. It bears some of the funnest results as you send your enemies flying, even the giants go head over heels for it.
|Look up "epic" in the dictionary and you will find this screenshot. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)|
It is more than luck that the Dragonborn's appearance coincides with those of the dragons. A wise group of sages known as the Greybeards reside atop the highest peak in all of Tamriel. You seek them out to understand your potential as the Dragonborn and further the game's primary story. I say "primary" because there are many. Each person you come across in Skyrim has something to say, many of which have favors to ask. Children will want to play tag with you, a fugitive will ask you to keep quiet about their whereabouts, and every city's Jarl (a mayor of sorts) seems to have a bandit problem. There is so much to do in Skyrim that your menu will soon and fast fill up with quests.
|You can examine every item in you inventory, even the salmon meat. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)|
Part of the reasons I have left some aspects of the game untouched is due the character I am playing as. I am a Wood Elf named Zar Vular and I am trying to remain a "good guy." I have dabbled in the Thieve's Guild but have avoided the Dark Bortherhood and Vampirism. I sided with the Empire in the fierce civil war that is ever-felt in this cold provence. These are all choices that you make as a player. It's not that I am not opposed to playing in some of those ways, but this character has a personality and a code of ethics. In fact, I have eager plans to start a second character soon. She (yes, she) She will be a naughty girl who excels in black magic, seeks out the Dark Brotherhood, and would slice up a farmer's wife just for looking at her sideways. Hei Mao will be a dark-furred Kajhiit, a cat-like yet humanoid race of Tamriel. Some gamers might not care to make a psychological-rounded character and will play as someone who bends as easily as reeds in the wind, but I like to think that games like Skyrim are progressing how we think and ultimately how we play. The topic of morality in video games (or lack thereof) is one I will address in future posts, but I had some truly tough choices to make in my play-through.
Skyrim would not be a Bethesda game without its bugs, and I'm not talking about the butterflies they you can catch and use in potions. The game has its fair share of technical hiccups and even glaring glitches. I experience an unbeatable dragon during the main quest which took troubleshooting to get pass. When making something as ambitious as Skyrim I let many of these annoyances slide as I try to realize it is impossible to test every aspect of an open-world game that gives the player this much freedom. To me the adventures are worth the consequences. We all deplore them and wish we could have an experience without them. My hats off to the fine team at Bethesda for continually updating and patching the game to ensure smooth gaming in the future.
|Shepherd giants and their flocks of mammoths are a wonder to behold. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)|
Words by J.S. Lewis