In this day and age, RPGs have become a centerfold for what a true video game adventure should be. Enormous environments, deep battle mechanics, and an insane amount of replay value make games like Skyrim some of the most versatile in the industry. Skyrim holds on to the basis of what made the other games in the Elder Scrolls series so successful, but also adds enhanced visuals, mechanics, and a more immersive world that makes it a greater experience than it’s predecessors.
People have been calling Skyrim the mix between Fallout 3 and Morrowind. If you’ve played either, you’ll recognize the distinct mechanics that make questing, and storytelling so profound in each. Skyrim is a masterpiece, a masterpiece that plays out differently for every person that plays the game. At the start of Skyrim, you have the choice to pick between 9 different races, each having their own perks. As you are thrown into the engaging, enormous and beautiful landscape, the world will shape itself around your character, sometimes even having a sour attitude towards your race. Skyrim starts off immediately fast-paced, throwing you into a dragon attack, and narrowly escaping. Once the world opens up, you’re free to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
The Elder Scrolls V, like previous games, let’s you take on hundreds of side quests, ranging from something as simple as killing a bandit leader, to going through an entire dungeon to find a single item. Quests give you rewards in form of money and XP, but also the reward of some very deep and engaging stories. The quests can be done in any order you would like, but you’ll occasionally run into quests that you can’t handle and must save for when you are stronger.
The world of Skyrim has tons of items to collect. Items can range from food, weapons, armor, spellbooks, and even key quest items like journals and keys. Like in a real life situation, you can only carry so much; before you’ve maxed out the weight your character can hold. Once you pass the weight mark, your character has a hard time moving, and definitely has no ability to escape if you run into a bad situation. I found that scooping up every last bit of reward from a dungeon didn’t help me too much when I was trudging around with an overstuffed bag.
As far as combat goes, there are 3 main things you have to worry about: Stamina, health, and magika. All 3 are displayed as bars at the bottom of your main screen. Running, or using power attacks, consumes your stamina bar, while using spells consumes your magika bar. Your health bar depletes as you take damage, and slowly recovers over time. These 3 mechanics are very simple to understand, and make combat rather interesting. With battle strategy, you have a plethora of options to choose from. Depending on your race, along with personal preference, you can choose different setups that you enjoy. One-handed weapon + spell, two-handed weapon, and dual casting are just some to name a few.
The level up system and skill tree of Skyrim is much easier to use and understand than previous games in the series. Your character has a wide variety of skills to level, and can level them simply by using them in combat. For example, by blocking in combat, I raise my blocking level, which increases my resistance to damage while blocking. After a certain amount of leveling among skills, you fill the bar to go up a general level. This will let you increase either your magika, health, or stamina, and also give you a perk point to use on your skills. Below, I have a picture of the constellation map that the game uses as a skill tree.
Using perk points on your skills can give you some extreme advantages, like doing a lot more damage with a one-handed weapon, or even gaining access to dual casting, which lets you hold two spells; one in each hand.
Another new feature in Skyrim is dragon shouts. As you soon discover, your character what the land calls “the last Dragonborn”. With your title, you can absorb the souls of the many dragons you can kill, across the land. Finding dragon shouts written on walls, give you access to powerful combat advantages, like a shout that pushes your enemies backwards, and even a shout that summons a dragon to aid you. Shouts take some time to recharge after use, but are an interesting addition to Skyrim.
The game is very beautiful visually, and much better quality than Oblivion. If you got Skyrim on PC, it will be crisp, smooth gameplay, with very little, if not no texture pop ins. The game doesn’t really compete with other visual masterpieces this year like Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Battlefield 3, but it certainly is a great looking game. The visual enhancements of spells are also quite appealing, especially for those who played Oblivion.
The music of Skyrim is also just as incredible. I remember the first time I loaded up Skyrim, I sat and stared at the title screen for about 10 minutes. The music accompanying it is amazing, and it gets even better when you start the game. One of my favorite tracks is the music that plays when you are fighting a dragon. It just gives you this feeling of simultaneous exhilaration, fear, and pride. The soundtrack of the game really enhances the experience, and I’m only about 30 hours in!
If there’s anything negative to say about this game, it is the bugs. While I personally have not encountered a single one, I’ve already heard a great deal from others. From horse-riding dragons, to characters heads being stuck in the ground, and even game breaking save glitches, Skyrim is not perfect. However, I think that a game of this magnitude, in any case, would be almost impossible to perfect.
Skyrim is a game like no other. It will take you on a ride, and keep you thrilled from start to stop. With over 300 hours of gameplay, Skyrim will keep you busy for many months, and possibly ruin your social life in the process. The game is near perfect visually, mechanically, and plot-wise. While there are some occasional bugs that may give you a good laugh, hinder, or in extreme cases, break your save, the games huge nature, and general pros more than make up for it. If you haven’t picked up Skyrim, and are any kind of gamer, I highly recommend you do as soon as possible. Just make sure you’ve done all your homework in advance, because Skyrim may mercilessly take control of your life.