The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Reviews

  • SlackerchanSlackerchan236,936
    10 Nov 2011 10 Nov 2011
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    High fantasy is one of the most popular genres across every medium. For each type of entertainment there are household names that have stood the test of time and continue to dominate long after they first arrived on the scene. The premiere author for high fantasy these days is George RR Martin while Peter Jackson’s work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy has dominated cinema for a decade. In the world of video games however the competition is far fiercer but amidst such strong competitors as Diablo and Baldur’s Gate there has been and continues to be only one true champion: The Elder Scrolls. When the forth title in the series, Oblivion, arrived in 2006 it blew the critics and consumers away with an incredibly in-depth world full of intrigue and adventure with enough content out of the box to last well over 100 hours.

    Bethesda Softworks took a break from the series to release Fallout 3 in 2008 but has returned to their roots with Skyrim, taking us to lands previously unexplored. With a five year wait between Elder Scrolls titles and a vastly different release in the interim is The Elder Scrolls still the series fans have loved for well over a decade or has Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic juggernaut changed the series forever?

    It Dawns In Fire
    Two hundred years have passed since the gates of Oblivion opened up across Cyrodiil, flooding the countryside with the evil Daedra. With the end of the Oblivion Crisis the Forth Era began, an age of peace and rebuilding meant to restore the Empire to its former glory. As time has gone on however the Empire has instead begun to crumble as it is losing its grip on the northern province of Skyrim, home to the Nords and refuge to a strong portion of the Elven and Orc populations. Skyrim is on the brink of civil war between the Imperial-backed Loyalists in Solitude (Skyrim’s capital) and the Stormcloak rebels of Windhelm. And, once again, the Elder Scrolls have predicted this and the terrible repercussions are beginning to take hold.

    You awaken on a cart being taken to your execution for attempting to cross the border into Cyrodiil. In the middle of it however an awesome and dreadful sight arrives: a dragon. Long thought extinct, you are barely able to escape the beast as it tears apart the town’s motley garrison. From here your destiny is your own to make but the Elder Scroll’s prophecies will be fulfilled whether you will it to or not. The survival of Skyrim and all of Tamriel is in your hands but the outcome is a fate of your choosing.

    Skyrim’s story, much like that of Oblivion, is an open-ended affair that can’t be so much told to you as experienced. Given the nature of Bethesda’s catalog of titles this is to be expected but to spoil anything from the story would be blasphemous. What I will go over however are some of the sections as examples as to what the player can do without invading the main storyline. What I can say is that of the overarching narrative is that, while perhaps not in possession of the best narrative in comparison to some great games out there you will find yourself having trouble both leaving and returning to the main plot as there’s simply so much to see and do in Skyrim. When looking at Bethesda’s previous efforts however the answer is clear: Skyrim is the best one so far.

    Men are But Flesh and Blood
    Like all other titles Bethesda has created since they were first formed Skyrim has a rather robust and complex character creation system. At the beginning of the game you are allowed to create whoever you wish to be across a choice of ten races, each with their own native abilities like magicka resistance or enhanced thievery skills. While each one has unique enhancements you’ll also find that being a certain race can give you access to different conversation possibilities and even alter the way you are viewed in Skyrim. For example, since the Nords that dominate the population of the province are quite racist to Orcs and Elves you can find yourself being insulted and possibly more if you are not careful. As an Orc however you will automatically have access to a few Orc strongholds that lie throughout Skyrim. This mechanic does not seem to limit the player access to anywhere in the world however so you don’t have to worry about which race you choose. Given that you are Dovahkiin I felt it necessary to include a little humor in the background of my character. Thus Dvorak, the female Imperial, was born and for those of you who got that joke I send your way a high five.

    Character leveling and upgrading is a staple of any role playing game and Bethesda titles are no exception. What you will find however is a far different system from all the other titles before Skyrim. Instead of choosing which skills to give stat-building points to this time around the entire system has been redone. No longer will you gain experience for completing quests. Instead you will earn an overall level by completing leveling of the various skills at your disposal. The eighteen different skill sets are divided into one of three categories: Mage, Warrior and Thief. There are no acrobatic or mysticism skills in Skyrim so don’t think you can just go running and jumping across the countryside to level up your character. Sorry, this time you have to earn it if you want to reach the game’s level cap of fifty.

    Within those eighteen skill sets you will find another new ability: perk activations. Similar in concept to the system utilized in Fallout 3, each skill set contains a perk tree that gives you access to more powerful ones if you can both unlock the preceding ones in the path by continuously leveling that skill. Using the archer skill set you can, for example, unlock the ability to zoom in and slow down time when drawing your bow. Others, like the smithing skill, allow you to create and upgrade various different types of armor and weapons depending on your how much you level it. The ability to unlock a perk comes available each time you have leveled up your character but you are not required to unlock one during this process. Perk saving is a welcome addition to the series and I can only hope it sticks around.

    Unlike Fallout 3 though, whatever character you choose, you will find that Skyrim returns to the tradition of allowing you to max out your character in all aspects rather than having to rely on specific specializations. To do so however is a triple digit investment of hours so those daring enough (and have that amount of time on their hands) can certainly have their cake and eat it too. Regardless of whether you are willing to invest that kind of time into the game you’ll still find yourself more in control of your character than ever before.

    They Know Their Doom, But not the Hour

    I have made it clear in the past that I believe that only one game has ever done first-person melee combat right, that title being Condemned: Criminal Origins. Condemned’s mix of simple, strike and block mechanics made combat both easy to understand and at the same time quite intense. In Oblivion, a title that arrived a handful of months after Condemned, the combat felt weak in this author’s opinion and was a factor that affected the title’s overall worth quite negatively, enough anyway to prevent me from returning to the game after closing my first Oblivion Gate. What I find remarkable about Skyrim is that there doesn’t seem to be a hint of Oblivion’s combat system at all within it which is an exceptionally welcoming sight to see.

    Combat in Skyrim runs the standard gambit of single and two-handed weapon combat with the added ability to dual-wield any combination of weapons and magic you see fit. Players can even combine magic spells together for increased effectiveness or to gain added affects to yourself, your target or both. This is only accentuated by the reworking of the game’s inventory system that allows you to favorite weapons and items such that they can be used on a whim at the press of the directional pad. This new system really draws the player into combat far more than Oblivion or Fallout 3 ever did as it never takes you out of the action.

    As the Dovahkiin you have access to one other ability: shouts. As you progress through Skyrim and explore both the story as well as the many, many locations scattered throughout the province you will locate pieces of the dragons’ language. Each location will yield one word of a phrase that you can wield as you see fit and each word is unlocked by absorbing a dragon’s soul. Each has a different effect when used and as such differing degrees of recharge times (you cannot spam them endlessly). Earning souls and learning words to fill a full phrase can unlock powerful variants that cannot be overstated in their usefulness. These improvements are definitely superior to their lesser counterparts, the difference being using a shout to cause an enemy to flinch and fully knocking them off their feet and throwing a fireball and unleashing an inferno. Shouts are exceptionally useful in combat and can often mean the difference between life and death.

    Earning dragon souls is no easy task and it is here that we address the most talked about (and anticipated) part of the overall Skyrim experience: fighting dragons. You will find that, while some moments are scripted to continue the story along, a vast majority of the encounters with dragons are either random occurrences or even optional endeavors. You will often find yourself wandering through the land only to hear a sharp rush of air and the roar of one of the beasts as it passes overhead. However, despite its imposing arrival they will sometimes just circle overhead and fly off. The random nature of the dragons really makes the experience more exciting.

    Fighting a dragon is no small order of action though. Should you engage (or perhaps be engaged) by a dragon you’ll find yourself fighting a formidable foe that, at a bare minimum, is as strong as you are. These beasts will fly around and attack you from every angle, often forcing you to shift between short range attacks and long range ones with a bow and arrows. Dragons also come in a variety of types such as fire, frost, blood and more so you may have to shift your strategy based on exactly which one you are fighting. Dragon attacks can sometimes have you facing two of them at once as that very scenario happened to me. Should this become reality your only hope is to use the terrain to your advantage and pray you are near a settlement whose defenders will come to your aid but if neither of those can be utilized it is probably in your best interest to act on the later part of your fight-or-flight instinct. Regardless, fighting a dragon never gets old and when the sweeping chorus of Nordic chanters take over the game’s soundtrack and the beast begins flying toward you murderously you’ll always draw your sword with a smile on your face.

    The (Other) War in the North

    For each of its titles from 2002 to 2008 Bethesda Softworks utilized an engine called Gamebryo. This engine, while remarkable last generation, looked muddled in Oblivion and was universally decried in Fallout 3. Thankfully Bethesda uses a new engine in Skyrim called Creation and while the results yield similarities to what we’ve played before this new one is quite the generational leap. Draw distance and environmental depth are the key focuses of Creation and it is immediately noticeable upon stepping foot in Skyrim for the first time. The game smartly has little to no invisible walls (a large problem in Fallout New Vegas) and The Throat of the World, the tallest peak in all of Tamriel, is climbable, something that many are going to want to do from the moment they begin the game.

    Beyond height and draw distance you will find that Creation allows for a deep and quite lively world to explore, more so than anything Bethesda has ever created. Forests are large and alive with animals living their lives underneath the canopies of tall trees. No one location in all of Skyrim feels generated for the expressed purpose of existing and the world actually feels quite alive. These changes aren’t limited to the world however: the citizens of Skyrim are just as vibrant in their lives as the outside world is. Character models no longer seem randomly generated and the compliment of voice actors this time around doesn’t seem nearly as small in number. Conversations no longer zoom in on the (previously ugly) faces of people and the world continues on outside of your interactions. The world of Skyrim is incredibly engaging and one you will love exploring.

    One specific note that audiophiles and regular gamers alike should know about is the sound design. Simply put, Skyrim absolutely has to be experienced in 5.1 surround sound and it is almost a waste to do otherwise. The sound design is already fantastic but it is worth noting that, at least in the Xbox 360 version of the game, there can be some localized sound issues to be had with playing with a 2.1 or lower sound system. In this scenario, at least during the pre-patch timeframe, sound often cuts out drastically when moving the camera away from active sounds and the simulation of sound coming from the side and behind you is dramatically different, yielding a product that makes a lot of interaction with the world a bit annoying. Again, this is something that can probably be fixed through a post-release patch or even a properly calibrated sound system but for those who do not have a surround sound system you’ll immediately want to upgrade as soon as you experience Skyrim with one.

    The Champion of the Fourth Era
    When I sat down to review Skyrim I was quite apprehensive. After all, I really didn’t enjoy Oblivion much outside of the first few hours and while I was actively engaged in Fallout 3 I did not like the idea of returning to melee-only combat. What I’ve come away with however after over forty hours of gameplay already is a title that I was completely wrong about. Skyrim is a game that not only will draw in Elder Scrolls fans but also new gamers alike with a gameplay design that you’ll be hard-pressed to put down the controller whether it is 2pm or 2am. Combat in the game is engaging and the amount of things to do and places to explore is staggering even for an Elder Scrolls title. After a week of playing the game for hours on end I still want to dive back in and fight another dragon, liberate another town and learn more shouts.

    Simply put, Skyrim isn’t just the best title Bethesda has ever made: it is probably one of the top releases of this generation. Mage or thief, Nord or Khajiit, PC or console, the results are the same: you will love Skyrim.
    5.0
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    Skyrim received global critical acclaim and sold over 3.6 million copies in the first 48 hours of its release and was deservedly voted TrueAchievements game of the year 2012.

    ~INTRODUCTION~

    Wow! Skyrim has taken a truly epic evolutionary stride from it’s predecessors. From the very beginning you are drawn into an open world of such awesome realism and boundless possibility that your head will justly spin. Many players may be daunted by this larger-than-life action role-playing adventure but do not be overwhelmed by its scale and complexities. Although Skyrim was certainly created for gamers with a lot of time and especially devotion, it can easily be thoroughly enjoyed by casual gamers alike.

    ~STORY and QUESTS~

    Two hundred years after the Oblivion Crisis in Cyrodiil you now play a different role in a different realm. To the north of Tamriel lies the inhospitable land of Skyrim- the land that the Elder Scrolls prophesied to be the setting of your destiny. It is now the Fourth Era and Titus Mede II has conquered the Imperial City in Cyrodiil causing the lands of Valenwood, the Summerset Isles, Black Marsh and Elsweyr to withdraw from the Empire. The provinces of the Summerset Isles (home to the High Elves) and Valenwood (Wood Elves), formed an Elven Empire called the ‘Aldmeri Dominion’.

    Only thirty years ago the Aldmeri rejected a final ultimatum from the Emperor Titus Mede II, and the governing body of the Aldmeri (the Thalmor) invaded Cyrodiil and triggered the ‘Great War’. The Empire stopped short the invasion by signing the ‘White Gold Concordat’- a treaty prohibiting the worship of the Imperial God Talos throughout the Empire.

    Consequently a Nordic rebel named Ulfric Stormcloak (the Jarl/King of Windhelm) established the Stormcloak faction and rose up against the Empire in protest to the White Gold Concordant and to reclaim the land of Skyrim rightfully for the Nord race. Recently Ulfric challenged the High King of Skyrim; Torygg to a duel and killed him (allegedly by Shouting him to death). To resolve this rebellion the Empire deployed the Imperial Legion to challenge the Stormcloaks.

    You are an unknown, insignificant prisoner about to be executed for attempting to cross the border into Cyrodiil, when just before your turn on the block, an astounding event saves your life and yet threatens the lives of everyone in Skyrim.

    Sound complicated? Not yet! Not only are we in the midst of this triple civil war but someone or something has resurrected the long dead and forgotten race of the Dragons, led by the almighty Dragon-God of Destruction, Alduin.

    You are given the choice to be a male or female of one of the ten races of Tamriel, each have their own differences not only in appearance, but more importantly in skills and their affects upon storyline and quests. Being a Nord in the Nord land itself would seemingly be advantageous and depending on your style of play and the choices you make, it can be. Also your gender affects quests and notably dialogue throughout your campaigns.

    The main quest line this time is predominantly based on the Dragon affair, you soon come to realise that you yourself are not a simple prisoner nor even (like Oblivion) a hero, you are the prophetic Dragonborn descendent of legend. The last in a bloodline long thought extinct with the unique ability to absorb a Dragon’s soul upon its death. And utilising the energy of these souls you are able to ‘Shout’ or ‘Thu’um’ in the Draconic Tongue, causing direct and powerful influences upon the physical world. With these abilities you are cast into an adventure to end the Dragon attacks that threaten not only Skyrim but the entire world.

    Not forgetting your abilities as an important asset to the war effort you are drawn into the conflicts between the invading Empire and the rebellious Nords wishing to claim back their land. You have to make a choice, which side will you take? You cannot join both nor can you choose to fight for good or for evil. This choice is one you must make based on your own opinions and temperament and your choices will have massive consequences in the world around you.

    Upon escaping in the beginning you are directed to a nearby village to continue your investigation into the Dragon threat, however, this is ‘open world’ and you are free to take your own path and need not ever even continue the main quests.

    Aside from the two main questlines there are over 240 separate quests, some of these are included in the old guilds making a re-appearance along with some new factions. The Fighters guild does not exist in Skyrim and yet there are other associations such as the Companions, with similar ethics and yet some unexpected secrets. The Thieves Guild is very much a part of Skyrim, stealing and robbing in an organised band for big payouts and notoriety, with some excellent special jobs thrown in. The Dark Brotherhood still lingers in the dark corners of Skyrim, always willing to give a blood price should someone disappear, permanently. The Mages Guild has been respectively altered into the College Of Winterhold where new students of the Arcane Arts may learn more and perhaps get themselves mixed up in the affairs of wizards and necromancers. And yes the Daedric Shrines are very much a part of the hidden outbacks of Skyrim, where a lonely pilgrim may pay homage to the strange and often paradoxical escapades of the princes of Oblivion.

    It doesn't stop there, talk to practically anybody and they have a story to tell and a quest to give, someone’s had their family heirloom stolen by bandits, a problematic local Giant is killing livestock, the guards need help with a mysterious series of murders, or someone's lost their wife, goat, shoes etcetera, and will pay handsomely for a brave Dragonborn to help them. Accidentally activated quests are difficult to avoid and seemingly endless. Simply take a walk along the road and encounter an endless array of weird and wonderful peoples, animals and other things all with randomly occurring sequences and scenarios which will never repeat twice. It’s also true, thanks to the new ‘Radiant Engine’ that once you have completed certain guild questlines you can return to its members and receive small quests such as rescuing a hostage, exterminating unwelcome creatures, and hunting down escaped criminals endlessly, these will never cease no matter how many you complete.

    And it doesn't even stop there, because Skyrim is boundless and exploration, hunting, stealing, mining, harvesting, pillaging, dungeon-delving, assassinating, skills-mastery, looting and just sheer discovery is never-ending.
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    "Go wherever you want to go, do whatever you want to do and become whoever you want to be

    Your exploration is yours to decide and your moral choices are yours to make. Gameplay is by no means linear and to fully exploit Skyrim you will have to embark on multiple campaigns and try out the various races, choices and combat styles. Once you’ve tried the styles and witnessed the good and evil consequences of each campaign you can create your ultimate avatar. Your ‘Optimal’ campaign if you will, set it on Master (now Legendary) setting from the beginning, slowly and carefully master every skill, every weapon, explore every dungeon and every corner of the far reaches of the map, complete every quest, side-quest, undocumented quest and invented quest, buy every house and fill it with treasures and trophies of your triumphs. And with this Optimal character continue to endeavour through all the DLC and keep exploring indefinitely, until you lose your entire sense of true reality.

    Immense, unending, original, imaginative and thoroughly absorbing
    10 / 10

    ~GAMEPLAY and COMBAT~

    This has not only improved dramatically but also increased in variety since The Elder Scrolls IV, more weapons and armours, more styles, more moves, more spells, more enemies and more of everything else. It has become more realistic in many ways but the most poignant aspect is the intensity, on higher settings, of which there is now a definitive five, (six with update 1.9) the combat becomes extreme as one arrow may kill you and you may kill with one strike of an axe or one shot of lightning. This not only heightens the intensity but also the realism. Some fights may however become long and bloody and it can be said these fights offer the fury and fervour that such a melee deserves.

    The HUD has been improved to show clearly your health, magic, and stamina and the health of your enemy. Your red health bar decreases depending on the damage you take from enemy attacks, traps, or falling and is restored through use of magic spells, potions or resting. Your blue magicka bar is depleted either by using spells yourself or damaged by enemy attacks, and is restored with potions. Your green stamina bar is more important this time round as it determines your entire effectiveness in melee combat and is depleted through attacking, blocking, running, or by enemy attacks and restored by spells and potions (also all three bars now slowly regenerate over time, even health! so waiting or resting will restore them).

    Another difference and improvement is the new quick access ‘Favourites List’. The hot key has been replaced by a list that opens at the side of the screen. This pauses the action and allows for the quick selection of weapons and armour, spells, potions and poisons, and anything else that can be equipped or used in your inventory. Although at first I was sceptical about this but you soon get to grips with this new system and it becomes useful and tactical.

    Unlike it’s predecessor Skyrim’s combat is based on a left hand and right hand system, where you can only have one thing in each at any one time. In Oblivion you could have a shield and sword equipped and also cast spells without unequipping or pausing, not anymore. But this is a good thing, it forces you to hone your skills and become a defined warrior. Choose your path from the very beginning and become the Dragonborn you were born to be:

    ~ THE WARRIOR ~
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    Starting from the most basic would mean you simply equip nothing and fight with bare hands. Although this looks good, it has no future, there are very limited moves and you have no Hand-To-Hand skill anymore. The second style of play would be to have a one-handed weapon equipped in your fighting hand, including various small swords, axes, maces, clubs, and quite a few surprising other tools and cudgels found around. Again this is a waste of your other hand and you should at the very least equip a shield in your alter hand, the shield with one-handed style is the most common and effective in warrior class. The more you upgrade your Blocking and One-Handed skills the more brutal and diverse your moves become. Block, parry, deflect, counter and attack in various combinations and witness the Assassins-Creed-like animations while you stab, slash and decapitate. These also increase with skill and vary between enemies, the animations experienced on Giants and Dragons are enthralling.

    The fourth style is to abandon your shield and blocking altogether to favour an all out offensive with dual-wielding, the lack of defence may be made up by twice the offence, but I’d recommend heavy armour to compensate. Another style is to go for a Two-Handed weapon, more powerful than Dual-wielding (depending on skill and weapon) and yet slower, but you do have the possibility of blocking although it’s not as effective as a shield.

    You could theoretically chose any race for your warrior, however some are more suited than others; the Nords, Orcs, Imperials and Redguards, possess certain abilities and characteristics not only physically but also fitting to storyline. With all these warrior styles you should heal with potions and use no magic, collect weapons, armours and ingredients, and ores and pelts to make and improve new weapons and you sell basically everything else. The skills to concentrate on are Heavy Armour, either One or Two handed (based on your choice), Smithing and Block. The Warrior class is a heavy armoured but slow fighter, he charges in and has no time for sneaking nor magic, he slashes and crushes his enemies in a brutal rage.

    ~ THE MAGE ~
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    The sixth style is that of the Mage, dual-wielding two spells and adorning yourself in robes or clothes in the stead of any armour to maximise effectiveness. The magic in Skyrim has advanced greatly, now with over eighty different types of spells, making arcane combat more diverse and definitely more realistic (I mean this in the sense that they look more like what you would imagine these spells and effects to look like if they existed in reality, and the fire and lightning effects now look awesome). The old spells for the most part do remain albeit improved, and the many new ones include Wards and Runes (alike to Dragon Age) where you mark an area like a trap or create a shield of magic around you or your allies to protect them or damage your enemies in various ways should they enter that area, Clairvoyance (which alike to Dead Space / Fable II) will make a pathway of light to show you exactly where your objective lies, and Muffle amongst many, many others, which completely silences your footsteps to allow for perfect stealth situations. You can dual wield these spells in any array you wish, a healing spell in your left and a flame-thrower in your right etc. The more advanced and inventive you are the better the gameplay will become. The combinations of spells is a fantastic new feature of Skyrim and you will never tire of experimenting with new combos. This also encourages you to increase the difficulty setting as the higher the setting the more interesting the combat becomes and the more amazing the spells your enemies will cast at you. An addition to the diversity of the Mage is the incorporation of a Staff, wielded with a spell, the staff’s have become quite powerful and more useful than in Oblivion.

    The seventh style is that of the Battle-Mage, a One-Handed weapon in one hand and a spell wielded in the other. These combinations like the Mage are limitless and the only disadvantage is the inability to block. However one may choose the strange tactic of wielding a shield and a spell, perfectly doable and well more enjoyable and effective as you may first think.

    Whichever type of Mage you choose your best suited races are the High Elf, Dark Elf, and Breton, all possessing magical advantages in their physical and ethereal make-up. Concentrate almost entirely on the magic skills to optimise your effectiveness. A Mage should not wear any armour and a Battle-Mage only a few pieces of light armour at most. Not only will wearing armour over-encumber you with worries about your armour instead of concentrating on the schools of magic and therefore diminish your magic skills, it will also degenerate your magical effectiveness in combat. Mages are wizards, sorcerers, they use the arcane to confuse, scare, burn, freeze, electrocute and otherwise destroy their enemies, the Mage is a powerful class and one that has few boundaries to their potential.

    ~ THE THIEF ~
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    The eighth and final style is that of the Thief who uses a bow and in some close encounters and small dagger. You cannot wield anything with the bow as it is rightly a two-handed weapon and you should heal with potions and utilise stealth and poisons to an art. You are vulnerable as a Thief (and not necessarily a Thief I might add, this is just a term to refer to this particular style (see Birthsigns) although being a Thief is highly advantageous if you want to steal things). Staying in the shadows really does matter and your skills with the bow are paramount. The bow and arrow has now advanced, you no longer have to aim above and arch your shots (like Oblivion) as it is now automatic. And to my own personal admiration your arrows will now pierce the part of the body you shoot (as opposed to Oblivion where they all collected in the centre of your target). Shoot someone in the head and when you go to loot the body the arrow will be humorously sticking through their eye with blood spattered on the wall (beautiful!).

    The Wood Elf and Khajiit are perfectly adept for the role of the Thief and choosing these races will increase your stealthy demeanour. You should be wearing light armour, some clothes, and even having bare-feet will maximise your stealth. You should become a master of Alchemy, your healing potions are vital and your poisons are the main means of increasing your ferocity. I’d recommend joining the Thieves Guild early, as this will give various advantageous for the future. Stealth killing, Lock-picking, sneaking in the shadows, stealing, poisoning and killing from either very long range or intimately close range the Thief class is a highly advanced and delicate style of play.

    No matter what style you choose, one ability will be available in equal effectiveness throughout your journeys; I refer of course to the ‘Thu’um’. Shouting is a massive part not only of combat but of every aspect of the game. After killing any Dragon and absorbing its very soul you will store it inside yourself until you find a ‘Dragon Wall’, they are scattered throughout Skyrim on mountain peaks and ruins and each have a unique word to teach you. After learning the new word you use a Dragon soul to bring it to life and you are able to shout the word out causing many wonderful effects. These shouts begin somewhat soft but they have three levels each more effective than the last. The Thu-ums range extensively through: ‘Force’ which blasts enemies away, ‘Frost’ freezing enemies like an ice-cube, to ‘Fire’ burning enemies to a cinder. But the shouts are not limited to simple combat, you can dash at high speeds, scare all your enemies away, slow down time itself or even call upon the very heavens of the gods and change the actual weather to a storm and unleash a repeated onslaught of lightning from the sky!

    The combat has become immensely satisfying on all accounts; the melee tactics and animations are exhilarating, the magical abilities and effects are awesome, and the cleverness of the physics with the bow and arrows is truly magnificent. Combine one of these styles with the Thu’um and you make an adventure you will not be able to pull yourself away from.

    Massively, massively enjoyable and sophisticated
    10 / 10

    ~LEVELLING and SKILLS~

    Bethesda has swapped the perfect Levelling systems used in previous Elder Scrolls with an imperfect ‘Fallout’ system for use in Skyrim without changing much. This is based on automatic anytime Levelling depending on the use and improvement of skills to higher levels unlocking higher enemies and items throughout the world. The more you perform a particular skill the more you raise that particular skill level and consequently raise your character level. Unfortunately there is no longer a class system and the resulting typical mechanics causes you to advance too fast through the levels.

    Upon reaching a new level you are prompted and directed to the ‘Skills’ screen presented as the new firmament of star constellations presenting your skills as Birth Signs. Previously we were given choices to improve our ‘Attributes’ of Strength, Intelligence and Speed etc but now unfortunately we are limited to simply improving the size of either our Magicka, Health or Stamina bars (stamina also increasing carrying capacity). This does detach the player from the customization of their character a little but generally serves functionality and is indeed pleasing to the eye.

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    Also; although you can choose when to move up a level your character will continue to accumulate levelling from skills even if you don’t want to. This means that if you choose to stay on level 5 for example by not loading the skills screen in an attempt to build your skills further you will be contradicted as your skills continue to boost your character level regardless. So upon levelling to 6 you will be prompted to choose multiple bar increases and perks and end up on level 9. This presents some problems; you will now increase your level too quickly and unintentionally by performing necessary and lower level tasks meaning your skills can’t be high before your level catches up and even overtakes them. You will unlock and at the same time dissolve different enemies, so as you play you may never encounter some of the lower level enemies because you have advanced too fast and replaced them with higher ones. Consequently, reaching levels of 42+ you will slow down dramatically and be suspended in a world of unchanging enemies forever after.

    You are also given a single point to unlock a new perk for any one of your 18 skills. These, taken directly from Bethesda’s Fallout 3, allow for certain bonuses to increase the effectiveness, range, and/or variety of your skills. Some of the more outstanding ones being able to zoom in with the bow, being able to decapitate your enemies, pickpocketing people’s equipped items (like their weapons and clothes), and having two allies summoned at once, amongst many many more. Some of these perks are very interesting and others are quite mundane but I have to admit the choosing and unlocking of the perks is satisfying and considering the elaborate nature of the game can be used in very exciting and remarkable ways.

    Although you can max out every skill level to 100 by reaching character level 81 you cannot however unlock all of the 251 Perks. All your decisions are set and cannot be changed later (unless using PC modifications) so choosing your bar increases and perks must be pre-planned and not squandered if you ultimately wish for a permanent and powerful character.

    *Following patch 1.9 on the 8th April 2013 this is no longer true. Once you reach level 100 on any skill you have the new choice to make that skill 'Legendary' resetting it to level 15, removing all perks to be re-used. This now offers indefinite main character levelling and all the perks available in the game. You should still choose wisely however as reaching levels exceeding 100 becomes difficult as each skill level raises your main level by an ever decreasing percentage. So unless you focus almost entirely on levelling by cheap repetitive tricks you should not waste any perk points and remain true to particular classes.

    To help you decide on your perk selections you should consider one of three major styles of play (as mentioned above in Combat). Concentrating all your perks upon ‘4 or 5’ major skills will ensure a honed and efficient character. The skills screen is split into three sections by colour, the red symbolizing the skills of the Warrior class, choosing to lay all your perks on 4 of these will maximize your efficiency as a warrior (it would be pointless to waste any perks at all on magics or even Two-Handed if your only using a one-handed weapon). The blue symbolizes the Mage and there are five skills to max, also consider using a few perks for enchanting and/or alchemy to cover more angles. The green symbolizes the Thief, and focusing on this style of play can be the most difficult, because of the extra need for Archery, Alchemy, Smithing, Illusion, and Enchanting. You will have to take your time and choose the skills that you find the most advantageous for your own style of play.

    Some skills have been removed since Oblivion; Athletics is no longer a factor meaning that using horses (which have been greatly improved) is now a real option and advantage. Acrobatics has no place anymore limiting your jump to a set height depending on your race and weight. Although Hand-To-Hand combat has been improved and you can go into ‘Brawling’ mode where you fight bare handed there is no skill to accompany this. There is no Mercantile skill and your bartering prowess is now included in your Speech skill. Security has been renamed Lockpicking, Armourer is now called Smithing, and Marksman is now Archery. There is now no Blade nor Blunt as now your weapons are based on One-Handed and Two-Handed regardless of the type of weapon it is. And the magic school of Mysticism is gone; it’s spells redistributed into the other schools.

    To elaborate on Smithing I can say, thankfully, that there is no repairing required at all, and now you actually collect the skins of various animals in the wilds and carry a pick axe and wood axe to physically mine ores and cut logs to make leather, metals and wood in the manufacture of a wide range of pre-set weapons and armours. This all sounds pretty complicated and laborious and at the same time quite brilliant. For this reason it's best to choose a certain style as these things can tie you down if you combine them with all the other aspects of the game and try to do everything with one character.

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    The amount of skill level you receive from using a skill in a specific way is constant. However, as you increase in skill level, the amount required for the next level up increases. This is why blocking a few attacks from a Wolf may give you a level up in Block at the beginning of the game, but later it will take a lot more attacks to level up, your Block would level up faster if you blocked an attack from a Giant for example. Some skills are much easier to level than others, you could quickly max your Smithing level by solely crafting Iron Daggers; however, it will take a very long time to max One-handed by solely attacking Skeevers with a specific One-Handed weapon, such as an Iron Dagger. Also successfully using your skills yields more levelling than unsuccessfully using them. Picking a lock gives you more Lockpicking skill than breaking your lockpick, for example. Also many skills will only increase when there is an active component associated with them. For example Sneaking will only increase when there’s something there to hide from, Conjuration will only increase when the conjured creature attacks something, and Pickpocketing increases depending on the worth of the item. It’s worthy of note that you cannot over-train your skills, levelling a skill over the point of levelling your character will still increase your character level once you visit the skills screen and choose a bar increase.

    Following patch 1.9 the difficulty system has been increased from five into six definite pre-sets, (unlike the percentage bar of Oblivion where at 1% the toughest Vampire Sorceror could be killed with one bare handed punch or at 100% a Rat could rip your Daedric armour clean off along with your head). Now we have Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Expert and Master, and now the new Legendary, each more difficult than the last. The difference between these is noticeable but not catastrophic and can be changed at any time even during combat. You may find many enemies to be too easy and then on the next encounter too hard, this is due to the new levelling systems which alter enemy difficulty based on your characters level. Also other various aspects of the game are leveled. As your character increases in level, some enemies become more challenging but also the quality of the items you find becomes better. Different places have different inbuilt difficulties. Some dungeons have been intentionally designed to be too difficult for a lower-level character to clear. Also Skyrim’s landscape has been designed so harder dungeons are typically located at higher elevations, meaning that when you're at low levels you may want to avoid the high parts of mountains.

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    The level of a given dungeon is fixed the first time you enter it. Therefore, places that you enter early in the game will always contain relatively weak enemies, even if you return to the same dungeon at the end of the game. Enemy types also reach a point where they stop getting stronger. The strongest bandits are at capped at the mid-20s. town guards and soldiers stop scaling at level 50, and the strongest generic vampires are mid-50’s. This means that the difficulty of many areas will not increase beyond certain levels, except perhaps in frequency of difficult encounters. In other words, dungeons have a level range, where if you do not meet the level requirement, you will face the lowest range of the dungeon.

    Perhaps these new systems of levelling will compliment some types of players but for most I think they are not as efficient as in Oblivion. Creating a new levelling and difficulty system was however inevitable and called-for, and despite its differences it still works very well and cannot be manipulated as easily as Oblivion was.

    Despite the minor flaws and taking everything into account this system works better than any other RPG of its time. Although many of the perks are automatic and removed from choice some can be decisive and enjoyable. This combined with experimentation, good planning and with multiple playthroughs can counter the automatic levelling, lack of attributes, and detachment from customisation. The difficulty can be acceptable for younger or more amateur players but also challenging at Master and Legendary level situations for the more advanced.

    A clone of a flawed system with some good improvements, yet with care a very efficient and enjoyable result
    7.9 / 10

    ~TECHNOLOGY, PHYSICS, GLITCHES and UPDATES~

    The technology Bethesda has incorporated and indeed invented anew just for Skyrim is far superior to any other game of its time. I’ve heard and read about some players encountering glitches in Skyrim (especially without any of the newer patches) and as with all the Elder Scrolls this is to be expected. However it annoys me when some people amplify the tiny errors that a minority of players experience during campaigns. Skyrim has ironed out most of the faults encountered in Oblivion, not to mention made great improvements to loading speeds and frame rates.

    It is true that Morrowind, Oblivion and indeed Skyrim are not without their ‘Quest ending’ errors. However all Elder Scrolls have the ‘Save anytime’ feature which counters these outright. From my past experiences I have become a frequent saver, its now automatic for me to save every new area or major event that occurs and to allot at least three separate saves to fall back on. The first thing I did after the beginning sequence of Skyrim was to open the settings and turn off the auto-saves to allow only my own saves. I now do this with every RPG and it never fails, this does however make me forget and even disbelieve that anybody would have to restart a quest or even an entire career because of a glitch. Skyrim is more than 200% times larger in complexity and scale than any other RPG; including the likes of the Dragon Age’s, Fable’s, GTA's, Mass Effects and indeed Fallout’s, and they also have their glitches (quest ending included) despite being much smaller, so I think its fair to say that Skyrim is superior when it comes to programming. Save often and understand that no other games are anywhere near as elaborate and complex on such a gargantuan scale and excuse these inevitable trivial errors as much as possible.

    On the plus side amongst the new improvements made to the design and programming of Skyrim are that there are no invisible walls! A major problem and highly annoying feature of Oblivion and Fallout: New Vegas, instead Skyrim is literally boundless in this respect from the lowest depths of the icy waters to the highest peaks. You’ll also notice that all the physical features in Skyrim are now fully three-dimensional. This is most noticeable when walking around the various plants growing throughout Skyrim, instead of them rotating to face your character they are static and you can see their exact structure from every angle. The time system has changed from two minutes representing an hour to three, this allows for improvements to the dawn and dusk graphics not to mention the slower shadow movements now making the day seem more realistic.

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    ~CREATION ENGINE~

    Bethesda’s own brand new ‘Creation Engine’ was invented for Skyrim. This fantastic new engine has allowed for massive improvements to the constancy and reliability of the graphics and other programmes throughout the game world. For previous Elder Scrolls titles Bethesda used ‘SpeedTree’ to generate flora and vegetation etc, this produced limitations and repetition to the environments. With this new Creation Engine Bethesda was able to create much more detailed, rich and unique environments, also greatly increasing Draw-Distance, Dynamic-Lighting systems for exact shadows. Using this new technology has improved the way in which other engines reacted with each other, weight has gained to the branches of trees affecting how they blow in the wind, even causing the wind to affect the way water flows in rivers and waterfalls.
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    ~HAVOK PHYSICS ~
    Skyrim uses a newly improved Havok Physics Engine called Version 2011.2. Its older version has seen use in Fallout New Vegas, Red Faction, L.A. Noire, and this new version has also been used in the likes of (physics exemplary) Portal 2 and Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception for PS3. This new engine is extremely sophisticated and is one of the only award winning engines that has ‘Real-time’ collision and dynamics in three dimensions. You will never encounter any pre-rendered animation in Skyrim as every single death is unique. The 'Rag-Doll physics' are made possible by the inclusion of multiple types of dynamic constraints between rigid bodies and no other physics engine has such a highly optimised collision detection library. Upon the death of an enemy they will fall with perfect realism, completely life-less and flaccid like a rag-doll and consequently add to more believable and unique events during combat. The physics applies to all manner of weighted inert items as well. Tiny particles like butterfly wings and soul gems behave differently and respectively compared to heavy and/or larger items like armours and boulders with immense accuracy. Using your Force Thu’um in a confined space with objects arranged all around will cause a mass explosion as the materials all react and behave differently, bouncing or breaking and colliding until finally settling down with their own genuine gravities.

    Possibly the most obvious and dangerous examples of this Havok Physics Engine are the ‘Traps’. Ranging from swinging blades, wall-darts, pit-falls, log-barrages, wall-pikes, flame-pools, gate-snares, collapsing rooms and many more, all with deceptive and luring triggers. These are among the most lethal of dangers in Skyrim because the only protection against them is avoiding them. The damage they bestow often bypasses armour and resistances and causes massive loss of health. Being tactical you can gain an advantage by luring your enemies into their own traps and ambush them in their surprise it can be your choice.
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    When encountering all the wide-ranging forces and materials in various scenarios throughout Skyrim you will never experience the same events twice.

    Havok also produced a new engine utilised by Bethesda primarily for Skyrim:- the ‘Havok Behaviour Toolset’ used chiefly for character animations. It creates highly improved and much smoother character movements demonstrated in walking, running, sprinting, jumping, swimming, and combat movements. This combines to create a greater efficiency of the Third-Person camera view. A major improvement that this allows for is the now ‘Real-Time’ interaction with NPC’s. Unlike Oblivion whereas time would freeze and the camera would fix and zoom onto the face of the interacting entity, now the NPC’s can move around, use their hands and body to communicate more believably and continue to do whatever they were doing before the interaction was initiated. This new tool has truly been used to its fullest potential to create a much more fluid, interactive and believable game world throughout Skyrim.

    Bethesda have not been idle after releasing this title, they have not simply abandoned their work like so many other developers out there. They have released patch after patch not only effectively rectifying most of the errors previously encountered in gameplay and environments but also integrating brand new features for free. Many new dialogues, items, mini-quests and subtle tweaks and changes to the landscape and arrangement of the features and locations have made Skyrim an ever changing and improving world. The Legendary update 1.9 even introduced an entire new difficulty level and the ability to reset your skill trees, this added an unlimited levelling cap and unleashed the potential for indefinite gameplay.

    Forgivable and preventable glitches with major improvements to design programming, frame rates and loading, fresh competitive technology, and thoroughly realistic and impressive physics.
    9.5 / 10

    ~GRAPHICS, CHARACTER CUSTOMISATION, VISUAL EFFECTS and ENVIRONMENTS~
    From the very offset you are presented with unbelievably realistic super-HD graphics. The simple environment you begin in is nothing more than riding on a cart with a few other prisoners and you are taken aback by the gritty realism instantly. In creating your character you will quickly realise that this game is serious. If you experienced Oblivion you will straightway tell the differences especially in the new appearances of the races- they look fantastic! You can choose your nation, gender, and now even body shape, altering muscular form. You model every aspect of the facial features from colour, shape, tone, depth, shade and imperfection. You can add scars, tattoos, war paints and even variations of dirt. The graphics regarding hair and eyes are simply beautiful especially on the Khajiit who now look actually plausible as a fantasy race of Feline-people. Brand new engines called ‘FaceGen’ and ‘FaceFX’ have been incorporated to make the speech synchronisation and expressions of the face second to no other video game to date.

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    You will encounter Bethesda’s own brand new graphical engines created entirely for Skyrim. This new innovative and dynamic engine allows you to look closely at objects in perfect detail and instantly look up to the top a mountain and climb up to it. The elegant lighting allows for any object to create it’s own perfect shadow. But their greatest glory is in the form of Fire and Water. These two have always been notoriously difficult to simulate in a computer world but in Skyrim they couldn’t have nailed it better. The fire is gorgeous and they know how to use it, it spreads and burns like real fire and looks amazingly real. The water systems are genuinely inspiring from dripping ceilings to torrential rain to massive majestic waterfalls. The water is a large aspect of the Skyrim environment. I’m repeatedly forced to stop and stare at some of the meticulous environments Bethesda have created. The flowing rivers and lakes and glaciers and icebergs and snow and rain effects are just superb.

    The fire and electrical effects are also presented particularly realistically through magic. You no longer animate a little indistinct red and yellow ball, or a few dashes of blue light. Now you create and blast out a real fire-ball or a continuous flame-thrower of a spell, you stream electricity from your fingertips and now you can throw giant spikes of ice which not only damage but also respectively slow down your enemy, or crash into a wall with shockingly realistic effects. The special visual effects of Skyrim are aimed at ‘realism’ and you can see it everywhere.

    The main and greatest key aspect (and my personal favourite feature) of Skyrim is the environments. Designed by hand over five years and based on the topography of Iceland; the landscape of Skyrim is jaw-dropping. Art Director Matt Carofano desired a more surrealistic approach to Skyrim (as opposed to the more generic and typical representation of classic European fantasy lore of Oblivion). The design team desired to recapture the “Wonder Of Discovery” like that found in Morrowind and also a return to the classic fantasy of Arena and Daggerfall.
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    Glancing up to the sky at night you may catch the Aurora adorning the heavens with breathtaking realism and majesty. Taking a walk in the cities, the wilds and in the undergrounds you can appreciate with awe the vast amount of time and effort that has evidently went into their design. It was no doubt arduous and incredibly skilful to design and build these landscapes, every rock every tree and everything else has been meticulously placed to create the most realistic and interesting environments imaginable. Every place you go has a five thousand year history behind it, you can see it in the walls and in the ground, and you can feel it in the story and lore of past ages, all woven together into an intricate pattern of romantic construction.

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    Breathtaking and unreservedly attentive
    10 / 10

    ~ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE and BEINGS~

    The new thinking engines used by the extremely wide range of peoples, creatures, animals, undead, machines and other forms of life or unlife are sharp and interesting. The innovative Radiant AI System that was previously invented for Oblivion has been upgraded and all the inhabitants of Skyrim have many more options to choose from in combat in very different situations.

    These new features extend intricately into the field of combat and can account for complex and tactical enemy encounters. Enemies will not simply charge you without planning strategies to defeat you first. Facing a single enemy this may sometimes be the case but even a lone bandit for example may lure you into a dart trap before pouncing on you avoiding the trap themselves. When facing multiple opponents especially during large scale battles the tactics will destroy you unless you yourself become tactical. Fast skirmishers from the sides, heavy troops in the centre, archers on the parapets, all manner of traps and pitfalls will be utilised to kill you and your allies. I have to stress also that the extent of their tactical abilities and guile is affected by difficulty setting. The higher the setting the more advanced they become, not only in intelligence but also in skills and attributes. I highly recommend a very hard setting once you’re used to this game, it greatly increases the complexity and range of events in combat.

    The Allied A.I. system has been taken straight from Fallout, whereas instead of having multiple allies (like five or more in Oblivion (not including those from DLC or those summoned, resurrected or captivated)), you can now have only one (not including a horse and a dog) at any one time. When you encounter situations offering a second recruit they will say “Sorry it looks like you already have a follower”. However this does present a whole new spectrum of use and a deeper relationship with your ally, because now you the options not only to swap your equipment and upgrade their weapons and armour but also the ability to command your ally. The new command aspect allows you to order your ally to advance to designated positions, attack distant targets, open locks, steal items and some other imaginative actions that can get you both into a lot of trouble or out of sticky situations. Your ally can die, although when they reach critical health their enemy will change targets and attack you instead and your ally is normally saved. You can become very dependent on your ally- they will carry your heavy equipment, warn you of danger, make interesting and informative observations, and even save your life from time to time. It’s become clear to me during my campaigns throughout Skyrim that a game is indeed sophisticated when you can mourn the loss of an Artificial Intelligence.

    The NPC’s of Skyrim have full rich lives. They sleep at night, they wake and eat breakfast then go to work, farming, mining, hunting, milling, guarding etc, they then eat lunch and some will perform random tasks depending on the date, their occupation and their personality. Such extra activities include attending their local Shrines, drinking at the inns, wandering the parks, and more maliciously some will commit theft, assault and even murder. Interaction between NPC’s has increased also, for example dropping a weapon on the ground of the marketplace may cause a brawling fight between two Nords as to who will claim it. To fully appreciate this you can sneak around and stakeout individuals and in some cases uncover some interesting secrets.

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    The inhabitants of Skyrim are somewhat different and more extensive than in Cyrodiil. The ten major races of humanoids are all present but like I've mentioned before their roles in society are very different and their distribution has been carefully selected. You will encounter these races outside of peaceful settlements in the guises of Bandits, Marauders, Hunters, Mages, Soldiers, Vampires, Sorcerers and many more interesting people both hostile and friendly.

    The fantasy creatures range widely and include Sabre Cats, Horkers (like Walruses), Mammoths, Chaurus and amongst others Giants.
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    The Undead are gritingly realistic and eerie, they include the mummified corpses of ancient Nords known as 'Draugrs', ancient spectres called 'Shades' and many other ghostly apparitions and characters hidden in the deepest tombs.
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    Also in the wide array of strange beings are the Automatons of Dwemer origin; the long lost Dwemer race of Elvish-dwarves left behind in their industrial underground cities guardians of mechanical composition, machines still programmed to attack any who endeavour to plunder the Dwemer treasures.
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    The wildlife has become extremely diverse and interesting now including rabbits, wolves, bears, elk, wild horses, goats, crabs, foxes, all manner of fishes, insects and birds and many others all of which can be killed or collected and their various parts used for cooking or alchemy.
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    The Dragons themselves are magnificent, and at the same time formidable, they will attack you and everyone else from the sky at random times, on the tundra, in settlements and even inside cities, and they are infinite and will never stop pursuing you. Some attack alone, others in groups, and yet in some opinions they are too weak. Even on Master I did find myself killing them too easily, they are Dragons after all. They can be powerful however in later stages and they are smart and apparently fearful. What makes them dangerous is their potential of killing important members of society such as vendors and those required for quests. They range from standard Blood-Dragons, Frost-Dragons and Fire-Dragons and some are younger and smaller while others more colossal and ancient. Whether you consider them weak or not these are a pleasure to behold and they are completely liberated, flying majestically through the skies filling you with amazement and wonder.
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    With the Dawnguard DLC added you will encounter new more fearsome and powerful Dragons that make the older weaker Dragons look like 80 foot turkeys. The Revered and Legendary Dragons are a damn sight more dangerous, not only in their toughness but more so with their new abilities to drain your life away with a Thu-um. These Dragons can change the way you play Skyrim altogether, never taking your eyes away from the sky.
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    Highly advanced A.I. engines complimented by diverse life-forms
    9.9 / 10

    ~MUSIC, VOICES and AUDIO EFFECTS~

    Jeremy Soule was again chosen to create the musical scores for Skyrim after his award winning pieces in Morrowind and Oblivion. He wrote the main theme ‘Dragonborn’ performed by over thirty vocalists and sang in the Draconic language of Skyrim written by Adam Adamowicz.
    Unfortunately the in-game music while suitable and well composed can become mundane and very much a feeling of a copy+paste of Oblivion. In some cases the actual unaltered ‘explore’ background music from Oblivion is played. While the action / danger music is dramatic and supplementary. A great feature is when encountering a Thu’um wall or a Dragon you will notice the superb Dragonborn Theme music makes a thrilling reappearance.


    Over seventy voice actors recorded over 60,000 unique lines of dialogue, some of the actors include Christopher Plummer as Arngeir, Max Von Sydow (who aptly played King Osric in the 1981 movie Conan The Barbarian) as Esbern, Joan Allen as Delphine, Michael Hogan as General Tullius and Vladimir Kulich (who also aptly played Buliwyf in the 1999 movie ‘The 13th Warrior’) as Ulfric Stormcloak. All the performances by these actors are exceptional and unforgettable throughout the story with many more making impressive speeches. Unfortunately despite all this you are still annoyed by recurring lines every time you walk past a guard or talk to a merchant. The voices in individual quests are unique and diverse but when it comes to repeated activities the lines become tiresome and repetitive. This is however countered by updating storyline, which alters general dialogue and the names people use to refer to you. General dialogue is also changed a lot when you start a new career by changing your race or gender, but again after a while slowly degenerates into the same repeated lines.

    The sound effects throughout Skyrim are sharp, varied and highly realistic. Using an all new DirectX Sound Effect engine you’ll encounter thousands of separate sound effects demonstrating the environment and inhabitants to an exact art. To truly appreciate these sound effects I’d recommend wearing full over-ear headphones (surround sound is not as good) and spend a few moments every now and again just listening to the clashing of swords and shields, the thunder in the sky, the howling of the wolves, and the massive array of fantastical creatures and magic brought to life through incredible and inventive captured sounds.

    Dramatic and artistic main theme, some recycled in-game music, impressive voice acting let down by repetitive general dialogue, and a tremendous plethora of sound effects
    8.9 / 10

    ~CULTURE, LANGUAGE AND LORE~

    The diversity of the cultures and history of Skyrim has been thoroughly re-worked to incorporate a believable and interesting world. Instead of a single culture seen in previous titles by Bethesda, Skyrim presents a multi-cultural and colloquially diverse environment. The land includes nine distinct ‘Holds’ which each have their own accents, customs, rituals, and beliefs. Those in the west are mainly loyal to the Empire and in the east to the Stormcloaks but many individuals and separate satellite towns, farms, and fortresses have their own loyalties. Also different races are treat differently, particularly the Khajiit, Orcs, Dark Elves and Argonians which are in some cases even refused entry into cities or strongholds, or live in the slums. In this way the game world reacts strongly to your race and gender, though being the famous Dragonborn will give you a bit of a VIP treatment in most cases. In Skyrim you can become loved or hated, revered or abused, and even defended or attacked based on nothing more than your skin colour.

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    The history and lore of Tamriel is exceptionally detailed and has been built up over many games and books for many years. One of the best ways to indulge your interests is through reading the wide range of books found throughout Skyrim. Most of you may interact with the books merely to gain a skill or use as loot, but I have to urge you to actually read as many of these wonderful tales as possible. Yes by pressing ‘A’ on some books you may gain a boost in a particular skill or update your map with the locations of Daedric Shrines, interesting sites, lost treasures and even triggers to quests, but you will gain great insights into the world and it’s history by reading the books in full. Most are short and fast and tell tales of ancient battles and the conquests of great heroes, while others are fact books offering information on fighting tactics (that actually work). Find out about the customs and laws of races (that can be exploited in gameplay), reveal the secrets of the in-and-outs of ruins and forts (very useful while infiltrating them) and engross yourself into a world of true depth and imagination.

    There are also many other ways to immerse yourself deeply into Skyrim and truly become a part of it’s people. Talk to the elders and ask them about their past and their opinions, study the writing on the walls, take note of the architecture and the construction of the cities and ruins. In appreciating Skyrim wholly you can become lost in a world of imagination and escape the stresses of reality like no other game.
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    Fascinating, profound and diligently worked into the world environment
    10 / 10

    ~ACHIEVEMENTS~

    Skyrim is not played with achievements in mind. Even the most uncompromising Achievement Hunter will be drowned by the unrelenting realism, sophistication and beauty, forced to simply play and enjoy themselves rather than worry about the achievements.

    The majority of the Achievements are tied to major quest completions that are easy to find and if you really have no soul could be rushed on novice. They bear no real complications and are completed unconsciously. Accompanying these are some insignificant ones that unlock as you progress through quest lines, and again these complete themselves. There are also many smaller ones that take no priority such as buying a house and performing basic tasks (like make an item, cook food, chop wood etc) which you will automatically do hundreds of times anyway. Amongst these other unimaginative Achievements are the famous ‘Get to level whatever’, which will happen as you increase your skills and just play the game in general.

    The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimTaking SidesThe Taking Sides achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim worth 13 pointsJoin the Stormcloaks or the Imperial Army

    The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimExpertThe Expert achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim worth 30 pointsReach Level 25

    For some Achievements you will have to go out of your way; and some quest Achievements are at the end of a long line of quests and will require the previous ones to be complete, also some quests are hard to find or activate due to the large scale of the world and the choices you make as you go.

    The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimSidewaysThe Sideways achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim worth 29 pointsComplete 10 side quests

    The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimOne with the ShadowsThe One with the Shadows achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim worth 59 pointsReturned the Thieves Guild to its former glory

    All Achievements can be attained in one playthrough, providing you dabble in all aspects of the game, which I would discourage. You would be more at ease and thorough if you were patient and do at least three full careers choosing Warrior, Mage and Thief (in the race, gender, order and styles you prefer). This would allow you to complete all Achievements without ever thinking about any of them. Obviously you’d gain the ‘Bounty of 1000 gold in each hold’, ‘the picking of 50 locks and pockets’, and the ‘escaping from jail’ a lot easier as a Thief than a Warrior and therefore should just wait ‘til you’re a Thief to do these.

    There are a few collectibles that may require your attention and for some a guide. Find 13 out of the 13 Standing Stones, Learn 20 of the 20 Shouts, find 100 of the over 300 locations, read 50 of the 83 Skill books, and clear 50 of the 150 dungeons. These are comparably easy and shouldn’t cause any stress. Personally I would have had ‘Find and explore all locations, read all books skill or not, and clear all 150 dungeons, and do everything ever one million times over with every race ever, but that's just me.

    The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThu'um MasterThe Thu'um Master achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim worth 67 pointsLearn 20 shouts

    The one Achievement that is quite difficult is the ‘Oblivion Walker’ of collect 15 Daedric Artifacts. There are only 15 that count so you can’t miss any. This is made more difficult as some are missable and because of the wild and unknown locations of the Shrines, the rare and elusive objects required to summon the Daedric Lords, the other strange and random quest triggers and the scope of the quests themselves. If you are not 'of the blood' I’d recommend using my Walkthrough for these, otherwise just take your time and make sure to save often. You’ll eventually not only have this achievement but 100% completion and you can finally say ‘I’ve started Skyrim’.
    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Walkthrough

    Five new achievements have been added by the Hearthfire DLC, similar to the main game these are simple achievements that require you to exploit these new features. None are challenging but one or two are tedious and will require a lot of labour and repetition. A further ten have been added by the 'Dawnguard' expansion, again these are basic achievements to ensure you complete the main quests and experience the main aspects. And another ten are included with 'Dragonborn', although these are slightly more imaginative they are yet again too easy, personally I can't match these small short achievements to such an epic and potentially endless game, but I've never had any problems with them.

    The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimDragonriderThe Dragonrider achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim worth 42 pointsTame and ride 5 dragons

    Mostly necessary and encouraging, but some are too easy and unimaginative
    8.0 / 10

    ~DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT~

    ~HEARTHFIRE~

    Take another sip of Honeymead and sit back in the chair you made with your own two hands at the head of the table you made with your own hands in the house that you built with your own hands. Glance across the room and watch your wife pull a fresh Apple pie out of the oven you built while your children play by the fire you also built from scratch. Yes Hearthfire allows you not only to build but to choose what kind of homes you wish to live in.
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    You are given three pre-set plots of land, a mountain retreat near Dawnstar, a house in the woods near Falkreath or a mansion in the swamps of Morthal. You don't simply buy these neither, you manually and laboriously construct with new building materials unique to Hearthfire. You can plan out your houses with over 25 different designs tailored to your individual preferences, including an Armory with all installations required for weapon and armour making, a general storeroom with copious storage capacity, a Greenhouse to grow any plants you desire, a Trophy room to display your prizes and spoils, a Library, an Alchemy tower, and an enchanted tower. You will be required to mine, purchase, chop, travel and forge a lot and I mean A LOT of times to construct these houses, and many may find this tedious, it is however the Elder Scrolls way where realism is the top priority.

    Along with the houses and features themselves you are also given the chance to build a family. Move your spouse in and hire a steward of your choice, but most importantly adopt a child. You can go to the Orphanage in Riften or you may find some poor orphans in towns and villages- tragic victims of the civil war or other blights in need of a loving parent to take them in.

    Hearthfire adds a real second-life simulation feel to Skyrim and depending on how you take it this will be a massive arduous waste of time or a fantastic addition to an already fundamentally realistic world environment that adds groundbreaking depth and authenticity.
    7.8 / 10

    ~DAWNGUARD~

    The Vampires have returned in large numbers and only the Dawnguard can stop their evil and ambitious plots to cloak the whole world in darkness and death forever. This add-on unveils a truly significant new war developing across all of Skyrim, a war of horror that may very well end all life in Skyrim forever. You are given a choice, a choice of sides, this decision will not only shape your own story and adventures but also dictate the fate of the people of Skyrim.

    Many new features are included with the Dawnguard, new skill trees for the Werewolf and the Vampire Lord with new perks that will increase your power to unlimited levels, and don't worry if you've already been cured of such diseases Dawnguard offers new options to infect and cure yourself with these potent and influential abilities once more. Many new quests aside from the Vampire war have been cunningly distributed throughout the lands, over 80 new people both friend and foe now inhabit the dozens of new full sized and very elaborate dungeons, caves, towers and ruins. Also included is the new option to change your characters appearance as many times as you wish. New weapons, armours and clothing, new ingredients, new Shouts and spells of magnificent imagination, and many new items including skill books, potions, jewellery and unique weapons to aid you in your fight against these horrific new terrors; or should you choose to side with the Vampires themselves you can even use these new found tricks to wage war against Dawnguard.
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    This expansion pack, whilst not as large as Dragonborn, is very special in its own way and in many ways a lot more important to the history and action of Skyrim. The new features it adds are so thoroughly intermixed into the original game that you will be unsure if they were already there all along, waiting to be uncovered, to be explored and solved, to be delved into and exploited by you. Choose your side, choose your new destiny and shape the fate of things to come.

    An incredible new expansion of Skyrim with awesome new quests and features that will have you returning to Helgen to make new characters time and time again
    9.6 / 10

    ~DRAGONBORN~

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    Welcome to Solstheim a strange and wondrous new land shrouded in ash, mystery and blood. A large island sanctuary for the fleeing Dunmer of Morrowind and home to some of the most bizarre and dangerous peoples and creatures in all of Tamriel. You are drawn here by cultists, cultists who attack you with specific orders to kill the Dragonborn, once you defeat them you are drawn to Solstheim on a quest to unravel the secrets of the ones who sent them. You will encounter a massive new land filled with new enemies, new weapons and armour- some of which are the most powerful in the game and new abilities of the most fantastic power. You will find new friends and factions, new cities, villages, dungeons, ruins and wastes to explore, new ingredients and foods and valleys and mountains all covered and concealed in the red ashen obscurity of an island long forgotten- the island of Solstheim.

    Early in the exploration of this land you will discover that the Dragonborn expansion was not simply thrown together and tacked onto Skyrim, its roots and its outreaches intertwine beautifully with the story, characters and environments from the original game. Many elements find their way onto Skyrim before you even step onto the boat, integrated subtly into the lore and the nature of Skyrim. It can be very reminiscent of The Shivering Isles yet with the touches and familiarity of Morrowind, being alone in a new place far away from the safety and understanding of home.

    The new peoples are friendly enough, at first, albeit also a little distant and seemingly confused and worried. It seems Solstheim although more politically peaceful than Skyrim is plagued by many menaces and evils that require the aid of one with great powers and skills, one with the freedom and motivation to intervene with significant results. Without giving too much away you may be the saviour of the whole island or choose to condemn the peoples who have fled their homeland from the disaster of the Red Mountain only to find even more death in their new world.

    You will not be disappointed with the new features of this mammoth add-on, value for money is an understatement when you contemplate the wonders of Solstheim. From the new items crafted with Chitin, Netchbone and the rare and magical Stalhrim, the many new ingredients to completely alter your potential for potions and poisons, ten new achievements to test your capabilities and prowess, new amazing unique weapons with very surprising attributes, new and impressive Shouts with quite astounding powers to the amazing ability to tame and ride Dragons themselves across the red wastes and snow-capped mountains of the glorious new island of Solstheim.

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    A wonderful and captivating fully integrated new world of quests and abilities that will not disappoint
    9.9 / 10

    ~DLC CONCLUSION~

    All three of these new add-ons are not to be missed, if you enjoyed Skyrim at all you will be swept away even further into a world of very well-thought-out and intrinsically designed new quests and features. These expansions are well worth the cost and potentially add hundreds more hours of fascinating and exciting gameplay.

    7.8 + 9.6 + 9.9 = 27.3 / 3
    = 9.1 / 10

    OVERALL CONCLUSION

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    'An awesome and epic stride forward in the history of gaming of which there is no rival and no excuse not to become a part of'.
    = 93.8 / 100

    Skyrim is the latest sequel to the Elder Scrolls series following Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, see my review: https://www.trueachievements.com/Oblivion/reviews.htm#c32842...

    The link below is the best source for general information not only regarding Skyrim but all the Elder Scrolls titles. This interactive encyclopaedia can aid in every aspect of the game and also give you helpful advice to avoid disadvantages and glitches or how to resolve them. It’s also full of interesting facts and secrets that will greatly expand your experience to its limits.

    Source: http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Main_Page

    Any questions please direct them to my inbox: o DEEVIUS o
    5.0
  • Obi JaseObi Jase429,169
    14 Nov 2011
    43 15 19
    It was with trepidation that I put the Skyrim disc into my Xbox. After a five year wait for the follow up to one of the best games ever made (Elder Scrolls: Oblivion) I so desperately wanted it to live up to the hype of all the previews, pre release interviews and general media coverage. I have so far clocked 25+ hours and to say my worries were misplaced is a severe understatement since Skyrim improves on its predecessor in almost every way whilst keeping everything good Bethesda has become famous for.

    The game starts with your character narrowly escaping the death sentence. From here you quickly learn that Skyrim is in the middle of a civil war (where you must choose a side) and that you are a Dragon Born - a long forgotten ability that allows you to absorb the souls of killed dragons. These two elements make up the majority of the main plot arc which will see you travelling the vast expanses of the Skyrim map in many and various adventures. The main story line is roughly 15 hours long but there is literally hundreds of hours worth of side missions and misc objectives to also see if the player has enough time to invest including the return of the Thieves Guild, Fighters Guild (now called the Companions), the Dark Brotherhood and the Mages Guild. On top of this there are reported to be over one hundred caves to explore and unlike Oblivion each environment is individual and dynamic.

    The first noticeable improvement is the graphics and overall look of the game. As you adventure through Skyrim, the northern most point of the Elder Scrolls Universe, you will encounter many diverse settings from large cities to small hilltop settlements and treacherous snow topped mountains to large woodland expanses. What really stand out for such an enormous open world games is the complete attention to detail. Every area seems impeccably designed and fully realised to the point the player will find themselves stopping just to admire certain details such as the auroras flashing across the night sky or a river flowing and spitting towards a waterfall, all whilst the superb soundtrack rises and falls in time to the on screen action.

    Also much improved upon is the character detail. Gone are the chunky and generic looking NPCs of Oblivion and in their place a whole cast of individuals meticulously designed. Bethesda has also updated the character interaction of Oblivion. No longer does the screen zoom in and time freeze when talking to another person. Instead the speech occurs in real time with the background world continuing on as usual. This really adds to the feel of Skyrim being a free flowing, real world environment.

    Typically in RPG games the weakest point tends to be the combat. Skyrim has tackled this issue by introducing dual wielding which basically means any weapon/spell can be equipped to either hand in any combination the player can conceive. This initially seems a small detail but you soon realise the hidden depths allowing for changeable tactics during combat. For example I could use my bow and arrow on a group of enemies when they are far away and easily switch using the new upgraded menu to left hand fire, right hand frost combo when they get closer. As my mana drains I can swap to a sword, axe combo for close quarter combat which may result in the execution style finishing move which is new to the system. When you take into account that each spell can be upgraded and each weapon can have various magical components the combat possibilities are simply staggering.

    Continuing with the improvements Bethesda have completely revamped the levelling system. In Oblivion the player had to choose a class and pinpoint a few key skills which when increased would lead to a level up. The overhaul in Skyrim still sees you pick a class at the beginning of the game but this is more of an overall guide line as opposed to a set in stone choice. Now every action/skill contributes to levelling up and each skill has it own tree (in the form of a constellation system). Each level up sees you choose to increase either mana, health or stamina as well as giving you a perk point which can be used to increase a specific skill constellation of your choice. If you are unsure of which skills you want to increase the perk points can be saved and used at the players discretion. Overall the levelling system is deep, easy to understand and use and allows for complete control over shaping your character.

    In summary The Elder Scolls: Skyrim is a feat of gaming design. Not only is it potentially the game of the year but it might be the best game ever made. The living, breathing world will amaze you, the quest lines will compel you and the game play will keep you coming back for more. In return all it demands is your time -and when it comes to Skyrim, time is something I am more than willing to trade.
    5.0
  • Katosepe321Katosepe32195,052
    16 Nov 2011
    27 17 7
    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is everything gamers expected and more. As the follow-up to Oblivion, arguably one of the best RPG's of all time, people expected a lot and Bethesda delivered. That's not to say that Skyrim is without problems, far from it. Fortunately, there is so much good in all of Skyrim that the problems are easy to ignore.

    I'll start off by saying that if you didn't like the combat in previous Elder Scrolls games, you probably aren't going to change your mind with Skyrim. That being said, combat has changed fairly significantly. The biggest change is in the addition of dual wielding. In previous games, you could assign a one-handed weapon and a shield, or a two-handed weapon and then add a magic attack via right bumper. In Skyrim, you have far more freedom to equip what you want. Basically, everything that uses one hand can be equipped as long as you have a hand available. Also, magic now counts as using up an equipped hand. What this means is, you can use two one-handed weapons to dual wield at the expense of blocking, sword and shield (of which the shield now has attacks of it's own such as shield bashing), a sword and magic spell, or two magic spells. All of these combinations also feel much weightier and no longer feel like the crowbar from Half-Life. Hits feel like hits, magic spells feel like they are doing significant damage and blocking gives you a sense of danger avoided. If you do go the melee route, you'll still get a bit of a sense of button mashing but it's still a big step up from Oblivion.

    Magic has changed a lot, as well. Most of the schools have changed slightly although most have stayed intact (Mysticism is gone but most spells have been shoved over into different schools). Spells now have multiple casting forms though. You can get single-shot spells which work like in previous games where you shoot off a single fireball or cast a healing spell. However, there are also concentration spells. These are weaker than single-shot's but they are held so instead of a fireball, you're now casting a stream of fire onto the enemy or giving yourself constant healing until your magicka runs out. Also, the ability to equip spells to both hands allows you to combine spells in creative ways. While it doesn't technically use magic, the dragon shouts are another new feature. These work more like magic from the last game, equipping them separately from your hands, and using them at any time using the right bumper. They don't use up magicka though, instead having a recharge timer before you can use another shout. To gain shouts, you must find special temples that contain dragon words. These temples are all over the place and it can be joy to find one where you least expected it. Shouts can have all kinds of effects from giving you a burst of speed to shooting a fireball and all shouts have three levels of power that you can increase by finding more dragon words. You then learn a shout by using a dragon soul as an almost currency. Dragon souls are gained by, you guessed it, killing dragons.

    Sneaking and thievery has had both good and bad changes made to it. First of all, sneak and pickpocketing are now two separate skills. This helps thieves level up faster but also means they have to maintain multiple skills to keep up with their enemies and quest goals. Sneaking feels more like Morrowind than Oblivion in that NPC's are far more aware of their surroundings and you no longer gain skill experience if even one person sees you in a crowd. That being said, there are quite a few stealth missions throughout Skyrim and most are an absolute blast to play. Also, if you upgrade your perks via stealth, you can give your daggers or arrows a huge boost in power. With all the perks available, you could get a x3 multiplier for a one-handed sneak attack OR, you could get a x15 multiplier for using a dagger in a sneak attack. Archery also feels more useful, especially against the dragons who love to fly above you, sending waves of fire on top of you.

    Leveling up is also very different. Instead of picking classes and signs and all that, you now create your character through your actions. Every skill contributes to leveling up but higher skill levels bring you closer to level ups than lower ones. So increasing your one-handed to 60 is going to get you much closer than increasing your smithing to 30. You also no longer need to sleep when you level up, instead you simply go to your skills menu and pick your stat/perk. Which brings us into the new leveling up system. This has been streamlined significantly. To some, this will be a great change and others will hate the changes. Attributes are gone. No more strength, intelligence, willpower, etc. Instead when you level up, you get to choose whether to increase your health, magicka or stamina (stamina also increases your carry weight). Then you pick a perk. Each skill has it's own perk tree, making perks a lot of fun to decide between but the main stats feel barely incremental at best. Increasing your health by 10 every level will definitely help you out in the end but on a level-by-level basis, it makes very little change. Also, if you are a hoarder like me and like to carry tons of things around with you, you have to choose to increase stamina which will only increase your carry weight by 5. While you start with 300 carry weight, if this becomes a problem, you have very little options in the way of fixing this. Fortunately, there is a perk in Pickpocketing that lets you increase this by 100, but still.

    The world of Skyrim is very different from Cyrodiil or Morrowind. Not better, not worse, just different. There are nine major cities and many other minor cities however, you have to find each one in order to fast travel. No more instant fast traveling to all the major towns. Also, it's not as easy as going in a big circle, either. All the towns are very far apart. Also, none of them are as big as the towns in Oblivion. They have a feel more like Morrowind, in that regard. The world itself is as you would expect if you've been watching the trailers or know anything about Elder Scrolls lore. Skyrim is hugely mountainous and very snowy. There is a bit of variety in some of the southern plains where you can find some lakes and swampland but mostly it's icy mountains. Fortunately, these icy mountains look fantastic from a distance. The landscapes are gorgeous and you will almost certainly have a moment where you just stare at the fantastic images in front of you. It's too bad, really, that up close, most of these textures look horrendous, and by horrendous, I mean like early original Xbox horrendous. Still, the people look great and you have to really be looking to notice the textures much.

    Dungeons have a much greater variety to them throughout Skyrim. You'll find that Dwemer ruins make a return from Morrowind as well as creepy caves, abandoned watch towers, and even a dark, Underworld style area that is just fantastic to explore.

    Some problems that you will find are mostly a matter of opinion but you will almost certainly take issue with something. Crafting is greatly evolved although not always to good effect. Making or improving sets of armor is fun but cooking or smelting ore into ingots feels a lot like busy work. You will also find that at the beginning, you will be so overwhelmed by all the crafting things you can do, you won't know what's important and what's not. I spent about 20 minutes trying to find a woodsmans axe only to find that I didn't need to cut wood for anything in particular. Conversations have also changed to feel much more natural but at the expense of creating many characters feel less real. Instead of having the zoom in conversation system, Skyrim creates natural conversations that occur while the world around is still moving. Also, no longer do you have to wade through hours of repeated dialogue to find the one NPC that responds to a question differently. All dialogue choices are unique or bring up unique options with that NPC. That being said, not all NPC's have things to say, this provides plenty of NPC's that just wander around and say nothing worth listening to. While most quests are phenomenal and are completely worth the adventure, even for a minor fetch quest, these make the tame quests feel all that much more pointless. When one fetch quest takes you on a great adventure up mountains to some ancient ruins that culminate in a completely unexpected room filled with waterfalls and a dragon word temple, it makes the fetch quest that takes you to a tiny cave to kill some bandits feel very mundane. It's a give and take, one that mostly ends up good but can create a feeling of disappointment in the lesser quests.

    Despite its problems, Skyrim is easily one of the best RPG's to come out for this platform, or any other platform for that matter. If you were a fan of previous Elder Scrolls games, you have no reason to pass this up. If you didn't like the previous games, come with a sense of hesitancy but certainly give this game a chance. It may have the changes you've finally been looking for.

    Rating: 9/10
    5.0
  • Balsin FaseBalsin Fase162,096
    01 Mar 2012
    15 13 2
    If there is one game that can make me break my rule about finishing a game before reviewing it, it's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I mean, when can you say that you've actually finished it? When the story mode is over? That barely even scratches the surface of the content in this game, not even putting you through a tenth of the dungeons and caverns. Do I say it's when I've finished every guild? Well, that still leaves literally hundreds of random missions given by townsfolk. It is a huge game, one that I'd be hard pressed to ever say I completed. Trying to do so, though, has been a blast.

    As I said, Skyrim is a huge area. It might not look like much from maps you've seen, but I'll tell you that simply walking from one end to the other will take hours. Then again, it's hard to walk in a straight line when there are all sorts of temples, caves, mines, towns, shrines, bandit camps, broken fortresses, scuttled ships, and random encounters to come across every few feet. If you like exploration in any way, this game could keep you busy for days just walking around and trying to find everything. You can't take more than a few steps without getting a hint about some new structure just over the horizon. Once the first mission was over, I literally just explored new locations for days.

    The drag is, an old nemesis was back: mountains. Skyrim is a mountainous area, and the developers have created some beautiful vistas using them. The thing that bothers me is when some place I'm looking for is on the other side of that mountain. Now, these mountains are huge, and if I've got a set location I'm working toward, I'll try my best to walk the straightest line I can to get to it. That usually means me trying to tromp my way over a spot I was never meant to cross, and having varying levels of success doing it. I will hop and press up against every inch of rock on a mountain for twice as long as it would take me to go around it, something that has been a problem for me in Fallout 3 and Mass Effect as well. I can't help but spend my time trying to do this, so it's not really a problem with the game itself. I know I'm not the only person out there who's tried to shimmy up the side of a mountain, though, so I imagine this aspect bothered other people as well.

    But like I said, it's my own problem. I'd never ask them to take out the beautiful mountain ranges that make this game so visually striking. They may hinder my ability to walk where I want to, but they make up for it by looking incredible. These rocky places go a long way to making the game feel gigantic and desolate. Walking across the cliffs of a snow-covered mountain, fighting off trolls and wolves, gives you a sense of scale that I haven't seen in many other games before. Looking out from a high peak and seeing most of the world laid out before you while knowing that it took you an hour to get there just drives home how small you are in this giant, open world.

    From that distance, everything looks incredible. The plains, forests, lakes, and ruins all look spectacular once you spy them in the distance. Up close, things still look pretty good, but they could use a bit more work. It looks like a game from a few years ago, with people looking doughy or a bit square in places. The hair in this game is one place it looks pretty noticeable, but to be honest, I haven't seen a game that did a convincing job of hair yet. The people and places aren't going to win any design awards when you get up close to them, but this game was never meant to be viewed through a magnifying glass. It was meant to be seen at a distance, looking in on the giant world available to you.

    Rage took up three discs. Three. Now, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim somehow fits on one. I can't even comprehend how that works. While I'm sure some sacrifices were made for looking at things up close on the Xbox 360, but given just how many places were crammed onto one disc, I can forgive them. I can't make myself care about ugly hair when I have a few hundred dungeons available to explore, some of them almost the size of the map itself. I know I keep repeating this, but for the sixty dollars you spend on this game, you are getting so much play time that it's ridiculous.

    You can take the game in any direction you want, too. Maybe you don't feel like playing the main quest, deciding to become a professional assassin instead. That's available to you, through in-game missions or just by the fact that you can kill whoever you feel, short of important story characters. Maybe you want to rob houses. You can do that as well, breaking into whatever building falls across your path. You can fight whoever you want, take whatever you want, and go wherever you want. The game never tells you that what you're doing isn't all right or that it makes you evil in some way. You're given one of gaming's finest toy boxes and told to do what you like, and it is great.

    Games like Grand Theft Auto invented the open world concept, but they were just shells. Sure, you could hop into any car on the street and kill pedestrians, but these people had no meaning. Each random person was just a fluke spawn, something the game created just to fill up the space. In Skyrim, the people have set paths. They all have names and varying levels of importance. If you were to go on a killing spree, you'd find that your pool of available missions and things to do would go down in a hurry. Also, the buildings aren't just huge cubes meant to take up space. Every building in Skyrim is open for you to explore, or only just locked away behind a simple mechanism. The world is actually open to you in a meaningful way, and while you decisions aren't affecting some morality meter, they will have real consequences for you. It gives the game a real sense of being open and free, rather than allowing you to make hundreds of unimportant decisions instead.

    On top of all this, the combat and gameplay are great. First-person medieval combat makes me wonder why I've played turn-based RPGs all this time. I still love me some old RPGs, but there's not much quite like slamming a huge hammer into an orc's head from up close, or picking off a distant enemy with a well-aimed arrow. Sneaking through dungeons, creeping every step of the way until you bury a knife into an unsuspecting enemy's back never seems to get old. The adventure feels up-close and immersive when you're looking out over a giant's camp through your own eyes, and it's something that needs to be played to be understood.

    Maybe some of that stuff might get boring, though. Even so, you can still change your play style on the fly with the game's intricate leveling system. As you level up, you can pick from health, stamina, and magicka, but you also get to add a point into perks that will make you better at certain tasks. These reward people for playing in a certain way for a long time, allowing you to make some powerful improvements to your character. If you're partial to the bow, you can take perks that will slow time, let you draw an arrow faster, or deal more damage. If you change your mind on your play style, there's nothing stopping you from switching over to magic and putting points into that from here on out. It's up to you.

    On top of that, you can level up each individual skill just by using it. Changing what weapon you use is as simple as using the thing for a few hours. If you stop using one-handed weapons and switch to two-handed ones, you'll gain experience just from burying that weapon into enemy heads. Even some of your passive skills, like sneaking or what armor you wear, all get affected by what you're doing. There is never any point where you'll feel that your time is being wasted, as every move you make goes into making your character better in the way that you would want it to.

    With its colossal world to roam around in, and its gameplay style that will suit whatever way you want to play the game, you're left with an incredible package that is a testament to what a single player game can do. Without a hint of multiplayer, this game offers a variety of tasks and quests that could easily keep you busy for hundreds of hours, if you're willing to let it. This game is literally as long and engrossing as you want it to be. If you can only buy one game for a very, very long time, I'd highly recommend it. When you start it up, though, make sure you don't have to work the next day. You'll quickly find out why.

    If you liked The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you might also like...

    Fallout 3 (360/PS3/PC) – The last game that had me looking at the clock in shock, realizing that it was six-thirty in the morning. With a huge world filled with dungeons and locales, it'll grab you and keep you for hours. The only drag is that I find the guns don't really change much, leaving you with very little reason to look for new ones. The loot system is kind of boring, but otherwise the game is good fun. Plus, how else are you going to see a city get nuked by your own hand?

    The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360/PS3/PC) – The Dark Brotherhood quests alone are worth the price of admission for this game. While it has a really weird leveling system that can completely screw you over (Don't sleep. Ever. Trust me, not sleeping will save your life.), there's still an amazing, but dated, game underneath. It doesn't look that great any more, but you can't deny the fun you'll have with it, especially for the few bucks it'll cost you now.

    Like what you read? Visit www.joelcouture.com, www.fanboyscloset.com, or follow Joel_Couture on Twitter for more video game ranting, as well as free monthly fantasy short stories!
    5.0
  • 3 7 2
    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

    This is just a short review based on Graphics and Sound.

    Graphics: 9.5/10
    Amazing visuals and effects, Bethesda Softworks have really put their hearths into this one. The one thing i really liked about this game is the distance view quality, how they put a (highly detailed) flower and a huge mountain in the same picture at the same time and they bout look the same - don't see that often in games.

    Sound: 10/10
    With amazing combat and explorations comes amazing sound effects and sounds, starting from rivers flouting and ending with the mighty dragons screaming in the sky - Truly amazing experience!

    Combat: 9.5/10
    There is a huge choice of weapons that you can use to defeat the dragons and other creatures in Skyrim, the tense moment when a dragons flies over you head you know you will have a hard fight on your hands.

    Also with the huge amount of skills that YOU decide witch you want to use in combat. So if you want to use a Sword with a Axe or Fireball with a Shield, you can do that.
  • MTpocKeTSMTpocKeTS65,413
    23 Dec 2011 23 Dec 2011
    5 13 0
    Great game. if ya playd fallout 3, jump in. its nearly as good as.
    TIPS FOR BEGINNERS:
    -getintg married = 100 gold a day
    -dont level stamina past 150
    -buy lockpics at every vendor
    -when picking locks fail every time til lockpick reach 20 tehn pick it
    -ignore miscellanous obj cos of solitude tag game glitch
    -ignore 100000gold achiev
    -buy skills whenever possible/every level up
    -sell everything u can
    -always fill 100% of ur inventory
    -use skill point to buy "healing also restores stamina"
    -fight every dragon
    -dragon bones and scales are pricy
    -...and... only have one objective at a time
    good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck good luck
    5.0