Friday, 25 November 2011

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Every once in a while the video game industry is blessed with a world that is enchanting, engrossing and believable. Traversing the northern realm of Tamriel, Skyrim, you will lose hundreds of hours exploring this vast world, engaging with the entertaining characters and battling a variety of fascinating enemies. Make no mistake, this isn’t a game you can just pick up and play every once in a while, Skyrim demands your time and respect, but in exchange you will be rewarded with a mesmerizing world filled with enchantment and mystery. The journey is for the brave, but there’s help along the dark roads and refuge across Skyrim’s towns and villages – your goal is make a name for yourself as a hero of Skyrim and a slayer of dragons, but can you conquer it?

Bringing together elements of Oblivion and Fallout 3, Skyrim takes Bethesda’s RPG ventures to the next level as you wake up on a cart being transported to your execution. With no memory or recollection as to why you’re there, it all seems to be over before your adventure even begins. You choose a race inspired from the series but no class, put your head on the execution pedestal and stare into oblivion. Fortunately for you, oblivion is shaped like a dragon that lands before you and thwarts the execution – a sign from the Gods or pure chance? Running away from the dragon you scavenge for a weapon and get yourself to safety as the beast ravages the village.

Respite feels good, but the expansive world around you is a terrifying place. After escaping you are faced with the gruelling question of where to next? Fans of Bethesda’s RPG’s will be more than accustomed to being thrown into the wild and finding ways to fend for themselves. Do you find the next village or do you traverse the forest and mountains further in hope of finding a camp of people? These are the types of choices that Skyrim forces upon you from segment to segment, there is never a right or wrong answer, there’s merely what you think is the best choice for survival.

Skyrim opts for a fascinating way to implement your characters’ role-play mechanics, allowing you to enhance your skills as you use them in the game. Fight using a double-handed weapon and your double-handed skill increases, wear heavy armour and your defensive proficiency in armour increases, while using spells will make you a more effective caster. However, to ensure a sense of control, each time you level up you are given one perk point and allowed to increase either health, stamina or magicka. While your character is moulded throughout your journey, you can still point his progress in the direction you believe is more beneficial for your play through. This alongside your particular races special abilities and the Shout powers you learn from ancient ruins and slaying dragons, all make an individual character catering to your own personal needs.

Of course there’s only so much tinkering in the menus you can do before you have to put that sword or spell to action. Engaging the enemy has certainly been improved since Oblivion and Skyrim ensures a fluid and carnage-filled battle each and every time. With a variety of weapons at your disposal, hand-to-hand combat is entertaining and has been tweaked to feel more realistic as the sound of steel clangs until your enemy falls. Taking a leaf out of Fallout 3’s book, slow-motion kills are also present and act as executions should your character finish off a foe in dramatic fashion – these animations are very entertaining and add a sense of impact to the battle. Of course you can always play the long-distance game, keeping away from foes and engaging them with bows and magic. Although you will find that swarming foes will require close combat to execute, but you can combine combat styles effectively to put together a deadly character capable of handling any situation. Finally, should your morality favour avoiding combat, opting for a stealthier assassin like approach could be the appropriate course of action? It’s very possible to sneak around Skyrim and avoid mass confrontation, but doing so can raise suspicion and hamper the peace surrounding that particular town or city.

Indeed Skyrim does an excellent job reacting to everything going on in the realm. Deaths of important individuals and destruction of towns and cities all have serious consequences – tales are told and whispers travel of your endeavours and misdeeds. You mould your characters’ path with your own morality, acting as a hero or as a villain – both styles of gameplay are fun and can be rewarding in their own ways, stealing items leads to better equipment quicker while earning rewards off town-folk can bring about further presents and help later in your quests. However you decide to shape Skyrim, all of your actions will have consequences.

Skyrim prides itself with a huge variety of content. The story alone will suck you in for hours, but it’s the side quests that really flesh out this beautiful world. Seamlessly pointless or minuscule side quests can end up being epic journeys that could lead to huge rewards and bonuses. You can find yourself lost in Skyrim with the sheer volume of content to get stuck into as factions fight for your loyalty, wars require your blade and citizens need your help – the question you must ask is for whose benefit will you get involved? Skyrim’s current problems are almost as important as Tamriel’s history – scattered across the world are a variety of logs and books explaining Skyrim’s history and past events – fans of fictional reading will definitely get a kick out of finding these books and taking the time to read into and discover the rich history behind the world you inhabit.

Unfortunately not all is wonderful in the world of Skyrim – fans of the series will be prepared for a range of technical issues that come complimentary with any Bethesda RPG. While incredibly beautiful from a distance, environments don’t look as good up close. Character models are quite impressive but lip syncing issues come about every once in a while. Some characters may fall through ceilings and things can randomly appear out of nowhere – you don’t quite know why these things happen, but they don’t occur frequently enough to ruin an otherwise magical experience. Skyrim does excel with beautiful audio and arguably one of the best soundtracks of any modern game and for the most part all dialogue is engaging and worth listening to.

It’s hard to define a perfect game, but when one comes along with the ability to suck you in and not let go, you have to admit there’s an air of success surrounding the title. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim does this, but in such spectacular fashion that it warrants being placed in the category of the perfect game. An expansive and engrossing world filled to the brim with interesting and entertaining characters helps make Skyrim a believable place, a place you care about, a place where your characters’ history will be forged in blood. Dive into this adventure if you dare, but be prepared to sacrifice hundreds of hours as Skyrim takes over your life as you begin to lose track of reality.

9.0 | Gameplay |
Bethesda has refined their role-play formula to make the combat more fluid and the level-up system easier to implement. There’s always something to do, be it quests, battles or exploration, Skyrim caters for every type of role-play gamer. With the inclusion of Dragons as boss like characters, the game now has clear flag point elements throughout your adventure, allowing you to mark your success in a clearer fashion.
8.0 | Presentation |
A beautiful world is hindered slightly by occasional technical hitches. With so much content you can understand the sheer difficulty to ensure everything runs smoothly but we can still hope that one day, Bethesda will unveil a perfect role-play experience with no issues whatsoever.
10 | Replay Value |
Running through the campaign is only a tiny portion of this adventure – Skyrim is a world full of wonder and mystery. Exploring every nook and cranny is a whole load of fun and discovering side quests is as if not more entertaining than the main story itself.

9.0 | Final Thoughts |
Bethesda takes The Elder Scrolls another step forward as Skyrim takes over the minds of many role-play gamers. Enchanting gameplay with depth in story, narrative and environment ensures that everything that happens feels meaningful – everything you do has a consequence and it’s up to you to survive and flourish or walk down the path to your own destruction. The world is in your hands as your characters’ history unfolds before your very eyes.

Igor Kharin

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