Skyrim is one of the most gargantuan undertakings gamers will experience all year. The sheer size of the adventure, both in terms of its environment and in the amount of activities available to the player, is mind-blowing.It’s huge in scale, epic in its breadth and scope, and will occupy such vast quantities of your time that you may find yourself losing sleep, dodging work and testing the patience of family and friends while you play it. Most of all, it’s a game destined to cast a shadow over the rest of the genre for several years to come, just as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion did before it. Despite competition from Fallout 3, Mass Effect 2 and The Witcher 2, Oblivion has remained the defining RPG of this hardware generation.A pleasantly brief introduction sets up the plot: Skyrim is in the middle of a revolt, you’ve been sentenced to death, and dragons have just shown up. Good luck!
Instead, you earmark items in your inventory as “favorites” to add them to a master list that can be called up at any time with a press of the D-pad. From here you can easily map any of your amassed weapons, spells or powers to the left and right triggers by pressing the associated button (you can press any button to map a power to the “Power” button). This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The game’s developer, Bethesda, has banked a rather lucrative existence on creating open-world RPGs that are filled to bursting with content. Technically speaking, the visuals aren’t as detailed or beautifully lit as those of Gears of War 3 or Uncharted 3, and while the character models and facial animation are much improved on those of Oblivion or Fallout 3, they still don’t match the work being done in the Mass Effect series. Wherever you decide to head, your journey is split between scrambling up treacherous rocks and skidding down heart-stopping slopes. The landscape is a challenge, and travel becomes a game. One fairly involved “quest” that I discovered never once appeared in Quest Log; I came across an interesting artefact in a cave with a book nearby. That book pointed me to another location in the world where I could find the necessary items for making the artefact in question “work.”The reason for this is two-fold. First, the game’s production values work hard to immerse the player in Bethesda’s sword and sorcery world. For a game of this size, the quality of the graphics and the attention to detail is awe-inspiring. The thought that has gone into the art direction makes each isolated village, crumbling ruin and underground tomb feel distinctive, yet part of some cohesive whole, with a history, a style and a culture informing every carving and every forged motif. It’s also one of those rare games where the visuals, sound and music merge perfectly together into one experience that has you in its thrall. The game has a central plot – and it’s a good one – but Skyrim is a game where side quests never feel like side quests, just another facet of your mission to be the best hero (or anti-hero) you can be. You can’t turn a corner of a mountain path without spotting a ruin that demands investigation or a bandit camp that could be cleared out, and each settlement has at least one decent subplot, whether it’s a serial killer on the loose or a mysterious fire that might just be linked into something darker.
Skyrim overall is almost identical to Oblivion and Morrowind. It doesn’t feel fundamentally different in any way. It’s just more engaging, and more fun. A lot more. There’s a visual boost of course, but it’s not quite as dramatic as you might think. That’s not to say Skyrim isn’t beautiful; it is, in so many ways, and it’s a more varied landscape than Oblivion‘s Cyrodiil was. Around every corner and at every new town they wander into, there’s a monster to fight, a character to talk to and some new discovery to be made. On the console formats, combat effectively comes down to the two trigger buttons, with each controlling one hand, and whatever spell, shields or weapons you like assigned to either trigger (though bows and two-handed weapons, for obvious reasons, will occupy both). You can block incoming blows and charge spells or attacks by holding the trigger before release. And by combining attacks with movements, you can unleash different and more devastating moves.These were sparse and quickly repetitive in Oblivion, but they’re neither in Skyrim: it’s teeming with fascinating places, all distinct. It was 40 hours before I blundered into a dungeon that looked like one I’d seen before, and even then what I was doing there was drastically different.Plus, if you want to play as a warrior-mage or a dual-wielding axe maniac, it’s easy. Just assign a spell and weapon, or the arms of your choice. You can even set favourites, giving you rapid access to a list of your most-used spells and weapons at the touch of a button. The right and left triggers wield whatever weapon, shield or magic spell the player assigns to them. The inventory soon starts filling up with useful items that the player can assign to the D-pad for a quick weapon change act in the middle of combat.The combat tactics don’t seem to change much from dragon to dragon, so the fights pretty much boil down to: Watch dragon fly, wait until dragon lands or hovers, deal damage to dragon, rinse and repeat.
User Reviews –
In its worst moments Skyrim stumbles over its confused artificial intelligence, shutting itself down and its half-done inventory system. In its best ones Skyrim is the king of the new age of the genre.
Let me clear things up by assuring you that none of the quest bugs, graphical issues, gameplay glitches, or unexplained crashes I’ve encountered can change the fact that I played this amazing RPG for well over 100 hours in the past couple weeks and absolutely loved it.
You will have to spend dozens of hours to fully explore Skyrim. Like any other Bethesda game, it has its share of imperfections and broken promises, but it’s exciting and fascinating nevertheless. Wait for a couple of patches to come out, download the best mods, tighten the screws in the SkyrimPrefs.ini file, and you’re good to go for a virtual Christmas vacation.
This is every bit the Oblivion sequel fans have been waiting for, a bigger game set in a bigger world. You can still do everything that you did before, and then some. Thank the design of the world for that; the land of Skyrim feels alarmingly real at times.may your boss believe you when you phone in claiming you have the plague, may your significant other be tolerant and understanding, and may your friends know you well enough not to make enquiries with the police if they don’t hear from you in over a month.