The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: November 11, 2011
For the last few weeks, Skyrim has been owning my soul. Other video games have taken a backseat to the massive, incomparable world of Bethesda Softworks’ latest RPG. Despite warnings from others, I didn’t expect this to happen. Sure, I had played and enjoyed Oblivion, but I was able to expand my playing time with that one by spreading it out over months. With Skyrim, I was hooked, line and sinker.
I have put about 30 hours into Skyrim so far, and I still feel like I have barely scratched its surface. Better yet, I am still *eager* to play more. This is a rarity with me, especially when it comes to single player games. Usually I will tear through the main campaign or quest line, work on some random side quests here and there, and then move on to something else. I have a habit of trying to maximize my time by playing as many new games as possible. With Skyrim, that all went out the window.
Much of that credit goes to the impressive in-game world that allows for a seemingly infinite amount of possibilities. After starting the game and going through its mandatory opening sequence (in a nutshell, you are about to be beheaded before a dragon appears and wipes out the town), you are then dropped into this world alone with the freedom to do whatever you like. There is a quest to start, sure, but you can just skip this entirely if you wish. I felt obligated to check out the nearby town, as recommended, but after that I just said “screw it” and started wandering around on my own.
One of my favorite aspects of Skyrim, and possibly the biggest curse to some, is that it is so easy to get sidetracked. I tend to start up a quest and head out in that direction, only to find a new enticing path or cave or dungeon or whathaveyou, which I promptly decide is of greater importance to explore. The ability to just get lost in the game world and explore whatever looks appealing is simply amazing. See that mountain in the distance? Go ahead and climb it. Wait, is that a sunken ship in that lake over there? Shit, I need to check that out. Oh wait, there’s a bandit lair on that ridge. I bet they have some good loot.
Skyrim’s countless questlines (divided into main, side and miscellaneous) provide all sorts of opportunities to explore new locations as well. The quests offer a wide variety of stories to go with them, offering you the opportunity to join more “evil” factions if you desire. Two mainstays from Oblivion make welcome reappearances: the Dark Brotherhood (where you act as a hitman/assassin for hire) and the Thieves Guild (where you use stealth capabilities while stealing from others). Throw in all sorts of oddball errands and requests, including many of which that are just bizarre and/or hilarious, and you have all the makings for a game that never gets old.
Perhaps best of all is that your character is entirely customizable, meaning you can play the way that *you* want to regardless of your selected race. Be a warrior, a mage, a necromancer, a thief, a marksman. Whatever you like. There are dozens of perks available to help level up your character in your envisioned mold. You can even find areas scattered around the various in-game towns to create your own potions, weapons and equipment. Hell, if you feel like doing menial labor jobs, there are options to do that as well.
All of this is presented in a beautiful, snowy Nordic environment. No matter where you turn, you are bound to find some sort of eye candy, whether it be breathtaking waterfalls, lakes covered in ice, or blizzardous mountains. Skyrim’s visuals are a huge improvement over Oblivion — just wait until you happen across a late-night aurora borealis. I don’t know if there is a better game that captures the cold, wintry feel present in Skyrim.
If it isn’t clear by now, I love this game. Skyrim holds its own against the last two Fallout games, both of which are personal favorites of mine, and its fantasy setting lends itself to all sorts of possibilities. There are some bugs to be found, such as characters/enemies getting stuck on walls and/or disappearing, as well as issues with graphical draw-ins, but these are to be expected with an in-game world this vast. These problems are incredibly minute in scope, and do not hinder the overall gameplay experience in any way.
Simply put, Skyrim is fantastic. Just be warned: this may consume your life.