A beautiful sprawling fantasy
The Elder Scrolls is a series that I have been keeping an eye on for a long time now, watching it grow from game to game. Skyrim marks the fifth entry into the series and it also grabbed me far more than any of the others, turning me from a casual observer into a fan in over 40 hours play so far.
It is a beautiful, sometimes buggy (minor ones for me) epic fantasy that lets you play at your own pace and it deserves every accolade, every single bit of praise and every score that it has garnered from all the outlets so far. Never before have I been so immersed in a world that anyone has created, not since I opened up my original Dark Sun box set back in the days of TSR. Yeah, I am that old...but not old enough to be set in my ways concerning video game rpgs.
So in honour of Skyrim, this review is going to be a little different compared to many of my others.A harsh winter wonderland...
I have poured (so far) over 40 hours into Skyrim and this landscape has enthralled me at every turn. The world that Bethesda has crafted for this outing is nothing short of magnificent, with enough adventure to last a gamer nearly a lifetime. Or according to the marketing speak, 300+ hours. I can believe it too...
I have travelled for miles across snowy wastes through a harsh blizzard, revenge burning in my heart mixed with sorrow, following a group of stalwart warriors into an ancient tomb for one last great send-off. I have fought bears high in the mountains, watching a mighty dragon swoop down and breathe gouts of chilling frost as an angry giant involved himself in the battle. I have slain said dragon, absorbed its soul and unlocked the power to speak words that conjure flame. All in first or third person I might add...and third person combat works quite well.
I am no longer a simple gamer in this land, I am the Dovhakiin, the dragonborn and I am totally immersed in this world from the moment the first scene rolled into view...this is a testament to how Bethesda approached the design of Skyrim from the get go. I have crafted magical weapons, made potions to save my own life in the depths of ancient barrows, I have created glass armour and weapons and I haven’t even really touched the main quest line.
I have done more in those 40 hours than I have ever done in any single player game in a long time. I am not bored either...not by a long shot. Every single mile that takes me across new terrain brings something new and interesting, from long hidden tombs to a sudden dragon attack or a random quest event that somehow makes sense. I can play the kind of character that I want to play, I can do the kind of things that I want to do and most of all I can grow this character my own way. The gameplay is simple and rewarding, the difficulty scales pretty well and there are challenges that I cannot overcome yet via brute force. So I must think tactically and use the resources at my disposal to deal with the situation. I could go into length about the control systems and how the game plays, but really, it’s an experience unlike any I have experienced and the gameplay is easy to pick up and tricky to master.
Combat is brutal, and it can end swiftly if you don’t have your wits about you. There are a variety of attacks, you can block if you choose one handed, two-handed or sword and shield – if you go down a dual weapon path, you get more damage and frequent hits, you however cannot block. This makes sense, since you’re focussed on getting more damage onto your foes and less concerned with actually protecting yourself.
You are not constrained by character class either, rather like Dark Souls; you can be the class you desire. If you want to mix up magic, ranged, stealth and anything else, you can. There are no real constraints; of course as you level up, you’re going to be thin on the ground in some areas compared to others. As for levelling up, Skyrim approaches things a little differently than most games in terms of experience and skills.
Everything you do in Skyrim, from sneaking around, fighting, taking damage, blocking and picking locks (for example) earns you something towards the skill that you’re using at the time. Eventually that skill levels up and gives you a push towards your next level. Smith a bunch of bracers and smithing will increase – eventually that skill will let you make even better items and weapons, and it will also lead to you gaining in a level. Upon which you’ll need to choose, Magicka – Health or Stamina as an increase and place a perk into one of the many skills that you’re eligible for.
You could place a perk in two-handed and gain some more damage, or the chance to decapitate your enemies. Do you wish to be sneakier? Assasssin type perhaps? Well, look to popping some into Sneaking and becoming better at that. The choice is yours and this method of skill and level advancement means that you’re in control of that character from start to end.