Title: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Platform: PS3, 360, PC
Release Date: November 11, 2011
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
– Large immersive world to explore and breathe
– Tons of quest to complete
– Radiant AI adds more life to the cities and villagers
– Beautifully crafted and designed dungeons
– Melee combat is clunky
– Glitches and Bugs aplenty
Minimum System Requirements
- Operating System: 7/Vista/XP PC (32 or 64 bit)
- CPU: Dual Core 2.0GHz or equivalent processor
- RAM: 2 GB
- HDD: 6 GB
- Graphics Card: 512 MB card
- Sound Card: DirectX 9 Compatible
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
Reviewed by FrontalSpy
2011 has been a packed year full of stellar, outstanding games. The holiday season was the most packed portion of the year with many anticipated sequels from popular and successful franchises. One of the most anticipated of 2011 was the next instalment in the highly acclaimed RPG The Elder Scrolls; Skyrim. Hyped unto the unimaginable, Skyrim has many expectations to meet especially after Bethesda Game Studios worked on the acclaimed Fallout 3. Will The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim stay with a niche audience, be it Fallout with swords or forge its own league and fans as its predecessor did before?
Set 200 years after the Oblivion Crisis (Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), Elder Scrolls V takes us to the northern most state of Tamriel called Skyrim. Home to the brute Nords, Skyrim is a harsh, bitter cold place with blizzards and aplenty. A civil war has erupted between the Empire and the Stormcloaks and the war has the High King of Skyrim murdered by the leader of the Stormcloaks. But something anyone never would’ve expected occurred, the return of the Dragons- thought extinct eras ago. You play as the Dovahkiin- Dragonborn- the only one that has the power to get rid of the dragons once and for all. As the Dovahkiin, you must venture across the harsh landscape and find out how the dragons are returning and rid them forever.
Many of Bethesda’s Open RPGs never has a strong story line, they’ve always been popular with the many side quests that side-track the player and possibly, not let the player even touch the main story at all. It’s all the side quests that are just as detailed and rewarding as the main quest that will keep players sucked into the world. It’s this philosophy that amazes everyone how you can still enjoy the game, play hundreds of hours and still only finish the tutorial. Many of the side quest range from collecting items from dungeons, speaking to villagers, stealing items or even eliminating nosey and dangerous dragons that threaten citizen’s lives.
The world of Skyrim is large and immersive, looks beautiful, and is filled with wildlife, landmarks and various quests. Like in previous games, you have the entire world to explore, from the deep depth of the freezing waters to the tallest mountains that touch the sky. All of the land is free to roam, there is nothing to block your path between the major cities and reaching one end of the map to the other will take serious time. Throughout Skyrim there are many unique and interesting locations to explore or keep track of. These include various caves, dungeons, settlements or cities and each one is vital to many of the quests- or just some time wasting fun.
Your map will be your best friend in travelling to point A to B. On your map are marked the locations of interest when you discover them, and once discovered will allow you to fast travel to them. Fast travelling will save immense amounts of time, as you get to your location in no time at all in real time but the time passed to travel from A to B in-game will still exist. Horses are also an alternative to running about or fast-travelling, you can buy them in stables or steal some wild horses and gallop on them around. While horse riding is better than in Oblivion, it still feels stiff and awkward. Another method is by paying the services of carriages to get you around the major cities.
Dungeons and caves are plentiful around Skyrim, and all of them are filled with mysteries and danger. Bandits, bears, giant spiders, witches and disgusting Hagravens could be in the very dungeons and caves you found- but battling these dangerous foes could yield some very good treasure, or some cabbage. Unlike the uninspired dungeons in Oblivion, many of the danger infested places are hand crafted and well designed. There are many beautiful and unusual sights underground and some can even be considered art. This careful attention and the well-designed dungeons- pathing and level wise- adds more depth and a more reason to explore Skyrim. The well designed monsters and such are all fitted well into the Skyrim lore and dungeons, while many are humanoid some can be very terrifying and may make you flee from the sight or the sound of them.
The core gameplay of Skyrim remains more of the same from Oblivion but is more fine-tuned and reworked. The Elder Scrolls series gives you a very open world for you to pave your own story and adventure, and Skyrim is no different- you can explore every inch of the world, complete many of the side quests and still not play any of Bethesda’s story. It’s this aspect that makes Bethesda games different and enjoyable for almost everyone. Also to suit everyone’s needs is the personalised view or either 1st person or 3rd person, you can switch in-between at will. Although the 3rd person view has always been awkward when running and jumping, it’s been tweaked in Skyrim.
On your auto-hiding HUD, there are three bars to keep watch of- Health (red), Magicka (blue) and Stamina (green). Health is your general and generic bar to watch and automatically recovers in combat at a slow rate and quickly out of combat. The magicka bar corresponds to your magic, how much you can use and which ones. Magicka also recovers over time in and out of combat, and when there isn’t enough magicka your spells won’t work.
Combat in The Elder Scrolls series has mostly been in 1st person, relying on skills and spot on attacks. Melee weapons have different reaches and can cause things to go up and personal, while the ranged attacks such as bow or magic are slightly like an FPS, aiming at your opponent and clicking the buttons. One new major inclusion in the combat is the ability to dual wield magic spells to either enhance their power or to prepare for different circumstances. To be able to use your new magic spells, you need to read some spell tomes- which are books that can be bought or found. There are many different types of magic for the different sorcerer such as destruction magic, illusion magic, conjuration magic, alteration and so forth.
Combat aside; there are new gameplay elements in the elder scroll series that are vital to an RPG experience in the form of skills. Smithing lets you can create many weapons and armours to your liking with loot of fallen enemies and lost treasure. Apart from bits and pieces from them, you also need ingots and probably some leather to create certain armour. Ingots can be crafted from ores or bought in shops, to collect the ores you need to find a pickaxe and mine some minerals. Smithing is now an ability you can level up and adding perks to the smithing tree will unlock higher tiers or amour and weapons to smith and upgrade. Upgrading weapons and armour is relatively basic, requiring only one item to upgrade your equipment up a level, until it hits legendary. Upgrading the weapons and armour increases its base damage and defence respectively, and having the name legendary next to it- it’s pretty cool.
Enchanting and Alchemy is also a new skill in the series. Enchanting weapons and armour will grant them special abilities to help you in or out of combat. Adding elemental stats, increasing your health or increasing your resistance, enchanting adds more to your weapons and armours. To enchant, first you need to learn the enchantments and to do so you need to disenchant some enchanted items, but be careful since that item will break. To enchant your items, you require some soul gems that can be bought or created. Then you need to capture souls from any living organism, the stronger it is the bigger the soul- larger souls will make the enchantment stronger, that or just buying soul gems already filled will do. Then you need an enchanting table usually found in magic facilities, then enchant all you like. Enchanted weapons don’t always have the stats forever; it needs to be recharge with soul gems. The larger the gem, the greater the recharge will take.
Alchemy is the production of useful potions and deadly poisons so don’t mix them up. Creating potions is slightly different from enchanting, rather than dissembling potions to get their recipe you need to experiment with different ingredients or find recipes lying around Skyrim. When experimenting, you can either mix various ingredients together at the alchemy table or somehow eat them to find out what each ingredient does. You would usually combine 2 ingredients for a potion but adding more can result in stronger potions or potions with side effects. Potions give you many effects good or bad for a limited time or straight right such as a regenerative potion or a health potion. Poisons are a different story and only work once. It is used by applying it to a melee weapon and poisons the enemy upon weapon contact. Potions of similar effects are not stackable and poisons aren’t stackable at all- even if you are dual wielding.
For those sneaky thieves and stealers, sneaking and pickpocketing is back and of course revamp. When you crouch in-game there is an eye symbol to represent if you are being watched or detected by any NPC or monster. If the eye symbol is close, you are free to do whatever without everyone’s consent. If the eye is open and you commit some thievery in towns, the guards will be on you and give you a choice of paying the bounty and return the stolen items, go to jail or fight.
All this about skills and perks and yet there’s nothing about it, to gain perks you need to level up. Levelling up in Skyrim has changed somewhat from Oblivion and traditional levelling up. There are two main levels that can rank up- the main and the abilities. To level up your main level you need to level up your skills- which level up upon using that ability many times. Bethesda has made the system easier and streamlined since quest don’t give any EXP or anything of the sort. Levelling up your skills will fill the main level bar slightly, so the more you use your skills the higher your level is. Once you level up your main, you can either upgrade your health, magicka or stamina.
The AI in Skyrim has had a tremendous buff, dubbed Radiant AI by Todd Howard, the NPCs have daily routines, talk to each other and preform believable task. In past Bethesda games when you talk to a NPC, time would freeze and you zoom up onto the NPC’s face and it would look all very unnatural. In Skyrim there is no zoomage or time freeze, the NPC you would talk to will still continue its routine to make it more realistic and bust. Although the NPCs feel livelier, some of the pathing for your followers and some enemies seem off. Getting stuck behind objects, not properly following you or just being plain annoying can be, well annoying. Bugs like this are quite a staple in any Bethesda game, littered with bugs and game breaking glitches. While there are less in Skyrim, it’s still there are most are hilarious. Being flung through the air from a Giant’s attack, horses defining physics or just shy mammoths hiding in trees, these bugs are plain hilarious but can be a nuisance and lead to other bugs and glitches.
The return of the Dragons is the main focus in this game. After you fight your first dragon in the main story, they start to randomly spawn and cause nuisance around Skyrim. Not only that you must fight them, you can channel their power through you. Dragons use words and shouts them to unleash powerful attacks in their language; Dragon tongue. To learn the shouts to use the dragon’s ferocious powers you need to read the words of power that are scattered in Skyrim either in dungeons or guarded by dragons. As the Dragonborn you stop the return of the dragons by absorbing their soul after defeat- the souls are also needed to unlock the new shouts.
Creating an ultimate experience cannot be complete without some excellent sound design. The roars of the dragons whilst flying above you, the crunching of spiders under your hammer and the glorious music that plays during wonderful moments, are all that wrap up and complete the experience . Jeremy Soule returns to compose the soundtrack for Skyrim and does a terrific job too. From the chanting and epic main theme that plays when a dragon approaches to the eerie mysterious instrumentals in dungeons and caves, are all prime examples of his fantastic work.
One very important part of recent Elder Scrolls games is the modability and support from the PC community. Oblivion saw many great mods that added tons of content and fixes to game from the community and so does Skyrim. With the construction set releasing soon, the amount of mods for Skyrim has already been impressive. Many change the look of Skyrim making it look more authentic, while many add items and spells and some fix many PC issues such as the menu. The community is thriving very well and the mods have added more longevity to the game already, can’t wait to see what’s next.