Review, Part One: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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By Jahmal Peters
Contributor

What hasn’t been said about Bethesda’s latest installment in the Elder Scrolls series?

Critical acclaim? Definitely.

Game of the year candidate? Without question.

A vast open ended environment with hundreds of hours of replayability? It’s been said.

Quite possibly the best way to sum up Skryim would be to say this review is late is because all the reviewers are still playing it.


But let’s take a step back and dispense with the boilerplate. The Elder
Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth installment of Bethesda’s action-RPG
series The Elder Scrolls and the direct successor to the critically
acclaimed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006). Like all Elder Scrolls
games, games in the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim takes place on the
continent of Tamriel. The “Skyrim” of the game’s title is the
continent’s snowy region.

As with prior Elder Scrolls games, the
player assumes the role of a prisoner and in this instance the journey
nearly ends almost immediately after it begins. Scheduled for execution
for essentially being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the player
has just enough time to get caught up on the current events in Skryim-
most notably an escalating civil war- before taking part in a dramatic
escape set in motion by the games primary antagonist; a massive black
dragon named Alduin.

Players come to learn they are the last of the “Dragonborn,” mortals born
with
the soul of a dragon, who were once tasked with defeating Alduin. Now,
the task rests primarily on the player’s shoulders to defeat Alduin and
the army of dragons that have returned to enslave humanity.

Or,
players could shirk their duties as both the chosen one and the vanguard
of the escalating civil war and instead go around robbing and pillaging
innocent people for minimal wealth.Therein lies the real majesty of
Skryim, an open ended world with near endless possibilities.

The
sheer number of side quests is staggering to say the least; there’s also
a near endless line of people with problems only the player can solve.
And they range from the mundane fetch quests like collect X amount of
items or delivering item Y to merchant Z to in-depth quests like a
murder conspiracy that leads to imprisonment and a subsequent escape.
There’s also a nod to the “The Hangover” in which the player and another
character go on a drinking binge and have no recollection of the
carnage they caused.

But the most amazing part of the game?
Unlike rail games where players’ experiences are nearly identical,
events in Skryim play out radically different from player to player.
Some players may never even encounter the aforementioned sidequests, and
if they do, they may do so long after forgetting any mention  in this
review.

Allowing the player to do as they please has always been
the foundation of games in the Elder Scrolls series. But the world of
Skyrim isn’t the only area where players can shape the experience as
they see fit. The game offers in-depth character customization, and
although the feature has been scaled back slightly from Oblivion
(wherein it was also scaled back slightly from The Elder Scrolls III:
Morrowind), there’s still more than
enough complexity to make every player’s character feel unique.

And that’s even if most players end up as a stealth-based archer.

Next: The second part of this review will address Skyrim’s combat, conversation, magic and bounty systems.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda Softworks
PC, PlayStation 3, XBox 360 (Reviewed on PC)
Rated M for Mature