INTRO: Skyrim is the fifth installment of developer/publisher Bethesda Softworks' flagship series of games taking place in The Elder Scrolls universe. It's the followup to the massive hit game, Oblivion. What you need to know is that this is a HUGE game, a massive open world, where you can spend countless hours exploring, without even touching the story.
Coming off of games like Fallout 3 and Rage, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a welcome return to the mystical land of magic, lore, and fantasy that we know as Tamriel.On your way to your own execution, you are spared death due to a very well timed dragon attack. It's during this fight that everyone discovers you are a Dragonborn and have a hell of a legacy to live up to...should you choose to follow that story right away. I mean, there's so much else to do...
The first thing you'll have to do is choose what class of character you want to play in this game, which is one of the many big choices you have to make. Whereas in the previous game, Oblivion, you could choose your class of character, here you simply choose what race you want to be and go from there. You can certainly be a warrior carrying a two-handed battle axe into battle or you may want to be a full on mage attacking from far away with whatever spells you choose to rely on. I went the battlemage route; I prefer to burn my enemies before slicing them up with my sword.
The game is played in first or third-person perspective and is definitely a hack-and-slash RPG, should you decide to go that route. I much prefer the first person mode (especially for battles) as I found the third person perspective to be a little floaty when it came to moving around. The game sets you out on the main storyline but it's not too long before you find yourself knee deep in side quests. Many quests are the run-of-the mill, "fetch" variety but are always worth doing simply because it gives you the chance to roam the country, level up your character and find all sorts of loot and new items like weapons and armour.
The bulk of the game is exploration. The more quests you find, the more you'll find yourself travelling from one end of Skyrim to the other. You could easily spend over a hundred hours simply exploring every cave, dungeon and castle you come across and it's never frowned upon in doing this. I've occasionally received items that I had no idea what to do with until later on when someone asked me to fetch them something, and I happened to already have it with me. I can't see that happening a lot, but it's cool when it does happen.
The leveling system is a bit different from your typical RPG, although veterans of Oblivion will have a good idea of how it works. It's not so much that you solely get experience from killing enemies and doing quests. You must level your skills and they will in turn level your character up. You have dozens of skills to choose from and depending on how you choose to use your character, some skills will go up quickly while some many never go up at all. If you're a warrior, your skills in two-handed or one-handed weaponry and armour may go up while your skills in alchemy won't even budge. There are so many choices to make in the game. If you need help, there's always certain guilds that you can find.
You will run into members of elite guilds in Skyrim. If you're the type who likes to sneak around and steal, the Thieves Guild is your place to go. Going through these quests will fill your pockets will gold and definitely increase your sneak and pickpocketing skills. Perhaps you're more into magic though, there's the college in Winterhold. If you're just a person who loves good old fashioned murder, there's the Dark Brotherhood to join. If you get caught up in the war between the Stormcloaks and Imperial Legion, you can join either side. It won't be long before you forget exactly what you were supposed to do for the main quest, but you'll get to it eventually.
Combat is dependant on what type of character you choose. It's easy to be a skull-bashing brute, the game lends itself well to being a hack-and-slash game. You can run into dungeons and take out hordes of enemies but it'll get you killed quickly if you don't learn how to time your blocks. Also, if you keep doing strong attacks, you'll leave yourself open if you miss. However, if you have the patience, you can sneak around to take enemies out silently, maybe pickpocketing them along the way. Sometimes you can even use the environment to your advantage. You can lure enemies into traps or you may notice a curious liquid on the floor that just so happens to be flammable. It usually comes down to getting in close to fight or fight from far away, but it's nice to have these options around, they come in handy.
The controls will take a bit getting used to, simply because almost every button does something. Fighting will start off easy but knowing when to block and strong attack will take time to learn. Magic can be just as simple yet you will find yourself going to the menu too often to change the type of magic you want to use and there will be a lot of magic you want to use. I can't really speak on how to use the bow because I suck at shooting arrows, but those that figure it out will have a great way to attack from afar.
I could really go on and on and I feel like I've only scratched the surface to explain the game, but it's certainly better to experience it for yourself. There's so much to do and so many options, no game could be the same twice. I put almost 90 hours into the game, beaten it, and have yet to do everything. My active quest list is quite long and I know some of those quests I have will take 10-20 hours to do. Be prepared to notice time fly as you play. Kiss your family and free time goodbye.
Oblivion was one of the first games I played on the 360 and it blew me away, it was one of the most gorgeous games I'd ever seen. Many years have passed and games have looked better but Skyrim is certainly one of the best looking on the system. Lots of detail in everything you see, from the grassy hills to the snow-covered castles in the mountains to the disgustingly dirty and cob-webbed dungeons underneath Skyrim. Sometimes the animation can be a little stiff and the faces still look silly when people talk, but these are minor gripes I have and do nothing to take away from the game. It's about scope, and it is easy to have your jaw drop.
Skyrim starts off with a great booming theme that I've found myself humming from time to time, though when I try to sing it it just sounds like gibberish (probably because it is.) The orchestral soundtrack is so good I've found myself just walking around at night, looking up at the sky and enjoying what I'm listening to. Until I hear the thunderous roar of a nearby dragon that's about to attack and realize I have to get into fight mode really quick. The voice acting, just like the previous game, is mostly done with a small group of actors so you'll hear the same voices coming from different characters. Most of it is well done but there's always some cheesy lines being read.
I'm someone who logged in close to 200 hours in Bethesda's previous Elder Scrolls game, Oblivion. Some would think I'm crazy, others would say I'm lazy (they may be right). Either way, there's more than enough to do in this game and it's more than worthy of your time and money.
Final Score: 9.5/10