There comes a time in gaming when you find certain games that you are just addicted to. A game that you cannot stop thinking about. A game that you rush home from work or school to play. A game that you feel gives you so much to do in such a glorious way. That is how I feel when it comes to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Now, my only experience with this franchise is this game and Oblivion. So basically number four and five in the series. The first game, The Elder Scrolls Arena, came out in 1994. Following suit was The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfell and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I eventually got to play Oblivion on the Xbox 360, but only so much. Nevertheless, I was really interested in going back to play through it.
Then I managed to get Skyrim for the PC. I was hearing all sorts of things about this game. A lot of it good, some of it bad, but ultimately it was something that I really wanted to check out. Let me say that I was blown away by the sheer amount of content and attention that Bethesda gave to Skyrim. I literally felt like I was exploring a whole new world. I got incredibly immersed in the world of Tamriel.
Something everyone should know about me is that I have a few weaknesses when it comes to video games. I'm a sucker for open world, role-playing, and hack-and-slash elements in video games. If this is done well, then I'm sold. Skyrim gave me that open world, role-playing experience that I absolutely love.
The graphics of Skyrim are so incredibly well done. Transitions of weather when going from a mountain to an open field can be clearly seen and heard. Animals and enemy types have great detail put into them. I know some people think that the human residents look ugly and dirty, but if you really think about it that's how medieval times was. There are quite a few good looking characters in there. It's definitely more defined here than in Oblivion. Even character creation offers new things for you to check out and combine.
Plus, the environments themselves are great to course through. If you really pay attention or just want to explore, you will see the detail in Skyrim. You can find bugs crawling around in forests, animals hunting other animals, hunters making their coin as they hunt animals, random NPCs that may be friendly or not, and even the Headless Horseman. I am not joking on that last one.
Exploration knows no bounds in Skyrim. You can go anywhere you want, whenever you want. You are not pressured into doing certain quests or even have time limits. There are no player restrictions of any kind in this game (like invisible walls).
In terms of sound, Skyrim in both nature and residential areas sound great and authentic. Dragons sound fearsome and feral. NPCs may sound like each other. I get the feeling that only a few people did the NPC voices, while there was a main cast for the other characters. Town guards will repeat some phrases, but the more you do the more varied those phrases get.
While exploring, you can also find books that detail vital points of history of Tamriel and Skyrim. You might also discover side quests from these books and stray away from the main story. I probably did three separate story arcs and a few dozen side quests before meeting with the Greybeards. Also, those same story arcs are awesome in their own right. When you go to a town or a well known location, you will overhear the locals expressing problems from the get go or you have to hear about that stuff from inn keepers and bartenders. As a result, you can be drawn into a whole new story that you initiate. The rewards for doing these story arcs are fantastic as well.
If you don't feel like going on foot, you have the fast travel option or being able to ride on horseback. REMEMBER: If you are greedy with using fast travel, there is a consequence of a possible dragon encounter to where you go next. Speaking of dragons, there is the plot which practically has the world's fate be in your hands.
You are the Dragonborn, a person who is born with the soul of a Dragon, but the body of a mortal. An ancient legend tells of the Dragonborn having a destiny to vanquish the all consuming rage of Alduin, the World Eater. As you progress through being a prisoner and character creation, you learn of Skyrim being in the midst of a civil war between the main power of government, the Imperial Legion, and the rebellious Stormcloaks. With a truce in existence between the Imperial Empire and Aldmeri Dominion, relations amongst the races are shaky at best. The land of Skyrim is in more turmoil than ever. It is up to the Dragonborn to venture out and do what must be done to reestablish order in their own way.
When you level up, you can spend points on Magicka, Stamina, and Health to gain ten more points for that particular branch. You also gain skills points you use to upgrade various combat and skill trees. Blacksmithing, one handed combat, two handed combat, blocking, lockpicking, and many other skill trees can be given points to further improve your character.
Also, depending on what race you choose the Dragonborn to be, you get inherent powers. These are natural abilities that the race has that you implement throughout the game. I started with an Argonian who has natural waterbreathing abilities, 50% resistance to disease, and the ability to recover health ten times faster for 60 seconds (which can be a big help when facing a tough enemy).
Dragon encounters can be random or scripted. As I mentioned above, if you are greedy with fast travel, then the consequence is that you have a high chance of running into a dragon. There are different types of dragons, which include Frost Dragons, Elder Dragons, and Blood Dragons to name a few. Dragons have their own shouts, but you can easily counter with your own, especially when find new words of power through ancient dragon text scrawled on walls throughout Skyrim. When you take a dragon soul, you can use them to unlock those words of power and change up your strategy.
Customization of your current fighting strategy is incredibly varied. You can dual wield one handed weapons together (like two swords or two maces), have a two handed weapon, have a sword and shield, a fire spell in one hand and an axe in the other, and so on. Combine the different types and abilities of weapons and you can be a powerhouse to be reckoned with. Plus, your Dragon Shouts can be a great asset depending on the enemy you're facing whether it's a bandit group or a giant.
With everything that is great about Skyrim, however, there are some drawbacks. Most notably, bugs and glitches. There will be times when you see a Dragon flying around, but suddenly do a spiral for no apparent reason. NPC interactions can lead to awkward, yet funny instances (like one who is drinking but continues talking while doing it). One time, I killed a Dragon and waited on the soul to be transferred to my character, but the Dragon didn't burn away. Also, dead Dragons may randomly drop out of the sky in front of or on top of you, but I have only seen this happen whenever an on screen Dragon death has occurred and I traveled to a location nearby through fast travel.
All in all, Skyrim is one gem of a game. I have dedicated countless hours into it and I'm personally glad I did. I loved learning about Tamriel, exploring Skyrim, interacting with the environment and NPCs, getting awesome armor sets, building my reputation as a hero, and fighting Dragons all the while! This is one of the best games I played from 2011. And I have five more profiles to go through so I can get the experience of other races in Skyrim and join the Stormcloaks and Dark Brotherhood. Stay tuned for the final review of 2011 in Gaming: Gears of War 3.