After cleansing the Red Mountain in the dark elf homeland of Morrowind and closing Oblivion gates in Cyrodil, we are now taken to the snowy mountains of Nord-land in the middle of a civil war. To make things worse, dragons that are supposed to be long past extinct are back and causing plenty of chaos. This is where we, the Dragonborn, the only person capable of killing them for good by absorbing their souls come in.
The Elder Scrolls saga has been known to have a very complex stat system which has been simplified in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There are no more classes or major weapon skills to pick from. Races still have their bonuses, but the character classes and major skills are essentially gone, letting you mix and match skills to create your own class. Weapon skills are now much broader – divided into just 1-handed , 2-handed and archery, giving the player a lot more choice in weapons without having to level up another skill. Unfortunately, Acrobatics and Athletics are completely gone. This is a bit of a disappointment because with NPC level scaling player skill and clever movement becomes very important. You also gain certain bonuses (perks) for these weapon groups when your skill reach a certain level, which is good because it allows for more differentiation between player characters. Overall, Skyrim‘s skill system feels much more intuitive than in the previous installments.
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim also adds some new things to the gameplay, including dual wielding of magic spells and 1-handed weapons. Again, this allows for additional character customization by having you decide whether you want to be able to take damage or dish it out at the expense of not being able to block. Dual wielding is especially useful for thief/assassin type characters – a dagger in the main hand with the 15x backstab damage perk (can be raised to 30x with a certain armor received as a quest reward) in the main hand for stealth and another 1-handed weapon in the off-hand for direct combat. Dual wielding spells is great fun for mages – not only because of mixing and matching spells with different effects, but also because of all the wonderfully executed special effects.
The game world is a huge improvement over Cyrodil in Oblivion. The homeland of the Nords isn’t nearly as vast as the heart of the Empire, but it’s much better done. The landscape doesn’t feel copy/pasted anymore, as you’ll be seeing a lot of green as well as a lot of snow. It’s also a lot more condensed, so a dungeon to raid is never too far away.
The best part about Skyrim‘s game world is that it feels very much alive. NPCs are seen interacting with each other just as much as they do with the player. It’s very hard to spend any amount of time in a city and not overhear a few conversations between its inhabitants. The introduction of Dragons does wonders for the game world – just wait till that first static attack and you’ll see why.
In fact it’s a bit of a shame that you can’t put a saddle on a dragon because getting a bird’s eye view of this wonderfully rendered landscape would be epic. There are also quite a few activities to take a break from questing and killing. And a break is something you will definitely need because the amount of quests amounts for 100+ hours of gameplay, even on a single playthrough.
Alchemy, for example, is great fun because foraging for ingredients gives you a reason to explore this beautiful environment. You can also buy houses in various cities and domestic management in this game is much more fun than it sounds, partly because there are a lot of ways to display your the weapons and armor you don’t need at the moment but don’t want to sell.
There are manequins you can dress up in armor, as well as shield and weapon racks on walls. At last but not least, no player house is complete without an alchemy lab, enchanting table and a smithing facility. The advantages of having either or all in your house are obvious after all.
Overall, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an awesome addition to the Elder Scrolls saga with its great presentation, simplified and intuitive stat system, and of course the sheer amount of things to do that will keep you occupied for months. It’s one of the hottest releases of Fall 2011 and very rightfully so.
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