- Massive world with mountains to do
- Strong, varied combat system
- Strong, authentic voice acting
- Visually impressive…
- …as long as you don’t look too closely.
There aren’t many games bigger in size than the games Bethesda pump out. The Elder Scrolls series, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas are all absolutely massive games in every sense of the word with huge worlds, loads of places of visit and tons to do. So it’s not much of a surprise that Skyrim is the same. Set in the same universe as Oblivion and previous Elder Scrolls titles, Skyrim is more like Oblivion meets Fallout than just a direct sequel to Oblivion. Considering the prior title was first released when the Xbox 360 was still in nappies, you can really see how evolved Skyrim is.
You play, as per usual Bethesda style, as a character of your own creation across a number of fantasy races including humans, elves, orcs, the lizard-like argonians, and the Khajit, a cat-like race. Each race provides different boosts to certain statistics and grants special abilities only available to that race. Picking the Breton race for example, will grant you 25% resistance to Magikca attacks, the Dragonskin power, and boosts to Conjuration, Alchemy, Alteration, Illusion, Restoration and Speech stats. You’ll have the chance to review the races before you get going but once you’ve picked one, they’re yours for the entire journey.
If you’ve played Elder Scrolls or a Fallout game before, the premise is instantly recognisable. You pick a character, complete the opening quests and then are set free in the vast world around you. The land of Skyrim is much larger than Oblivion’s Cyrodil, and with a massive location come tons of things to do. Of course, the primary objective is still to complete the main quest and doing so will lead you on an epic quest slaying dragons, learning to harness the powers of the Dragonborn and going on a merry trip. But, like other Bethesda games, the most fun and enjoyment comes from going off of the beaten track.
Like mentioned, Skyrim is huge. Littered across the massive world are towns, castles, dungeons, caves and many more locales, each with their own little stories, occupants and things to do. Sometimes talking to strangers will yield you extra quests to complete or will get you items or rare treasures to take away and flog to the nearest merchant. One example saw me stumbling across a man injured outside of a cave. Inside were a number of his friends and enemies known as Spriggans. This man requested you team up with him and clear the cave of Spriggans to avenge the deaths of his friends. Whilst only a paltry task and not particularly challenging to complete, doing so nabbed me a special weapon from the injured party. It wasn’t much, but it’s a perfect example of how Skyrim is littered with things to do, both minor and major.
Combat in Skyrim is basic but broad enough to cater to different players. You can either fight with conventional weaponry including swords, axes, clubs and bows, or take on the mythical beings of Skyrim using magicka. Magicka varies across a number of categories including Destruction, Restoration, Alteration, Conjuration and Illusion.You can use your special abilities for a number of purposes including defeating enemies you might stumble across, healing yourself if you get into a sticky situation, or shaping the world around you to benefit your actions. I found myself using magicka a lot more than actual weapons in combat, simply because you can stay back from enemies and fire away without getting too close. Oh and add in the fact that dual wielding magic looks so cool, especially when using the Spark spell makes you feel like the Emperor Palpatine of Skyrim.
Visually, Skyrim is very impressive – provided you don’t look too closely at certain things. When fitting a world as big as Skyrim is onto a single Xbox 360 disc, corners definitely have to be cut and as such, textures close-up really disappoint. Sure, you can’t expect perfection from such a huge game but some things look very average if you get in close. Saying that though, stay a decent distance away and the world looks incredible. There’s nothing like being at the top of one of Skyrim’s vast mountains and looking out across a vast landscape littered with trees, towns and more. The sheer sense of scale that the game offers really shows when you get a good viewpoint and it can one of the most breathtaking scenes ever presented in a video game
Undoubtedly, Skyrim is fantastic. The sheer vastness of the game will last you well over a hundred hours if you really sit down with it. Completing everything is nigh-on impossible and even if you do, the inevitable DLC will add plenty more hours to your game post-release. If you liked Oblivion, you’ll love Skyrim. If you liked the Fallout games, Skyrim takes some getting used to but you’ll also love it. Another contender for GOTY 2011? It most certainly is.