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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the big, bold, and beautiful sequel you hoped for and is sure to bewitch you for countless hours.
Skyrim's main story revolves around the player character's efforts to defeat Alduin, a Dragon god who is prophesied to destroy the world. Set two hundred years after Oblivion, the game takes place in the fictional province of Skyrim, upon the continent of Tamriel, and the planet of Nirn. The open world gameplay of the Elder Scrolls series returns in Skyrim; the player can explore the land at will and ignore or postpone the main quest indefinitely. Skyrim has received universal acclaim from critics and was a commercial success as well, shipping over 7 million copies to retailers within the first week of release.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim cover.png
Developer(s) Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher(s) Bethesda Softworks
Distributor(s) Bethesda Softworks (retail)
Steam (online)
Director(s) Todd Howard
Composer(s) Jeremy Soule
Series The Elder Scrolls
Engine Creation Engine
Havok Physics
Version 1.5 (March 20, 2012)
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s) November 11, 2011
  • JP December 8, 2011
Genre(s) Action role-playing, open world
Mode(s) Single-player (first-person and third-person view)
Rating(s)
  • ACB: MA15+
  • BBFC: 15
  • CERO: Z
  • ESRB: M
  • OFLC: R13
  • PEGI: 18+
  • USK: 16
Media/distribution DVD, Blu-ray Disc, download
System requirements See Development section



The Good
    * Immense world stuffed with varied tasks to perform 
    * Dragon battles are a blast 
    * Lovely art design capped by some beautiful, atmospheric touches 
    * Enjoyable battles that you can approach in a variety of ways 
    * Lots of compelling, self-contained stories to experience in addition to the main one.
The Bad
    * Glitches and bugs frequently disrupt the immersion 
    * Friendly AI is often more of a hindrance than a help.

The province of Skyrim might be frigid, but the role-playing game that takes place within it burns with a fire few games possess. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you take up arms against dragons, and your encounters with them are invariably exciting--yet depending on where your adventure takes you, such battles may not even represent the pinnacle of your experience. A side quest that starts as a momentary distraction may turn into a full-fledged tale that could form the entirety of a less ambitious game. Yes, Skyrim is another enormous fantasy RPG from a developer that specializes in them, and it could suck up hundreds of hours of your time as you inspect each nook and crevasse for the secrets to be found within. If you know Bethesda Softworks' previous games, you might be unsurprised that Skyrim is not a land without blemish, but rather harbors any number of technical glitches and frustrating idiosyncrasies that tear open the icy veil that blankets the land. Many of them are ones Elder Scrolls fans will probably see coming, but they're ultimately a low price to pay for the wonders of a game this sprawling and enthralling. Prepare for many sleepless nights to come.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing open world video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls action role-playing video game series, following The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Skyrim was released on November 11, 2011 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Those nights traversing these lands are ones well spent. The game returns you to the continent of Tamriel, where you explore the northern realm called Skyrim, home to the Nord race. In these northern regions, snow flurries cloud your view, and platforms of ice float on the chilled waters. Nighttime often brings Tamriel's version of the aurora borealis, with its gorgeous blue and green ribbons stretching across the heavens. Skyrim's predecessor, Oblivion, featured prototypical fantasy environments--pretty but not quite evocative of the lore's darker undercurrents. Skyrim embraces its darker elements. You might feel an eerie chill as you glimpse a half-sunken ship through the mist, or watch as a dragon comes to life before your very eyes under the swirling firmament. Skyrim's atmospheric tone harks back to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, only the hazy dust storms of the earlier game have been replaced by glimmering snowfall and opaque fog.

These lovely vistas are best seen from a distance. Closer inspection reveals plenty of hard edges, ugly painted-on textures, and other visual flaws that are awfully conspicuous should you seek them out. But like many enormous games, Skyrim makes a fantastic impression not because its individual elements are sharply honed, but because they contribute to a grander whole. There's so much to do that your quest log becomes an embarrassment of pleasures, offering dozens of choices at any given time, each one as enticing as the next. You could follow the story, of course, which weaves a compelling tale that casts you as a dragonborn; that is, the soul of a dragon emanates from within you. As such, you are the key to discovering why dragons have returned to the land, terrorizing cities and potentially ending the known world. The tale has you facing dragons, of course, but also crashing fancy dress parties and scouring sewers in search of a key figure long assumed dead. It's a well-crafted tale that makes good use of those fearsome flying creatures that horrify the masses with roaring gusts of fire and ice.
Even when you aren't pursuing story quests, though, the core narrative dogs you as you trot across the land on foot or on horseback. You might travel to a quaint hamlet only to discover that it's under siege by a hovering beast. The townspeople join you, aiming their arrows and fireballs upward, and not all of them may survive the encounter. These battles impress upon you the terror in which the populace lives, and thus give you a reason to be a hero to them. But plenty of narrative delights have nothing to do with dragons, and some of them could have formed the main story of a lesser RPG. Following an early lead takes you to a lonely house occupied by a single child with a disturbing request. The story that unravels has you acting as a predator and eavesdropping from an unimaginably sinister hiding place. Other story threads embrace the element of choice. You can take sides in the ongoing conflict between Imperial forces and the rebellious Stormcloaks, and then assault enemy camps and rescue prisoners jailed by the enemy. And in one memorable if minor quest line, you can kill a creepy cannibal--or join her and her cohorts at the table.


It's impressive enough that there's so much to do; it's even more impressive that most of it is wonderful. Not every dungeon is a joy to explore. Stone-turning puzzles occasionally bring the fun to a halt, and a few repeated cave designs could dampen your spirits. But overall, every task has an excellent sense of context, and surprises lurk around many a turn. Searching for a lost dog turns into a grander quest than you could have guessed--and witty writing and voice acting shine some light into this somber world. Even a simple "go there, kill that" bounty can be a thrill. After all, how often do you face a towering giant and a couple of woolly mammoths? It's too bad that as you approach the giant's camp, one of those mammoths might spawn 100 feet in the air and fall to its death, or land on another mammoth and ride on its back for a few seconds before sliding off.

So maybe not every surprise is a welcome one. But most are, and the element of the unexpected is what lures you to explore as much as you can. The reward could be a great weapon hidden in a locked chest, a gorgeous vista to ogle, or a book of lore that enhances one of your attributes. Or perhaps you'll discover words written in the dragons' tongue--an important discovery indeed. Finding those words is key to using Skyrim's most powerful spells, known as shouts. Well, they are half the key anyway: you also must defeat dragons and absorb their souls to activate those shouts. Shouts have their own cooldown timer and aren't tied to the magicka bar that governs standard spellcasting. With one shout, you can breathe fire on your attackers. With another, you can slow down time. Shouts hardly guarantee success in a difficult battle, but they can tip the scales in your favor. Besides, the dramatic visual and sound effects of both the discovery of words and the absorption of a dragon soul are a lovely bonus.

As for standard spells, they come in the usual schools of magicka: destruction (zap skeletons with sparks!), conjuration (summon a giant frost atronach!), alteration (light the way ahead!), and so on. You can even dual-wield spells, going full-on mage, with a glowing ball of fire in one hand and a summon at the ready in the other. For that matter, you can dual-wield one-handed weapons, giving you more flexibility in how you form your character. When you create your character, you choose a race from the usual Elder Scrolls standbys (Dark Elf, Breton, Argonian, and so forth), but you don't choose a class. Rather, your skill level with certain types of weapons, magicka schools, speech, and so on is governed primarily by how you play. Wear heavy armor, and taking blows gradually increases your heavy armor proficiency. Swing two-handed weapons, and you get better at using them.
That doesn't mean that you don't wield manual control over how you progress. Each time you gain a level, you choose to enhance one of your three main attributes: health, stamina, or magicka. You also earn a single point to spend on a perk, which might increase damage done with axes or let you conjure creatures at a greater distance. It's a great leveling system that forms around the way you play, but allows for tweaking so that you retain a sense of control. Even just the act of leveling up can be a pleasure due to the slick and colorful interface that imagines perks as stars in constellations. It can be a pain to navigate to certain perks; the game often has you flitting not to the star you want, but to all the ones surrounding it. But considering Oblivion's cumbersome interface, Skyrim's is a much improved beast. On console (and if you play with a controller on the PC), thumbstick navigation minimizes button presses, and you can easily move between your quest log and the main map. Additionally, you can mark weapons, spells, and items as favorites and then access them quickly during combat. Certain aspects might be fiddly, but on the whole, Skyrim's interface is a wonder, considering how much information and inventory is at your fingertips.

Regardless of how you tailor your character, the action is entertaining and varied. Trolls, undead draugrs, necromancers, bandits, witches, ratlike skeevers, and many more foes want to make your hero a zero. You occasionally feel as if you're flailing blindly rather than connecting your sharp blade with a vampire's flesh. But this is the tightest Elder Scrolls combat yet, the visual and audio cues normally providing proper feedback with your blows and zaps. Some death blows result in Fallout 3-style slow-motion kills, which retain their power because they're not overly frequent. Movement, too, has seen improvement: you can now play from a third-person view and feel like you're moving across the land instead of floating above it. What hasn't been improved is the friendly AI. It's nice to have a companion along for the adventure, and you're given one for free early in the story. But companions are morons, crowding you in tight passages, lagging behind when you need them the most, and even getting stuck in various death loops caused by spinning blade traps.

If you're the stealthy type, you can sneak about, picking pockets and breaking into homes. If you really enjoy keeping to the shadows, you may even wish to contract porphyric hemophilia--that is, vampirism. Vampires earn some benefits by way of certain spells and status effects, but also endure particular risks and must feed on unsuspecting victims as they slumber. But even if you like to wade directly into the fray, you can benefit from Skyrim's non-combat activities. Lock-picking no longer works as it did in Oblivion, but takes its cue from Fallout 3, having you rotate a lock pick and turn the lock to determine how closely you matched the correct position. As before, you can pick flowers and collect ingredients, and then create potions out of them at an alchemy table. (Forget mortars and pestles this time around.) And any adventurer can benefit from enchanting, which lets you imbue your equipment with certain status effects--though you must use soul gems to recharge their power.

Many of Skyrim's delights are the touches that occur outside of the action. Citizens go about their daily lives, selling their wares in shops during the day and closing down at night to hang out in the pub or head home to rest. Under some circumstances, they may comment on your rancid breath or remark on how sickly you seem to look. Children run up and down the streets; one may even ask for you to stop a bully from picking on him. Citizens move somewhat stiffly, but with more grace than in previous Elder Scrolls games. Before, conversations brought the world to a halt and focused the camera on some character's waxy face. In Skyrim, certain dialogues limit the camera and temporarily paralyze you in place, but overall, conversations feel more organic than before--a nice improvement that enhances your sense of immersion.

Skyrim also uses scattered books and references to enthrall you. You may not be a big fan of reading books in role-playing games, but even so, you should make an effort here. If you don't feel like reading up on Tamriel's rich history each time you find a volume, grab it and read it later--there are a lot of narrative tidbits that deserve to be read. Elder Scrolls fans will appreciate nods to events in prior games, and everyone can enjoy the bite-size tales contained therein, about vampires, noble heroes, and gods that bestow their blessings on their followers. Skyrim takes place hundreds of years after the events of Oblivion, and organizations you might remember have been restructured or are shadows of their former selves. But Tamriel's history is threaded throughout Skyrim's fabric, and some quests, such as one that begins with an invitation to a faraway museum, are great reminders of past misfortunes that the world has not forgotten.



Plot
    
   Following the Dragon attack on Helgen, the player character may choose to escape either with an Imperial soldier or a Stormcloak rebel. After the escape, the player travels to the nearby town of Riverwood. The player is then asked to travel to the city of Whiterun, to request aid from the Jarl against the Dragon threat. The Jarl agrees to send a detachment of soldiers to Riverwood, and asks the player to aid his court-wizard in return, retrieving a Dragonstone from a nearby ruin known as Bleak Falls Barrow. The player discovers a Word-Wall in the process, learning their first "Thu'um", the shouts used by the ancient Nords to battle the Dragons.

       Upon returning to Whiterun, the player is asked to assist in defending the city from an attacking Dragon. After defeating the Dragon, the player character absorbs the Dragon's soul, which unlocks the Thu'um the player gained in Bleak Falls Barrow. Astonished, the Whiterun soldiers tell the player that the player may be a "Dragonborn", able to naturally speak Draconic, the Dragon language, and absorb their souls. After returning to the Jarl with news of the Dragon's defeat, the player is summoned to meet with the Greybeards, an order of monks who live in seclusion in their temple of High Hrothgar on the slopes of Skyrim's highest mountain, The Throat of the World. The Greybeards further train the player in the "Way of the Voice", teaching the player more powerful Thu'um's and instructing the player on their destiny and role of the Dragonborn. As a further test, the Greybeards task the player with retrieving the legendary Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. However, the player discovers the Horn has been stolen by another, who wishes to meet the Dragonborn. The thief reveals herself as Delphine, Riverwood's innkeeper and one of the last surviving members of The Blades. Delphine and the player witness Alduin reviving a Dragon from a burial mound and defeat the Dragon. Afterwards, Delphine helps the player infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy near Solitude, the headquarters of agents of the Elven Aldmeri Dominion, to follow up on her suspicions about Thalmor's possible involvement with the Dragon threat. While there, Delphine and the player discover the Thalmor are searching for a man named Esbern, an eccentric archivist of the Blades Order. Delphine then instructs the player to locate Esbern, known to be hiding in the sewers and ratways of Riften.

             The player character accompanies the Blades in search of "Alduin's Wall", located in an ancient Blades fortress known as Sky Haven Temple. While the Blades set up headquarters in the temple, the player character learns that the ancient Nords used a special Thu'um against Alduin called "Dragonrend", which represented mankind's comprehensive hatred for Dragonkind, to cripple his ability to fly so they could engage him. To gain more information, the player meets the leader of the Greybeards, an ancient Dragon named Paarthurnax. Paarthurnax reveals that Alduin was not truly defeated in the past, but was sent forward to an unspecified point in time by the use of an Elder Scroll, in the hopes that he would get lost. The player manages to locate the Elder Scroll within the Dwemer ruin of Blackreach and uses it to travel back in time, learning the powerful Dragonrend shout to combat Alduin.

                  Armed with the knowledge of how the ancient Nords defeated Alduin, the player battles Alduin on the summit of the Throat of the World. Overpowered by the player, Alduin flees to Sovngarde, the location of the Nordic afterlife. The player learns that Dragonsreach, the palace of the Jarl of Whiterun, was originally built to trap and hold a dragon. The Jarl of Whiterun refuses to allow the player to utilize Dragonsreach and possibly endanger the city if the civil war between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion still rages. With the help of the Greybeards, the player calls a council between General Tullius and Ulfric Stormcloak, successfully calling for a temporary armistice while the Dragon threat exists.

              The player summons and traps a Dragon named Odahviing in Dragonsreach, learning from him that Alduin has fled to Sovngarde through a portal located high in the mountains, at an ancient fort called Skuldafn. Odahviing, impressed with the player's Thu'um and ability to capture him, agrees to fly the player to Skuldafn, claiming Alduin has shown himself as weak and undeserving of leadership over the "Dovah"/Dragons. Upon arrival at Skuldafn, the player travels to Sovngarde and meets with Ysgramor, the legendary Nord who, along with his Five Hundred Companions, drove the Elves out of Skyrim. Ysgramor informs the player that Alduin has placed a soul snare in Sovngarde, allowing him to gain strength by devouring the souls of deceased Nords arriving there. The player meets up with the three heroes of Nordic legend who defeated Alduin originally, and, with their help, destroys the soul snare, confronts Alduin in Sovngarde and destroys him.

 Setting

             Skyrim is not a direct sequel to Oblivion, but a new chapter in the Elder Scrolls series, set 200 years after the events of Oblivion.Following the death of Martin Septim and the end of the Oblivion crisis, this heralded the beginning of the Fourth Era. A Colovian warlord from Cyrodiil named Titus Mede conquers the Imperial City, beginning the Mede dynasty in absence of the previous Septim bloodline. In the Empire's weak state, the provinces of Elsweyr, Black Marsh, Valenwood, and the Summerset Isles secede from the Empire. The provinces of the Summerset Isles and Valenwood, home to the Altmer and Bosmer, respectively, create the Aldmeri Dominion, an Elven empire, and rename the founding provinces to "Alinor". Thirty years prior to the events of Skyrim, the Thalmor, who govern the Dominion, begin to invade both Hammerfell and Cyrodiil, beginning the "Great War", due to a rejection of an ultimatum presented by a Dominion ambassador to the current Emperor, Titus Mede II. The Empire manages to survive the Thalmor assault by agreeing to sign the "White-Gold Concordat", a treaty which prohibits the worship of Talos throughout the Empire. Following the end of the Great War, the Blades, an order of warriors devoted to the protection of the Emperor of Tamriel, are hunted down and killed by the Thalmor, or else seclude themselves from the rest of the world, with the Emperor protected instead by an elite Imperial security force known as the Penitus Oculatus. Ulfric Stormcloak, the Jarl of Windhelm, establishes the Stormcloak faction and rebels against the Empire in order to liberate Skyrim in response to the ban of Talos worship. This culminates in Ulfric killing Skyrim's High King, Torygg, in a duel. The Empire responds to the death of the High King by deploying the Imperial Legion to quell the rebel threat.

                 As with previous Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim begins with the player character as an unknown prisoner, caught in an Imperial ambush while attempting to cross the border into Skyrim, on a wagon with several Stormcloak prisoners and a horse thief. They are all headed to Helgen to be executed. As the player character is about to be beheaded, a Dragon arrives, interrupting the execution and destroying the town. The player eventually learns that Skyrim's civil war is last in a sequence of prophetic events foretold by the Elder Scrolls, which also foretell of the return of Alduin, the Nordic Dragon-god of destruction. Alduin is prophesied to consume the world. The player character is the latest "Dovahkiin" (Dragonborn), an individual with the body of a mortal and the soul of a Dragon. Dragonborns are annointed by the gods to help fend off the threat Alduin poses to Skyrim and Tamriel. Among the individuals aiding the player are Delphine (voiced by Joan Allen) and Esbern (voiced by Max von Sydow), two of the last remaining Blades, and Master Arngeir (voiced by Christopher Plummer), a member of the Greybeards.

Gameplay

           The nonlinear gameplay traditional in the Elder Scrolls series is incorporated in Skyrim. The player can explore the open world of Skyrim on foot or on horse, and fast-travel to cities, towns, and dungeons after they have been discovered. Quests are given to the player by non-player characters (NPCs) in the world, and through the Radiant Story system, the quests can be dynamically altered to accommodate for player actions which may influence the quest's characters and objectives. The Radiant Story then further directs the player's interaction with the world by setting unexplored dungeons as quest locations.When not completing quests, the player can interact with NPCs through conversation, and they may request favors or training in skills from the player.In addition to scripted quests certain ones will be dynamically generated, providing a limitless number to the player. Some NPCs can become companions to the player to aid in combat.The player may choose to join factions, which are organized groups of NPCs such as the Dark Brotherhood, a band of assassins.Each of the factions has a headquarters, and they have their own quest paths which the player can progress through. The economy of cities and towns can be stimulated by completing jobs such as farming and mining, or spending large amounts of gold in the stores. Alternatively, the economy may be harmed by forging business ledgers and robbing the safes of stores.When exploring the game world, the player may encounter wildlife. Many wilderness monsters are immediately hostile towards the player and thus can be slain.[9] The inclusion of Dragons in Skyrim affords a major influence on both story and gameplay.

Character development

               Character development is a primary element of Skyrim. At the beginning of the game, the player selects one of several human, elven, or zoomorphic human races, each of which has different natural abilities, and customizes their character's appearance.A perpetual objective for the player is to improve their character's skills, which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There are eighteen skills divided evenly between the three schools of combat, magic and stealth. Training skills until the necessary required experience is met results in the player's character leveling-up. Previous Elder Scrolls games made use of a class system to determine which skills would contribute to the character's leveling, but its removal in Skyrim allows for a preferred play-style to be developed naturally.When their character levels, the player may choose to select a skill-specific ability called a perk, or store perks for later use. Upon levelling fifty times, the player character can continue to level and earn perks, but the rate of levelling is slowed significantly.
If you've played previous Elder Scrolls games, glitches and oddities don't come as a surprise. Nevertheless, Skyrim comes in a year graced with multiple quality RPGs that feature tighter combat, fewer bugs, better animations, and so forth. But to be fair, none of those games are endowed with such enormity. Yet The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim doesn't rely on sheer scope to earn its stripes. It isn't just that there's a lot to do: it's that most of it is so good. Whether you're slashing a dragon's wings, raising the dead back to life, or experimenting at the alchemy table, Skyrim performs the most spectacular of enchantments: the one that causes huge chunks of time to vanish before you know it.

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