Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim PC Game Review

I might be late on the bandwagon but I wanted to play Oblivion before I started Skyrim, which I completed last Summer and now embark on a new adventure in the snowy and mountainous region of Tamriel. Started in January, I took a break around Easter time due to work and completed it over the Summer.

And so it begins... Just as you are about to be executed, a dragon infiltrates the hold and you are released from capture. With the land in war, you can follow a Stormcloak or an Imperial Legion to safety, with an invitation to join one or the other.

The unexpected spawn of dragons in Skyrim starts you on your quest to discover that you are a Dragonborn, one able to absorb dragon souls and use powerful shouts. The main plot takes you on a journey to uncover the magical happenings of Skyrim and defeat a rumoured Dragon who will be spawned to destroy the world.

Player customisation is as always, diverse. Choosing a race from dark elf to Nord to another animorphic race gives you a different stat boost if you want to specialise in magic or archery or sneaking etc. There is a large variety of options to also change the look of your player from the shape of the eye brow to the curve of the lips.

The first thing to notice as you step into Skyrim is the dramatic and immersive setting. The snowy mountaintops and divisive terrain makes this one of the most perilous maps to date. Scaling mountains and travelling across ice caps is refreshingly different; the coldness gives this a chill. Whilst Oblivion naturally had a sinister feel with all those devillish Oblivion gates, this game definitely feels hauntingly peaceful, until suddenly a dragon flies into view and attacks you!

There is also a distanced feel as you travel around given how everything is so far from each other, forcing you to trek across the terrain and discover what there is to discover. Thankfully, there is a 'taxi' outside every major town by the stables which can take you safely to another major city.

So, what's new in Skyrim? We definitely did not just want a repeat of Oblivion in a new land!

Firstly, when you level up you choose whether you want to increase your health, magicka or stamina, followed by perk points which can be used to advance skills in the skill tree, for example to allow for destruction dual casting...

This is possible by the addition of ambidextrous wielding where you can now carry two daggers, a sword and a shield and even cast spells with a shield and so on. Magic dual casting allows you to cast two spells simultaneously and combining their effects for extra power. This is extremely useful if you want to heal whilst burning your opponents.

The lock picking system has also changed, and is a much easier way of lock-picking than in Oblivion. You can no longer just 'use a lock-pick' and open the lock but have to rotate it to open. This is somewhat fun but not frustrating like in Oblivion.

With the things you find in Skyrim such as cabbage, potatoes, animal meat and anything that you might happen to find in people's homes, you can use to cook it and eat it. Combine a few vegetables to make vegetable soup, roast some animal meat and so on. Whilst cooking isn't a skill in itself, it can be useful to cook all the unwanted food items for a boosted effect.

Mining is added to Skyrim where ores and gems can be found in rocks and mines all over Skyrim. The ores can be smelted and weapons/armour can be made at forges, along with jewellery. This is a great addition and skill to Skyrim allowing you to create that perfect dragon armour. You can also upgrade armour with the right materials.

There are also some beneficial minor changes to alchemy and enchanting to make it more accessible to new players and enhancing the fun.

Quests and factions return just as all the games before but without the fighter's guild and the 'Arena' (rumoured to be a future Downloadable Content). Apart from the two main quest factions (Stormcloaks and Imperial Legion), you can join the Thieve's Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Companions (similar to fighter's guild) and College of Winterhold (Mages).

Personally, I started the game off planning to be a warrior but the opportunities in Skyrim naturally turned my focus into archery and have sinced stalked and stealthily killed my opponents with range, with supporting destructive spells. I love my fiery bow! Alchemy, Enchanting and Smithing were my favourite skills to level up, maybe because I just like creating things!

The main quest line took me over 90 hours to complete (there's just so many distractions *ahem* I mean side quests) but I am still far from finished with this game. The vast amount of side quests and open game play offers many many more hours of fun.

With over 10 million copies sold and being Game of the Year (2011) of numerous major publications and a 90%+ rating across the board, this is arguably one of the most recognisably good games of late. The open-world, the beautiful graphics and the engrossing plot line married with a diversity and freedom to explore makes every play through different. With hundreds and hundreds of hours of game play on offer, who could resist such a deep game and I mean, who doesn't like a game with dragons?

And if you can't get enough of Skyrim, there are now numerous expansions which you can download from Steam to add shouts, quests and new game play! Plus, Elder Scrolls Online and a follow up to Skyrim is in the works already!

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