Friday, August 2, 2013

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

I was a blog reader like you, but then I took an arrow in the knee.  

Skyrim in the 5th installment of the Elder Scrolls games by Bethesda, set about 200 years after the events of Oblivion, the 4th game of the series. Like the other Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim takes place on the fictional continent of Tamriel, only this time in the region of Skyrim (which resembles a medieval period). Dragons have returned and the player-character, destined to be dragonborn, is the only one that can defeat Alduin, the dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world. Oh, and player-character is placed right in the middle of a civil war and he has to choose which side to fight for, the Imperials or the rebel Stormcloacks.  

The game utilizes an open world style game-play. The dragonborn is free to go wherever he wants, whenever he wants. While there is a linear main story-line (the dragonborn can’t advance the story until the previous quest is competed), there is no timetable on when the main story-line has to be completed. In fact, there are actually more side quests to complete than the main story-line. Most side quests come from the different guilds, including the Thieves Guild, the Companions (similar to the Fighter's Guild), the Dark Brotherhood (a group of assassins) and the Mages Guild (in the College of Winterhold). As well as additional quests from 3 downloadable contents, Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn. This is a great feature as sometimes the side quests are more enjoyable than the main story. Also, some of them are repeatable, which means you can continue playing even after the main story-line is completed.

The main quest starts the dragonborn as a prisoner, along with a thief, Rolaf (a member of the Stormcloaks) and Ulfric Stormcloak, the leader of the rebellion.  The dragonborn is about to be executed until Alduin interrupts, causing a distraction to allow an escape.  The escape acts a tutorial, with either Rolaf or Hadvar (an imperial member) telling you what to do and fighting the opposite side.  Soon after the escape, the dragonborn has to fight a dragon.  After defeating and absorbing the dragon's soul, the dragonborn must fulfill it's destiny by learning from the Greybeards.  Throughout the game, the dragonborn leans words of power that con only be unlocked with dragon souls.  These words of power are shouts that can be used as an added element during combat (such as fire breath or whirlwind sprint). 

Probably the most commended feature among fans is the leveling and perks.  No longer is the player required to chose a class and play a certain way.  Instead, the game adapts to how the player chooses to play.  The more of a skill is used, the higher you'll advance in that skill.  Therefore, it's possible to be a thief who also uses 2-handed weapons or a mage who also uses archery - even though those skills are from different classes.  After a level is completed, a perk can be added to a specific skill to further utilize that skill.  There are a total of 18 perk trees that can be broken down into 3 different classes:

The Mage:
- Alteration
- Conjuration
- Destruction
- Illusion
- Restoration
- Enchanting

The Warrior
- Archery
- Block
- Heavy Armor
- 1-Handed
- 2-Handed
- Smithing

The Thief:
- Alchemy
- Light Armor
- Lockpicking
- Pickpocket
- Sneak
- Speech

Additional skill trees are included in the Dawnguard DLC for Vapirism and Lycanthropy.  Yep, the player-character can become either a vampire or werewolf for an added offensive weapon.

Weapons and spells are used against enemies and some puzzles.  One of the changes from previous games is the strategy of fighting an opponent.  The player-character can chose to duel wield one-handed weapons (swords, axes and maces), use a spell in one hand and a weapon in another or use two spells, including the same spell on both hands.  Destruction spells include fire, frost and sparks while restoration and ward spells can be used for defense.  Spells are unlocked by reading spell books hidden throughout the game.  Books are also used to unlock certain quests and can also be used to increase certain skills.  Some books are also there just to expand on the universe while not doing anything specific.  The player-character can also use two-handed weapons as well as the various bows and arrows.    

Alchemy is used to create potions and poisons using ingredients that can be picked up throughout the game.  Ingredients include flowers, bone meal and even vampire dust.   Smithing is used to create armor and weapons while enchanting can be used to put magical spells on them using soul gems (like fire, sparks or even fortify skills like waterbreathing).  The most prized of this is that dragon armor and weapons can be created, given the player has 100 skill in smithing and enough perks attributed to it and the dragon bones and scales (that are collected after defeating a dragon) to do it.  

Repeat gaming is exceptional.  There are a total of 251 perks, but the player can only use as many as 80 in one game, meaning the player can use different perks and experience a slightly different game style.  Quests can also have different outcomes depending on the way the player answers certain questions, leading to different adventures.  PC users can also install different mods that can give even more diverse gaming experiences.  A person can literally put in hundreds of hours in and still not get bored.  

The graphics and music are great.  There is a certain realism to them.  Even in low-res, the graphics still look amazing.  Check it out here:

The score is especially great as they add to the tone of playing, whether it's the chanting when you level up or the intense dragon fight song.  Take a listen:

Even when in the taverns, the bards sing little songs as encouragement to the dragonborn.  Listen:

Even though I'm only about half-way through the game play, this game gets a perfect 10/10.  A must have for any gamer.

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