The Elder Scrolls series has a pedigree
of excellence. So it came as no surprise to me when the hype for Skyrim
was otherworldly from the second the game was announced. To say that
Bethesda had a lot of pressure to deliver the goods would be a
monumental understatement. Industry pundits and fans were chomping at
the bit for Skyrim. Our waiting and enthusiasm has not been in vain.
Skyrim improves on its predecessors in
every aspect. Incorporating gameplay mechanics that worked in Fallout
3, Skyrim has improved the flow of conversations, the look and layout of
menus and management of quests. Character customization has also been
stripped down and improved. Players still have the options of several
races to choose from but gone are character classes. Players now have
the freedom to level their character as they want and each level gained
in any skill (i.e. destruction magic, sneaking, two-handed weapons) goes
towards advancing to the next level. With every level gained, a point
is given to invest in perks. Each skill has it's own progress tree that
can dramatically improve the character's proficiency in the skill being
advanced. Perks can also improve other skills. For instance,
progressing through the Illusion skill tree can grant the character the
ability to cast all spells silently thus improving the ability to sneak.
Keeping with the theme of removing
intrusive gameplay mechanics, repair hammers are gone, as is the armor
and weapon degradation that made the hammers necessary. Instead, a
focus on crafting has been introduced, allowing you to create armors,
weapons and then upgrade them. Putting perk points in and leveling up
the Smithing skill will unlock the abilities to create better armor and
weapons. Of course, no Elder Scrolls game would be complete without
alchemy, the making of potions, and enchanting armor. Potions and
enchanted armors can only be made at their respective labs.
Likewise, armors and weapons can be created at various forges. All of
which are scattered throughout the world.
As you might expect, Skyrim is massive.
There are numerous cities, or holds, to visit. Players can interact
with many of the inhabitants to learn about new locations and collect
quests. As to be expected there are plenty of ruins, temples, and
dungeons to find and explore throughout Skyrim. Once these locations
have been visited, the option to fast-travel becomes available which
makes what would normally be tedious back-and-forth between areas much
quicker. During travels, it is common to run across feral beasts, or
giants, as well as bandits and travelers. It's best to stay on your
guard when traveling through unfamiliar areas as you never know what
you might come across.
Possibly the most impressive new
addition to the world of Skyrim are the dragons. While there are
scripted moments where I would fight dragons, there were a lot of random
dragon encounters. The most memorable of which was a trip to
Riverwood. A dragon swooped down and landed on the roof of a house
where it proceeded to spew fire and create utter chaos. It was quite the scene. The dragons, although new, aren't the only impressive things to find in the world of Skyrim. As I mentioned earlier there are forges that can be found as well as ruins and dungeons. Of the 300 or so discoverable dungeons, each one of them is unique. I've been hooked into this game pretty hardcore and haven't come close to finding or doing all that's available. Thankfully there's now some text that is displayed on all of the load screens that may give you some helpful little hints throughout your journey.
With all of the improvements over
Oblivion there's no doubt about the calibre of Skyrim. It is easily one
of the best games I have played all year. The depth and detail of the
world Bethesda has created is staggering. There is just so much to do
it is easy to get lost and overwhelmed. I think it is a major feat that
Bethesda has been able to make it feel all the more manageable in the
game's presentation and mechanics. It's one of those games that just
sucked me in and sucked up the time. I can't tell you how many times I
looked at the clock, only to realize I had been playing for about six
hours straight. While the game hasn't been completely perfect,
suffering from stuttering frame rate and issues with textures loading,
these are little tiny pockmarks in an otherwise perfect complexion. The
overall experience has been nothing short of amazing and is a definite
game of the year contender. If you RPG's, I don't know how you can pass
up on Skyrim.