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Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review (PS3)

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. 


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