“A masterpiece in gaming” and “technically perfect” are just some of the descriptions given about Bethesda’s most popular game in their history. The expansive game world of Skyrim has treated players with its mission depth and variety, deep customisation options, visual aesthetics, and wealth of quality content for a while, but does it still stand up in today’s markets? 6 years on from it’s initial release, in case you somehow missed it, we take another look at consoles highest selling RPG ever, and what many would argue to be the best video game of all time.
The storyline follows your character, an unnamed criminal at the start of the game, as he is about to get executed for crimes against the high king. In a time of turmoil for the land, with civil war in fight and dragons returning, your hero is found out to be the ‘Dovakiin’ (Dragonborn), meaning he is the last hope for the people.
The same basic Bethesda rules apply here for character development and leveling, however it differs from the past games in a few ways. Major skills are not something you select at the beginning of the game, instead leaving it up to you to choose which skills you wish to level up on, based on how often you use it in game. The more armour you craft, the higher your smithing skill will become, the skeletons you defeat with a battle axe, the higher your two-handed weaponry will become etc. Following this, after enough skills increase, your overall character level will increase too. The choice to rid of these important decisions at the beginning of the game makes it easier to avoid making choices you will regret later. Leveling your character provides perk points, giving your protagonist noticeable improvements and abilities. Combat can still feel ‘floaty’, as if you’re swinging a sword at air rather than enemies, however will feel much stronger if you decide to invest points into it, and is noticeably improved over the past installments. Spells have also received improvement, allowing two different spells to be cast at the same time, and even the ability to dual cast a spell from both hands for enhanced effect. The many ways in which you can differ your playstyle makes experimenting an easy and rewarding task. Another new addition to this game are the new ‘word walls’ you find when exploring the land. Visiting these will unlock new dragon ‘shouts’, which can be used to slow time, summon dragons, blast enemies away, breathe fire and much more, further expanding your collection of abilities. Unlocking these however, can only happen after defeating a dragon and absorbing its soul. These encounters can be completely random, assaulting you in the middle of whatever you’re doing, which at first is a daunting task due to their size and scale. Excitement can wear off however, since dragons repeat the same behaviors and can show up quite frequently after a while. Bugs and glitches have been reduced heavily since the start of the game, however can still be present. These will not be game breaking though, sometimes providing humorous situations that shouldn’t be avoided.
A mountainous obstacle course, the land of Skyrim is filled with varied locations such as rocky cliffs, forests, snowy plains, vast fields and crumbling catacombs, is brought to light by the small extensive details included in every weapon, piece of armour, spell effect, building and misty clouds. Characters can still look a little rough and the faces do sometimes look awkward, but these are minor flaws in an otherwise graphically stunning game, especially over previous titles.
No other game is able to provide such a powerful sense of adventure and discovery through its use of soundtrack, than that of the fifth entry into the elder scrolls. The high-pitched anthems when out exploring, or the deep battle tracks whilst brawling, will make you want to carry on for just ten more minutes, as well as being stuck in your head all day, always making you wish to return to your story as soon as possible.
The real thrill you receive from this title is just how individual you can make it. The game gives you the choice to do whatever you please from the start, follow quests, buy a house, cook a meal, kill everyone in sight or simply wander for loot, the choice is yours. The game allows you to do this easily by providing countless activities to take part in. Join one of the many guilds, learn spells at the college, explore to find more weapons before enhancing them at a blacksmith, enchant pieces of armour for more effect, or even chase butterflies. The list of things to do is endless, however it means that no two people will experience the game in the same way.
Even after hundreds of hours of gameplay, you will still be uncovering new quests, items and characters that lead to more undiscovered territories with unexpected results. A colossal fictional world that constantly surprises, rewarding you with not only ‘trinkets, odds and ends’, but with a game that you will keep revisiting for years to come.
Overall Score – 9.5/10
-Tom Court, The Speaker