Being a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series I was initially extremely excited for the latest instalment back in 2011 but I found myself disappointed on more than one occasion. The disappointment I felt could only be described as a child on Christmas Day waking up to an empty stocking. Time after time I attempted to indulge into what I believed would be an incredible experience but I found it difficult to move on from what I had achieved and created back in the lands of Cyrodiil. After playing Oblivion (2008) for so many years it wasn’t an easy transition. The game was different in its entirety. Nonetheless, with enough persistence, the game quickly became an unforgettable experience.
The game, like the rest in the series allows the player to create every element of their character; race, skin tone, facial hair, height, weight and of course gender. Good ol’ Bethesda totally PC there. The player may also choose from a plentiful selection of talents that their character will possess, such as speech-craft or sneaking. Each skill will determine the path your character takes and if this isn’t enough, each race features abilities that make them more resilient to threats that await them in the lands of Skyrim. Some may choose to be a opportunistic thief, blood-lusting murderer or a witch or wizard whereas others may choose the path of good will and heroism. It is entirely down to the player how they will play the game and which quests to complete. This is one thing I will always love Bethesda for; the freedom they give the player.
The storyline itself is a little more complex than the last instalment. It features two main quest-lines, one where you follow the path of the Dragonborn, save the world and rid the realm of dragons. You know…that classic. And in the other (should you choose to tackle it) circulates around the civil war between the Imperials and Stormcloaks in which you will choose a side and battle for the lands of Skyrim. Despite having two main quests, I found both extremely short and quite frankly a little disappointing. Neither required anything as long-winded as some of the main quest objectives did in Oblivion. The Dragonborn quest is the more narratively gripping of the two due to its uniqueness and adrenaline fuelled battles. However, the civil war quest does feature some really enjoyable moments where the player will storm and secure enemy forts. These moments were amongst my favourite whilst playing the game. It reminded me of the “Headquarters” game mode in the Call of Duty series or fighting back and forth over command posts in Star Wars: Battlefront (2004). Despite this being insanely fun, the player had nothing to lose and I think this drained some of the potential thrill for me.
There were also many new features that the game had to offer. It seems as if Bethesda has given us a much bigger sandbox to play in this time. One of my favourite features is the slo-mo “kill-cam” that has been added when achieving a critical hit. It has given the player a much more “active” role in battles, players can use more button combinations with rewarding outcomes which gives the whole “hack ‘n’ slash” element a fresh feel. This in turn has brought an entirely new meaning to exhilarating to Tamriel that I hope never leaves.
The levelling up system has also been improved to a huge extent. Instead of choosing a limited amount of skills to improve you are awarded skill points. Which in turn are used to unlock perks, provided the player is a high enough level. This not only adds an entirely new motivation for training skills but also allows the player to gain an advantage in areas where they initially may not have been so confident. To add to this, the ability to sprint, dual-wield, make friends and most importantly shout were added. Gaining friends allows you to have a companion fight by your side no matter where you dare to explore, not to mention an extra person to unload all your loot onto. It’s definitely a win-win situation. Shouts may just be my favourite aspect about Skyrim. It allows the player to achieve new levels of awesome through the rare ability to speak in dragon-tongue. As for the sprint function, it was useful since the player could no longer level-up the speed or agility ability but it gave the game an aura of a contemporary, mainstream game. Which I very much disliked. It is elements such as this that show how mainstream the Elder Scrolls series has become but it is yet to ruin Bethesda as they still manage to keep fans of the older games happy by not changing drastically. In some ways the game even sticks to its traditions and borrows aspects from their previous games such as Fallout 3 (2008) and Morrowind (2002). From Fallout they borrowed the lock-picking method which created much more of a challenge. However, Bethesda reintroduced the method in which players buy and sell with merchants from Morrowind. The merchant has a limited amount of coin which will deplete after each sale; resulting in a limited amount the player can sell. I found this extremely frustrating as you have to travel all over Skyrim in order to sell your possessions. On the other hand, this does create a more believable system and doesn’t cap the merchants buy limit like in Oblivion.
In comparison to its predecessor, Skyrim features a lot more traps and puzzles which create a fresh challenge for players. Traps are much more common and can have devastating effects if the player fails to realise their presence. Admittedly, some of the puzzles had me scratching my chin on more than one occasion but after a few encounters, I found that there was repetition and this shattered any awe I had previously held.
Skyrim presents us with hundreds of new creatures, caves, ruins, quests and memories. It is a game I thoroughly enjoyed playing through once I got into it. Perhaps it’s just one of those games that generates too much hype prior to release, making it tough to live up to. Either way, the game presents us with some astonishing landscapes and some unforgettable moments. Bethesda have yet again created a game that continues to offer new quests and has disrupted my social life to the point where I don’t know what I did before I decided to indulge in its beauty. A masterpiece that will stay with many for years to come.
I could write all day about the new features that Skyrim brought the The Elder Scrolls series but you’re perhaps you’re better off finding out for yourself.