The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Through the frozen tundra of Skyrim, a lone warrior steps forth. He’s tired, with only the metallic sounds of his armour and heavy footsteps for company. It’s then that he hears the taunting; a marauder chief charges with a battle-axe in hand followed by a host of bow-wielding minions. Such arrogance is foolhardy, rewarded only with a burst of flame from one hand and a blade to the gut from the other. Avenging their fallen master, the villains fire shots from a distance. But this man is the Dovahkiin, ‘Dragonborn’… and so the opposition succumbs to the flurry of fire and steel. As he glances over the bodies of the fallen and loots all he can carry, a terrible sound hails from above – a blood dragon approaches. Equipping his sword and fire-resistant shield, the Dragonborn is not unprepared. He stands against his foe and proudly utters the words of Unrelenting Force, ‘Fus Ro Dah!’
As much as the above may sound like indulgent and romanticised hyperbole, it’s a fact that The Elder Scrolls series is well known for providing each player with a unique and personalised experience. There have literally been thousands of fond memories and unique experiences recounted from Oblivion – Skyrim’s predecessor released in 2006 – and given the rich world laid out in this instalment, it makes sense that anyone taking those first few steps into the world of Tamriel will come away with a few memorable tales of their own. Whether you wish to spill blood with a one-handed broadsword, hurl lightning as a mage, play the role of an arrow-shooting elf or become a solid mix of all of the above, it’s a certainty that Skyrim will have you covered. From the word go, you’re given a nice selection of customisation options (race, gender, appearance), but it’s in the way you choose to play that defines who you become and in which areas you excel.
Wearing heavy armour will net you experience in that field, while jumping into the fray with a one-handed blade will make you more proficient in combat and open up more options via ‘perks’ upon levelling up. The very term ‘level up’ may cause some to shudder, but the development team at Bethesda has done a fantastic job of trimming the fat and tightening the experience to the point where accessibility is king. The menu is also far more manageable this time, so at no point should you find yourself wrestling with the inventory or stats like with other games in the role-playing genre. Choosing the right perk is important and will help tailor your character more to your liking –this ensures that you become exactly who you want to be, and you only have yourself to blame should the case be otherwise.
Battling your way through the open world is no small task and it may be daunting when you first begin. The sheer breadth of the world, the ominous locales and enemies out for your blood means that you’ll always have to watch your step and be prepared for threats that lie in wait. Combat wasn’t particularly strong in the previous title and while this aspect has certainly been improved upon here, it wouldn’t be right to proclaim it as one of Skyrim’s strongest suits. It’s in no way bad as battles are good fun (with the crunch of steel, Fallout-esque finishing moves and variety of death-dealing methods on offer) but only rarely does strategy come into play; you’ll generally be fine with the right perks, a restoration spell, a few potions and a powerful weapon in hand (unless you’re unlucky enough to stumble across the wrong enemy type at a low level, or pick a fight with a giant).
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