Posted on November 11, 2011, Phil Owen The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review (Xbox 360)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Released: November 11, 2011
When I started playing Skyrim two weeks ago, I don’t think I knew what I was getting into. Sure, I played Oblivion, like everyone else did, but I wasn’t so enthusiastic about it because it took place in a forest that might as well have been behind my apartment. I don’t go into those woods in real life, so why would I want to go into the generic woods in Oblivion?
Skyrim is a completely different beast. It has snow, for one, which is basically a foreign concept to me, seeing as how I’ve only ever lived in Alabama and Southern California. But it’s not just that. Skyrim truly feels like a foreign land.
It could be argued that Skyrim is actually the central character in the game, full of personality, depth and an amazingly rich history. And snow. The world first begins to reveal its true identity with all the crazy snow, and it continues with glaciers and ice shelves. I spent hours climbing around on glaciers, seriously, because that’s just too cool. Later, I was sent out even further north on ice shelves in search of a crazy man’s igloo, and I was in heaven.
But it’s not all there is to this world. You’ll also find yourself traveling through forests and plains, and maybe even a swamp. There is actually a snowy swamp, too, which is both ridiculous and amazing. Skyrim is a layered world, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Red Dead Redemption, and it’s all beautiful to behold.
There is, of course, another character in Skyrim, the hero you control throughout the adventure. Our hero is a lone wanderer, a lowlife, who finds herself (I say “her” because I chose to create a female character) thrust into an extraordinary situation. Dragons are returning to Skyrim, and they’re looking to ruin everyone’s day. Only you dare stand in their way, and that’s because you’re Dragonborn (or “Dovahkiin” in dragon tongue), one who has the ability to use powerful “dragon shouts” and absorb the souls of dragons you kill. And, boy, are you going to kill a lot of damn dragons. More on that in a minute.
The underlying story Skyrim tells here is pretty solid, and that’s mostly because it delves into the ancient history of the Elder Scrolls saga. We learn about mankind’s history with dragons, why the hell they’re rampaging now, and it’s all good lore and really well done.
The here and now of the main plot is less interesting, though it’s not bad, and it does take us to all the four corners of the game world–from the swampy Riften, to the Throat of the World at the peak of the highest mountain in the land; from the College of Winterhold, to the craggy rocks of Markarth. The main campaign serves as our introduction to all the locales we can visit in this world.
I call the main story an introduction because it’s only a small part of what you’ll be doing in this game. In my 50+ hours in Skyrim, I joined the Stormcloak rebellion against the Empire, became a werewolf, enrolled at the college of magic in Winterhold and became a professional thief. That’s not even close to everything you can do in this game.
As you travel around the world, you’ll crawl through dungeons and collect herbs and the souls of your enemies, and help out random townsfolk you meet along the road. You’ll find collectible “Dragon Words” written on walls that will grant you outlandish powers, called “Dragon Shouts.” You’ll climb a very tall mountain. You’ll hunt freaking mammoths. You’ll get married and buy a house. You’ll do everything you ever wanted to do in a fantasy game, and more.
That sounds like a lot of things for you to do, but there’s even more than that. The Radiant AI is constantly generating random new miscellaneous objectives for you, like bounties or retrieving this item or that. Skyrim is a game in which you couldn’t get bored even if you wanted to, because there’s always something new for you to do.