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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Raising the Bar on the RPG Market (PC)

by Matthew F. Hibben
12/1/11

Developer/Publisher: Bethesda
Release Date: 11-11-11

Every few years a game comes along that truly raises the bar for what a player can experience from a game.  Bethesda delivers to gamers this year, Skyrim.   Today's Game Tech article delves into the Nord land of Skyrim and explores the wonders it holds.  In this first of two articles we will learn why Skyrim is everything an RPG gamer could ask for and more.

The Story

Skyrim is a world in constant strife, and in constant change.  The story begins with your character, the later discovered hero of the tale, being rounded up with a group of traitors to the crown to be executed.  It turns out that Dragons, a popular element of many RPG's, have not been seen for many years in the land of Skyrim, but descend upon your execution and create a calamity allowing you to escape. 

The primary story revolves around the struggle for Skyrim between two governments at war, and the return of dragons.  These two stories take place separately from one another and in parallel.  The player must choose sides in the civil war erupting within Skyrim as well as exploring the mystery surrounding the return of dragons and the legend of the Dragonborn.

Taking a large step back from the main story, let me just say that from primary quest chains to small side quest, the world of these quests is done to perfection.  Every quest, quest giver, and participant in these quests all have unique dialog and voiceovers.  A player can literally spend weeks in the world of Skyrim simply and meaningfully exploring all the odds and ends of side quests and back stories.  The level of detail given to quests both in their presentation and substance will keep players in the land of Skyrim long after the primary missions have been completed.

The World of Skyrim

The world of Skyrim is literally one of engrossing exploration and a testament to massive scale and detail. The land of Skyrim is a mix of high forest, tundra, and highland plains, all separated by expansive mountain ranges.  The thing that is most impressive about the world of Skyrim, is that if you can see it, you can explore it.  Imagine standing up on a high peak looking down at a valley so far off it is merely a foggy afterthought, while being whipped at by a snowstorm.  That sense of expansive terrain and vivid realism is at the heart of the physical world of Skyrim.

That sense of expansive terrain and vivid realism is at the heart of the physical world of Skyrim.

Skyrim is separated into many smaller kingdoms all controlled by Jarls. These territories have unique terrain and architecture to explore.   Entering new cities and exploring their surrounding territories will always be a feast for the eyes, with no two cities being modeled after another.

Gameplay and Combat

Gameplay in Skyrim is really dependant on what type of character you want to be.  Players can equip a variety of weapons or spells in either of their hands, so the mechanics of combat and gear selection really comes down to the class you wish to focus on.  Players can pick from class types such as a two handed wielding warrior, a fast and stealthy thief, or a mage that casts spells or summons minions.  It is also possible to develop multiple disciplines as the story progresses.  Combat itself is split up between third person and first person views.

As a player levels up they gain what are called Perks.  Think of Perks as talent points.  These points can be spent on a variety of different skill sets many of which are not related to direct combat.

Players can develop skills related to being a masterful thief or a successful merchant, as well as boosting combat related abilities.

Players develop skills by using them, meaning that if you want develop your pick pocket skill you will need to steal items from wandering travelers and townsfolk.  That also brings up the concept of law in the world of Skyrim.  Players break laws in Skyrim at their own risk, with the consequences of this being fines, jail time, or being outright attacked by the inhabitants or guards of the offended city-state (each city-state has its own justice system).  Players can also develop their abilities by training with various NPC's scattered around Skyrim that will sell a maximum of 5 levels of any trait per level, with these levels of skill becoming increasingly expensive as the level increases.  Players will also from time to time stumble upon tomes that by reading them will also raise the skill level associated with the subject of the tome.  It's also interesting that every book found in the world is readable and contains content and lore unique to the specific book.

Technical Problems

Although these problems are currently being worked out by Bethesda, I wanted to touch on some various problems I have had with Skyrim.  Currently there are problems for PC users in that the game periodically crashes (this seems to be happening less now), as well as some problems with UI functionality related to poor implementation of mouse controls vs. gamepad.  These problems are currently being addressed and well known by the developer, with messages on their site stating that patches are coming as soon as they can.  With that said the game is still a complete delight to play once you resign yourself to dealing with crashes, which is more a testament to how great the game is.

Story Based Gameplay

As the story unfolds it is learned that the player is what is called "Dragonborn", meaning they can use the language of dragons in the form of shouts.  These shouts are developed over the course of the game both by learning new shouts and learning phrases contained within a shout. 

The player will learn shouts both from exploring dungeons as well as by developing the story quest line. 

Crafting

Players in Skyrim can also produce a wide variety of items throughout the course of the game.  Crafting is split up between smithing, alchemy, and enchanting.  These three player driven activities complement each other greatly and it is highly recommended that all three be developed together.  Players can spend Perks to develop these crafts far beyond normal ranges, with perks offering players the ability to smith powerful items, alchemists the ability to create mighty potions, and produce enchantments that can change great items into truly legendary.

More of Side Missions and Lore

Players familiar with the earlier Elder Scroll titles will be happy to know that many elements are back and better than ever in Skyrim.  Story chains for the Dark Brotherhood, Daedric Princes, the Thieves Guild, and more are all explored extensively in Skyrim.  I highly recommend exploring all of these quests as they are all well written and offer some awesome rewards.

For players seeking a truly massive experience, then Skyrim is the go-to game.  There have been many games released this year in the RPG genre, many have been decent, while others have been down right disappointing.  Skyrim, with its massive and open world that players can fully explore and interact with, coupled with endless high quality campaigns to embark on, really leaves nothing to feel unsatisfied about.  As stated earlier, this is the first of two parts with the second article focusing on unlocking achievements, strategies for crafting, and more.  I hope that all of you will be back as I share more of the game, where the journey is the goal.

  • 1.
    The
    Story
  • 2.
    The
    World
  • 3.
    Game- play
  • 4.
    Combat and Skills
  • 5.
    Known Issues
  • 6.
    Crafting
  • 7.
    Video
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