Action | Dungeon-crawler | First-Person | RPG | Sandbox | Shooter | Simulation | Stealth | Third-Person
TES5, short for "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim", or just Skyrim, is a continuation of a series of nearly endless RPG adventures by Bethesda Game Studios. Before Skyrim, there was Oblivion. (Let's not forget Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas!) Before that, Morrowind. Before that, Daggerfall and Arena. All these games were great at promoting the freedom to explore an open environment.
Skyrim takes place in the Skyrim territory. Pretty simple, huh? Well, this territory is actually fairly complex, with vast bodies of water, dense forests, and scattered wildlife. You also find areas which are covered in snow and ice, and there is weather, from rain to storms to snow to hail. You could travel for hours before reaching your destination, especially with all the distractions which will always peak your attention.
You arrive in Skyrim as a prisoner, taking a little similarity from Oblivion but more so from Morrowind. You are about to be executed when a dragon attacks the town you arrived in. Finally, a mighty soldier frees you of your bonds and allows you to follow him to safety. You help him in combat and he lets you follow him to the next town, Riverwood, where you can learn how to use blacksmith tools and check out the scenery. Whatever you do, though, do not kill the chicken, just a word of caution.
At this point, you are free to roam the countryside, and you can start forming your path in the world. You have many options, too! You can choose your race or species, your religion, your perks, and so on. You can be a criminal or a savior. You can even just hang out in bars or pubs and be a bard. Yes, you have bard-oriented skills to train. You have so many skills to train that you will feel that you could be playing a MMORPG, but you will not feel like your time is wasted. On the contrary, you will feel alive, and every time you "level up", you will feel just satisfied enough to continue gaining experience through whatever tasks you like.
Unlike Morrowind and all other Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim does not require you to focus on specific skills to level up. You can train any skill at any time. You can also gain perks for a skill as long as you have leveled up that skill far enough. The statistics system is a little on the simplified side, compared to Morrowind, but it is more detailed than most players will ever care for.
You can easily stray from a quest to go to a different quest and come back to that quest later in the story. The map system works well with the quest journal to mark all active quests. Everything is presented in a very easy-on-the-eyes format. You can navigate quests similarly to Fable 3. When a quest is marked as active, you can see the marker on the world map. Also, you can fast travel using the map, as long as you have been to the destination before. Fast travel is not as annoying this time around. Loading screens last maybe five seconds, and the game looks better than any previous Bethesda title.
Smithing is an old Oblivion skill, but it no longer is used to repair items. Instead, items last forever. Still, the idea of making and improving armor and weapons is very appealing to me. I only wish smithing was harder to level up. It was the first skill I maxed to level 100, and all my other skills were still below level 60. Also, since weapons and armor never break, there is little reason to smith them more than once except to gain experience. I found myself leveling up smithing, anyway, because I already mined tons of ore and made lots of leather. I simply wanted to use the materials up!
The dialogue system is the big drawback. Oblivion had a much more responsive dialogue system and allowed you to skip dialogue whenever you saw fit. Skyrim does not allow that luxury. The response system in Skyrim is unresponsive at times, and I somehow kept hitting the wrong questions, resulting in repeated dialogue which I had to sit through. This made talking to characters very annoying for me, but I soldiered through it, because the rest of the game was simply amazing. On the plus side, dialogue no longer zooms in on characters' faces. I found that zoom feature quite annoying in the Fallout games, and it was somewhat annoying in Oblivion at times. Skyrim finally pays attention to my past gripes.
The combat is much better in Skyrim than it was in any previous Elder Scrolls game. It is not perfect, and you should not expect the realistic shooter mechanics found in games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. However, it is the best I could have hoped for in a RPG, and it definitely does not let me down.
Close combat is often necessary, especially when fighting in a confined space. You use armor and defensive spells and potions to defend yourself. You have an assortment of swords, axes, and maces, among other weapons for attacking with. Different weapons act slightly different, but for the most part, the formula to a fight is the same: attack, block, get hit, attack back a few times, repeat. Of course, this can mean having to use healing potions and food to restore your health on a constant basis, so it should be avoided when possible in favor of the long range options.
Long range combat is also extremely important. You will want to add a bow to your small assortment of weapons. You will also want to consider equipping the more powerful arrows instead of the beginner level iron arrows. Many players will probably overlook the arrows, thinking the bow is what matters, but the arrows are extremely important when wanting to sneak attack warriors from great distances. This distance is sometimes all that stands between you and a swift death.
Magic can be avoided all-together if you want it that way, but once you try the magic out, it should be clear that it is a fun option for mid range combat. Once you get the more powerful spells, magic can also help at long range. Magic can also be used to transmute ore, heal yourself and allies, and summon minions or familiars. I like enchanting my weapons and armor with magical properties to make them that much stronger. I also like using the healing spells frequently, because healing potions are not in abundance.
Enchantments are very limited, but once you get the skill high, it can be a little less restrictive. I prefer the enchantment system in Morrowind, which allowed me to make some very godlike objects, including armor that let me fly. Also, enchantments which have combat-oriented properties have to be recharged, making their use require a little of micro-management.
Finally, dragons. This game is full of them. You want to kill them? Good, because they want to kill you... and everything else. Every once in a while, though, you will have the pleasure of seeing your character perform a finisher attack on a dragon, and it is simply awesome.
Overall, Skyrim is amazing, and I recommend it to everyone who has either a Xbox 360 or a powerful gaming computer. I can honestly say it is beyond palatable for all kinds of players, from shooter fans to RPG junkies to platforming and fighter enthusiasts. The lore could be a fun read, and fans of the series should already know that.
Do not rent this game! It is too long to be done with it in just a few days! If you don't believe the perfect score, watch gameplay here.
Another thing to look for when browsing PC games is the system requirements. There are really 4 things you need to worry about: RAM or memory, processor, video card, and finally, the hard drive space. Memory can be upgraded fairly easily, and it shouldn't cost much. We recommend having at least 1GB memory, 2GB if possible. Your processor needs to be fairly modern, and a Pentium 4 probably won't cut it. We recommend a 1.8Ghz Core 2 Duo or better. Your video card should support DirectX 9 (or higher) and have a minimum of 256mb memory attached to it. We recommend 512mb or greater. Hard drive space is subjective, but we recommend having a fairly large amount of space. You could settle for as little as 40gb and be able to play most games, but we recommend having 80gb or more space to make sure you have room for multiple games at once. Most PC games don't run straight from their disc. They usually require an install process, and most modern games require around 8gb of free space to install.
PCs are the ultimate game console, because they can be upgraded, and they will never go out of style. PCs can also play most old game systems through emulators, so if you lose your Playstation, you can just play your games on your PC. You can also play classic arcade titles and have infinite coins!
A lot of people complain about having to use a mouse and keyboard to play PC games. This isn't a requirement, fortunately, and we have what we call gamepads or joypads. Yes, we can use game controllers! We can even use Xbox controllers! That said, it's not as plug-and-play as a game console, and some games simply will not work with your joypad. Fortunately, Steam tells you if games support controllers, and if your favorite game doesn't support them, you can map the controllers to keyboard and mouse controls.
Just be careful when buying PC games. Read reviews carefully. If a game gets a 1/5, don't buy it. If your PC is a cheapie, don't expect modern 3d games to work. Read the system requirements very carefully. If you don't know anything about your system, you can find help in the PC Stuff forum.