Dragons and werewolves and vampires, oh my! In November 2011, with the release of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, fantasy role-playing fans (myself included) rolled off their couches to huddle on the sidewalk of Gamestops nationwide for its midnight release. This game delivers on so many levels: stunning graphics, smooth gameplay, amped up controls, expanded storyline. Even with the glitches, this game is brilliant! Ready to lose hours and even days as an alter ego? This is your game.
Why, would essentially rational humans give up hours of their real life playing on an imaginary plane as an alter ego? Well, besides possibly New Guinea, it’s one of the only places around where you don’t have to be politically, or morally correct. Don’t like the way someone’s eyeballing you? Smack ‘em down! Like the neighbor’s possessions? Take ‘em. In Skyrim, you will be rewarded for this kind of behavior, with an increase to sneak, pickpocketing, and lockpicking skills, provided you’re not caught.
Then, there are the graphics: the stars and sky, skin texture, arm hair – all delivered in stunning detail. A unique new world that emulates our own medieval times, complete with 10 races, not all of primate origin. The Khajit and Argonian races are evolutionary relatives of the cats and the lizards. Mages, warriors, and stealth characters alike all have a new world to explore.
Each new generation of games ushers in an increased level of control. The newest improvements, the favorites’ menu and dual-wielding, gains major, innovative ground. The favorites’ menu is uberuseful; it allows loading your most popular weapons, spells, and items into a quick-use menu for swift transitions, instead of tedious maneuvering through the long menus to search for items. Dual-wielding takes the focus off of the right hand, enabling ambidextrous weapon handling and spell flinging. This added versatility makes switching back and forth between shields, spells and weapons simple, increasing the overall time spent on the plains of Skyrim. Sprinting might not seem like an improvement, but Skyrim is a big place; being able to cover ground faster, or overtake adversaries, becomes a must.
When you’re finished exploring topside, head down into the Dwemer ruins; massive caverns expand underground full of ancient technology and booty for you to loot. Skyrim is a multi-faceted society with room for all tastes. Was Robin Hood your childhood hero? Or was Conan more your type? Maybe the Romans spoke to you? There are guilds for thieves, warriors, mages, murders, and even werewolves. Additionally, you can join rebel factions or invade territories to fulfill your deepest anti-hero desires. You can even explore domestic bliss; buy a house, get married, get a dog, etc.
Let’s talk glitches, since that has been a real downer for many, especially Playstation 3 owners. Most are just hilarious: dragons twitching in the sky flying backwards, giants launching characters skyward never to be seen again, city walls suddenly going missing, characters getting stuck in between floors-as in the legends from the Manhattan Project. (Even the glitches are awesome!) The least amusing one is a freeze. Set your auto-save up for every 5 minutes, but don’t rely on them; the system only stores the last 3. Get into the habit of saving your game. To watch countless hours of game time lost when, suddenly, the screen locks and you are forced to turn off the console. Those agonizing seconds spent reloading the game, sifting through foggy memories. “When did I pee last? I know I did a manual save before I left the room. It was just a few minutes ago…or was it a few hours?” Spare yourself the gut-wrenching realization that it was, indeed, a few hours ago: save often – manually.
Why would Bethesda release the game, no matter how awesome, so riddled with glitches? Safety and economics; in conspiracy theorist circles, it is believed that Bethesda, concerned by the annual increase of hate email, finally released the game with software issues and all, rather than face riots. It has been, after all, 5 really long years since Skyrim’s predecessor, Oblivion, hit the market. Five Earth-years equates to roughly 200 virtual ones, since the Skyrim storyline picks up about 2 centuries after Oblivion ends; a really freaking long time to wait for a sequel! But so worth it. Release your inner nerd: play this game!