The sheer immensity of its open-world and level of interactivity make The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a terrific place to have virtual adventures for hours on end even if it’s plagued with technical problems.
Skyrim is the game that developer Bethesda has been trying to make for years. Oblivion and Fallout 3 were terrific games in their own right, but they were also experiments that allowed the American developer see the potential of the open-world RPG genre. As a consequence, those titles suffered from technical issues, audiovisual glitches and inconsistent storylines. To be clear, Skyrim suffers from most of those problems as well, but there are so many systems working at the same time and a such a gargantuan world to explore that Skyrim puts all the open-world RPGs that preceded to shame.
Set 200 years after the events that transpired in Oblivion and set in the fictional province of Skyrim, the game puts you in the shoes of a prisoner sentenced to death who manages escapes right after a dragon attacks the settlement where you’re imprisoned. Over the course of the game, you’ll find out that your main purpose involves tracking down and defeating dragon Alduin: The World-Eater who’s apparently going to destroy the world.
One of the best parts about Skyrim is that soon after creating your character using the game’s powerful editor, you can start exploring its massive world. Usually, this comes in the form of main-quests and side-quests you can complete at your own pace, though are hundreds of other activities. The character you create (which is fully customizable) determines the weapons, statistics and spells you’ll start with, but for the most part, you’ll be able to customize your character however you want as you progress.
Regardless of the path you follow and the character you create, you’ll probably engage in combat quite often. At your disposal you have different types of weapons (everything from bows to warhammers,) spells (fireballs, healing, sparks,) and shouts. Although weapons and spells are self-explanatory, shouts are little more complicated. As a Dragonborn (the descendant of the dragons,) you can speak the language of the large reptiles which you express through special abilities called shouts. These abilities, which regenerate over time, allow you to warp short distances, propel enemies backwards or conjure up a blast of fire. As you’d expect, the combat elements are simple on their one, but when you all of them come into play at the same time, you can combine them in creative and satisfying new ways.
As I mentioned above, Skyrim has an overarching story and while some of the quests are entertaining, the best part about the narrative is that you can approach it however you want. So you can postpone the main storyline or ignore it completely and focus on mundane tasks, sidequests or exploring the massive land that surrounds you. As a consequence, the most memorable part of Skyrim isn’t the linear path you follow, but the random and unexpected moments to be had in this game. For instance, I was once stuck in a fight against a dragon and just when I was about to give up completely, a saber-tooth came out of nowhere and attacked the creature. They ended up killing each other and I was a mere bystander of the violent encounter, but it was remarkable and memorable all the same. Speaking of enemies, Skyrim is populated with every creature (fantastic or real) that you can imagine. Most of them are aggressive (wolves, trolls, dragons,) but a few run away as soon as they see you or identify you as a threat (rabbits, cows and so on.)
But everything I’ve described this far wouldn’t be remotely interesting if the world around it wasn’t equally amazing. Luckily, the land of Skyrim is huge and it never ceases to amaze. The Elder Scrolls V grabs the cliché phrase of “if you see it, you can go there” and takes it to an extreme. The world is gorgeous and filled with life and you can explore dungeons, mountains, rivers, cities, bridges, towers, fortresses and villages. Ever after playing for dozens of hours, there’s still a lot I haven’t seen in this game and I found it amazing that the sense of discovery never really goes away. Note that to navigate more quickly, you can always ride a horse or use the fast travel mechanic, though you can’t use the latter to visit places that you haven’t discovered yet.
But this is a Bethesda open-world game and even though you can interact with pretty much whatever you want, Skyrim is plagued with technical problems. Most of these issues I came across were inoffensive, such as overlapping lines of dialogue, characters that moved in artificial ways or enemies that disappeared, but they were pretty distracting nonetheless. This is aggravated by a rudimentary save system that only saves your progress whenever you enter or leave a building, so if you’re not careful, you can make a lot of progress and die, only to realize the game hasn’t saved which means you’d have to replay entire sections again. A word of advice, save manually and often if you want to avoid headaches.
Some of the worst bugs I encountered include: an NPC blocking my path in a small room, so I had to kill him and then pay my own reward, a boss from the main quest that turned invincible and I got stuck in the environment more times that I can count. Usually, most of these problems can be solved by reloading you last save, but make sure you save as often as possible. On the Xbox 360, other technical issues include long loading times and a choppy framerate on certain areas, so take that into account if this is your platform of choice.
Technical blemishes aside, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is Bethesda’s open-world RPG masterpiece. This is the kind of game that will be talked about for years and years, mainly for its sheer immensity, variety in level design, immense level of interactivity, memorable moments, enjoyable combat, pristine vistas and compelling storylines. Such an immense world isn’t without some bugs, glitches and minor technical annoyances that the developer is known for, but this is still a spectacular RPG with lots of adventures to be had.