The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Well, I've done it. The dragon is dead, and it only took 97 hours to do it. Let's start at the beginning.

So the whole thing starts off with your nose being pounded into an executioner's chopping block, and I'm wondering when this is going to get good. After an initial panic of "we're all dead," you are free to go.

Skyrim's initial wow, look at that moment, with Bleak Falls Barrow in the distance.

After getting settled into a nice city, I kill a dragon. Everyone is freaking out, and some monks on the tallest mountain around want me to visit them. So on the way up a few thousand stairs to meet them, I get killed by a troll. I'm starting to think that I might not be the master of my destiny here.

Knowing that this is a Bethesda game, I know the whole world will wait while I lollygag around, jumping in the fields, catching the butterflies, pulling their wings off, and grinding them into potions. Actually, I went to many of my local dungeons, and killed zombies aimlessly until I leveled up and got stronger. In fact, I kept doing that: pilfering necropolises, killing dragons, and seeing the world. I knew that this big bad dragon was supposed to end the world and bring about the next, but I had already declared that the next world must take care of itself. The End will wait.

Like other Elder Scrolls games, each one is completely rebuilt, from technology to gameplay. They claimed to have removed the need for separate day/night textures on outdoor surfaces, and even with higher res textures, more varied voice acting, and a 4 hour soundtrack, the game takes less than 6 gigabytes. The game looks fantastic as is, but I have tweaked the shadows, and still higher res textures are being made.

Coming from Oblivion, the gameplay is quite different. Crafting takes more prominence, and all those animal pelts, gems, and apples you get stuck with are actually useful. Now, crafting activities take place at specific "stations", whereas alchemy previously could be done anywhere, as long as you had the equipment. Fortunately, these stations are prevalent and accessible enough in the world that getting to them is generally not a problem; houses can be upgraded to include them, most shops have them, and even some dungeons and camps have some.

Skills are no longer governed by classes and attributes, as those two ideas have been thrown out, sort of like the Mako and inventory in Mass Effect 2, except I don't miss anything in Skyrim. Instead of segregating hammer, sword, and unarmed combat types, Skyrim just has one- or two-handed weapon skills. Merchantile and speechcraft has been combined, which makes sense from a gameplay perspective, in my opinion.

While playing, an astute observer will notice that there is a considerable influence from Fallout 3 in Skyrim. Instead of unlocking certain power moves at fixed levels, there are perk trees instead. This might seem like a way to fix you into a path (like classes do), but to unlock these perks, you have to have a certain minimum skill level to unlock them, so you are doing those things anyway. On the more violent side of things, there are finishing moves. These include swiping an enemy's kneecaps out, lifting two swords into their stomach and letting him hang there for a second, snipping heads off, and backstabbing. There are ones for all weapon types and all enemy types, even dragons!

Back to my story: at one point, I found myself in the middle of a field, with a dragon circling over head. I'm not good at bows, but I got out my bow anyway, and was shooting arrows at the thing to make it come down. All the meanwhile, I am aware of this giant maybe 50 feet away. He was scratching his chin, trying to figure out what in the world was going on: he was seeing a lizard-man (argonian character, by the way) shooting arrows into the air, and shaking his fists at the sky. The dragon eventually finds some one to freeze (frost breathing), lands, and I rush over. By the time I get there, the dragon is up and flying around for another swipe, and I see this legionnaire. I try to talk to him, but he isn't in the mood. After I kill the dragon, he gets up and asks me if I want to join the Legion. Eh, no thanks, I'm good.

I went up to those monks, who had mentioned their leader up at the tip top of the mountain for about the fifth time. They made it clear that I would go up there when I could survive the way, and for now, I was not ready. So I turned to leave, when this booming voice came from everywhere, and they quickly decided that I was ready to go up. Later, one of my sworn protectors mentioned that they knew about who was up there, and demanded that I kill him. I won't be seeing them again, because I will not kill my bro.

The loading screens mention that a castle was built for the purpose of containing a dragon. If you are dim, there are dragons about. Connect the dots: at one point, I went to the mayor of this town and asked him if I could use his castle to catch a dragon. Should have seen the look on his face.

There are plenty of reasons to care about Skyrim, unlike Rage or even Borderlands. But it makes me realize that I appreciate a morality based RPG, like the Mass Effects or Fallouts, as there is none to be had here. I look forward to even more time well wasted in this frozen tundra.

P.S.: To my utter surprise, it did come that Friday.

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