Searching through Skyrim
- Wednesday, February 08, 2012
If you're a ‘gamer' (and even if you're not, I'm sure that you have seen their TV commercials) there's no doubt that you are already well aware of Bethesda's new chapter in their Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim. This much anticipated title was released on November 11, 2011 and has quickly become one of the highest selling games of the year, not a small feat considering the undying popularity of the Modern Warfare and Battlefield franchises.
While Skyrim is the first Elder Scrolls title that I have personally played, I have found it very easy to jump into and I don't feel like I was left in the dark by not following the series from the beginning. Yes, there are references to the past chapters, but if you want to read up on the history of the world, there are thousands of texts in the game that you can read that will bring you up to speed.
As the fifth iteration in the Elder Scroll series, Skyrim is true to its roll playing game (RPG) roots and offers the player a vast number of ways to tailor the gameplay to fit your particular style. Want to be an armored sword fighter? No problem. Does archery fit your style better? Have it. Casting spells more your speed? You will find an amazing experience. Whatever you choose, you will be able to have a great time and the best part? You're never locked into one choice. All of your skills level up the more you use them so you can switch at any time, you'll just need to practice to get better at it.
Skyrim's plot starts off in typical fashion, you're a prisoner, about to lose your head. However, right before you meet your fate something happens that changes your destiny. This leads us to the first word of caution: This game is very violent, and there is blood and gore. With an ESRB rating of "M for Mature", this element alone earns it that rating, so it's not for kids or those adverse to some rather graphic violence.
Once you have been freed and escape from your captors the game opens up into what is by far the most impressive open world experience I have ever had. Skyrim is a mountainous region themed after Scandinavia. The locals are known as "Nords" and they are a rough bunch living in small towns. Between the towns, cities and outposts is a wilderness full of elk, bears, wolves, and other creature waiting to attack you when you least expect it. If you're a sight-seer you can spend hours just taking in the scenery because it is simply gorgeous, it's the best looking game I have ever played.
If you have played any of Bethesda's previous games you will know that their biggest downfall has always been human models, they have always looked rough and sometimes downright creepy. Skyrim is a huge leap in this area but they are not as good as games by other publishers. Bethesda has come a long ways, but there is still work to be done.
Interactions with the people in Skyrim are diverse and ever evolving. Depending on which paths you choose and what quests you complete, people will react to you differently. If you're like me, you'll want to just see how these things play out. If taking risks and embracing the unknown are not up your alley, you'll want to either purchase a strategy guide or spend some time researching the game to see how your actions will affect your experience.
To me, I love jumping into an RPG and just playing the game like I want to. If I do something that gets me attacked down the road, so be it, I made the decision and it's now time to deal with that decision. From this standpoint I feel like Skyrim hits on an important factor that games can teach us; the decisions that we make in life have consequences and we need to weigh them and be prepared to answer for them down the road. Your moral decisions in Skyrim have consequences, just like they do in life.
One last word of caution. In many RPGs your character has the ability to have personal relationships with some of the AI characters in the game. I have not personally seen this in Skyrim but it does exist. How far you choose to take those relationships is up to you, but just be warned that they could end up with your character in bed with somebody.
I think the best thing to say regarding whether or not you should play Skyrim is this: If the role playing genre is one that you have a fundamental problem with, it's not for you. You are taking on the persona of a fictional character and you're asked to make decisions in a game environment. It truly is a ‘role playing' experience. However, if you're on the fence, Skyrim offers the ability to steer clear of making the decisions that you aren't comfortable with.
Case in point: You will be asked to assassinate somebody. The target is not a good person, and you're left with a moral decision. Choosing to let the person live will not influence your ability to continue playing the game, you can carry on with your business and know that the game will not grind to a halt if you don't carry out the quest.
It is also worth noting that Skyrim features magic, a lot of it. Whether you use it or not is up to you, but you will take on bandits that use it against you and there is a ‘mage college' that is a fairly substantial side story. If the existence of magic is a deal breaker, then this game definitely isn't for you, and the same can be said about the dragons. Dragons are the major plot point of the story and you will be fighting a lot of them whether you want to or not.
They appear randomly and there is no running from a dragon, especially considering that absorbing their ‘soul' is a major component of the game. While it's definitely possible to make morally upright decisions and be a ‘good' character with virtues, the magic is unavoidable and could be a deal breaker for many Christians.
As a game, Skyrim offers many, many hours of game play (I am hearing that the average to complete the story is around 70 hours and many people have sunk hundreds of hours into it... and that's a blog post for another day) that can keep you occupied for a long time. From this standpoint, it is well worth the $60. You can spend plenty of time simply exploring the world and many more completing quests, fighting dragons and pitting factions against each other.
If you are an RPG gamer, Skyrim is unbeatable. If this will be your first foray into the RPG genre, be warned that this game has all of the elements that you can expect, the good and the bad, and your decisions in the game can lead to some dark places. Like in life, your decisions have consequences, so the question about whether Skyrim is for you best answered by another question: "What kind of person are you and what kind of character do you want to be?"
*This review first published 2/8/2012
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