STAFF REVIEW of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360)

Thursday, November 10, 2011.
by Brent Roberts

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim  Box art Good day young adventurer, I don't mean to be a bother but if you have a few moments to spare with an old man such as myself, there is a tale I would like to tell you that may help you find what you seek. There is something inside me that tells me you play a vital role in the coming days ahead, I don't know quite what it is, but I have no doubt that there is something special about you. So please sit with me a while and let me tell you about the land, legends, and lore of the realm of Skyrim.

The Elder Scrolls have foretold of events in Skyrim and I pray you heed this information as it may shape all of Tamriel itself. The High-King of Skyrim lay dead at the hand of an assassination and a struggle for power has ensued between the Stormcloaks and the Empire which threatens the stability and prosperity of Skyrim, but that is not the worst part of this, by heavens no. With Skyrim on the brink of a civil war, it has been foretold that this will bring about the return of the dragons themselves, lead by Alduin, the Nordic God of Destruction. If these actions transpire and everything foretold in The Elder Scrolls become real, then Skyrim is in need of a hero, and for some reason, I believe that hero to be you.

Not all of the fabled prophecy of The Elder Scrolls is bad though, mind you there are some rays of light in these dark times and it is through the legend of the Dragonborn that we must place our hope of survival. The tales go back for ages, back to the time of Akatosh and the blood of the dragons, and even Emperor Tiber Septim himself, for it is said that those who possess the blood of dragons have the ability to commune with the dragons themselves and even wield the power of the beasts as well through the use of multiple shouts. It is said that the Dragonborn will help mankind by vanquishing the dragon threat should it ever arise. This leads us to Skyrim for it is rumored that Alduin is back and that the dragons have returned and all of mankind is now in danger.

The hope of salvation is high for it is said that the Dragonborn has a new innovative menu and control layout that allows more focus on the environment around you and provides quick and simplistic access to everything you will need when fighting dragons, exploring dungeons, and confronting the Daedric Gods themselves. With the push of one button you have access to everything and the ability to select almost anything to a favorites menu for quick selection.

Managing Dragonborn's character has also improved and offers a very deep character development system. When you level up your character, you have the option to increase your magic, your health, or your stamina (which effects how much you can carry) and you gain access to the constellations in the heavens above that allow you to customize, improve, and develop your skills with bonuses.

Another innovation that Skyrim brings to light is the ability to actively dual-wield multiple options at the same time, all the while improving your character's skills. For instance you could have a lightning spell in your left hand, and a sword in your right and you will be getting experience in both your destructive spells and one handed categories. Getting to know the land of Skyrim is critical and thankfully the map system allows Dragonborn to easily find the destination of his quests and discover majestic new areas. With both a world overview and close up map choice you will always find your way as you traverse the mountains and lakes of Skyrim.

The province of Skyrim allows for many adventures, quests, and tasks that can range from the mundane, to the vital, but all are important and all offer insight into not only the lands of Skyrim, but its people as well. You may hear of a blacksmith that may have to shut their doors because they can't fill orders fast enough, so that gives you the ability to step in and use the weapon forge to create or improve weapons and armor. Forging however means you must have the right materials to create your item, and in order to do that you may have to mine ore for it.

There are other tasks such as cooking where you create your own food through learned recipes which can restore health and offer bonuses when consumed. Alchemy and Enchantments play a big role as well since almost everything in Skyrim can be infused to either create different types of potions or magical items that offer character bonuses as well. While performing tasks such as forging, sharpening, cooking, mining and more seem rather tame when compared to fighting dragons and exploring dark dungeons, however, it is through these actions that we can often obtain the items we need to be successful in our quests.

Innovation of your character development is one thing, but when you talk innovation of Skyrim's quest structure, that is when the heart of Skyrim opens up and reveals the dynamic structure that will leave you playing this game for years to come. Utilizing a technology in the new Creation Engine called Radiant Storytelling; Skyrim records your actions and deeds and will alter and change things in the world accordingly. Not only will it alter things in Skyrim but it will also adjust characteristics of Skyrim, such as the game difficulty depending on your skills and will even change up points in quests such as different outcomes that are determined by your actions in Skyrim.

Along with the innovative Radiant Storytelling, there is more innovation in the way of the new Radiant AI. This gives NPC a real sense of purpose as they perform a wide variety of tasks throughout Skyrim, but the beauty is not how they interact with the land, but with you. Now characters will develop feelings for you based off of your actions and words and your relationship to them. An example of the dynamics of this would be if you save someone's daughter from bandits, it goes without saying that the daughter's family will find great favor with you. Not only are your interactions with the citizens of Skyrim important, but also your interactions and choices with the various factions such as the Thieves, the Dark Brotherhood, Stormcloaks, and more. This is the core of Skyrim itself and it's through this new innovation that delivers one of the best single player games ever conceived.

You have heard me talk of the land of Skyrim, but until your eyes first behold the snow covered mountain ranges, the vibrant lakes, or the dense foliage of the mighty woods, words will never do them justice. By incorporating a new innovated technology called the Creation Engine, every characteristic of the lands of Skyrim are constantly shifting and altering, whether it be through the changing of the seasons, to the precipitation, or even the changing of flora. This means that every moment your eyes will understand the legends of the beauty of Skyrim. Not only are the lands of Skyrim beautiful but the creature and character models are looking more stunning than ever. Your eyes will be in amazement when you observe a mammoth dragon, hovering and circling around you in the sky as you try to scale a snow covered mountain while in the middle of a blizzard.

New creatures will present themselves as challenges for you and while some are more your size, dragons are not the only massive dangerous creatures in these lands. While a giant for instance may be slow moving, they are quick to anger and strike without mercy and in one blow can knock you halfway across Skyrim itself. While the lands, temples, and caves may be beautiful in their own right, you must always be cautious of the creatures of that environment.

From the very moment you start your quests through Skyrim, your ears will be treated to a symphonic masterpiece from start to finish. Melodic and tranquil songs will eerily pacify your soul as you navigate through the different towns and explore the vast wilderness that Skyrim has to offer. When danger is around that is when your ears will hear the drums of war start to beat and that is your cue to prepare for a fight. The voice acting in Skyrim is done very, very well as the character voices seem to fit the legends and lore that we all know and love. There is never a moment of auditory boredom or disappointment in Skyrim, in fact it has taken all the high expectations, that I have personally placed on the sound, and surpassed them all. The sounds of this game will haunt your spirit as Skyrim delivers what could arguably be called one of the greatest works of audio in the video game world.

So there you have it my brave adventurer, I have told you all I know about the legends and lore of Skyrim and what to expect. I hope you have listened and learned from my tale and that you find your path to your destiny. Every aspect of Skyrim is done to pinpoint perfection and has the makings of a game that will be played and enjoyed by millions for years to come.

Before you set out on this grand adventure, please remember to never lose faith and hope in the Dragonborn for it is the sole hope of salvation and peace for the troubled land of Skyrim. Like I said before, I'm sorry to be a bother, but this old man sees something in your eyes that burns bright with the hope of the Dragonborn. Could you be the one that the Elder Scrolls prophesied about, are you him, are you the hope and salvation of Skyrim, are you Dovahkiin, are you the Dragonborn?

Thank you.

Overall: 9.7 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.6 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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