Many great games have graced our consoles this year, from Arkham City to Dark Souls. Well far be it from Bethesda, developers of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, to not have their game counted amongst the greats. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a finely tuned, annoyingly buggy, incredibly fun gaming experience that far outshines its predecessor. It isn’t perfect, slipping through the same cracks that Bethesda has grown possibly a little too comfortable with. However, it succeeds where it should and with flying colors.
From the very beginning, Skyrim thrusts you into the story and action of the game more intensely than any Elder Scrolls before it. Still fitting you with the role of the unknown prisoner, the epic opening sequence does a fantastic job of smashing you directly into the game, from narrowly escaping an early death, to the adrenaline-pumping flight through the burning town, to the battle through the underground caverns to safety, each part giving you subtle hints at the overall story, but leaving you more clueless (and curious) than anything.
As you progress into your first few hours, you learn basics of the main story you will be a part of (or not, if you so choose). Your journey takes place in the country of Skyrim, home of the Nordic race. The dragons of ancient times have come back and you, the prophesied Dragonborn are the only one that can stop whatever evil plot has brought them back. In the midst of all this, several other stories are unfolding all throughout Skryim: civil war, a plot against the ruling body, the stories of the many factions, all of which are there for you to influence and become a leading part. Each one feels just as deep and important as the main story line, with each one introducing you to new and unique characters, making friends, eliminating enemies, building and toppling dynasties. These stories and the ability to be a part of them is definitely the most appealing and enjoyable part of Skyrim.
Aside from enjoying the story, Skyrim isn’t bad to look at either. The landscape is breathtaking — the environments, the green forests, riverways and waterfalls, caves, all the way to the many snowy mountains — all look great and just beg to be explored. Due to these appealing visuals and more varied environments, exploration is done not just to progress the story, but for sheer enjoyment as well. You may very well forget you have a mission and instead choose to dungeon dive or explore the open landscape. Granted, the textures aren’t the greatest when right up in the camera, but if you spend all of your time putting your face right up against the rocks and trees, then you will miss out on all the great things Skyrim has to offer.