by Chris Davis, reviewed on
Stop Right There Criminal Scum!
High fantasy is one of the most popular genres across every medium. For each type of entertainment there are household names which have stood the test of time and continue to dominate long after they first arrived on the scene. The premiere author for high fantasy these days is George R. R. Martin while Peter Jackson’s work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy has dominated cinema for a decade. In the world of video games, however, the competition is far fiercer but amidst such strong competitors as Diablo and Baldur’s Gate there has been, and continues to be, only one true champion: The Elder Scrolls. When the forth title in the series, Oblivion, arrived in 2006 it blew the critics and consumers away with an incredibly in-depth world full of intrigue and adventure, with enough content out of the box to last well over 100 hours.
Bethesda Softworks took a break from the series to release Fallout 3 in 2008 but has returned to their roots with Skyrim, taking us to lands previously unexplored. With a five year wait between Elder Scrolls titles, and a vastly different release in the interim, is the Elder Scrolls still the series fans have loved for well over a decade or has Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic juggernaut influenced the development of this highly anticipated title?
It Dawns In Fire
Two hundred years have passed since the gates of Oblivion opened up across Cyrodiil, flooding the countryside with the evil Daedra. With the end of the Oblivion Crisis the Forth Era began, an age of peace and rebuilding, meant to restore the Empire to its former glory. As time has gone on, however, the Empire has instead begun to crumble as it is losing its grip on the northern province of Skyrim, home to the Nords and refuge to a strong portion of the Elven and Orc populations. Skyrim is on the brink of civil war between the Imperial-backed Loyalists in Solitude (Skyrim’s capital) and the Stormcloak rebels of Windhelm. And, once again, the Elder Scrolls have predicted this and the terrible repercussions are beginning to take hold.
You awaken on a cart being taken to your execution for attempting to cross the border into Cyrodiil. In the middle of it, however, an awesome and dreadful sight arrives: a dragon. Long thought extinct, you are barely able to escape the beast as it tears apart the town’s motley garrison. From here on, your destiny is your own to make but the Elder Scroll’s prophecies will be fulfilled whether you want them to or not. The survival of Skyrim and all of Tamriel is in your hands but the outcome is a fate of your choosing.
Skyrim’s story, much like that of Oblivion, is an open-ended affair that can’t be so much told to you as experienced. Given the nature of Bethesda’s catalog of titles, this is to be expected, but to spoil anything from the story would be blasphemous. What I can say is that, of the overarching narrative, while perhaps not in possession of the best narrative in comparison to some great games out there, you will find yourself having trouble both leaving and returning to the main plot as there’s simply so much to see and do in Skyrim. When looking at Bethesda’s previous efforts, however, the answer is clear: Skyrim is the best one so far.
Men are But Flesh and Blood
Like all other titles Bethesda has created since they were first formed, Skyrim has a rather robust and complex character creation system. At the beginning of the game you are allowed to create whoever you wish to be across a choice of ten races, each with their own native abilities like magicka resistance or enhanced thievery skills. While each one has unique enhancements, you’ll also find that being a certain race can give you access to different conversation possibilities and even alter the way you are viewed in Skyrim. For example, since the Nords that dominate the population of the province are quite racist to Orcs and Elves, you can find yourself being insulted and possibly more if you are not careful. As an Orc, however, you will automatically have access to a few Orc strongholds that lie throughout Skyrim. This mechanic does not seem to limit the player access to any particular locations in the world, however, so you don’t have to worry about which race you choose.
Massive, immersive world
Autosave system only applies to leaving/entering an area