Monday, 21 November 2011

Gaming feature: Hands on with Skyrim

I used to critique games until I took an arrow to the knee...

After the excruciatingly long wait, finally, the nine divines have blessed us with the gift of the fifth installment into the Elder Scrolls Series. Oh Talos, we thank ye for Skyrim and its amazing gameplay, huge, HUGE beautifully decorated open world and the captivating stories we learn about on our journey. Okay, so perhaps some would say I'm overreacting here, and whether you think I am or not, I don't care. If you played the predecessors to the highly anticipated 2011 release 'Skyrim' and you thought they were good, then I suggest you take a seat and... No, forget that, just go buy it. Don't even bother reading this!

Not convinced? Well then, let's get to it. First things first, this is no 'proper' scrutiny of Skyrim, more of a insight to the game. I say this because, despite myself have around twenty hours clocked up on Skyrim already, I've barely touched the main story, something that's pretty integral in most games and at times the only gameplay feature to be had. But the folks at Bethesda (who also created Fallout:3/New Vegas) have always had a knack for making incredibly large scale worlds with plenty of things to do, places to see, people to meet and dungeons to pillage. And when you begin playing any of these games, after the initial twenty minutes or so, which acts as a tutorial section usually, you'll find yourself stepping out into a world that was created for you. You can go anywhere, whenever you want, however you want. Get bored with the main quest? Just go for a wander, and you'll no likely stumble across a bandit camp, or evil monster-ridden temple that will entice you in with promises of excitement and suspense. Not to mention treasure!

The grand scale of this game really just cannot be justified by mere words alone. Populated by a huge expanse of different races of people, hundreds of wild creatures, from wolves to trolls, to the game's most exciting new addition, dragons! Take all of these things and drop them in a awe inspiring landscape that pushes the boundaries of current technology. You honestly wouldn't believe that Skyrim and its predecessor, Oblivion, even share the same console in terms of graphics! Gigantic snow capped mountains detail the land of Skyrim, homeland to the race of tough Nords who face the bitter cold weather alongside the other nine races of beings that survive in the often treacherous  conditions. The land is adorned by hundreds of different kinds of plants and shrubs, trees and bushes, that are all wonderfully detailed. Each and every dungeon is handcrafted intrinsically to make sure that you don't get bored of hunting for loot, or carrying out some quest for a fellow you met in one of the cities scattered around the world. It might sound a little odd, but the fact that your playing environment is so realistic and genuinely breathtaking, it immerses you into this entirely new world that I absolutely guarantee any sane gamer will fall in love with.

So you have this enormous canvas laid out in front of you. What do you do? Well, to begin, the game starts off with your character being coached alongside a thief, and two soldiers of the Stormcloak rebellion. Your hands are bound, and it becomes clear within a few minutes that you are being carried forth to your death, executed for illegally crossing the border from Cyrodiil, the neighbouring province and into the land of Skyrim. It all seems rather bleak as you step forth to the block, crouched down and waiting unbearably for the axe to swing. But then, a deafening roar sounds, and the first dragon, and by no means the last, appears, clinging to the tower right above you and spitting flaming breath all around. The sky starts to rumble, and flames rain from the sky, the screen is shaking wildly and you look around desperately in an attempt to flee the insanity. This opening scene is simply epic, and it gets your heart racing like no other Elder Scrolls intro before it.

As you continue the quest, you soon kill your first dragon, and learn that you are Dovahkiin; Dragonborn in dragon tongue. Will the blood of these hellish beasts in you, you can use words of power and turn them into Shouts, incredible magical powers that do anything from send a powerful forcewave out to stagger your opponents, or to breath fiery breath just as the dragons can. These Shouts, or Thu'um in Dragon, are excellent additions to all of the new abilities in Skyrim. With a fireball in one hand, an axe in the other and the words of power at your disposable, you'll find yourself more than equipped to try and tackle the vast majestic expanse that is Northern Tamriel, land of the Nords, until your dying breath. The combat system has been polished since the last game, and it feels so much better. When fighting, you will need to think a little more strategically than before in order to survive each fight, and always be ready for the worst. You never know when a dragon might swoop down and try to throw you to the other end of the province!

I've barely scratched the surface with this game, both in this look at it and my own play through of it, but this really is a game you just have to play. If you have a job, spouse or any other commitments, I'd recommend putting them on hold before you pick this up. Elder Scrolls: Skyrim will draw you into an amazing, handcrafted world that  accepts you as a part of its cultures, towns and cities and its people.

For now, I'm off to continue my journey in the land of Skyrim!

-Andy Robinson


Oh shit, posted that for amusement, realised can't delete my own anon. comments. Sorry andy!

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