Console: 360, PS3, PC
Synopsis: The fifth instalment of the Elder Scrolls franchise, this game sees you in the land of Skyrim, part of the much larger realm of Tamriel. Your character begins the game as a prisoner, and from that point you learn all about the many weird and wonderful things happening around you including factions of warriors, mages, thieves and assassins. In addition, you get to choose your own side in Skyrim wide civil war, and solve the mystery of the uprising of the dragons.
One could question whether there is really the need for another review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It has widely been acknowledged as front-runner for game of the year for 2011. There are Facebook groups of women declaring themselves Skyrim widows (I should know, my wife was considering becoming a member). So with this reputation and popularity, how can another review possibly tell anything new??
The simple fact is, maybe it can’t. At least this review however is written by someone proud to declare that they have now managed to get 100% achievements in the game. I am by no means foolish enough to claim I have finished the game, one quick glance at the official guide tells me of all the dungeons and fortresses I have not yet visited. I do feel however distinctly qualified to discuss the subject regardless.
Perhaps what has made this game so popular, regardless of what genre of gaming you may regularly be in to, is the sheer level of choice one has from the very beginning of the game. After the first scenes that establish you as a prisoner on the way to the chopping block, when the camera finally turns on your character, it is time for you to decide what race your character belongs to. There are ten races to choose from, each with their own strengths and perks. After this, you take your first steps into the wider story, with the two main story arcs truly established, those being the rise of the dragons (resulting in your freedom), and your first choices that may determine which side of the civil war you will eventually be on. If you even want to be on one at all!!
That is the true magic of Skyrim. There are main quests, but it is entirely your choice whether you want to pursue them or not. It is possible to play the game without choosing a side in the war, without even bothering about getting to the bottom of the dragon uprising. It is possible to wander the realm, entering dungeons at will, and plundering them for all they are worth. In this way, in many respects, the game becomes more personalised. Just as in life, you can wander aimlessly, or find yourself a mission to follow, or a way of life to pursue.
If you really want to get everything you can out of the game, though, planning is key. Some decisions may prevent you from playing missions that you are keen to pursue later on. Also, haphazard choice of levelling perks may not be the best decision, particularly if you feel you personally have certain gameplay strengths. In my personal situation, I played a Nord whom I named Elendil (if anyone guesses the reference, good for you!!), and I really focused on my characters strengths as a warrior, in particular in the use of heavy armor and two-handed weapons. As a result I had a lot of fun barging into enemies hacking and slashing. In many ways, it was quite therapeutic stress relief.
What also is a major assist in getting ahead is the Official Game Guide (still available at Gametraders Blacktown). It comes with a large map of all the important locations in Skyrim. It discusses each race choice with recommendations how to level the character from there. It has walkthroughs of all the significant missions, and provides warning if there is a choice from which there is no turning back. With this guide, I became Harbinger of the Companions, Archmage at the College of Winterhold, a bard of great repute, the Guild master of the Thieves Guild, and Listener for the Dark Brotherhood. I saw the Stormcloaks achieve victory over the Imperial army and I defeated the menace resurrecting the Dragons. In short, my time as the Dragonborn was extremely busy, and an absolute blast.
I had never before played an Elder Scrolls title before now, and it absolutely was not necessary. I warn you though, the game IS addictive, and I will probably spend some time tracking down the previous titles in the franchise. A few more visits to Gametraders may well be in the cards!!