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I might be late on the bandwagon but I wanted to play Oblivion before I started Skyrim, which I completed last Summer and now embark on a new adventure in the snowy and mountainous region of Tamriel. Started in January, I took a break around Easter time due to work and completed it over the Summer. And so it begins... Just as you are about to be executed, a dragon infiltrates the hold and you are released from capture. With the land in war, you can follow a Stormcloak or an Imperial Legion to safety, with an invitation to join one or the other. The unexpected spawn of dragons in Skyrim starts you on your quest to discover that you are a Dragonborn, one able to absorb dragon souls and use powerful shouts. The main plot takes you on a journey to uncover the magical happenings of Skyrim and defeat a rumoured Dragon who will be spawned to destroy the world. Player customisation is as always, diverse. Choosing a race from dark elf to Nord to another animorphic race gives you a different stat boost if you want to specialise in magic or archery or sneaking etc. There is a large variety of options to also change the look of your player from the shape of the eye brow to the curve of the lips. The first thing to notice as you step into Skyrim is the dramatic and immersive setting. The snowy mountaintops and divisive terrain makes this one of the most perilous maps to date. Scaling mountains and travelling across ice caps is refreshingly different; the coldness gives this a chill. Whilst Oblivion naturally had a sinister feel with all those devillish Oblivion gates, this game definitely feels hauntingly peaceful, until suddenly a dragon flies into view and attacks you! There is also a distanced feel as you travel around given how everything is so far from each other, forcing you to trek across the terrain and discover what there is to discover. Thankfully, there is a 'taxi' outside every major town by the stables which can take you safely to another major city. So, what's new in Skyrim? We definitely did not just want a repeat of Oblivion in a new land! Firstly, when you level up you choose whether you want to increase your health, magicka or stamina, followed by perk points which can be used to advance skills in the skill tree, for example to allow for destruction dual casting... This is possible by the addition of ambidextrous wielding where you can now carry two daggers, a sword and a shield and even cast spells with a shield and so on. Magic dual casting allows you to cast two spells simultaneously and combining their effects for extra power. This is extremely useful if you want to heal whilst burning your opponents. The lock picking system has also changed, and is a much easier way of lock-picking than in Oblivion. You can no longer just 'use a lock-pick' and open the lock but have to rotate it to open. This is somewhat fun but not frustrating like in Oblivion. With the things you find in Skyrim such as cabbage, potatoes, animal meat and anything that you might happen to find in people's homes, you can use to cook it and eat it. Combine a few vegetables to make vegetable soup, roast some animal meat and so on. Whilst cooking isn't a skill in itself, it can be useful to cook all the unwanted food items for a boosted effect. Mining is added to Skyrim where ores and gems can be found in rocks and mines all over Skyrim. The ores can be smelted and weapons/armour can be made at forges, along with jewellery. This is a great addition and skill to Skyrim allowing you to create that perfect dragon armour. You can also upgrade armour with the right materials. There are also some beneficial minor changes to alchemy and enchanting to make it more accessible to new players and enhancing the fun. Quests and factions return just as all the games before but without the fighter's guild and the 'Arena' (rumoured to be a future Downloadable Content). Apart from the two main quest factions (Stormcloaks and Imperial Legion), you can join the Thieve's Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Companions (similar to fighter's guild) and College of Winterhold (Mages). Personally, I started the game off planning to be a warrior but the opportunities in Skyrim naturally turned my focus into archery and have sinced stalked and stealthily killed my opponents with range, with supporting destructive spells. I love my fiery bow! Alchemy, Enchanting and Smithing were my favourite skills to level up, maybe because I just like creating things! The main quest line took me over 90 hours to complete (there's just so many distractions *ahem* I mean side quests) but I am still far from finished with this game. The vast amount of side quests and open game play offers many many more hours of fun. With over 10 million copies sold and being Game of the Year (2011) of numerous major publications and a 90%+ rating across the board, this is arguably one of the most recognisably good games of late. The open-world, the beautiful graphics and the engrossing plot line married with a diversity and freedom to explore makes every play through different. With hundreds and hundreds of hours of game play on offer, who could resist such a deep game and I mean, who doesn't like a game with dragons? And if you can't get enough of Skyrim, there are now numerous expansions which you can download from Steam to add shouts, quests and new game play! Plus, Elder Scrolls Online and a follow up to Skyrim is in the works already!
Introduction ---------------- The Elder scrolls is an open world first person CPRG that's been going for quite some time. A Tolkien like world of Angels and Demons, Elves and Orcs. Where you are free to create a character that can hack and slash one moment, and cast fireballs the next. I have played most of the series, and from the ones that I have, can safely say that this is undoubtedly the best of any of them. I remember playing Daggerfall, the second in the series. It was good, but script was lacking. Morrowind had a great setting in the volcanic lands of the Dunmer, the dark Elves. The plot remained rambling, but it was still great fun. Oblivion, the fourth Elder Scrolls game had some great voice acting by stalwarts such as Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean. It was also graphically disappointing, with a lacklustre setting with cookie-cutter dungeons. a trite main plot, pointless side quests and a general feeling of boredom as you jumped jour away across Tamriel, waving your sword around like it was a feather. Quite why it was highly rated, I never did figure out. The fifth game finally got it right. We have great voice acting, a superb main plot, side quests that feel as tightly scripted and interesting as the main game, fantastic graphics with spot effects, marvellous sound and bone-crunching combat. Oh, and Dragons. Setting ------------- Skyrim is a province of the Empire in the world of Tamriel. The Empire is at a stalemate with the Aldmeri dominion. The Empire consists primarily of Humans. The Imperials themselves, the Bretons (half-elves), the Redguards and the Nords. Exceptions include the cat like Khajit, the lizard like Argonians and the Orsimer (Orcs). The Aldmeri consists of the Altmer (High Elves), Dumner (Dark Elves) and Bosmer (Wood Elves). The Empire only avoided total defeat at the expense of having the native Nord religion forbidden. There now exists an uneasy peace. To make matters worse, Skyrim is now in civil war between the existing order, which regards being part of the Empire as good for Skyrim and the separatists who view the Empire as an occupying foreign power that forbade worship of Talos. Skyrim is a mountainous place, with hilltop villages, crumbling castles, pounding waterfalls, high cliffs, forbidding caves, barrows full of the walking dead, wild moorland and stinking swamp. It can be a place of great, forbidding beauty as you climb higher and higher, above the snowline, wind driving drifts off the mountainside as the aurora borealis lights your way. There's great attention to detail. Nord equates to Scandinavian Viking. The locals have accents to match, their dwellings all bear the sort of style and carving that you would expect. From the rudest hut to the largest building. People wander around, doing day to day tasks and commenting on you and their world in particular. Character creation ------------------------ You begin proceedings as a prisoner, one of a number of rebels to be executed. The fact that you are not a rebel or a loyalist means little to the Imperial commander who views you as part of a job lot. Wrong time, wrong place. It is hardly a spoiler to say that the axe doesn't quite fall. There is an attack, and you are given the choice of a side to band with just for now. You are also given a choice of ten races to play as. This includes all the ones mentioned above. The differences are mainly in appearance, though it will change how people regard you. If it seems strange being an Elf in Skyrim, bear in mind that not all Elves are part of the Aldmeri dominion. You will be discriminated against, however. Different races have different abilities. Nords are more at home with two handed weapons and resistant to frost. Khajit have claws which make their unarmed attacks deadlier. Dunmer are part-resistant to fire and can summon (If I remember correctly) the ghost of their ancestor to aid them. And so on, and so forth. There is a great deal of customisation that can be done. Here, the graphics engine really shines. You can, and I have, spent almost half an hour exploring possibilities in order to get to one I'm happy with. Not just skin colour, body type, sex and facial features. But war paint or earrings, hairstyles, facial hair, tattoos. Even how dirty your face is! You want a grizzled one-eyed Orsimer? No problem. How about a Khajit who is patterned like a lynx with a Mohican? Sure thing. Just go for it. I've played as a Dunmer with cheekbones you could shave with, deeply grey skin offset by fiery red eyes and a mongol-style drooping moustache. I've been a Nord with war paint emblazoned across my face, plaited hair and a scowl challenging anyone to comment on it. Gameplay ------------ Being a first person perspective, you will see the world in front of you and the weapons you use, whether blade, blunt or magical. There are exceptions. Critical hits you make (or are made on you!) will pan out. It all feels very similar to Fallout 3, if you've played that. Alternatively, standing still for any length of time will cause the camera to slowly circle you. It gives an opportunity for you to enjoy the extremely fine detail of what you are wearing, or wish you could afford better. The graphics are truly superb. Wood looks like wood, metal looks like metal, leather looks like leather. The different materials available to craft from is varied. Everything from iron to Dragon bone. All presented in a smooth, judder free finish. it wasn't always thus. The game was initially plagued by glitches that varied from the amusing to the serious. One example of the former would be a mammoth that would suddenly pop into being a hundred feet off the ground, and immediately plummet to its death. An example of the latter (now fixed) would be the game getting increasingly slower as you played until it was unplayable. It is fine now. You do have the facility to have a companion. Their interaction is limited to being told what to do and how to act and what to carry. Your companions cannot be normally killed. They just collapse into a defeated pose. The exception is if you accidentally strike them while in this pose, which can result in their immediate and irrevocable death. No resurrection here. Levelling up allows you to put points into health, stamina or magic. It also allows you to invest in one of many skill trees. They all branch up into more and more powerful abilities. The initial and stackable two weapon skill increases base damage with two handed weapons. Higher branches permit additional types of damage such as bleeding or penetration. Investing in destruction makes your fire, frost or electrical magic attacks more damaging. In a nice touch, you can combine both hands into a single, more powerful version of the spell. You can learn smithing and can soon create weapons and armour. There are many types, and soon you will elect to champion either light or heavy. You can also craft jewellery. All these items can be enchanted with the appropriate skill and use of soul gems. These are filled by killing non intelligent beings, though a type of gem exists that will also swallow any soul. The more powerful a soul and the more powerful the enchanter, the more powerful the item. With combat, you can choose to specialise in two handed, single handed and shield, single handed and spell, dual weapons or dual spell. A two handed weapon can be melee or missile. Weapons look and sound meaty. Gone is the waggling feather feel of Oblivion. Enemies shout and scream, threaten and implore, gasp and moan. It is an 18, though there's no nudity. Surprisingly prudish, given that heads get severed, blades slide through chests and out the other side. Hammers crush. The main plot concerns the return of Alduin, the world eater. A powerful dragon, a race that once enslaved all people, but have been long extinct. Alduin is bringing other dragons back with him, save for he that never went away. How can you defeat a foe so terrible that he feeds on the souls already in Sovengard (Nord Heaven), one that was never, ever truly defeated? The answer to Skyrim's future lies far in its past. Skyrim is huge, but you don't have to walk everywhere. You can buy (or "earn") a horse, steal one or hop on a wagon. The scenery is truly amazing. Pennants flap in the wind, rain spatters, fog obscures. Torches crackle and rivers run free. There are a number of cities that you can visit through Skyrim and a host of side quests, the majority of which are well worth doing. The best of these side quests are guild quests. For the thieves guild, fighters guild, mage school or the assassins. You can also turn the tide of the civil war, ultimately winning it for either side. Not only are there a large number of races, there is a large amount of wildlife, including creaking frost spiders, ground-shaking mammoths and their owners, snarling wolves, sabre toothed cats and great cave bears. Snow trolls, the undead and witch-creatures with bird bodies and the faces of old women. Sooner or later, you will also face Dragons. Some breathe fire, some breathe frost or electricity. All are hugely enjoyable to fight, though frequently terrifying. Don't wade into its face swinging, as some of the more powerful ones will simply eat you! Killing a dragon results in not just booty, but power. You can drink in their souls and use them to activate "shouts" - effectively spells in the dragon's own language. There are many different types of shouts, and soon you will be able to breathe fire of your own. In summary -------------- Skyrim is great. There is at least thirty hours of gameplay here. If you do all guild quests and all side quests, you can easily double this. Once the main plot is done, the rewards all seem a little less sweet, so it is advisable to leave that until last. There are a number of expansion packs available, but I've not bought any. Is it all sweetness and light? No. The main limitation with the Elder Scroll play as you want philosophy results in anachronisms. A heavily armoured killing machine capable of tip-toeing past all but the most observant guards. Strong enough to wield the most outrageously festooned Daedric two handed weaponry. A weapon that I forged myself, capable of killing even Dragons in a few hits. But I'm also the Arch mage of Winter hold, capable of enchanting the most powerful magical relics the world has ever seen, capable of reducing most vistas to smouldering ruin with but a waggle of my fingers. But I'm also the head of the thieves guild. And the head Assassin. This utterly shatters any suspension of disbelief. And this is where the design needs to change. I don't want to have a super powered space ninja master chef. I want to have a character that has limitations that mean I can't wait to replay my way through the game as a rogue instead of a warrior, or a cleric instead of a wizard. Some may argue that I can simply choose not to develop these areas, or not visit those locations, but that misses the point. There should be constraints that chafe. There should be weapons that I can't use. There should be choices I can't make. And ultimately, taking these constraints away makes the world a duller place. If this were a score out of ten, Skyrim would get a nine from me. Out of five, it would be churlish to award this any less than five stars. Go buy a copy. It is available on PC for a shade over a tenner, or console for a bit more.
Are you one of those people who like a long and extensive game. Here's one. And probably one of the best games around! The immense amount of places to visit, the wondrous different quests, and the new epic storyline. The story is an interesting one. It really got me this one did. You are the dragonborn. You have the body of a human but the soul of a dragon. It's your duty (according to the hundred of people who say it) to slay the the world - eater, Alduin. He's an actual dragon, and can use the power of the voice. This was one of the cool things about this game. The voice is something that lets the player use powerful things called shouts. These are really cool and can be a great help throughout the game. The other form of weapons are actual weapons. You can buy these off of vendors such as blacksmiths traders, the thieves from the guild and all kinds of other people. The are a huge variety of weapons but the best is to make them yourself. Not only are they more powerful than anything that a vendor can sell you (if your skill is high enough that is) they are also much cheaper to make. Then there are the weapons where there are only one version of each in the whole game. The daedric weapons. I thought that this was a cool idea and have spent my nights attempting to acquire the legendary daedric weapons. These are a really good idea, as you have to perform some form of quest to earn them from the daedric princes. The amount of different items that are available is incredible. So far the game is, putting it simply, awesome. And it just gets better. This next thing, I thought, was brill. You can add to your power by acquiring one of the transformations that Skyrim offers you. You can either become a werewolf. Really good fun going around and randomly slashing people to bits. Or you become a vampire. The powers that the vampire form gives you are pretty cool, but watch out. If you remain a vampire for too long without drinking any blood, you'll begin to get recognized as a vampire and people will attack you upon sight. All in all. The game offers such a wide variety of different things to be and do that I don't know how you can't possibly not like this game. People, you need to play it. 10/10
When you begin Skyrim, you are about to embark upon an epic journey. This game is simply HUGE, not only in terms of map size, but also in terms of the characters in the game, the amount of things you can interact with, the amount of different potions, magic and weaponary you can use and in terms of the number of missions upon which you can embark. Whilst there is a main quest which you can follow throughout the game, you can play the game however you like and hone whatever skills you want. You can choose your character's appearance and skills at the start and you are then thrust into a huge world where you can do whatever you want; take on bandits, perform fetch-quests, sneak around and steal things, it really is a great feeling of liberation, with an overarching main quest that you can follow You can choose to play the game in first or third person mode (I personally preferred third person) which is a great idea to ease worries for those that suffer from motion sickness. I would recommend this game for any serious gamer that has a lot of time on their hands!
For as long as I can remember Bethesda has been one of my favourite game developers of all time. From the 1st game of the series (The Elder Scrolls Arena) to Skyrim, the latest of Bethesda's fantastic products. The game set in the fictional province of Skyrim, has once again wowed audiences such as myself, with the beauty of the game. We have seen in previous games developed by Bethesda, such as Fallout 3 and New Vegas, that the use of the Havok Engine has made the open world that much better, through the use of particles and its dynamic animation. This in my opinion is one of the reasons Skyrim is so GOOD. It's quite amazing how a game can make everything feel so real, whether its atop the icy mountains or underground in a series of winding caves. One of the main improvements Bethesda has made with the new Elder Scrolls game is the combat. It used to be a hack-and-slash style game where players would repeatedly mash at the mouse buttons, hoping for an outcome. However this has been improved through the use of physics, if you swing a sword, attempting to hack off someone's arm, the chances are you will deal a great amount of damage to that particular limb. The perk system seems to have also improved. In the previous games 'perks' were a main highlight, and again, this is the case. The perk tree has the ability to improve your player based on how you act in the game. An example of this would be someone using the bow over and over again to slay their enemies, the perk tree will help you to become the Robin Hood of Skyrim, through perk options such as 'slow motion', or 'quick draw' (the ability to draw an arrow from your quiver and line up a shot, in half the time of a normal archer). Dragons. I think this is what draws people to the game more than anything, think about it. Who doesn't love dragons. As a child I constantly remember dreaming about dragons and with the help of JRR Tolkien's 'The Hobbit', I have fallen in love. These majestic creatures make appearances throughout the game. From the start we experience an attack from a dragon, and soon learn that the player is a 'Dragonborn' (if you want to know what one is, buy the game and find out!) Voice acting and a story which just draws you in, is also a great part of Skyrim. In earlier games such as 'Oblivion' voice acting may have been mocked (much like quotes from Skyrim such as 'took an arrow to the knee') but the developers at Bethesda have made it much harder from fans to mock this time... with a few exceptions. From the lush forests to the mesmerising waterfalls, the experience of Skyrim is both heart warming and heart stopping all the way through. If you're a fan of the series, a fan of RPGs or even a fan of dragons, I recommend strongly that you purchase this game. However, you MUST check the recommended and minimum specifications of your PC. If it's not able to run, I'm sure Skyrim for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 is equally as good.
I've always had a love-hate relationship with Bethesda, I have always found their open worlds to be both exciting and annoying. Their rpg games are so open that it is difficult to create a character which doesn't contradict itself. Not withstanding I did enjoy skyrim but not as much as bethesda's previous title morrowind. The problem being that Bethesda are going backwards, their vast expansive worlds are becoming restricted by new technology. Every NPC speaks now, so needs a voice, therefore there are only a few voice actors who do all the characters, something that wouldn't have shown in Morrowind. Also the guilds have closed in on themselves, no longer are you traveling from city to city being upgraded by different guild members. Rather you get the quests from a few from some people in the sewers (thieves guild). The mage's guild is a huge disappointment, short and unfinished however the dark brotherhood plot (despite the stereotypical characters) is one of the best i've seen. The only good thing I have yet to find about Skyrim, is that the world is of course amazing, Bethesda are known for this, however the guilds are sorely lacking and also the Daedra quests are much more disturbing than they ever were in Oblivion. There isn't a lot of choice in regard to what your character does, so in order to complete these Daedric quests you have to do what the quest tells you to do. Not only this but your character seems to dedicate their selves to many different daedra, meaning that there is going to be some problem when your character dies! lol. You are also unable to refuse to honour nocturnal in the thieves guild which is annoying. The dungeons unfortunately are still what I find a big drawback for Bethesda, they usually contain a few easy monsters then one big boss at the end (always a dreuger lord). I never found much use for the shouts, but some people really enjoyed them, so I can't comment on them. I have to say I miss Morrowind. I miss the many quests that took months (not weeks like skyrim) and the alien world, Skyrim is world of rock and snow, one I do not find appealing. I am also rather miffed at the fact that Bethesda just copy and pasted the whole plot of the empire/rebellion from fallout 3: las vegas. The marriage mechanic is cold and awkward and I wouldn't recommend that either! However all in all, Skyrim is a good game to waste some weeks on, just don't expect perfection.
I have always enjoyed playing the role playing games produced by Bethesda Softworks, especially the titles from the Elder Scrolls series. Right from stepping off the boat in Morrowind or emerging from the sewer under the prison in Oblivion, I have been totally hooked by these rich, vibrant and versatile role playing games. Now comes Skyrim a world that stretches as far as the eye can see filled with all manner of ancient dragons, giants with woolly mammoths, feuding factions on the brink of war, leaping salmon and a whole lot more. All these adventures are topped off nicely with a completely overhauled gaming engine, with rich and vibrant colors complimented by improved graphics. The game starts as usual with you in the position of being tied up, this time on the back of a prisoner transportation cart, being taken to have your head chopped off. This opening sequence is where you can customize the look and the name of your character and all the usual races are here to be chosen from, each with their own particular strengths and weaknesses. This opening sequence is also where you first get to see the main dragon of the Skyrim game, that totally destroys the city whilst you make your escape. Anyone who has played previous versions of the Elder Scrolls titles will notice a few familiar faces and places, such as the Dark Brotherhood with their murdering for profit or the Thieves Guild who has set up home in the sewers under a city called Riften. There is also the usual picking of flowers, plants and other ingredients that you mix into potions, the only difference is you must first taste the ingredients to learn their basic effects and then find an Alchemist's table to mix and produce potions. The creation of weapons and armor has been totally changed, where you yourself can use the various equipment in a Blacksmith to produce a whole multitude of weapons and the various armor parts. You now also need to get your hands on raw materials and this can be done by either looting dead animals for skins, so you can produce leather or by mining ore in certain caves and using a smelter to melt the ore down into ingots. You can also use an enchanting table to enchant your weapons and armor for more powerful effects during combat with more dangerous opponents, you can either buy or find enchanted armor or weapons then use the disenchantment option to learn that enchantment skills to add to your own particular favourite weapon or armor part. The combat setup has also got a few changes where you can use several different weapon combinations, these include the usual one handed sword and shield or two handed weapons, various bow and arrows, duel wielding of two one handed swords, a one handed sword with magic in the other, or a duel wielding of magic in both hands for a more powerful effect. With the whole game based on your character discovering they are Dragonborn, in your adventures through various ruined temples and caves you will come across writing in the dragon tongue, which you absorb and can be used as powerful shouts against your opponents. To unlock these shouts you will have to defeat and absorb the souls of the various dragons that randomly appear to attack you or that appear during the various gaming quests. The usual upgrading of gaming levels and the various skill attributes is present in the Skyrim game along with the new addition of perks, where players who level up have one perk point to spend on a valuable effect in each of the skill attributes. These perks are entirely dependent on the level you have achieved in each skill attribute, but can add useful effects like increase the damage you do with weapons or increase damage taken by wearing a combination of armor and a whole lot more in other skill attributes. The PC version of Skyrim does actually have some advantages over the console versions. First there is a developing mod community, where owners of the PC version of Skyrim can download and install various mods that can improve certain elements of the game such as improved character graphics, a more intelligent inventory system and some other often comical elements. Secondly there is an in game console that can be opened where various cheat codes can be entered, to give you more gold or special items you are having trouble finding in the game. But this advantage is only recommended to people who are really rubbish at playing these sorts of games, and any real fan of Elder Scrolls games will avoid this option like the plague. Skyrim as with other Elder Scrolls titles does suffer from the usual gaming bugs, that either completely crash the game to desktop or render certain elements of the game useless due to quests leading to dead ends or various graphic and game play glitches. Patches are regularly released that do actually improve many of the in game bugs, but do not cater for every possible outcome. The PC version is also a graphic intensive game so owners of lower end PC's will not quite get the same level of detail as owners of high end machines will enjoy. But thankfully Bethesda have included a Skyrim launcher where you can tinker with each element of the graphic detail in the game, so you can produce the maximum your machine can cope with and still keep those frame rates playable. If you have a few thousand hours spare in your busy lifestyle and need to immerse yourself in a colorful and vibrant alternative world to get away from it all, then opting for the world of Skyrim will be an adventure that is hard to forget.
The fifth instalment of the elder scrolls franchise takes place in the nordic setting of Skyrim, hence the title. Developers Bethesda are renowned for creating hugely detailed fantasy worlds, and Skyrim is no exception. From giant mountain ranges to geyser fields to sprawling underground caverns lit by phosphorescent mushrooms it's an imaginative, convincing and hugely immersive place. The main storyline involves a fight against a dragon whose appearance heralds the end of the world, but it would be wrong to imply any sort of linearity in this game. Once you've created a character you're free to do anything you want for as long as you want. There's also a civil war raging, Jarls (chieftains) struggling with each other for supremacy and simple townsfolk with their own problems. All of these provide you with an opportunity for quests, adventure and gold. It's a sandbox game in the truest sense of the word, realised through an advanced version of the Gamebryo engine. Want to go mad in a town with a fireball spell? Go for it. Fancy settling down and becoming a blacksmith or a farmer? Knock yourself out. Your actions and decisions have true consequences, for example if you rob a merchant he may hire thugs to pursue you across the realm and try to kill you. Quests are also generated randomly, so even if you finish the hundreds of scripted missions you'll still have something to do. Gameplay is based in a first or third-person view, and there are a large variety of character customisation options available. You're encouraged to specialise in combat, magic or stealth, each of which has relevant skills which in turn have 'perks' which unlock special abilities and other advantages. All of this is managed through a slick interface that reminds me of some of the snazzier Mac apps. I've only experimented with a combat build so far, I've found a lot of cool magic weapons and hit people round the head with them. There's some 'killcam' moments taken from the Fallout franchise which are quite satisfying, and I have enough moves at my disposal to keep me interested. Unlocking the skill perks gives you something to aim for and it's rewarding when you try out a new skill like Shield Bash for the first time. New to the series are 'shouts' - special abilities that have various effects that you find by defeating dragons and unlocking power words. I think the dragons deserve a special mention, fighting one is a memorable gaming experience as they strafe the ground with fire before being brought down by a lucky arrow and ploughing a furrow into the earth as they crash land right in front of you. The in-game graphics are very good, especially the spell effects and environmental details. The animations can be a bit iffy on occasion, I've seen a guard sitting on an invisible chair and a couple of other odd glitches. The sound also adds to the immersion, stirring viking music, convincing voice acting and the clash of steel in combat are all superbly realised. One minor let down is the horses you can buy and ride. They cost 1000 gold and seem hell bent on killing themselves, so they're a bit of a waste of cash. One charged a dragon, another threw itself off a mountain, taking me with it. I hope they fix these relentlessly suicidal beasts in a patch. The Elder Scrolls series has always offered unparallelled escapism, Skyrim is a game that can be exciting and adventurous but also relaxing, which is nice after working hard all day. After a full weekend of almost constant play I've barely scratched the surface, there is so much to explore and discover.