November 10, 2011

The Call of the Dragonborn

Lasting First Impressions of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from Bethesda Softworks

skyrim_x360_boxfront I think it goes without saying that any open world RPG from Bethesda is going to be revered and will be popular with many, many people.  With the original XBOX release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, right through to their XBOX360 premiere with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, followed up by two games in the Fallout 3 franchise, Bethesda has been a fan favourite for years.  So when the much expected and more so anticipated next chapter in the saga of Tamriel was announced, fans went crazy.  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was going to be a hit even before it was released.  Can the game live up to the hype and expectations of the fans?

While I never played much of Morrowind on the original XBOX (though now I wish I had), I spent many hours adventuring and wandering the lands of Cyrodill in Oblivion. That was really my first taste of a Bethesda RPG, and I loved every moment of it.  Oblivion stole many countless hours of my life and I know I was not alone in that.  So, having said that, I knew going into Skyrim that I was probably going to get lost once again.  And I was right.  From the moment the game begins, it sucks you in and doesn’t let you go.

The world you will find yourself in is a fully living, breathing world unlike anything you’ve experienced before in a game.  I remember the utter awe and amazement I felt with I first laid eyes on the world in Oblivion and marvelled at the incredible realism it brought to gaming.  Now, five years later, I felt that exact same way about Skyrim.  There is something incredibly awe-inspiring about these foreign lands that had been so painstakingly brought to life here; birds, insects, animals, and all manner of creatures wander the landscape just as if they belong there.  Creatures in Skyrim aren’t there to provide just the player something to fight, as many creatures and animals you come across will be fighting amongst themselves before you even arrive.  Even the many hundreds of characters throughout the game go about their days living their own lives regardless of your presence in the world.  This was evident the first time I happened across a couple of people in a small town shortly after the game starts; I entered the town and stood by while two strangers had a perfectly meaningful and complete conversation with each other. It had nothing to do with my story or quest, and had no affect on my character in the least.  These two people were simply having a conversation as any two friends would.  I was stunned at the detail and care that had been put into this game to make this land of Skyrim appear absolutely real.


As with previous Elder Scrolls titles, you will create your character to your own liking. Only this time, you won’t need to choose the class of character you wish to be (Mage, Warrior, Thief, or a combination of these).  After a very extensive character customization screen (in which one could easily spend an hour creating their hero), you simply begin the game.  You decide, through your actions, what kind of hero you are going to be; the more frequently you use a skill, the faster it will level up.  In my particular case, I usually play a mage and find myself using a good deal of magic, specifically destructive magic (Fire, Ice, Lightning) so these skills level up faster than something like Single-handed or Double-Handed weapons.  Nothing stops me from using a sword whenever I need, though, and this unending customization truly makes each player’s character unique to only them.

Another wonderful addition to Skyrim over previous Elder Scrolls titles is the addition of much more detailed crafting abilities and jobs you can perform when you just don’t feel like crawling through a dark and dusty cave.  Scattered throughout the world are hundreds of different ingredients for use in making potions, weapons, armour, enchantments, food, and other items for your use.  If crafting items is not your forté, however, perhaps you would enjoy picking up an axe and helping the locals cut some fire wood, or grab a pickax and enter the local mine to assist with mining minerals.  Perhaps, you’d like to just take it easy and help the local farmers gather their crops.  Whatever activity you feel like doing, it’s your choice. Detailed additions like these truly make living in the world of Skyrim addictive and utterly time consuming.

Or course, what is an RPG without quests? In Skyrim there is seemingly no end of quests available to satisfy your adventuring spirit. Even if you decide to ignore the main storyline, you can easily spend countless hours taking on jobs from various people throughout the world, including the several guilds and organizations that you can join.  I spent over an hour alone in the first small town I arrived in after starting the game just talking to the characters and taking on a few small quests for them before moving on to the main hub of the province.  Nearly every character in the world has a life and a story and may have something they need you to help them with.

Is there anything new in Skyrim that wasn’t present in previous titles?  Absolutely.  Firstly, now you can purchase and own your personal home in the major towns.  You can also find that perfect mate and get married.  Finally, one of the most obvious additions to Skyrim are dragons!  Dragons have returned and you will not have to go far before seeing one.  These dragons are incredibly awe-inspiring and are an absolute thrill to engage in battle. Whenever I catch one flying overhead, I immediately follow it in order to bring it down but they are not easy prey. As with other creatures and people in Skyrim, dragons also seem to have a life of their own and are not flying overhead just to engage you.  They will attack whatever they feel like attacking, and anything being attacked will, true to life, defend themselves.  Even the horses you ride will attack that which threatens their life.  This inherent life that Bethesda has breathed into Skyrim is a sight to behold and I still marvel whenever I see it in action.

With a huge game such as Skyrim, I knew that only one hour of play wouldn’t be enough to experience the wonder and beauty of the game so I decided to extend my normal hour impressions and play until level 5.  To be honest, however, my impressions of the game have only improved after that initial hour of solid gameplay and I am loving it more and more.  I could most certainly go on even longer to extol the unending adventures that are present in this game.  I could go into detail about the sheer number of books that dot the landscape and buildings telling an immense story of the world.  I could mention how distinctly different every village, town, or city in Skyrim is, each with their own unique culture and peoples.  I could go on forever about the epic, sweeping soundtrack written by award winning composer Jeremy Soule.  There is such a sheer amount of detail and love poured into this game, it is hard to stop extolling its virtues.

Skyrim is a title that keeps bringing me back for more every day.  It’s a title that will permeate your every waking thoughts and entice you to play “just a few minutes more”.  When I begin to play, hours go by unnoticed. No game has this affect on me.

Bethesda has meticulously created a veritably living, breathing world full of wonderful characters and stories waiting for you to discover and shape as you see fit.

Bethesda, I gave you until level five and I am IMPRESSED (and addicted!).

UPDATE: Friend of LFI and fellow gamer Maranda (@HotelQueen) has posted a great article on her Momicon site with 5 Spoiler-Free Tips on Getting Started in Skyrim.  Be sure to check it out and leave your own tips for other fellow Skyrim lovers.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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  1. John

    Sweet! Really want to play it. Soon! Arrrgh..

  2. Darn Ragnar

    I’m about an hour into Skyrim and love the duel weld mechanic. Also noticed lockpicking is same as Fallout 3. I’ll be rocking a spellsword for my first playthrough. 🙂

    • Sean

      Ah, yes, lockpicking. I love that mechanic so much more than the tumbler mechanic in Oblivion. This one actually allows you to pick master locks anytime if you have the patience for it (and the lockpicks).

  3. Rob

    Thanks for the review! A relative decided to buy this as a gift for our family, but unfortunately have to wait for it to ship from the US, aiiieeeee! Maybe this weekend’s SW:TOR beta can keep me distracted enough though…

  4. Great review Sean, I’m right there with you. This game is amazing and only gets better as you play more. The only bad thing about it really is that you occasionally have to stop playing to eat, sleep, or work. Stupid life…

    I also notice that it’s the first game I’ve seen where my XBL friends are playing it at 1AM… and then again at 8AM!

    • Sean

      Eat? Sleep? Life? What’s that? If I need to sleep I just stop at an inn and pay the 10 gold for a room. I don’t need to eat, I have restoration magic for that. My life is this grand adventure in Skyrim. 🙂

  5. dano panah

    what kind of gauntlets does that mage have in the picture they look amazing

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