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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ exceeds expectations

Published: December 2, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

The hype surrounding the latest game in the expansive “Elder Scrolls” series leading up to its Nov. 11 release was of unbelievable proportions. The teasers showed “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” as a truly epic game, with stunning visuals and beautifully designed foes in the form of massive dragons. With so much anticipation, it seemed that “Skyrim” would be hard-pressed to meet the high expectations of its fan base. Bethesda Games, the studio that developed “Skyrim” and its four predecessors, however, took that as a challenge to meet. With the game’s release date having finally arrived, it is clear that “Skyrim” goes above and beyond all expectations, creating a beautiful and immersing world for gamers to get lost in for hours on end. “Skyrim” contains an enormous world full of dragons to fight, ruined cities to explore and impressive storylines in which to engage.

One of the best aspects of the game is the sheer vastness and grandeur of the landscape: The world of Skyrim itself features sprawling mountain ranges, glittering rivers and awe-inspiring northern lights over a gorgeous arctic landscape. The graphics are smooth and realistic, allowing the player to disengage easily from the real world and to take in effortlessly such a gorgeous universe. No visual detail is neglected; from the patterns of snow blowing in the wind to the flow of water over riverbed rocks, everything is taken into account.

“Skyrim” follows the story of a character created entirely by the player, with endless physical variations from which to choose. In addition there is an endless freedom in designing a character’s personality as the game plays out. “Skyrim” presents a completely open game-play format: The player can travel wherever they like over a vast country, following the main storyline if they so choose (it is far from mandatory, something that makes the “Elder Scrolls” series quite unique), or else engaging a slew of other equally long quest lines. The player can even choose not to follow quest lines at all and instead spend hours exploring, fighting monsters, discovering treasure in gorgeous caverns and reading the massive amount of books found in-game that reveal the expansive lore of the “Elder Scrolls” universe, which is so vast that most players can only hope to scratch the surface of the history, religions and theories present in this world. I’ve found that the best manner of playing is to do a little bit of everything. Let your attention wander—explore the storylines, spelunk in random caverns, take in bits of lore and wander across a beautiful place that is clearly built to be explored.

The main goal of “Skyrim” is to live the life of whomever the player decides to make their main character: a human, elf or orc. For those not familiar, an orc is a dragon-born prophetic figure with the blood and soul of a dragon. Orcs can speak in dragons’ tongue and are destined to save “Skyrim” from the powerful dragons who have reappeared out of legend to ravage its cities and towns. The player can also choose to follow separate storylines, involving various guilds and a revolution. One can even choose to be quite villainous, following the plot line of a thief or assassin.

The highest praise I can give “Skyrim” is in its all-encompassing immersion. “Skyrim” allows you to build an entire life, however you please, in a fascinating world that draws you in more and more deeply with its adventure, history and attention to detail.

That said, the game is not without its flaws. Because of the sheer amount of game-play available to the player in “Skyrim,” the game has been beset with glitches, including crippling lag after the player reaches approximately 20 hours of gameplay on the version of the game for PlayStation 3, which is quite a small amount by “Skyrim” standards. Bethesda has released a patch attempting to deal with this issue, but the lag remains. There are also smaller graphical glitches present, including losses of color and texture that can range from mild annoyances to game-breaking problems.

Another issue I encountered was that, though “Skyrim” included romance, a first for the series, it seemed poorly planned and rushed rather than take advantage of the intriguing subplot it could have had. Romance in the “Skyrim” universe consists of finding a character with whom you’re friendly and marrying them. There is no sense of personality or courtship, making the feature seem almost like a last-minute addition. Furthermore, the list of marriageable characters is woefully homogeneous, with several races left unrepresented.

Despite these problems, “Skyrim” is easily one of the best games I’ve played in a long time, simply because of it’s capacity to pull the player into its world, with an immersing story, a vast area to explore, beautiful scenery and smooth mechanics. It certainly has lived up to the hype surrounding its release and I look forward to spending a great deal more time with it.