It’s not an MMO. We know that. But nevertheless, on a Friday as momentous as 11/11/11, we’d be remiss not to at least mention Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The sequel to 2005’s Oblivion (yes, it really was that long ago), a lot has changed in this new edition of the venerable RPG series, but just as much has stayed gleefully the same. In short, I was up until 2:30AM last night and I thought it was only 12:30 when I stopped. Kiss your families goodbye, stock up on the diapers and boxed snacks, and let your loved ones know you won’t be home for the holidays, because if you’re a fan of RPGs Skyrim is really set to suck away your free time for the next several months.
The story, without spoiling too much, begins like every other TES. You’re a prisoner of some sort, being dragged to your death when something incredible happens that sets you on a path towards legendary hero status. In this case you’re making your way to your birth-home of Skyrim, get taken prisoner as a traitor to the Imperials who are in the middle of a civil war, and are about to be beheaded when a massive dragon appears and starts flaming the crap out of everything. Turns out dragons are kind of mean.
Anyway, you quickly team up with the somewhat sympathetic guard who was reluctant to kill you (but was going to anyway) and the two of you manage to escape the town of Heglen as it gets burnt to the ground by what was thought to be a creature that no longer existed. From that point on, the world of Skyrim is yours to do with as you please. You’re given the main story task of heading to a nearby town to tell the blacksmith (a friend of the guard) of what you saw, but you don’t ever have to. Not until you’re ready. I wound up wandering around for nearly two hours.
A Few Minor Spoilers Ahead…
In that time, I came across a store which had just been robbed. The owner asked me to track down the thieves and get back the Golden Claw which had been stolen. Apparently, it’s all they took. So I tracked them to the cave they ran off to, and fought my way through the undead within, until I came to a large spider-infested and web-strewn cavern. I beat down a massive tarantula as one of the thieves hollered for my help in the background (he was caught in the web). After killing the giant spider, he agreed to give me the Golden Claw so long as I cut him free.
He’s a thief though.
Immediately after I freed him he ran off talking about how I was a sucker, so I tracked him down, burned him with my flame spell until he was toasty and then hacked him with my ancient Nord axe when he stumbled to the ground. What’s best about this? The NPCs react to the action. He actually stopped running and tried to fight when he was near death and said exasperatedly “Not like this!” as I cut him down. I almost felt bad… but he renigged on his deal so you know, I did what was right but cutting a scrawling gash on his face.
You can see the fight I had at the end of this dungeon romp below. He hits hard, even on “normal” difficulty. This was well after I caught up to the thief, after surpassing several booby-traps, solving a few environmental puzzles, and getting the poop scared out of me when an undead monster snuck up on me and froze me with some spell it picked up in the afterlife.
The game is just as addictive and immersive as TES has been known for since Daggerfall and Morrowind, only now it looks a heck of a lot better. I’ve only had the chance to play for few hours so far, but my experience has been relatively bug-free. I do think that the faces of characters are still just as hideous as they were in Oblivion, but at least there’s a lot more variety now. And I guess I’d rather live in a role-playing world where not everyone was pretty anyway. The controls on the PC are fluid and smooth, assigning one weapon or spell to each hand works fantastically after you’ve realized how it works. My only qualm is that I seem to use the ‘Q’ key to switch spells and abilities and weapons more than I’d like. I’ll have to make use of hotkeys a bit more, which are a little hidden in the UI but functional. I also like the new “perks” system which add a serious amount of customization to the different skills instead of just arbitrarily boosting them with each level.
We’ll do a full “Outside the Box” review soon enough, but considering it’s 11/11/11, we thought you might like to know just how fantastic this sprawling RPG is in its early hours. We’re sorry if it makes the wait through the work-day that much more difficult, but believe me… it’ll be worth it when you’re home and playing.