The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, is an open world RPG made by Bethesda, which, as we all know and agree upon, is the best video game developer in history. The reason it’s called Skyrim is because they were to lazy so simply say “horizon.” In Skyrim, you play as the Dragonborn, a mythical hero with the blood and soul of a dragon, that can speak the language of dragons, but spends the entire game killing dragons.
Skyrim starts out with you being taken towards your execution, with some other side characters that will either die in a few minutes or will never come up again. Actually, they might. I don’t know, I haven’t beaten this game yet.
When you get to the execution, you get to create your character, by which I mean you pick from 9 playable races and spend way too much time deciding facial features that will never come up or aren’t noticeable. You also get to pick a name, which doesn’t matter either, because the game has voice acting and might not be able to pronounce your name.
And you’re off, as a dragon attacks the execution and ironically saves you from being beheaded. After spending the first few minutes with your hands tied, you finally make it to a safe area with either an imperial soldier or a rebel (the choice doesn’t matter, you go through the same dungeon to escape from the town anyway). On your way out, you learn useful mechanics, like sneaking, fighting, and how much bows suck.
Once you finish the first dungeon, you have access to all of Skyrim. The guy you escaped with will give you a quest marker, but you can ignore it and just sorta do what you want. In my first session, I traveled to the northeast and ended up in this one town with a murder mystery, and I had to help solve it.
“Cool!” I thought. “What could go wrong with this?”
Everything. First of all, Skyrim has a problem with quests. The menu you access that shows your quests is bland and unorganized, and it doesn’t do a good job of showing which quests you want to do.
Secondly, the game has a mini-map problem. A compass at the top of the screen will always show which way you are headed, and marks the directions of stuff like the nearest town. However, it also marks quest trackers. Here’s the problem: Every objective in the quest is marked, meaning to complete a quest, you basically just have to go where your mini-map tells you to.
I ended up abandoning the quest and decided to play the actual game. Speaking of the game, how does it play? Well enough, I would say. Except for motion controls. Motion controls suck. Don’t use them.
For basic controls, you have two buttons mapped to each hand to use whatever is in that hand. If you have a shield in your left hand, and a sword in your right then those buttons will either use the sword to attack or block with the shield. If you are holding a two-handed sword, then you attack with the right hand button and block with the left. At first, I had a difficult time with the controls, but then I realized you can change any buttons to do anything in the settings menu, so I got over it pretty quick.
There are basically two pause menus: one for saving, settings, and stuff like that, and another for actual gameplay. The gameplay pause menu has four branches: Inventory, Map, Magic, and Skills. Inventory and Map are self explanatory, and the only thing you need to know about the Magic menu is that it also shows your active affects, like any poisons or disease you have, as well as your powers, like Amiibo support and dragon shouts, which we’ll get into later.
But the Skills menu is special. You have about 30 different skills, like one-handed, alchemy, sneak, restoration, etc. The more you use a skill, the more you level it up on a scale from about 10 to 100. When you level up a skill, you also get experience, which goes to leveling up your character. When you level up your character, you can choose between increasing your magic, stamina, or health, and also get to pick one feature from a certain skill, like increasing the damage of two handed weapons, healing more hit points from restoration spells, or being able to sell anything to any type of merchant.
It’s worth mentioning that this game is freaking huge! I’ve been playing for 10+ weeks and haven’t come close to discovering everything. My quest log is flooded with quests, both main and side, and I haven’t even been to every major town yet. However, the size of the game doesn’t always work in it’s favor.
See, Skyrim is what is known as an “RPG”, which means role-playing game. Role-playing means taking on the role of someone else and acting as they would, like playing pretend with rules. The RPG category is pretty broad, so normally I wouldn’t discredit a game for how it handles character interactions, but Skyrim is a special case.
In Skyrim, when you are in a character interaction, you will have several dialogue options to choose from. Most of the time, the options they game gives you are pretty diverse, so you can make your character, at least in your eyes, friendly, hostile, sassy, basically any personality you want or can invision on your character. Sometimes the options are pretty sparse, but every game with detailed character interactions is like this, so I’m willing to let it slide.
“But Oliver,” you ask. “How does the character interactions have anything to do with the size of the world?”
I’ll tell you. The world of Skyrim is so huge you are bound to get distracted by anything and everything. Every side quest offers new possibilities for adventure, so of course you’re going to delay the main quest. But the size of Skyrim’s map means the game is going to be much longer, and in between play sessions the average player is going to forget what they are doing.
This means that you don’t really care about the character interactions because you just want to go onto your next quest by following the marker on the minimap. This issue is made even worse by the fact that all of the dungeons are very similar, and so is the quest design.
Most quests follow the same formula: Go to a town, talk to a guy, now talk to another guy, now go complete a dungeon, and then go back to these guys called the “Greybeards,” which are sort of like your protectors to learn a new Shout, which is a special power only you and the Greybeards have.
Despite the formulaic plot structure, I really like some of the plot design in Skyrim. It focuses on certain “wow” moments that you get when playing, like fighting your first dragon, and hearing the “Song of the Dragonborn” play in the background. Another example is a remarkable character interaction, like when you find out that the innkeeper in the first town is secretly part of this underground organization.
By far my favorite dungeon was the one where you had to sneak into a party for a bunch of royal snobs and then sneak out and find information the host was hiding. It was a super unique quest, and I remember every aspect of it fondly. There was even this one part where I interrogated a prisoner and then punched him to death, and a glitch activated where he flew out of his chains and started flailing around on the floor for 30 seconds. It was surprising, not intended by the game developers, and honestly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Unlike other RPGs, there are no classes in Skyrim, but the game is designed around three unique play styles: Thief, Warrior, and Mage. Thieves focus on the lock picking and sneak skills, and try to get critical hits by sneaking up on enemies. Warriors tend to use a variety of weapons and level up their one handed, two handed, block, and heavy armor skills. Mages focus on upgrading their magic, and skills like destruction, restoration, illusion, and conjuration skills, which are all different types of magic.
What I like about this system is that you can choose what you want to do with your level up abilities. Your character can be whatever you want, and it’s not really limited to the three main play styles. For example, I played a Warrior, but spent some of my levels into increasing my restoration skill, so on paper I was like a Paladin, which if you don’t know, are holy warriors that derive healing magic from their gods. If you wanted to be a Ranger, you could focus on the archery skill and also have some conjuration spells to summon a beastly companion. There are so many options.
Even if you don’t play a Mage, you have access to some magic called, “Shouts,” that you learn from those Greybeard people I mentioned. They will teach you how to do it, you can equip them in the Magic menu to the special powers button. Each one has a unique effect, like one pushes people away from you and another just sets everything on fire. The best part about them is that they don’t require magic to use, and instead have a cooldown timer, so that anyone can use them and no play style is better at them than others.
Oh yeah, this is the Switch port of Skyrim, so I have to talk about Amiibo. Amiibo can be used once per day, and when they are used, a Breath of the Wild style chest falls from the sky. 90% of the time, it will contain useless ingredients, but you have an off chance of getting some rare Breath of the Wild gear, like Link’s blue “Champion’s Tunic,” or even the Master Sword. I actually got the Champion’s Tunic, but died before I saved, so I didn’t get to keep it. It’s okay, because you can find both of them hidden on the actual game, so you don’t need Amiibo to get them.
I could talk about this game forever. To recount all of my adventurers would take hours and several more pages, so I’ll leave it out with this: Skyrim is a great game, and I would recommend it to anyone, but only if you have the time. If you’re in it for the long haul, just sit back and relax, and don’t expect a super engaging story. My only complaint is that there should be more to do on the title menu so you have an excuse to listen to the title theme for longer.
My final rating for this game is a 9/10.