The Definition of Immersion
Skyrim. What else is there to say? The perfect younger brother of its older siblings, Oblivion, Morrowind, and Daggerfell. Truly, Skyrim is the game that Bethesda has wanted to make; it is the final draft of their other prominent open world RPG’s. You can see the clear evolution of mechanics and systems that they have taken through the Elder Scrolls series as well as the Fallout series. The visual fidelity of the world, the amazing ambiance of the wind, of the trees and animals that populate this rough land north of Cyrodill brings such an immersive experience that any fantasy dungeons and dragons fan would enjoy.
This new installment from Bethesda introduces you to the rough and wild landscape that is Skyrim. The landscape is reminiscent of a land like Alaska, ruled by wildlife, harsh winter climate, and rugged terrain. There is even a visible aurora that paints the sky, viewable from certain locations in the game. A land ruled by the Nord, the Viking inspired race that pride themselves in fighting, honor and their old world traditions (that seem to be slipping away). The social dynamics and interactions really come at a personal level on you as the player and how you create your character. Do you want to play as an Imperial and side yourself with the empire? Do you want to play as the strong Nord and side with the rebel Stormcloaks? Or any of the other races that appear in this world? Each race, from the dark elves to the lizard people Argonians, have a social place in Skyrim. There are themes of racism, of discrimination between races that reinforces the immersion and attention to detail that Bethesda has put into this game.
The game starts you off involved in a conflict between two factions in Skyrim, you create your character with the character creation tool that more or less hasn’t changed from Oblivion. Sliders that affect different parts of your character, adjusting the heights of noses, width of eyes, etc. Hair selections differ from race to race, male and female, and in general the character models look stunning and more refined. Gone are the days that Orcs look like bright green out of place characters. Quests are attained by a plethora of methods. Speaking to NPC’s that seem to look like they need you to do something is ever present, but you can also find quests by reading random books strewed across the land, over hearing a conversation between two characters, basically every turn you take there will be content waiting for you. There is a lot of content. During my playthrough, which is currently at 55 hours long since release, I would say I have gotten around only two thirds of the entire map. The dimensions of the game world itself are about the same as Oblivion, but what makes the world bigger are the height of the mountains, and the vast dungeons that riddle the landscape. The dungeons and caves this time around feel like actually caves carved out of the world. Each cave feels as though it has been hand sculpted and different, unlike the repeating maze like caves that were in Oblivion. You will definitely be spending countless hours exploring these places, and finding all these encounters that make the world constantly moving and changing. It never seems that the world stops for you, NPC’s travel the roads, hunt in the woods, wolves hunt deer and rabbits. The world does not revolve around your character.
The interface has been improved and streamlined, making it easier to view and simpler to navigate. Pressing the ‘B’ button, brings up a four options for you to choose from, Skills, Map, Items, and Magic. Everything is organized and clear, you’ll never really run into any clutter when navigating around the menus. You will run into a few glitches here and there, as expected from the scope and reputation of these giant open world games. The combat, although improved does feel stiff and simplistic. It isn’t terrible and it doesn’t by any means ruin the experience but having a more in depth combat system would have been a great addition on top off an already great game. The leveling system has been simplified when compared to the talent point spending and leveling in previous games. Increasing skills such as one handed weapons, destruction magic, or lock picking all contribute to an overall level progress. When you level up your character you are given a chance to put an increase in one of three general traits, Health, Magicka, and Stamina. On top of that you are awarded one skill point that you can spend in one of the specialized skill trees for perks. There are perks for each skill that do crazy things such as having a small chance to decapitate an opponent with axes, or to slow down time when blocking with a shield, to being able to smith better weapons and armor. You can either choose to spread your skill points to a multitude of skill trees, or you can specialize in one tree, progressing to some of the stronger skills that the game has to offer. The game really creates specialized characters based on your specific play style.
Dragons. Dragons play a huge role during the events of the story, and in random encounters as well. On top of your abilities and magic, you are able to use dragon shouts, which are essentially magic abilities that aren’t governed by your magic ability or magicka. You find shouts throughout the world on dragon walls. These walls contain one, sometimes three words of power, meaning each shout potentially has three tiers of power. You cannot use these shouts right away however. You need to unlock each word in the shout using dragon souls, collected from slaying dragons. Find a shout, kill a dragon and absorb its soul, spend that soul to unlocking a dragon shout.
All the hype around Skyrim has certainly been realized and fulfilled. It’s truly a game that is tailored made to every single gamer out there. There are so many different stories to tell, so much exploration in this game, that part of the experience is sharing adventures, findings with fellow gamers. The sheer scope of this game is amazing to see for a game in this generation, one can only thing what can Bethesda really do once the next generation rolls around. How much bigger and better can open world games get? Just starting the game and being dropped into this world can be overwhelming, but that is the beauty of it. You can literally do whatever you want, you can tell your own story and play the game how you think your character should or could. Just jump in head first and see where you end up. Delve into alchemy, smith the most powerful armors that the your character can wear, scale the highest mountains in the game, Skyrim is really the definition of a sandbox, build your castle, tear it down and start all over again.