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For the Emperor! A (Relatively) Brief First Impression of Skyrim

If you have had even the slightest presence on the internet since last Friday you have undoubtedly heard rumblings and fervent word of mouth about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Like so many have already said (and judging from the huge word of mouth, also experienced) Skyrim maintains to be a world that is both vast and dense. That density has no limits either, Skyrim is a place where people live, it is a place with problems and emotions, and it is a place with history. More than any game in history Skyrim does not make a video game world feel realistic, it instead submerges you in the lore, the history, and the tensions so much to the point where you become a part of it. Doing things in Skyrim feel natural because you feel so involved and connected to the life-like world around you.

The vastness of Skyrim is equally as impressive. The landscape is varied and remains visually distinct. From run-down forts left behind by ancient empires or dwarven ruins basked in mystery everything in Skyrim has a style that resonates with you. In terms of raw size the land of Skyrim is truly huge, and because of that journeys on foot take time and are genuinely perilous. It is a hostile world dotted with dragons, giants, bears, and bandits. Survival requires work, but is by no means punishing, staying on your toes and quicksaving often is the recipe for success.

As of this writing I have logged 20 hours into Skyrim, a number unusually high for a person like me who generally tries to finish games as quickly as possible. In that 20 hours I have raided dungeons, fought dragons, and taken up arms in a civil war that's tearing the country in two, all while only barely (and I mean barely) touching the main story. The amount to do in Skyrim is staggering, especially when you consider the overall quality of each quest line. Every mission finds someplace new to go, adds a unique insight to the lore, or is just plain fun from a gameplay perspective. One such example is the civil war quest line, which requires you to join sides with the rebellious Stormcloaks, trying to keep Skyrim true to its Nordic roots, or the Imperial Legion, working to preserve Skyrim as a member of the Empire. Each side has it's own motivations, ranging from political to religious, and the game does an astounding job of exposing you to each side in its opening hours. When you do finally choose who to side with you are tasked with joining the fight, which means large scale battles involving dozens of characters, espionage, and small unit raids on remote enemy camps. It is fun, interesting, and completely independent from the main story.

Skyrim is a fantastic experience that should be experienced by all. It makes for a unique bookend for this generation of consoles, looking back to Oblivion (2006) we see how far games design and technology has advanced in the past five years. Skyrim is a game that will be enjoyed and remembered for a long time, in a way only few games have ever amounted to.