Skyrim – You make me wanna shout…

Cheesy title I know, but a joke well made. Shouting is a fundamental part of Bethesda’s latest romp through the lands of Tamriel.

For those of you familiar with the series, you will be aware of where this game takes place, for those of you that are less familiar, the game takes place in Tamriel’s most northern province of Skyrim, home to a race of people called the Nords. As their name suggests, they take a lot of influence from the Viking culture. One example of this is that when Nords die, they believe that they go to a place called Sovngarde. This resembles the Viking ideal of Valhalla, a place with battling and feasting and many women.

At the beginning of the game, you find yourself on a horse and cart being taken to a walled town by the Imperial Army, accused of being a traitor. A dragon interrupts proceedings though, and you escape the town. For those of you that played Oblivion, this starting is much better than the “Yay! Let’s run through a sewer” opening of that game. There are also no dialogue boxes that divert from the action, the only dialogue that appears is to customise your character at the beginning.

After escaping, the world is your oyster, the main quest-line can be started, or you can wander around aimlessly, exploring dungeons and killing some of Skyrim’s varied wildlife, or become a blacksmith or woodcutter. Returning to the main quest, I won’t give any of it away, but I will say this. It is too short. The main story is usually the reason of your existence in most games, but due to the open world nature of this game, there are numerous other side quests or tasks to be undertaken. The balance is not right though, there is almost more emphasis on these side quests than the main quest, which makes you feel empty, and is quite anti-climactic.

The leveling system has been improved from previous games, as you perform actions, your skills level up, as this continues, your overall level eventually rises. When this happens, you can add 10 points to either health, magic or stamina, and you also gain a perk point. This idea will be familiar to those who have played Fallout games, but for everyone else, the idea is you get a point to spend to gain a particular skill or a boost. For example, you can add a perk point to the lock-picking skill, to make picking a certain level easier. Each individual skill can rise to level 100, with certain perks not being available until the correct level is reached.

The weapons and armour have been vastly improved for this game. You can now craft your own weapons and armour, relying on the level of the armourer skill. The amount that this skill rises, does not depend upon what has been crafted, for example, crafting an iron dagger, does not give less experience than a steel dagger, even though a steel dagger does more damage when used. One handed weapons can now also be dual wielded, meaning you do not need to use a sword and shield, you could use two handaxes, or two swords, making dealing damage much faster.

Magic can also be dual wielded, with no limitations on what two magics can be used, this gives a much greater scope to magic users in ways of beating those nasties that they find within caves. Shouting is the language of the dragon kind, and can wield many interesting effects, from shooting fire to freezing opponents, from making yourself invulnerable to creating a diversion. The shouts all consist of three words, learning each word increases the power of a shout, and the shouts can be learned by finding them, and using the souls of slain dragons to unlock them. Weapons and armour can also be enchanted to have a variety of stat building effects or to deal damage to your opponents. Alchemy also make a return to the game, only being able to be undertaken at specialist tables, meaning you no longer have to lug around the heavy equipment with you into dungeons.

Exploring locations is not really very different, there are some bad guys, some chests and random items scattered around. Occasionally, there will be an alchemy table, or enchanting table and sometimes you can mine ores, useful for crafting weapons. Most locations are involved in a quest line, whether main quest or side quest, meaning that all locations get explored, and to eek out the length of the game.

One of my main gripes with this game though, is the high level of bugs contained within the game, this is to be slightly expected, due to the sheer size of the game. Some of the glitches seem hard to overlook though, one of the most publicised is dragons flying backwards. Those of you playing on a playstation 3, may find the game lags horrifically when your save file approaches the 50 hour mark.

This review only scratches the surface, there is lots more for you to find on your own. This game is incredible, if you can look past its minor flaws, you will love this game, it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience an will keep you going for hours. But if you’re looking for a gripping and involving main story, hold onto your money.