The-Elder-Scrolls-V-SkyrimReleased in November 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth installment in the popular action role-playing video game series The Elder Scrolls. The game immediately proved popular with game players and critics, and by June 2013 over 20 million copies had been sold. Though the game is a follow-up to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, there are significant differences in landscape, characterization and story.

The World

The previous installation in the series, Oblivion, takes place in the colorful, lushly green land of Cyrodiil, whereas Skyrim moves to the stark, jagged, frozen northern land of Tamriel. It is a land of steep icy peaks, river gorges, boggy marshes, dark forests and barren tundra. As you roam the immense, multifaceted, intricate landscape you discover sprawling cities, secluded villages, deep caves, castles with dungeons and ancient ruins. If you like, you can take off in any direction and spend countless hours exploring this fascinating world and collecting weapons, treasures and knowledge. Though the landscape is breathtakingly vast, it is also intricate with detail.

The Characters

Skyrim does not lock you into a class-based system like Oblivion did. In Skyrim you select a race and gender and then customize your character's appearance. As you move through the game, your character acquires skills through experience and discovery. Working on your skills helps you advance in the game. Your character grows and develops organically through the choices you make in game play. You can opt for open combat, stealth or magic as situations arise. To enhance your skills you can join various guilds such as the Thieves Guild, the Winterhold magic college or the Dark Brotherhood of assassins. When you stumble upon the war between the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloaks, you can join either side. As you travel, you can recruit companions to join you. However, these non-playable characters are more like clumsy appendages than characters with distinct personalities. You can also take on a mate of either gender; rather than joining you on your journeys your spouse stays home and runs a shop where you can display your weapons and trophies and pilfer money.

The Story

Skyrim is rife with side missions, both brief and lengthy, with which you can consume your time, but eventually it is well worth your while to settle down to play through the main story. The dragons of Skyrim were thought to have been long dead, but something awakens them out of their slumber. The appearance of the dragons is breathtaking. After you defeat the first one, you are informed that you are Dragonborn, a man born with a dragon's soul. Only you can defeat the rampaging dragons, but to do so you have to acquire special powers by absorbing the souls of dragons as you kill them and learning to use their magic of special shouts by discovering words of power. Some have criticized the dragon battles as being too easy to win, but nevertheless they are awesome spectacles as the dragons rain fire and wreak havoc. Few games let the player experience the heady rush of fighting a dragon single-handedly and coming away victorious.

Glitches

Occasional odd glitches appear. In some spots, accompanying players get stuck behind scenery. At other moments, they bob up and down. The game might inexplicably pause and then continue. Here and there grass and trees seem to float in the air. The general level of technology, however, is excellent, and these infrequent lapses can be easily ignored and are overwhelmed by the overall high quality of the game.

Skyrim is one of the best fantasy role-playing games to ever hit the market and can provide endless hours of absorbing game play.

Patrick Camden is a freelance writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. Along with board games, Patrick also has a strong interest in mtg, strategy games, movie trivia, geek conventions, Star Wars lore and other related areas.