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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim


ESRB Rating: Mature

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

UPC: 093155117631

Platform: Xbox 360

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Developer: Bethesda Softworks

Category: Role-Playing

Style(s): First-Person Action RPG

Synopsis: Bethesda's flagship fantasy role-playing series returns to Xbox 360 with a new storyline and more detailed, open-world environment. Taking place centuries after the events chronicled in 2006's Oblivion, the game finds the continent of Tamriel in chaos after the High King of Skyrim is found murdered. Yet political turmoil is only the beginning of the problems. Dragons, long believed to be a relic of the past, are now flying across the lands and threaten to tear away the fabric of civilization in one fell swoop.

You are Skyrim's last hope, a descendent of the fabled Dragonborn, who can speak the language of dragons and channel their mystical powers after slaying them. The main quest involves discovering why the dragons have returned, but as with previous games in the Elder Scrolls series, you are free to embark on your own adventures. There are five major cities in Skyrim, each home to a different culture and way of life, and an estimated 500 distinct places of interest. The publisher claims the game offers 300 hours of content for those looking to explore every nook and cranny in the 3D world.

You can adapt your male or female hero to fit your playing style, whether it's hacking and slashing at creatures directly, slinging arrows from the cover of darkness, or casting powerful spells. There are hundreds of pieces of equipment and weapons to find or purchase, allowing you to mix and match shields, staves, swords, and spells to suit your needs. Defeating enemies earns you experience that can be used to level up attributes in three key areas: magica, health, and stamina.

A new graphics engine brings the province of Skyrim to life with surging rivers, rolling clouds, changing weather, and more varied terrain at different elevations. The interface features a more minimalistic scheme than what was used in Oblivion, and the number of voice actors has increased to offer more diversity in the speaking roles. Quests include more dynamic elements, and dragons will appear randomly throughout your travels, giving you the option to flee or to stand your ground and fight. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide

Package Contents: Premium Physical Map

Controls: Joystick/Gamepad

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is yet another absorbing role-playing game from the experts at epic, the masters of massive, the wizards of worlds, (the grandmasters of glitches?), Bethesda Software. Building on the experience gained from 2006's Oblivion and 2008's Fallout 3, the developers have crafted a gorgeously detailed world where nearly everywhere you look there's something that begs your attention.

Whether it's a blue-winged butterfly to catch, a deer to hunt, a traveler to follow, a secret hideout to explore, or a shop to rob under the cover of darkness, there's always something worth examining or exploring. The visuals have dramatically improved from Oblivion, the interface is cleaner, and the main quest line, which has you hunting for dragons, is infinitely more engaging.

As in Oblivion, each main town or city has an abundance of characters to interact with and quests to undertake. Some quests are obvious and others less so, only triggering if you take the time to speak with certain characters or ask certain questions deep within the conversation tree. And the tasks you have to complete go beyond the typical "kill x-amount of creatures" that serve as the unimaginative impetus in other role-playing games.

Quests also offer multiple ways to approach an objective, and you can often change the outcome based on one or two decisions along the way. You may, for example, decide to inform a target about a bounty placed on his or her head, which may open up a new quest chain, or simply kill him or her for the money, which may lead to another. Or you may elect to keep a valuable item that you were sent to retrieve rather than relinquish it -- the choice is yours.

With the freedom to go anywhere and do just about anything, the more opportunities there are for things to go not quite as expected. The pathfinding AI is perhaps Skyrim's most blatant problem, as neither enemies nor allies can figure out how to effectively climb, follow, or move past that hill, path, or boulder in front of them. There are the occasional frame rate hiccups, a crash here and there, or the chance when you or something of interest gets stuck. There are also plenty of quest givers who seem to be afflicted with memory loss.

Complete a quest for one character, and the next time you meet, he or she may treat you like a complete stranger. Others will speak of you as a longtime friend in your first encounter, while soldiers all seem to recollect the same suspicious story of getting shot in the knee (by an arrow). The radiant AI introduced in Oblivion, where NPCs follow daily routines, hasn't improved much over the years. Characters still walk back and forth with seemingly no clue as to what they're supposed to be doing, sometimes staring off into space as if they're trying to remember.

The combat once again borrows heavily from Oblivion, which strived to deliver a pure action experience but ended up a tad too simplistic and somewhat clumsy. Skyrim offers some improvements, but players shouldn't expect something that's fast-paced or complex. Swinging your weapons, casting magic, and blocking with a shield are all initiated with a simple press of the left and right triggers. Skyrim introduces an option to dual-wield weapons or magic spells, allowing characters to become battle mages or other quirky combinations that wouldn't be possible with a traditional class system, which has been dropped in favor of less restriction.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Skyrim's combat is the addition of shouts, powerful words of magic that once discovered, can summon creatures, create storms, and perform other god-like feats. There's also a surprising amount of depth in the crafting options, from gathering items to make potions or cook food, to using a forge or grindstone to craft or improve weapons and equipment. This further rewards explorers, who will be able to hunt for the ingredients needed to make their own items.

Considering the size of the world, the amount of quests, and the myriad of activities apart from the main storyline, Skyrim is a tremendous value that can easily last 100+ hours for fans of the genre. While there are a number of areas that could be further improved, the developer's ambition and audacity outweigh any shortcomings. It's a game that you can get lost in for hours, days, and months, developing your own adventures as you progress, and thinking about what might be lurking just beyond the bend. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide

the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.