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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls action role-playing video game series, following The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Skyrim was released on November 11, 2011, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Skyrim's main story revolves around the player character's efforts to defeat Alduin, a Dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world. Set two hundred years after Oblivion, the game takes place in the fictional province of Skyrim. The game continues the open world tradition of its predecessors by allowing the player to travel anywhere in the game world at any time and to ignore or postpone the main storyline indefinitely. A perpetual objective for players is to improve their character's skills, which are numerical representations of certain abilities.

Skyrim was a critical and commercial success, shipping over 7 million copies to retailers within the first week of release. Several add-ons have subsequently been released, which include Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn. A collection, which was released as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition, a package including the latest patch and all three expansion packs, was released on June 4, 2013 for all three platforms.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Plot

Skyrim is not a direct sequel to Oblivion, but a new chapter in The Elder Scrolls series, set 200 years after the events of Oblivion. As with previous The Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim begins with the player character as an unknown prisoner. The player was caught in an Imperial ambush while attempting to cross the border into Skyrim, on a wagon with several Stormcloak soldiers, Ulfric Stormcloak himself, and a horse thief. They are all headed to Helgen to be executed. As the player character is about to be beheaded, a Dragon arrives, interrupting the execution and destroying the town. The player eventually learns that Skyrim's civil war is the last in a sequence of prophetic events foretold by the Elder Scrolls, which also predicted the return of Alduin, the Dragon-god of destruction. Alduin is prophesied to destroy the races of Men and Mer, and consume the world. The player character is the latest "Dovahkiin", a Dragonborn, an individual with the body of a mortal and the soul of a Dragon. Dovahkiin are anointed by the gods to help fend off the threat Alduin and other dragons pose to Skyrim and Tamriel. Among the individuals aiding the player are Delphine (voiced by Joan Allen) and Esbern (voiced by Max von Sydow), two of the last remaining Blades, and Master Arngeir (voiced by Christopher Plummer), a member of the Greybeards.

Following the Dragon attack on Helgen, the player character may choose to escape either with Hadvar, an Imperial soldier, or Ralof, a Stormcloak rebel. After the escape, the player travels to the town of Riverwood. The player is asked to journey to the city of Whiterun, and request aid from the Jarl against the Dragon threat. The Jarl agrees to send soldiers to Riverwood, but asks that the player retrieve a Dragonstone. The player discovers a Word Wall in the process, learning their first "Thu'um", one of the dragon shouts, in the process.

Upon returning to Whiterun, the player is asked to assist in defending the city from an attacking Dragon. After defeating the Dragon, the player character absorbs the Dragon's soul. This gives the player great power. Astonished, the Whiterun soldiers tell the player that they may be a "Dragonborn", a mortal with the soul of a dragon. After returning to the Jarl with news of the Dragon's defeat, the player is summoned to meet with the Greybeards, an order of monks who live in seclusion in their temple of High Hrothgar on the slopes of Skyrim's highest mountain, the Throat of the World. The Greybeards further train the player in the "Way of the Voice", teaching the player more powerful Thu'ums and instructing the player on their destiny and role of the Dragonborn. As a further test, the Greybeards task the player with retrieving the legendary Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. However, the player discovers the Horn has been stolen by another, who wishes to meet with the Dragonborn. The thief reveals herself as Delphine, Riverwood's innkeeper and one of the last surviving members of the Blades. Delphine and the player witness Alduin reviving a Dragon from a burial mound and defeat the Dragon. Afterwards, Delphine helps the player infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy near Solitude, the headquarters of the Aldmeri Dominion in Skyrim, to follow up on her suspicions about the Thalmor's possible involvement with the Dragon threat. While there, Delphine and the player discover the Thalmor are searching for a man named Esbern, an archivist of the Blades Order. Delphine then instructs the player to locate Esbern, known to be hiding in the sewers and ratways of Riften.

The player character accompanies the Blades in search of "Alduin's Wall", located in an ancient Blades fortress known as Sky Haven Temple. While the Blades set up in the temple, the player character learns that the ancient Nords used a special Thu'um against Alduin called "Dragonrend", representing mankind's comprehensive hatred for the Dragons, to cripple his ability to fly so they could engage him. To gain more information, the player meets the leader of the Greybeards, an ancient Dragon, and once one of Alduin's most feared generals, named Paarthurnax. Paarthurnax reveals that Alduin was not truly defeated in the past, but was sent forward to an unspecified point in time by the use of an Elder Scroll, in the hopes that he would get lost. The player manages to locate the Elder Scroll within the Dwemer ruin of Blackreach and uses it to peer through a window in time, learning the powerful Dragonrend Shout to combat Alduin.

Armed with the knowledge of how the ancient Nords defeated Alduin, the player battles Alduin on the summit of the Throat of the World. Overpowered by the player, Alduin flees to Sovngarde, the Nordic afterlife. The player learns that Dragonsreach, the palace of the Jarl of Whiterun, was originally built to trap and hold a dragon. The Jarl refuses to allow the player to utilize Dragonsreach and possibly endanger the city if the civil war between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion still rages. With the help of the Greybeards, the player calls a council between General Tullius and Ulfric Stormcloak, successfully calling for a temporary armistice while the Dragon threat exists. If the war has already ended the Jarl will eventually agree with persuasion.

The player summons and traps a Dragon named Odahviing in Dragonsreach, learning from him that Alduin has fled to Sovngarde through a portal located high in the mountains, at an ancient fort called Skuldafn. Odahviing, impressed with the player's Thu'um and ability to capture him, agrees to fly the player to Skuldafn, claiming Alduin has shown himself as weak and undeserving of leadership over the Dragons. Upon arrival at Skuldafn, the player travels to Sovngarde and meets with Ysgramor, the legendary Nord who, along with his Five Hundred Companions, drove the Elves out of Skyrim. Ysgramor informs the player that Alduin has placed a "soul snare" in Sovngarde, allowing him to gain strength by devouring the souls of deceased Nords arriving there. The player meets up with the three heroes of Nordic legend who defeated Alduin originally, and, with their help, destroys the soul snare, defeating Alduin.

If the player did not kill Paarthurnax in an earlier side quest, an alternate conclusion is given. The player returns to the summit of the Throat of the World in which Paarthurnax and the other Dragons wait. Paarthurnax explains that even if Alduin is defeated, they are in no condition to celebrate for he was once their ally and is still one of their kin. Having asserted his authority over many Dragons, Paarthurnax convinces those loyal to him to leave Tamriel.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Gameplay

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing game, playable from either a first- or third-person perspective. The game is presented as an open world, allowing the player free roam over Skyrim, a large, open environment. The player may navigate the game world faster by riding horses, or by utilizing a fast-travel system that allows the player to warp to previously-discovered cities, towns and dungeons. A main quest is assigned to the player at the beginning of the game, but it can be completed at the player's leisure, or ignored given the prerequisite that the first stage of the quest is completed. Non-player characters (NPCs) allocate the player additional side-quests, and the parameters to some of these side-quests may be adjusted, for example by sending the player to a dungeon that has not been previously explored. The player can interact with NPCs in other ways as well, for example by having conversations with them, which may probe the opportunity to be assigned a quest by the NPC. Some NPCs that are befriended or hired by the player may act as companions who will accompany the player and provide aid in combat. The player may choose to join factions, which are organized groups of NPCs such as the Dark Brotherhood, a band of assassins. Each of the factions has a headquarters, and they have their own quest paths which the player can progress through. Each of the cities and towns in the game world has an economy, which the player can stimulate by completing jobs such as farming.

A perpetual objective for the player is to develop their character. At the beginning of the game, the player creates their character by selecting one of several human, elven, or anthropomorphic races, and then customizes their character's appearance. Over the course of the game, the player improves their character's skills, which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There are eighteen skills divided evenly between the three schools of combat, magic and stealth. When the player has trained skills enough to meet the required experience, their character levels up. Each time their character levels, the player may choose to select a skill-specific ability called a perk, or store perks for later use. Unlike earlier entries in The Elder Scrolls series which used a character class system to determine which skills would contribute to the character's leveling, Skyrim allows the player to discover preferred skills as they play the game and rewards the player with more experience when a frequently-used skill is leveled. The head-up display (HUD) appears when any of the player's three main attributes are being depleted. Health is depleted primarily by damage through combat and although it is regenerated naturally over time, it can also be restored by spells, potions, or resting; the loss of all health results in death. Magicka is depleted by the use of spells and by being struck by lightning-based attacks. Stamina determines the player's effectiveness in combat and is depleted by sprinting, power attacking, and being struck by frost-based attacks; both magicka and stamina can be regenerated in similar ways to health. The player's inventory can be accessed from the menu and items can be viewed in 3D, which can be essential in solving puzzles found in dungeons.

A player character preparing to battle a Dragon. Dragons can be encountered at random throughout Skyrim.

The player's effectiveness in combat relies on the use of weapons and armor, which may be bought or created at forges, and magic, which may also be bought or unlocked. Weapons and magic are assigned to each hand, allowing for dual-wielding, and can be swapped out through a quick-access menu of favorite items. Shields can be used either to fend off enemy attacks and reduce the damage intake, or offensively through bashing attacks. Blunt, bladed and hacking weapons can be used in close combat and each have specific advantages and roles; as an example, the player can perform power attacks with each weapon. Magic can be used in the form of spells; each of the eighty-five spells has a different function, such as the regeneration of health or the depletion of enemy health. The bow and arrow may be utilized in long-range combat, but the bow can be used as a defensive melee weapon in close combat. The player can enter sneak mode and pickpocket, or deliver sneak attacks to unsuspecting enemies.

When exploring the game world, the player may encounter wildlife. Many creatures in the wilderness are immediately hostile towards the player. Skyrim is the first entry in The Elder Scrolls to include dragons in the game's wilderness. Like other creatures, Dragons are generated randomly while the player explores the world, and some dragons may attack cities and towns when in their proximity. The player character can absorb the souls of dragons in order to use powerful spells called "Dragon Shouts". Each Shout contains three words, and the strength of the Shout will vary depending on how many words have been spoken. The words to Shouts can be learned by visiting "Word Walls" in dungeons. The shouts are unlocked for use by spending the absorbed souls of slain dragons. A regeneration period limits the player's use of Shouts in gameplay.

Reviewers praised the game for streamlining character development by removing the character class system of previous entries in the Elder Scrolls series. Billy Shibley of Machinima's Inside Gaming praised its removal because it allowed players to experiment with different skills without having to make decisions about a class early in the game. Charles Onyett of IGN agreed with this sentiment, stating "major decisions don't need to be made until you're already out in the world and can try out magic, sneaking and weapon combat, emphasizing first-hand experience over instruction manual study, letting you specialize only when you're ready". Tom Francis of PC Gamer noted that "you don't have to decide what you're going to focus on when you create your character, you can just let it develop organically". John Bedford of Eurogamer opined that by removing the character class system, the game tailored for players who wanted to build an all-around character while still also providing the opportunity for other players to specialize in a preferred play-style.

The introduction of character perks was also well-received by reviewers. Onyett noted that Bethesda had capitalized well off the praise for the perk system in Fallout 3. The staff at Edge Magazine praised the perk system as it "honed the abilities players want and enjoy using". Steve Butts of The Escapist noted that perks help "motivate you to keep improving and defining your character", and that they "are a great method to make your character feel even more unique and personal". Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot praised the way perks allowed for the player's preferred skills to become more powerful over time, stating that the perk system "forms around the way you play, but allows for tweaking so that you retain a sense of control".

The art style of the game world bore acclaim from many reviewers, who welcomed the departure from Oblivion's Cyrodiil. Jason Schreier of Wired described the land of Skyrim as a "Viking-inspired treasure trove of flavor and charm", noting its contrast to Cyrodiil which he considered generic by comparison. Edge described Cyrodiil as a "patchwork of varying terrains", praising the more consistent design of Skyrim. Shibley praised "the lack of copy-and-paste level design that's plagued Bethesda's previous games, giving a lived-in and handcrafted look to the world". Bedford noted that the improved graphical fidelity over Oblivion allowed the game world to feel more lifelike, praising the "misty mountain setting, complete with swirling fog and high-altitude snowstorms". Butts agreed with Bedford, explaining that "you feel the cold as the snows swirl around the mountain passes". Andrew Reiner of Game Informer cited criticisms Oblivion faced for repetitive dungeon design, noting that "the composition of each dungeon is largely unique and individualized" in Skyrim. He also favored the design choice to have a quick route out of a dungeon leading from its last room, eliminating the problem he identified Oblivion as having where the player would clear a dungeon and then have to go all the way back to the beginning to exit it. An editor for PC PowerPlay also praised the diversity of the dungeon's designs, explaining that "while you will see some similar features from dungeon to dungeon, most areas boast elaborate hand-crafted chambers that mark them apart".

The amount of content given to the player aside from the main story was cited as one of the game's strengths. Reiner lamented that even ignoring NPCs would not prevent the game from giving him more quests, finding himself "overwhelmed" by the amount of quests to do. Bedford noted that "focusing on the main quest becomes an exercise in futility", praising the game's ability to constantly introduce content to the player. VanOrd singled out the diversity of the quests as one of his favorite touches to the game, explaining that a simple quest such as "searching for a lost dog turns into a grander quest than you could have guessed". Francis opined that it was difficult to explore the world without becoming distracted by things to do, explaining that "it's hard to walk for a minute in any direction without encountering an intriguing cave, a lonely shack, some strange stones, a wandering traveller, a haunted fort".

Dual-wielding weapons and magic was a change to the combat welcomed by many reviewers. Onyett found that mixing spells with melee weapons was a fluid system which afforded a great deal of control over his character, also praising the ability to assign a spell to both hands and create a powerful version of that spell more "satisfying" than the magic systems of previous Elder Scrolls. PC PowerPlay agreed with Onyett, elaborating that dual-wielding "transforms the tactical scope of each combat encounter". Shibley noted that the dual-wielding option gave the player more freedom to experiment with combat, explaining that "the ability to apply a spell to each hand generates huge potential for getting creative with your spell combinations". The user interface (UI) that navigates the player's items and spells was also praised by reviewers for its accessibility; Bedford complimented its "elegant design" which succeeded Oblivion's cumbersome UI.

Many reviewers noted glitches while playing Skyrim, some game-breaking. Nick Cowen of The Guardian pointed out that the game's glitches were a trade-off for its ambitious scope, himself experiencing glitches that forced him to reload earlier saves. Edge began their review by criticizing the lack of polish, while still acknowledging many areas in the game which made up for it. Aside from technical issues, there were other areas pointed out by reviewers as being lackluster. Many were critical of the melee combat, feeling that it had not been improved upon as much as other areas in the game. Justin McElroy of Joystiq explained that "what should be thrilling fights in Skyrim are often weighed down by the same clunky melee system Oblivion suffered from". Onyett described melee combat as "flat" and "floaty", and that "many times it feels like you're slicing air instead of a mythical creature's flesh". Franics agreed with this sentiment, explaining that "too much of the time, you wave your weapon around and enemies barely react to the hits".

The quality of the main quest divided some reviewers. While Reiner praised the main quest as "superbly penned" and "Bethesda's best effort to date", Butts and Francis criticized the fact that the story was delivered primarily through conversations and quest journals, rather than through the player's own interactions. While the dragon battles were well-received, some reviewers observed flaws in the AI for dragons. Onyett pointed out their "predictable attack patterns", which Francis agreed with, explaining that "fighting them never changes much: you can just ignore them until they land, then shoot them from a distance when they do". Reiner felt that due to the repetitiveness of their attack patterns, the dragons weren't challenging enough for low-level players. Edge pointed out a curve in difficulty for players who favored archery and magic, as dragons were difficult to attack while airborne.

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