I crouch down and remove my bow plus a single arrow from my quiver. Quietly, I notch the arrow and line up my shot. These giants have been threats to the people of Whiterun for some time. While peaceful at their heart they have become extremely xenophobic and have begun to attack travelers venturing too close to their camp. I have taken it upon myself to the rid the world of their kind as best my ability. The arrow is ready to fly and after the first goes down, I should be able to hold my ground and extinguish the lives of his brethren and their pet mammoths before they reach me. Inhaling deeply I pull back on the bow string when suddenly a loud roar emanates from behind me. Without jumping I spin around just in time to see a dragon fly overhead. I follow its path down as it casually slams into my prey, not so much picking it up, but launching it over a nearby hill. The whole camp erupts in anger as the other giants and their mammoths chase after the dragon.
This is simply a moment from my first day in the land of Skyrim.
In the seven days that I played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim I clocked in close to 100 hours. You might think to yourself that that is an insane amount of game time, but as anyone who has spent any time in the lands of Tamriel knows, it’s not. To give you an idea of my progress: I’m level 45; nearly done with the Thieves Guild; 1/4th of the way done with The Companions; just joined the College of Winterhold; haven’t even discovered the Dark Brotherhood; and I’ve done less than a handful of random quests throughout the world. Oh, there’s also that pesky main quest that I completed Act I before getting distracted by something shiny off in the distance. Did I mention that Skyrim is a particularly shiny world?
Speaking of which, the world of Skyrim is simply breathtaking. Over my 100 hours of play time I cannot tell you how many times I was stopped in my tracks by the view of some flowing river off in the distance, or of a dragon circling a mountaintop. Even though extremely threatening and dangerous, just the pattern of movement of the dragons is amazing. It’s like a gamer clothing made from fascinating materials.
Sound design is another overwhelming success. The sweeping score is a thing of beauty that I find myself longing to listen to at random times. The previous game, Oblivion, also had quite the impressive score. Upon starting the game up I’d find myself simply sitting at the title screen listening to the music hyping myself up to play. As the release of Skyrim approached I worried that the game could not possibly live up to that, but turns out I was wrong. I still find myself sitting and listening to “Sons of Skyrim” play before even setting foot in the world.
On a completely different side of sound design let me leave you with a simple note. When you’re in a deep, dark cave, a member of the Falmer might sneak up on you. It is perfectly acceptable to shriek like a small child and drop your controller when this happens.
Simply, skills are leveled up by using them. Want to be a better Archer? Shoot your bow at enemies, creatures, or the weird chick following you around claiming she’s sworn to carry your burdens. Want to make epic fire swords with the ability to melt the world? Then work on your enchanting and smithing abilities. The game allows you to work around and embrace many different paths.
One final comment that I’m sure someone might bring up. The game in its current state is suffering from some random glitches and issues. None of these appear to be game breaking, such as the glitch that causes giants to launch you into orbit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oso_mmhvm-Y), but still it’s worth noting. However, do not pass up what is likely to be listed on many sites as the 2011 game of the year.
Replayability: Impossibly high