The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Enter a massive world of adventure where you can be as good or as nasty as you please.
Dustin Bailey - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Combat with humans, animals, and fantasy creatures. Most physical attacks will result in blood splatters. Occasionally, killing blows will trigger a slow-motion kill animation. Sword users can expect to sometimes see decapitations, as can users of other weapons if they choose a particular perk in their skill tree. The player is also witness to a few public executions by beheading. Blood and gore sometimes found in the environment (such as heads on pikes in dungeons). Dead bodies do not disappear.

Fantasy Magic: Mages cast fireballs, streams of frost, and lightning. Their magic can also be used to heal, alter perceptions, or raise the undead and summon creatures from other realms.

Mythology: A distinct fantasy pantheon of gods and goddesses. The Nine Divines embody virtues, while the Daedra are somewhere between demons and Greek gods.

Language: Mild profanities can be heard throughout the game ("ba***rd", "d**n", a*s and gods d*mnit,), especially if you take a follower along with you.

Sexual Content/Nudity:Nudity involving naked female statues and idols. Some sexual references such as someone bragging they are a "defiler of daughters" or somebody who killed their uncle for making unwanted sexual advances against her. Some female characters wear low cut outfits or bikini-like armor. Dead bodies can be stripped down to their underwear.

Other: It never becomes necessary to steal or pick pockets but there are ample opportunities and whole storylines devoted to thieving. Character can join an assassin guild and kill almost every character in the game. Fantasy drug use, including a substance called "moon sugar" or "Skooma". Alcohol (wine and mead) can be consumed. Player can partake in cannibalism and also can become a vampire as well as another supernatural creature, both of which can feed on humans. There is an optional serial killer subplot.

Skyrim Round Table: What does the Guide 2 Games Staff think of Skyrim?

Phil: As a I enjoy games like Skyrim that allow me to make my own choices. If I don’t want to decapitate my enemies I just won’t unlock that perk from the skill tree (“Devastating Blow” for two-handed weapons, “Savage Strike” for one-handed weapons). If I hear about a girl being kept in the clutches of a cult then I can go rescue her and abandon that mission later if something more urgent comes along. If I feel uncomfortable about getting involved in an assassin’s group then I don’t have to. The province of Skyrim is so enormous that once I get through the tutorial quest nobody can force me to do anything I don’t want to do. I don’t even have to complete the main quest if I don’t want to. If any gamers are hoping to get through Skyrim without seeing any M-rated offensive content that’s not gonna happen. No way. 10 minutes into the tutorial mission I saw a prisoner beheaded with an axe. But to put that in perspective, though, that was the first of only two decapitations I saw during over 70 hours in Skyrim, so it’s not like this game is forcing you to participate in all sorts of horrible acts of violence and sorcery. The bad stuff is there but for the most part it can be avoided, and I appreciate the freedom to either make choices that reflect who I am as a follower of Jesus Christ, or to create a character who is very unlike me and lose myself in a fantasy for an hour or two. I did both.

You don’t have to be a human. If you choose to play as an Argonian lizard you can breathe underwater.

For example, I joined the Thieves’ Guild. I needed some help with my sneaking and lock-picking skills, so who better to turn to for an education than the experts themselves? After I passed my recruiter’s little pickpocketing “test” he said he had another nasty little job for me; that I was to go around town terrorizing all the citizens who owed the Guild money. First on the list is the owner of the local pawn shop. I go into this guy’s shop and try to sweet talk him into paying up, but he’s a stubborn man and he tells me to get out of the store. That’s when I notice the dwarven urn. My recruiter from the Guild told me the guy has a soft spot for it so I start to tap the precious urn with my sword. It takes several hits, and all the while the poor shopkeeper is pleading with me, “You don’t have to do that!” But eventually I smash the urn and he pays up. I felt horrible, but I needed the Guild’s help so I did it. It’s really out of character for me to do anything like this, but I had the freedom to quit at any time and go do something else. I could have found another way to boost my skills. And at many times in the game I did choose to abandon the mission and focus on a more worthy mission, and there is no shortage of those.

The thing about Skyrim that continues to impress me is how quickly the hours fly by while I’m playing it. I just finished a Thieves’ Guild quest where I had to steal some documents out of a crook’s house. It’s a minor mission, but swimming across the lake to his island home, sneaking past his guards, getting onto his property, pickpocketing the key, and grabbing the goods took me an hour and a half. Like I said, it’s a minor quest, but I was so absorbed in it and enjoying myself so much that if I hadn’t happened to look up at the clock I would have missed an appointment in real life. It was then that I realized I’m going to have to set a timer when I play this game because I can get so absorbed in Skyrim that I forget about God, family, and work. Skyrim is a huge time sink, with hundreds of hours of available gameplay, and it’s such a realistic and detailed world that gamers need to know how easy it is to get lost in it. It could easily become a second life.

You don’t have to explore every castle and cave if you don’t want to. But aren’t you curious about what’s out there?

John: This year I have played many RPGs, from Dragon Quest to Deus Ex to Legend of Heroes. All were good in their own right, but Skyrim shined the brightest of them all. Everything I loved about Oblivion it improved upon. No more boring dungeons, people with faces like melting candles (elves are still hideous strangely) or odd conversations between two people.

While in Oblivion you heard about how the wizard’s guild banned necromancy for the sixteenth time from twelve different people six hours in, Skyrim has less obtrusive dialog. Sure it is heavily scripted and going around town has you hear the same bits over and over, but it is still loads better than the ones in the previous game.

Quests also seem ever-present. You could be completing one quest and get two more in the process! Wandering a dungeon you found may lead to finding an ancient text you may research. The main quest is also very interesting. While I thought Oblivion’s was rather dull, Skyim’s had me wanting to finish it from the get go. The last boss is easy, but the epicness of the shouts you receive and where it takes place makes it worth it.

Battling dragons is essential if you are to succeed in the main quest.

The biggest improvement over Oblivion is the game’s key feature. While Oblivion had the Oblivion gates, boring semi-randomly generated dungeons that served really no purpose other than to farm items, Skyrim has the dragons. Sure they could be more variety in them as they are mostly the same, but there is nothing like a dragon attacking a town and landing on a nearby house to breath fire on you.

In a nutshell Skyrim is Oblivion but better. If you liked Oblivion than you will probably love Skyrim. If you did not, I don’t think the game will change your mind. There is also the offensive content that may keep some away. In contrast to Oblivion’s it is much more pronounced and present. You will run into it no matter what character you play as. It would be nice to have a blood/gore off switch or slider like Oblivion’s PC version had, but alas it does not. Still for those who regularly play M-rated RPGs, it is well worth a look.

Taking the time to talk to people will often open up new quests and opportunities to help.

Cameron: I consider myself a pretty avid gamer. I spend the majority of my days either playing games or thinking about them while I do other things. I sometimes have marathon sessions where I’ll play a game for five or ten hours straight, but most of the time I play in little bursts, for anywhere between half an hour to two hours. That’s what’s common for me. However, when Skyrim came out, something about it struck me differently than other games. I didn’t want to stop playing; I had no reason to, I was having so much fun. Usually I get a little scatterbrained after playing a game for a certain amount of time and have to do something else. That never happened with Skyrim; I literally couldn’t stop playing. When the game launched, I ended up playing for nearly 35 hours in a 48 hour time span. I’ve never done something like that before. That, alone, I think says wonders about how amazing Skyrim is.

Oblivion was boring. I mean, yes, there was a lot to do, but getting from one mission to another was bland and completely unexciting in every way. The world felt dead. Skyrim, on the other hand, feels completely opposite; everything feels alive. The entire world feels hand crafted down to the smallest detail, and I can’t get over how much fun it is to just wander around in the woods, completely lost. Not only does it look amazing, there is so much stuff to do. You can explore the tip-top of the map where you’d never expect anything to be living, and suddenly you’ll find yourself in the midst of a rather large mission tree that you would never had found if you hadn’t been exploring. The entire world is filled to the brim with surprises like that, and no other game has that sort of feeling that there is an infinite amount of stuff to find and do. Not to mention you’ll never know when a dragon will come out of no-where and try to roast you for his dinner. The world never feels empty.

Skyrim is home to mammoths, bears, wolves, sabretooth cats, elk, fox, rabbit, and even butterflies.

The stories told in Skyrim aren’t exactly top of the line, but that’s sort of to be expected. One can’t expect a superb story similar to a game that one has one because Skyrim has, literally, hundreds of stories scattered throughout the land. None of them really blew me off my feet, however, I did enjoy them to the point where I’d want to finish what I started to see what would happen. The exception to that though is the Daedric quests, which are weird, god like creatures that offer the character terribly random and weird story lines to play through, yet they’re usually incredibly exciting and a nice break from the usual pacing of the game. Unfortunately, the stories in Skyrim just can’t stack up to the stories in other AAA games.

Skyrim is a video game that will be remembered for years to come. I’ve not have a game grab me and not let me go for quite a while. I have a theory that once every couple of years, the gaming world is blessed with a “Game Changer”. I believe Half-Life 2 and the Source engine was indeed one of the more recent game changers because it set the standard so unbelievably high for other games, which made games jump ahead in terms of quality.

Skyrim is a game changer.

The undead Draugr are one of many types of fantasy enemies you’ll encounter in Skyrim.

Dustin: The Elder Scrolls games are flawed in a number of ways. The combat never quite has the impact it should, the dialogue is always a bit awkward, and they’re usually racked with technical issues. However, what I enjoy most about video games is exploration–the sense of place and of discovering new things–and no game in recent memory has captured me quite like Skyrim.

In anticipation of Skyrim, I got drawn deeply into the Elder Scrolls universe a few months ago, playing through Morrowind and Oblivion, and reading as many of the in-game books as I could along the way. I knew the origin of men and mer (elves), the succession of emperors, and the function of worship in this world. As striking as games have become, both through audio and video, it’s still the imagination that fills in the blanks, and this background gave me a much stronger experience in playing this game. The fiction is dense and complicated, with a thousand petty squabbles leading up to the civil war which hovers over Skyrim–one in which there aren’t any heroes. I think Skyrim does a better job with this no good guys conflict than other games have in the past. I remember the Witcher, in particular, where both factions were so unlikable that I ended up not even caring who won. I was more eager to choose a side here, even if I really like its leader.

I found the religious struggles to be similarly interesting. The primary religion in this game is centered around the Nine–or, rather, Eight Divines, a belief system clearly based on Judeo- practices. Each of the deities represents a different aspect of life, such as love, mercy, or even commerce. The ninth divine is the first emperor, Talos, who ascended to godhood (think Alexander the Great, except he became a god instead of dying in drunken debauchery)–but now whose worship has been outlawed by an exterior faction. This aspect of the religion, however, is central to the Nord’s belief. Imagine if worship were similarly restricted–you may believe as you choose, aside from that pesky little detail about Jesus being the son of God. It’s difficult for me to say whether I was invested in this detail because of that comparison, or purely because of how deep I got into the Elder Scrolls fiction, but it nonetheless stood out for me.

The Temple of Mara, one of several religious sites in Skyrim.

Skyrim has been very high up on various “game of the year” lists, and with good reason. While its combat (while much improved) is still a little weak, its dialogue (while much better presented) is still a little awkward, and its technical issues (while much fewer in number) are still sometimes frustrating, its massive, incredibly well-imagined world, myriad of quests and activities, and freedom of choice raise the game to a height few others have reached. The world of the Elder Scrolls can be dark and violent, and you can certainly choose to further that violence. However, you could just as easily choose to be a protector, a light to those harsh, winter lands of Skyrim.

Have a question about Skyrim or want to give your own opinion of the game? Join in the discussion at our Skyrim topic on our forums.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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