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Review: ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ a magnificent odyssey

By Brett Molina

Welcome to Skyrim, the enormous world created by Bethesda Softworks in the action role-playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

To say the game is epic would be an understatement. It’s so easy to get lost in this vibrant universe filled with exciting adventures and daunting enemies.

Skyrim’s story starts with a surprise dragon attack on the town of Helgen. As the plot develops, players learn dragons — thought to be extinct — have mysteriously returned to Skyrim, and they must figure out why.

Of course, the player has a distinct advantage in this quest: he or she is dragonborn, a special type of warrior with the ability to not only kill dragons but consume their life force.

Players are brought to Helgen as a prisoner, and it is there that they create their identity. Countless races are available for players to choose from, each with unique traits. My Imperial character, for example, is great with speech and uses both melee and magic combat effectively. He also uses a power called Voice of the Emporer, which calms people nearby for 60 seconds.

The character creator is thorough, covering every small piece of physical detail players want to add to their hero. Once created — and after the player has escaped this dragon assault — they are off exploring Skyrim.

The first sight of Skyrim is breathtaking. Tall, bright green grasses blanket fields amid snowy, mountainous backdrops.

The world is massive, and there are so many cities, towns, mills, caves and other areas to discover. Players are free to move along the main path, but it is very easy to go off track and lose several hours wiping out Frostbite Spiders from a cave or bandits from a hideout.

Skyrim features Radiant Story, a feature that randomly creates encounters and quests based on your progress. It seems to work very well. Players are never inundated with repeated random occurrences. Each instance feels surprising when it happens, as it should.

Overall, Skyrim feels more alive as a result. Having finished a different mission which involved killing a few giant rats called Skeevers, I returned to Whiterun in search of some side quests. As I approach innkeepers, merchants and other citizens, I was puzzled when they kept asking me why I looked so sick. It turns out those Skeevers gave me a disease, forcing me to rush to a shop and pick up a remedy.

Combat breaks down into several sections. Players equip items to their left and right hands with the respective triggers on the controller. Whether it’s sword and shield, a mace and Flames spell, two daggers, dual-casting magic spells or wielding a two-handed axe, players have many options.

A Favorites menu lets users select their go-to weapons or spells and pull them up with the directional pad. Players can also map specific loadouts using the left and right D-pad inputs for switches on the fly. Navigating for items is simple. Gear is broken up by Weapons, Apparel and other categories, and statistical details on the bottom of the screen make it easy to see whether a change in weapon or armor is an upgrade.

There are lots of weapons to pick up, such as swords, axes, maces and bows. Magic spells are equally bountiful, from simple Flames and Frost spells to a Fear spell that sends enemies fleeing for safety.

As a Dragonborn character, players delve into the dragon language, picking up special abilities called Shouts. They are broken up into three parts, with each new verse making the ability more powerful. For example, Unrelenting Force can dizzy an enemy or send them flying through the air with a Jedi-style force push.

Combine all these elements with a diverse selection of enemies, and players have combat that always feels fresh, even after spending dozens of hours playing.

The leveling system has been tweaked, represented by players looking to constellations in the sky. Each constellation stands for a skill, from Destruction and Illusion spells to One-Handed combat and Blocking. Each skill has its own tree players navigate to boost their character’s powers. Not only are players gaining overall experience throughout the game, but they will regularly watch specific skills grow with each battle and encounter.

Players can build skills in other areas such as Alchemy and Enchantments, allowing them to create potions using ingredients found in Skyrim or weapons with mystical powers forged using a mix of items.

What makes Skyrim such a fantastic RPG is its ability to suck a player into its world and clutch your attention tightly. I had several instances where I would stop by a cave or camp or other location en route to a mission and spend a good hour exploring or killing creatures.

Even when you think you’ve spent hundreds of hours exploring, there’s always one more fresh face to meet, or dragon to slay, or thrilling adventure waiting.

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Price: $59.99
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: Nov. 11

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