When I started playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002, I lost contact with reality. The first open-world game that I’ve ever played, I was amazed by its sheer beauty, and the scope of its vastness and detail. For months, I would forgo food and rest, and instead stayed up late to explore every nook and cranny in the island of Vrandenfell. Now, almost a decade after Morrowind, I’m doing the same thing in Skyrim.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came out earlier last month, and I couldn’t remember doing anything else (except getting lost in Skyrim) in the weeks following its release. Like Morrowind and Oblivion, Skyrim is also vast and beautiful. But, unlike its predecessors, its environs looks much more natural and elegant. Its design, heavily influenced by Nordic European culture, terrain and climate, makes you feel you’re traipsing in Scandinavia rather than a fictional world.
Except for dragons, exotic and fantastical creatures are sparse in this game as well. Trolls, undead and giant spiders can only be found in dark, deep dungeons. So, the game feels less kitschy than most fantasy games that are out now. In the open terrain, you’ll mostly encounter pack of wolves, bears, and big cats. There are even non-violent creatures –elks, foxes, rabbits– for you to hunt if you feel like it.
Hunting, of course, is only one of the many things you can do in Skyrim. Like in other Elder Scrolls games, there’s little restriction here of what your character can do or what he can become. You can spend hours pick-pocketing every person you see. You can help a village and become its champion, or you can raze it to the ground. You can follow the main questline (which is excellent), or you can choose not to. The choice is yours.
With all its updated visuals, however, combat in Skyrim feels old and sluggish. Especially when you’re a bruiser who prefers close combat. It’s a bit hard to hit things in melee. When you do hit things, it doesn’t feel like you did. But the new dual-wield/dual-cast feature opens up some new tactics. In my case, I mostly wield a spell on my left-hand and a one-hander on the other. Then, I’d fry an enemy with a spell from afar and whack them when they get close.
Overall, I very much enjoyed Skyrim. More than I thought I would. It’s a beautiful game, with rich visuals and a vast, organic world for you to explore. I really got lost in it, losing hours of sleep and forgetting to attend an event. It’s not a perfect game, however, as there are a few bugs in it. But that’s to be expected for a huge game such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.