Video Games & Tech


by on 10/01/2012
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A Review by Ben Fee 09/01/2012

 Straight to the point:

The most anticipated non-football related game of 2011, Skyrim is the biggest threat to a stable relationship since that intern with the hot pants and sexy little learning difficulties. Gather your provisions and bedroll and come with us on a dragon-spotting ride through the snow-covered hills and valleys of northern Tamriel.

 What we like:

One of the main reasons for the success of the Xbox 360 when it first came out in the 1930’s was a game called The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Oblivion combined breathtaking graphics with an unprecedented scope, providing incredible depth of storytelling alongside FPS-quality combat. It rightly won Game of the Year and is still one of the greatest games to ever grace the shelves of HMV. Somewhat predictably then, there was a lot of expectation that the publishers, Bethesda, were going to revolutionise gaming once again when they announced they were making a sequel.  There was concern however. Fans had been waiting for years for more Elder Scrolls action and 2011 was already squaring up to be a banner year for gaming with Portal 2 and Batman: Arkham City having been released only scant months earlier. Then came 11/11/11 and the cries on the street became “Arkham what?”, “Deus Who?” and “FUS RO DAAAAA!!!”

The word “epic” has been overused more than the only cubicle at an incontinence convention recently but this is the game that is going to return it to it’s true meaning. Much like Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment is a bunch of pages covered in ink, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is ostensibly an open-world first-person hack & slasher based in a fantasy world. If any of those words have put you off, please bear with me, this game is a prime example of art being more than it’s composite elements. Yes, I did say art; this is a game that has caused me to consider enormous moral questions, made me laugh, gasp and scream a battlecry as I charged into the fray. I have made friends, enemies and know that there are plenty more of both awaiting me on my journey.

The closest thing I can relate the experience of playing Skyrim to is the exploration of a new world. There are absolute marvels waiting for even the casual gamer, rendered lavishly by the graphics engine which looks to have been created to portray enormous ancient monuments, caverns and castles in incredible detail. I have spent a good few moments taking a breather from the quests (numerous) and the monsters (formidable) just to admire the view (breathtaking).

The term “open-world” has also been used to describe a number of games in the last few years, to various levels of accuracy. Mostly the level of freedom given to the player just serves to highlight the restriction imposed on them by the games mechanics. Skyrim is different. For example, this evening I left my house in Solitude (a luxurious and esteemed manor in the capital of Skyrim for which I paid a pretty penny) and went hunting down in the valley. There I took down a couple of deer with my bow before skinning them, their meat I took as well for a stew I had planned to make that evening. Back in Solitude I used the local blacksmith’s tanning rack to turn the hides into leather and some of the leather into leather strips. Pumping the furnace I combined these with some iron ingots I had smelted from ore I had mined a few days ago while passing a likely looking seam on one of my adventures. Moments later I had created an iron dagger which, after a few seconds on the grindstone, I had sharpened to superior quality. Back home I plonked my new weapon on my enchanting table (another little luxury I had splashed out on only recently) and imbued it with a fire enchantment I had learned by disenchanting an old magic bow I no longer had need of. I renamed the dagger “Hot Wings” and then sat down to make tea for my wife, Aela, and myself. Total freedom (apart from the marriage bit, am I right fellas?).

This is a game where you can just ignore the events occurring around you and settle into the life of a jobbing mercenary/blacksmith/alchemist/wizard/thief/assassin/werewolf/cannibal/vampire/bard without being troubled by the imminent civil war or worryingly frequent dragon attacks. The world is your oyster. Or clam. Or mussel. Or any shellfish you like, really. It is all up to you.