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Hunting Elk in Skyrim [Game On]

Skyrim, Bethesda’s followup to the critically acclaimed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from 2006 offers an unparalleled experience in immersion.  In fact, that’s very much the reason I chose the title of this post.  As much as I wanted to continue the main quest I have ended up spending hours just marveling at the world or hunting wildlife. While I’m really talking about first impressions of the game, the truth is that a large part of that first impression is just how seamlessly the game pulls you into its world and refuses to let go.

At the onset of the game, you find yourself imprisoned with a range of other criminals on a caravan headed for the chopping block in the village of Helgen. Shortly thereafter, a soldier finds that you aren’t actually on the same list as the rest of the accused and at this point you build your character the way it sees fit. With 10 different races to choose from and each with their own unique abilities and backstories, there is a lot of flexibility in building out your character.  Your race isn’t purely aesthetic either- the various denizens of Skyrim react differently depending on the race you choose.  As far as the aesthetics do go though the options for making your character your own are staggering from choosing your skin color to body proportions, tattoos, scars, and more!  Of course, after this is done a dragon shows up and pretty much ruins your execution – boo.

All jokes aside though, Skyrim is thrilling from jump street. The fantasy world into which you’re plunged is so far beyond vast it’s staggering.  While many games can make the claim, Skyrim demands you rethink the entire concept of gaming. Skyrim isn’t about winning though you could certainly claim victory by completing its main quest line, but rather it’s a title that forces you to appreciate the many years of hard work Bethesda put into it. You don’t play to beat the game, you revisit the world of Skyrim and take in every aspect of its design with wonder.

If you have to journey to a new town, be prepared to either walk your ass on foot for a few miles or buy (or steal) a horse to make the trip.  Thankfully though you can fast travel to locations you’ve already visited if your’e in a hurry but I don’t recommend it. Along the way wildlife are abound in a very natural way.  Unlike WoW where you might find a massive grouping of wolves or spiders in a defined pattern, Skyrim very organically generates elk, deer, wolves, and even mammoths that may or may not impede your trek to the next quest.  And my God the dragons.  They are massive, terrifying, and especially satisfying to should down with your powers from the sky and slay.

Graphically these journeys are beautiful and all the more so because of the sheer awe factor of Skyrim’s environment. It’s intimidating to look off the side of a mountain to a range miles away from you and know that it’s not just window dressing, but if you felt like it you could just walk all the way over to those misty mountains to uncover what secrets they might hold.

However, despite my gushing over the beautiful fantasy world and its many dungeons and enjoyable combat, it’s not perfect.  There are still clipping issues with character models and many of the menus could have been made more intuitive.  A favorites system is helpful, but switching between a ranged weapon and melee takes far too long to execute.  It’s especially irritating considering this is such an atmospheric game and the action so often needs to be stopped to reconfigure your equipment.  It’s also disappointing that for all of the work you put into your character’s look that you don’t get to see more of him or her.

Still though, despite some expected shortcomings for a game of this magnitude, Skyrim is still a triumph. The voice acting, music, and atmosphere are intoxicating and even if you don’t normally go for high fantasy in your RPG experiences, Skyrim is strong enough to sway even the most staunchly opposed.  If you love RPGs and value gaming as more than just an A to B prospect and more as an experience or world to step into then Skyrim absolutely won’t disappoint.

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