I was never a big fan of the whole 'magic, wizards and elves' experience and that's why I never really understood the devotion some people had when it came to praising The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. It was a great game, but being obliterated by an old man in a robe did not rank high on my 'Things-I-want-to-see-happening-to-my-character' list. When news surfaced about there being a new chapter in the Elder Scrolls series most of my gamer friends instantly started bombarding me with links to screenshots, news and videos of 'Skyrim' at a rate that would make any spambot jealous. When the time came for me to review this game I was already looking forward to playing it; however not as much as my friends who craved playing this game like survivors on a desert island - that had only sand and toenails to eat - and craved a proper meal.Oblivion was renowned for its wide open world that had a life of its own: random encounters would surprise you when you least expected it and a lot of the decisions you made throughout the game could come back to haunt you later on; Making a sequel would be an incredibly hard job and yet they managed to pull it off. When you walk through the towns in Skyrim, a lot of the characters are working on the land, forging weapons, cleaning their houses, singing in taverns and even arguing about recent events in the kingdom. Almost everyone has a story to tell, so when you spend some time in a village, you actually grow fond of its inhabitants. The random encounters themselves have become more diverse - and at times - breath-taking. Imagine chasing down a thief who just snatched some goods from a store or going for a walk after having spent the night at an inn, only to find that there is a dragon waiting for you on the rooftop of the nearest house!
I have played some pretty games, but walking through the snowy landscape in Skyrim has to be one of the most visually pleasing experiences yet in a videogame! You hear the wind blowing across the hills, snow slowly falling towards the earth and aurora borealis gently rippling like a banner in a breeze. This was probably the first time I actually stopped to stare at all the magnificence from a game. The detail on the dragons, characters and enemies is truly amazing: the appearance of the characters and enemies changes depending on what location they're in: frostbite spiders living in snowy areas are covered in a coat of snow, but if you encounter them underground, they are far more likely to have a darker texture than their 'standard' counterpart. The only issue I've noticed with the graphics is when you turn down the settings to medium or low, landscapes in the distance tend to show off a lot of repetitive textures.
The core gameplay mechanics remain untouched: you level up by performing a variety of tasks. If you try and persuade a lot of characters, your speech will increase; if you fight a lot of people, your armour and weapon skills will improve and so on. The combat itself has received some additions, when you're blocking a hit from maces, your shield will give way when your enemy strikes and if you push your enemy back with your shield, they will stagger for a bit, allowing you to deal some more damage before they get back on their feet. Bethesda also added a more constructive side to the game; you are now able to craft weapons, armour, potions and even spells from the materials you find on your travels. If you have a pickaxe you even get the chance to mine for the ores needed to create your armour and weapons!
This is one of the best games I have ever played! It is almost a perfect wedding between sound, visuals, gameplay and story. Rarely have I played a game where I didn't like the setting, and yet I got carried away with the whole experience. The raiding of bandit camps, the long fights with Dragons and frost trolls - who just didn't want to die - have from this day forward been turned into gaming experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life, if you haven't gotten this game yet, you should. The only thing standing between this game and a perfect score is the fact that it does have a considerable amount of bugs and the menus that act up now and then. Only now do I understand my friends' enthusiasm about this game, and I hope that you would give this game a chance, even though you don't like the fantasy setting or the developer: because Skyrim is a masterpiece!