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REVIEW: Skyrim (Xbox 360)

It’s hard to avoid the video game maelstrom that is Skyrim. You may have been subjected to an enthused ‘Skyrim-off’ between two colleagues, complete with wild hand gestures, words that you would definitely challenge in a game of Scrabble and the kind of smugness that can only be shared between people who have just a) slept together b) seen their team win a derby match or c) played the same computer game extensively. You may even have quietly contemplated how several of your friends suddenly have stories about their exciting lives before they took an arrow to the knee. If so, either get used to it, or join us.

Skyrim is the fifth game in The Elder Scrolls series, and follows Oblivion, a game that took over my life for many months. In a nutshell you will spend most of your time trying to track down a dragon god, taking sides in a civil war, completing some side quests, and wandering around. A lot.

I’m a total sucker for free-roam. Stick me on a horse and give me a sword and I’ll be happy for hours. So, on this basic level, Skyrim delivers. Oh boy, does it deliver. The world is enormous – 125 hours in and I’m still discovering new places. The day-to-night transitions and weather systems make the world feel ultra realistic – I was caught in a blizzard and it gave me chills. The creatures of Skyrim are beautifully designed, particularly the fire-breathing you-know-whats. The voice acting is a massive improvement and the soundtrack is perfect.

It is not without it’s faults though, so look away if you don’t want to hear it. First, there is no city comparable to Imperial City in Cyrodiil. I loved roaming around this curious metropolis in Oblivion, it added variety to the vast wilderness beyond the Walls. Second, I am so sick of snow. This only struck me at around the 80 hour mark. Yes I know it’s like going swimming and saying it’s too wet. I have no defence for this statement. Third, the game has a stunningly exciting series of cutscenes towards the start. After that, not much else. There were one or two key points in the storyline which could have have been magic with the right scene mixed in, but ended up a bit of an anticlimax. Fourth, following questlines are tricky. The journal doesn’t keep the history from the quests so my goldfish memory can’t handle more than four tasks at a time. Unfortunately you can barely move ten paces without being asked to reunite long-lost cousins or pick up someone’s dry-cleaning so I was stuffed there really. That’s it. Done with the negatives.

Companions. What a stroke of genius. When I’m in full swing with a game that I am ‘really into’, the only thing that can coax me away from my slightly sweaty limited edition Fable controller, apart from kitchen and bathroom breaks, is the nagging awareness that it has been over 24 hours since I have left the house or talked to another human being.

No longer a problem in Skyrim! You can buy a friend, dress them up and shove them face-first towards an approaching pack of wolves, thus further blurring my understanding of what is acceptable behaviour in real life. Not only do they not question your demands, they will helpfully point out caves, carry your stuff and, if you play your cards right, might even marry you. If I mix my Skyrim experiences with my GTA experiences, well, just keep half an eye on me if I’m on the beers.

And I’ll finish with a picture of my new ring, made by Nina Mantra. Bought due to it’s distinct resemblance to one of the more beautiful objects in Tamriel:

 

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