A Journey Worth Taking
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (commonly shortened to Skyrim) has an extremely high replay value thanks to its non-linear approach to story telling and pacing. Doing away with traditional cut scenes and required missions, Skyrim lets players keep control during most of the game.
Starting off as a detainee (who is fully customizable including name, race, and physical attributes) who was caught crossing the boarder into Skyrim, the player is carted off to a nearby city (along with several rebels) to be executed by soldiers in the imperial legion, when a Dragon appears right as the player is about to be beheaded and giving you the chance to escape. After escaping, players have free reign to do whatever they want in Skyrim, providing hours of gameplay with numerous quests to go on, tons of towns to explore, countless villagers and treasures to find, and of course loads of dungeons to raid. And thanks to the leveling system, players can upgrade their characters anyway they want.
Players can level up their character using three different ways: either by performing the action that they want to level up (example, killing enemies with a one handed sword to level up the One-Handed attribute), learning a desired skill from a townsperson (for a fee of course), or by reading any of the skill books found through out the game. Upon improving enough skills, players will be able to level up in order to apply skill upgrades. When leveling up, players can increase one base attribute (health, stamina [for carrying things and stronger attacks], and magic) and apply a skill increase (you receive one per level-up, which can be saved and used later). Using a map based star constellations, players can increase any one of their skills for better perks (casting spells for less magic points, stronger sword attacks, etc.). This gives players a chance to level up based on their own unique ways of play style, making the game feel very personalized.
Skyrim can sometimes suffer from some very troublesome bugs. Aside from occasionally glitching through a part of a mountain or getting stuck in a narrow space (which enemies can exploit and kill you for), on many occasions the game will buffer in between movements (this is especially bothersome in the middle of a fight) and on some occasions the game will freeze, requiring players to turn off the console and start all over again from their last save.
Skyrim's other problem is that the limits of the open world exploration can be found pretty quickly, given how certain characters cannot be killed at all. While a relatively minor issue (plenty of games in the past did not allow players to kill certain types of enemies), this can help bring down the open world feel of game since players have to go along with certain boundaries the game has already set. And while the killing of minors is an ethical debate in video games (plenty of virtual children are included in Skyrim), when a game takes advantage of not letting you kill children by giving them powers to call guards on you as well as place bounties on your head, it can feel like the game is sometimes cheating.
And while Skyrim deserves credit for its innovative storytelling, sometimes the experience feels hollow. After completing the main quest and defeating the final boss, the game just goes into a purgatory like state where all you can do is finish up the other minor quests you have to complete (while this is common with quest based games, it still doesn't change the fact that it doesn't feel like you have completed the story). And even though the dragon encounters are exciting at first, after the first few fights they start to become annoyances since you never know when the will pop up and are never prepared to deal with them.
The Bottom Line
Skyrim is a finely tuned RPG with an enormous world to explore, countless enemies to defeat, and tons of dungeons to explore, treasures to find, and engaging quests and storylines to complete. Add in a solid leveling system, good combat controls, an awe-inspiring soundtrack, and a Viking inspired atmosphere, and players will find themselves in an immersive and addictive game world.
And while Skyrim does show some limitations and some game crashing bugs (which can be fixed by getting a patch), overall it is an excellent game that for many players will be worth playing for years.