To say Skyrim is vast is to make a chronic understatement. The sheer scale and size of the game's environment alone is absolutely mind-boggling and it's all augmented by a staggering amount of variety. Every town, every dungeon, every temple and every location has been created with a loving care and a fastidious attention to detail, and all of them boast a personality and an atmosphere of their own.
This level of range allows Skyrim to weave its first intoxicating spell of immersion. Players will soon stop seeing Skyrim as a game and become lost in its gargantuan landscape. They'll visit the cracked black-stone fortress of Windhelm, the blizzard-swept desolation of Winterholm, the sun-kissed settlement of Whiterun, and traverse rolling hills, snow-packed peaks and lush forests in between. Then they'll stare up at the clock and realise they could've finished off a couple of novels in the same time it took to do all that.
Bethesda has packed every inch of its game with content for the player to consume. Skyrim boasts over a hundred locations, a huge legion of characters and a lengthy list of quests to complete. The list of activities available is also pretty sumptuous; players can spend hours crafting weapons, mixing potions, enchanting items or simply reading the ton of books they'll find scattered throughout the game. Underneath it all there's a rather decent plot trundling along, involving a civil war in Skyrim, the return of some dragons believed to be extinct and the end of the world. You know, the usual epic fantasy stuff.
As the last remaining Dragonborn, players are able to absorb the souls of any slain dragons. These in turn are used to unlock 'shouts', a list of abilities that range from lightning-quick movement, to a concussive blast that sends opponents flying, to the power to encase foes in a block of ice. Shouts have to be acquired and the player does this by seeking out runes etched into the walls of the many dungeons and subterranean caverns dotted around Skyrim.
The rest of the combat system allows players to dual-wield weapons and magical attacks - provided of course, their weapon of choice doesn't require two hands to swing. Every successful attack earns XP which can be used to level up, and your character will also become more proficient in the types of weapons and magic they use the most in battle.
While Skyrim suffers from a few bugs (a common problem of Bethesda RPGs), in the light of the game's impressive strengths this feels like unnecessary nitpicking. Skyrim is easily one of the strongest and best examples of the Western RPG, and it further establishes Bethesda's reputation as one of the most talented and creative forces in the gaming industry. Moreover, it offers players a world so vast they could easily become lost in it, and so beautiful they may never wish to return from it.
Virgin Media verdict:
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