This sprawling, Nordic-themed RPG feels like an interactive Lord of Rings movie. Skyrim’s attention to detail is amazing, especially when you consider its massive scale. The rugged wilderness looks very natural, and the towns, dungeons, relics, and characters all seem to have a purpose and back-story. You’ll find entire books in this game that you can actually read! The graphics have an illustrated quality, and the snowy scenery looks breathtaking when bathed in moonlight. As with most RPGs the focus is on exploration, resource management, character development, and an epic storyline. Skyrim held my attention longer than most because it’s so accessible. In the early going you wield powerful weapons, cast spells, shoot arrows, pick locks, and battle dragons. I like how “time stops” when you access your inventory, allowing you to switch weapons or use a critical item.

The main storyline is a series of quests, some of which require you to travel over huge expanses of land. The pace is plodding at times, but at least once you discover a place you can return to it quickly via a quick travel option. There are also dozens of side-quests to distract you at any given time.

Skyrim is most exciting when you descend into a dungeon to fight giant spiders, skeletons, and wizards. Unfortunately the close combat is disorienting and it’s hard if an enemy is within striking range. Aiming with your bow is less-than-exact and the enemy AI is quirky. Sometimes a creature will remain in the same place even after getting shot repeatedly. Everywhere you go there are dozens of objects lying around, and you’ll waste a lot of time just scouring the scenery for valuables. You can only carry so much stuff however, so you’ll constantly have to head back to town to sell off treasure.

The townsfolk engage in a lot of wordy dialog, but I guess that just adds to the richness of the experience. You can save your progress from the pause menu and there’s also an auto-save. Bethesda scores extra points for including a full-color manual and a map made of thick textured paper. Those who can curl up with a good novel will sink endless hours into Skyrim. Gamers like myself however (who wait for the movie) will only enjoy it in small doses. I didn’t have the patience to figure out Skyrim’s extracurricular activities like smithing, smelting, tanning, cooking, and alchemy. I guess what you get out of this game depends on how much you’re willing to put into it.

Used by permission © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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