While my little man, age 10, has mastered the portal of power and plays Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, a fantasy video game that combines video playing with physical characters through a synced portal, (reviewed Oct. 27), kids a few years older are discovering another out-of-this-world “sky” game – Skyrim. Both “Sky” games were released in time for holiday giving and both have been nominated for varying video game awards, including Game of the Year for 2011. They are the coolest of the cool and worth consideration.
Skyrim is a fantasy epic, open-world, role-playing game, rated M17+ for those 17 and older and available for the Xbox 360 Live and Playstation 3. I connected with a 13-year-old who is totally immersed in the game. If parents don’t have a problem with some adult subject matter, the game can be a good mental challenge for teens.
The first Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls: Arena, was released in 1994. The 2011 version with stunning life-like – I mean, sit-back-and-enjoy-the-view-of-a-beautiful-world life-like – snow-packed mountain peaks, lush forest, stunning wilderness and beautiful towns carved into the sides of mountains. This version is called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and will cost you $60.
Play is easy; anyone can roam through the game pressing the joystick forward, backward and turning, etc. The premise is the usual – embark on quests to save the world. But the infinite possibilities and choices make Skyrim unique. This game truly allows the player to control his or her own destiny, offering hundreds of hours of play. It’s an epic, remember? You’ve been warned. Leaving this life for the world of Skyrim is going to take some time.
Start Skyrim, and you will be dropped into a land of the Nords on the continent of Tamriel, where there is a civil war. You are a Dovahkiin, a Dragonborn, a person who has a dragon soul and is anointed by the gods to fight off Alduin, the Nordic dragon-god of destruction. Every choice you make determines the kind of character you are – thief, wizard, warrior – and, therefore, establishes your special skills, spells and powers.
For example, consider the civil war storyline. You can pick a side, either the imperial force led by General Tullius or the rebellion under the leadership of Ulfric Stormcloak. Your decision will have consequences but might be the storyline you want to pursue. You can also remain neutral, which results in the game unfolding in a different way.
Freewill abounds in Skyrim, including the opportunity to drink and marry. If you drink too much, you may not remember what happened to you the night before. Now there’s a real-life consequence. And if you find someone you fancy – opposite or same sex – you can marry, which also changes your course and adds a new dynamic to your character.
Whatever path your Dovahkiin chooses, you’ll be confronted with dragons – flying, scaled, fire-breathers – for the slaying, and ice trolls, frost wolves and other assorted beasts to be conquered. Monsters aren’t the only way to distract you from the quest. Abandoned mines, overrun fortresses, taverns of drink and ancient ruins are always present for exploration. Skyrim soars with limitless paths, connected and intertwined to engross you beyond your bounded duty.
Non-player characters help direct quests through conversation with the player and can actually be organized to help in combat. There are Guardian Stones that supercharge your ability to learn certain kinds of skills. Search for them and you’ll always have access to enhancements of power and restoration when drained.
Every aspect of this game is elaborate, which is why it’s been nominated for Best Game Design, Best Audio, Best Technology, Best Visual Arts and Game of the Year in 12th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, held in early March.
For intricate, dynamic, free-world, and long play, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim could be a good choice for you, too.