Taking place in the eponymous province of Skyrim, home of the Nords, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim continues the series' tradition of open-ended gameplay and also introduces dragons to the franchise. The game is set two centuries after the end of the Third Era and the closing of the Oblivion gates in Elder Scrolls IV. Skyrim's gameplay expands on Oblivion with the addition of dual-wielding, a new perk system, new Dragon Shout (Thu'um) abilities and a variety of changes to character progression. Additionally, the old quest system has been updated to produce more varied content.
Todd Howard mentioned on Bethesda's podcast that the ideas for Skyrim took form immediately after Oblivion's launch but principal development began after the release of Fallout 3. It uses a new gameplay and graphics engine, dubbed the Creation Engine, developed internally at Bethesda. The new engine aims to improve draw distances and shadowing on all objects in the world. It also features dynamic weather effects like snow falls and improved animations for trees, like leaves and branches reacting to violent winds. There are also meteorological effects like clouds gathering around mountain tops. Since the new engine incorporates foliage animations, Bethesda has dropped SpeedTree for Skyrim.
Skyrim uses DirectX-9 shaders and is authored on PCs. The PC version contains standard features like higher resolution textures and anti-aliasing, but the engine's graphical development was first done for the Xbox 360. The first gameplay trailer showed footage from the Xbox 360 version of the game.
The game also uses Havok Behavior for its animations. Howard also stated that Bethesda has invested a lot of time and 'people and talent' to improve their animations. Unlike Oblivion, only important NPCs in Skyrim carry unique names and are fully voiced. The extreme close-up dialogue system (seen in previous Bethesda games) has been dropped in favor of a more fluid perspective. NPCs no longer stand static on the screen; instead, they continue with their normal routines, occasionally glancing at the player while making conversation. Players can also cut off NPCs by walking away from them mid-conversation.
For Skyrim, Bethesda took inspiration from various sources. The magic combat was influenced by the plasmids in Irrational Games' BioShock. The new deadlier bow-and-arrow mechanic is based on an Oblivion mod that drastically altered the pace of ranged combat by slowing down the draw time for bows. The new menu system was inspired by Apple products and has been drastically changed to be more user friendly. Any item obtained can be viewed in player inventory with a full 3D perspective, and the objects can even be rotated and zoomed in on in order to get a closer look.
Compared to previous installments in the series, Skyrim's art design has been changed significantly to make the world feel more realistic. Art director Matthew Carofano described Skyrim's art design as "epic reality" when compared to Oblivion's Imperial cities and "standard European fantasy" design. Bethesda aimed to give all the big settlements and quest hubs a unique geographical and architectural setting, offering "dramatic views." There are multiple Nord factions within Skyrim featuring their own unique customs and colors, similar to the different colors and insignias for the towns in Oblivion.
On February 7th, 2012, Bethesda released its "Creation Kit," for the PC version of Skyrim, allowing players to alter the world of Skyrim in anyway they see fit similar to the Construction Kits for previous Elder Scrolls titles. The Creation Kit is available as a download through Steam.
Steam recently launched its Workshop, a brand new addition to the program, allowing modders to showcase and share their work with other gamers. Skyrim was selected to be one of the very first games featured within the Workshop. To date, there are over 11,000 Skyrim mods in the Workshop. Gamers can subscribe to Skyrim mods they wish to download from the Workshop and once Skyrim itself is launched, the mod's are automatically downloaded and updated on Skyrim's splash screen. Should a gamer decide they no longer wish to use a particular mod, they can unsubscribe from the mod in the Workshop and the mod will automatically be uninstalled from the game.
The distribution of mods is not restricted to just those downloaded through the workshop, and can also be downloaded from various community sites.
Just as foretold in the Elder Scrolls, the time for the dragons to return to Tamriel has come, led by Alduin, a dragon of godly proportions whose victory would mean the end of Tamriel. Players take the role of the Dovahkiin, a person that possesses the power to defy the powerful beasts and absorb their power. There have been several signs indicating the dragons' inevitable return as prophesied by the Elder Scrolls, such as the opening of the Oblivion gates some two centuries ago. The final sign is a Nordic civil war between the Imperial Legion from Cyrodiil, who wish to retain authority their over Skyrim, and the Stormcloaks, a group of Nordic rebels aiming to remove all Imperial presence from their land. The protagonist starts his/her journey during the said events, and in keeping with Elder Scrolls tradition the player begins as a prisoner. The game is set 200 years after the events of Oblivion.
Players will be able to hire/ be given followers, similar to Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, though they do not have well developed back-stories of their own. Players can have relationships with other characters in the game and get married to any NPC, regardless of their race or sex. These spouses will stay within the confines of the player's house unless asked to do otherwise. Spouses will even cook food, and sleeping next to them will grant various bonuses and perks.
Followers will follow the player wherever they go in Skyrim. When battling an enemy, they will also take part in the battle, aiding and assisting in anyway they can. Followers can also be used to carry various weapons, apparel, books and other items. This can be accomplished by engaging in conversation with the follower and then selecting the option to trade items with said follower.
Followers are not immortal and can die should they take to much damage. The same applies to horses.
The world of Skyrim is roughly the same size as Oblivion's Cyrodiil (16 square miles), but features a more rugged, mountainous terrain with Nordic architecture and surroundings. The entire realm, however, isn't completely mountainous and snowy; it includes varied environments such as an arctic tundra to lush forests. The world is divided into nine "holds" (similar to counties), five of which contain larger cities and the remaining four being rural areas. The in-game world map is rendered in the game engine, giving the impression of a bird's eye view of the world. Skyrim also sees the return of horses as mounts, a feature introduced in Oblivion.
Skyrim contains 150 handcrafted dungeons for players to explore and even more points of interest. The dungeons can get quite complicated, with multiple paths and even puzzles that players must solve to reach other areas of the dungeon.
The artificial intelligence for both NPCs and creatures has been updated with the aim to create a more believable environment. The general behavior of the NPCs is less static than previous Elder Scrolls titles, as they follow schedules, perform tasks, and adapt to changes in their surroundings. Quest givers often continue with their regular work while talking to players. NPCs can now have specific jobs and will perform those jobs during the day.
An extension of Radiant A.I., Skyrim uses the Radiant Story tool to manage all of the side quests, which incorporates certain aspects of procedural generation. The game constantly tracks how players play the game, and modifies side quests to suit their strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, and play-style. For example, a kill quest might relocate its target to an unexplored dungeon, making sure players are visiting new and unknown territories. The system is tooled to reduce repetitiveness, making sure the player isn't offered the same type of quest multiple times in a row. Certain quests only unlock if the player reaches a certain level or meets a certain skill requirement such as a high stealth skill. Quests also change based on previous experiences and already completed side quests. Players can also pick up quests by overhearing conversations in taverns.
Skyrim features the same guild structure as previous Elder Scrolls games, but some of them have been given unique names and histories specific to the Skyrim region:
Skyrim retains the open-world gameplay and real-time combat that has become a hallmark of the Elder Scroll games. Players can explore the world freely and engage in combat in first or third person point of view. The third person point of view has been updated to feel more cinematic with an over-the-shoulder camera and a minimalistic HUD that only becomes visible during combat. Player attributes have been simplified into three major categories:
Skyrim contains nine major cities and various small settlements spread throughout the Nordic countryside, where players can interact with the townsfolk, pick up quests or carry out activities such as cooking, farming, woodcutting etc. There are over 150 dungeons within Skyrim, that contain creatures who scale with player level. According to Bethesda, Skyrim's level scaling is similar to Fallout 3 and not Oblivion. As a result, minor creatures like rats won't become exceedingly powerful at higher levels. Also, once the player visits a dungeon, the creatures within get locked to a certain level for the rest of the campaign.
Players can bind independent weapons and spells to both hands. This allows for dual-wielding diverse weapons and even spells to create unique combos. Spells can be bound on one hand, while wielding a weapon in the other. However, only players using a 2-handed weapon, a shield and a weapon, or a shield and a spell can block incoming attacks. Items and abilities can be switched during combat through a pop-up favorites menu, as opposed to the directional pad mapping in Oblivion.
The run speed while going backwards has been reduced to cut down on "cheap tricks" and improve the visual experience. Howard mentions that running backward at full speed in Oblivion "looked ridiculous" in third person. Stealth has also been modified to give players a small window of opportunity to hide upon detection.
Attacks gravitate towards enemies to reduce the possibility of friendly fire. In addition, all three types of attacks have been modified in the following manner:
The number of spell schools have been reduced from six (in Oblivion) to five after the removal of Mysticism, which was deemed redundant and folded into the remaining schools:
|Novice||Bound Sword||Creates a magic sword for 120 seconds.|
|Novice||Conjure Familiar||Summons a Familiar for 60 seconds.|
|Novice||Raise Zombie||Reanimate a weak dead body to fight for you for 60 seconds.|
|Apprentice||Bound Battleaxe||Creates a magic battle axe for 120 seconds.|
|Apprentice||Conjure Flame Atronach||Summons a Flame Atronach for 60 seconds.|
|Apprentice||Reanimate Corpse||Reanimate a more powerful dead body to fight for you for 60 seconds.|
|Apprentice||Soul Trap||Soul traps If a target dies within 60 seconds, fills a soul gem.|
|Adept||Banish Daedra||Weaker summoned daedra are sent back to Oblivion.|
|Adept||Bound Bow||Creates a magic bow for 120 seconds.|
|Adept||Conjure Frost Atronach||Summons a Frost Atronach to fight for you for 60 seconds.|
|Adept||Revenant||Reanimate a powerful dead body to fight for you for 60 seconds.|
|Expert||Command Daedra||Powerful summoned and raised creatures are put under your control.|
|Expert||Conjure Dremora Lord||Summons a Dremora Lord for 120 seconds.|
|Expert||Conjure Storm Atronach||Summons a Frost Atronach for 60 seconds.|
|Expert||Dread Zombie||Reanimate a very powerful dead body to fight for you.|
|Expert||Expel Daedra||Powerful summoned daedra are sent back to Oblivion.|
|Master||Dead Thrall||Reanimate a dead body permanently to fight for you.|
|Master||Flame Thrall||Summons a Flame Atronach permanently.|
|Master||Frost Thrall||Summons a Frost Atronach permanently.|
|Master||Storm Thrall||Summons a Storm Atronach permanently.|
|Novice||Flames||A gout of fire inflicting a base damage of 8 points of fire damage per second.|
|Novice||Frostbite||A blast of cold inflicting a base damage of 8 points of frost damage per second to Health and Stamina.|
|Novice||Sparks||Lightning which inflicts a base damage of 8 points of shock damage per second to Health and Magicka.|
|Apprentice||Firebolt||A bolt of fire that inflicts 25 points of fire damage. Targets on fire take extra damage.|
|Apprentice||Ice Spike||A spike of ice that inflicts 25 points of ice damage to Health and Stamina.|
|Apprentice||Lightning Bolt||A bolt of lightning that inflicts 25 points of shock damage to Health and half as much to Magicka.|
|Apprentice||Fire Rune||Cast on a nearby surface, it explodes for 50 points of damage when enemies come near.|
|Apprentice||Frost Rune||Cast on a nearby surface, it explodes for 50 points of damage to Health and Stamina when enemies come near.|
|Apprentice||Lightning Rune||Cast on a nearby surface, it explodes for 50 points of damage to Health and half as much to Magicka when enemies come near.|
|Adept||Chain Lightning||A lighting bolt inflicting 40 points of damage to Health and half as much to Magicka, then leaps to a new target.|
|Adept||Fireball||A fireball which explodes on impact for 40 points of damage in a 15 foot radius.|
|Adept||Ice Storm||A freezing whirlwind that does 40 points of damage per second to Health and Stamina.|
|Adept||Flame Cloak||For 60 seconds, opponents in melee range take 8 points of damage per second to Health and sets targets on fire.|
|Adept||Frost Cloak||For 60 seconds, opponents in melee range take 8 points of damage per second to Health and Stamina.|
|Adept||Lightning Cloak||For 60 seconds, opponents in melee range take 8 points of damage per second to Health and half as much to Magicka.|
|Expert||Icy Spear||A spear of ice that does 60 points of frost damage to Health and Stamina.|
|Expert||Incinerate||A blast of fire that does 60 points of fire damage. Targets on fire take extra damage.|
|Expert||Thunderbolt||A thunderbolt that does 60 points of shock damage to Health and half that to Magicka.|
|Expert||Wall of Flames||Sprayed on the ground, it creates a wall of fire that does 50 points of fire damage per second.|
|Expert||Wall of Frost||Sprayed on the ground, it creates a wall of frost that does 50 points of frost damage per second.|
|Expert||Wall of Storms||Sprayed on the ground, it creates a wall of lightning that does 50 points of shock damage per second.|
|Master||Blizzard||Creates a blizzard that surronds the caster. Targets take 20 points of frost damage every second for 10 seconds and stamina damage.|
|Master||Fire Storm||A 100 point fiery explosion centered on the caster. The closer a target is, the more damage they take.|
|Master||Lightning Storm||Fires a continuous stream of lightning. Target takes 75 points of shock damage to health, and half that to Magicka.|
The world of Skryim contains legendary creatures from folklore like mammoths, trolls, sabre-toothed cats, undead, and dragons - a new addition. With the return of Alduin, a big focus is on dragon encounters. They are the most feared creatures in the game and each encounter is akin to a boss fight. Howard described them as, "a mix between a Big Daddy and a helicopter in Half-life 2". Using Dragon Shouts, they can speak directly to the Dragonborn.
Players face different races and types of dragons, either alone or in small groups. These encounters can be in the wilderness, within a city, or in a town. During these encounters, the dragons will frequently circle the player utilizing it's unique "breath" attacks. While on ground, they will engage the player in direct melee combat.
Throughout the game, players can acquire Dragon Shouts, which are rare and powerful abilities. This skillset is learned through the "Way of the Voice" and is separate from magic and more closely related to battle cries. Players learn these abilities by learning the words from one of the game's word walls, often hidden in dungeons or other hard to reach areas. They then "unlock" the words they want by killing a dragon and absorbing its soul. These shouts are unique to the Dragonborn and the players character is one of the few in the world capable of using them.
Each of the 20 Dragon Shouts are made up of three unique words, with each word representing a power level of the shout. An example can be seen in the first gameplay trailer where Dovahkiin yells “Fus, Ro, Dah!” (at 1:08 mark); Fus meaning force, Ro meaning balance and Dah meaning push, the result of which is a mighty shockwave. These words are in Bethesda's dragon language, created specifically for this purpose, with fonts designed as if a creature with three talons (i.e. dragon) could write them. The language has been designed to rhyme both in its original version and in English. The first example of this was the Nordic choir used towards the end of the teaser trailer.
The class system and leveling arc has been modified to avoid locking players into a particular mold early on. Like previous Elder Scroll games, players become more proficient with a skill by simply using it more often. But this time, the major/minor skill classification has been dropped in favor of a more flexible system. Each level increase allows the player to improve their health, magicka, or stamina.
Leveling is affected by all skills. The higher the skill, the more it contributes to leveling. Raising a certain skill from 30 to 31 can level up a character faster than raising another from 10 to 11, for example. As a result, players can still specialize in any of the 18 available skills and continue leveling at a good pace. Every skill can be raised up to 100. The game doesn't have a level cap, but the progression is designed on a 1 to 50 level curve (as opposed to the 1-25 curve in Oblivion). The aim of the longer curve is to give players more choice and support more divergent archetypes as they progress.
Like Fallout 3, players also get the choice of a perk on each level up. These perks are special power-ups tied to the skill system and allow mastery of abilities, weapons etc. Some perks have tiered levels, allowing players to choose them again, usually with added bonuses. The game contains 280 perks (including multiple levels of the same perk) that bolster corresponding skills in drastic manners.
Character creation has been expanded to offer more variety. Beards and different body types are now present, although facial customization has more limitations. There are no longer hundreds of sliders, but rather in-place presets that can be tweaked to certain limits. This allows Bethesda to make higher quality textures and models at the cost of less customization options.
Skyrim is a class-less RPG and players begin the game by simply picking their race, gender and appearance and deciding on the remaining attributes, skills, perks etc. as they level up.
As in the previous main Elder Scrolls installments, Skyrim features ten playable races:
|Race||Home Province||Resistances/Powers||Skill Bonueses|
*All racial powers are available only once per day, with the exception of the Khajiit ability Night Eye, which can be cast over and over again without delay.
The sounds for the dragon shouts were created by applying reverberation to a recorded voice. A unique voice-actor was used for each race and gender's dragon shout. Bethesda hired over 70 voice actors to record the game's 60,000 plus lines of dialogues, some of them being famous actors and actresses including Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Joan Allen and Lynda Carter.
Skyrim's music is composed by series veteran, Jeremy Soule. Todd Howard's idea for the score was "The Elder Scrolls theme, but sung by a barbarian choir". A developer diary by sound engineer Mark Lampert revealed that Skyrim's resultant main theme (called "Sons of Skyrim") picks various elements from past themes like Nerevar Rising (Morrowind) and Reign of the Septims (Oblivion), with a Nordic choir layered on top to give it the heavier and more brutal sound Howard required. The music also makes heavy use of drums and chanting to distinguish itself from previous iterations. For the choir, Bethesda recorded about 30 people multiple times and then synced them in post-processing to create the final effect of a 90+ choir.
The final soundtrack will be released on a massive four-disc set, available initially through Soule's own Directsong service and eventually on iTunes as well.
On December 11, 2010, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was announced during the Spike TV Video Game Awards. Todd Howard took the stage during the awards show to show a teaser trailer that referenced Oblivion's ending. The trailer was narrated by Swedish veteran actor Max Von Sydow.
Transcript for the teaser:
You should have acted.
They're already here.
The Elder Scrolls told of their return.
Their defeat was merely a delay.
Till the time after Oblivion opened.
When the sons of Skyrim would spill their own blood.
But no-one wanted to believe.
Believe they even existed.
And when the truth finally dawns, it dawns in fire.
There's one they fear.
In their tongue, he's Dovahkiin: Dragonborn!
Players who pre-ordered the game received a premium map with their copies of Skyrim at no extra cost. All regular copies of the game include a paper map.
The collector's edition contained the following bonuses:
Similar to previous Bethesda releases, Skyrim launched with a number of bugs affecting all three platforms. Bethesda has since begun the process of releasing patches to fix such issues. However, while Patch 1.2 fixed issues such as a bug in the Xbox 360 version that prevented high resolution textures from loading when the game was installed, it also caused problems of its own. The patch broke all magic resistances, rendering them null. Dragons populating the game world would also sometimes fly backwards. Bethesda plans to fix these new problems and other issues in upcoming patches. Another bug that Bethesda is currently attempting to fix that is specific to the PS3 version affects the game's framerate. The longer the player plays the game and the larger the save file becomes, the more likely it is for the player to experience significant framerate drops.
Bethesda also plans to release the official SDK, the Creation Kit, for mod development in January 2012. The Creation Kit will use Steam Workshop, so users can pick and download mods directly from their Steam interface.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the most universally acclaimed games of this generation. It achieved both critical and commercial success.
Skyrim has an average score of 96/100 on Metacritic (Xbox 360 version). Beyond the high score reviews, Skyrim was awarded 2011 Game Of The Year by multiple renowned publications, such as 1UP, Game Informer, Gamespot and our own Giant Bomb.
Skyrim sales number were also through the roof, with 7 million copies shipped worldwide on the 1st week, and more than 10 million by the end of 2011. Valve also announced that Skyrim was the fastest selling game to date on their Steam platform.
Bethesda announced that they would be developing DLC for Skyrim before the gam was released. It entered into a contract with Microsoft for three timed exclusives, meaning three DLCs would first be released on Xbox 360 and made available for other platforms later. Bethesda indicated that their DLC would have more substance like later releases for Oblivion and Fallout 3, though smaller DLC would still appear in between larger ones. Possible features of future DLC were teased in a video entitled "Skyrim Jam", some of which have already made it into DLC such as Vampire Lords and house construction.
Notably, none of the DLC released so far have been made available for the PS3. When Dawnguard was released, Bethesda announced that they were unable to get it to work with Skyrim and said they were working with SCEA to get it working. The same issue came up with Hearthfire, which has yet to be released for PS3 either. As of November, Bethesda has still been unable to get the DLC working for PS3 users.
Speculation on the first DLC began shortly after the release of patch Patch 1.5.26 in April, which contained references to new animations and other content prefixed with "DLC01_". Bethesda formally announced Dawnguard in May 2012 with the release of a trailer. It was released on June 26th for the Xbox 360 for 1600 MS points, and later for the PC on August 2nd through Steam for $19.99. Called Dawnguard, the expansion pack comes with new gameplay features, locations, and content. The plot introduces a vampire lord named Harkon, who seeks to "end the tyranny of the sun" (referring to the weaknesses that vampires have while in the sunlight). A group of vampire hunters, called the Dawnguard set out to stop him. The player can choose which faction to support, with both routes open to vampires and vampire hunters.
The player has the option to become a vampire lord him/herself, or a remain a werewolf. Each path has it's own unique skill trees and abilities, which one levels up by slaying enemies while in their respective forms. The expansion introduces Dragonbone weapons, which are stronger than their daedric counterparts, arrow crafting, and crossbows for the player to use. Horse-mounted combat is also featured in this add-on, as well as new dragon shouts, weapons, and armor for the player.
The add-on introduces a new type of dragon, known as legendary dragons, which far surpass the skill of the previous highest level of dragon (elder dragons).
The main quest takes the player to some new locations in Skyrim, and reveals more about the mysterious past of the race known as the Falmer. The story also gives further meaning and explanation to the Elder Scrolls, their purpose, their origin, and what makes them so special, and above all, dangerous.
The add-on introduces a new member of the Thieves Guild, who can be found in the Ragged Flagon, who will change the player's appearance for a mere 1000 gold.
Hearthfire was released on September 4, 2012 for the Xbox 360, priced at 400 MS points, and on October 4th, 2012 on PC through Steam for $4.99. Hearthfire is a small DLC, allowing the player to involve themselves in the construction of three possible homes by gathering the necessary supplies. Once built, the house can be expanded with three possible wings. The player can hire NPCs to carry out duties in their new house and also receive a Housecarl from the Jarl of the hold they constructed their home in. Hearthfire also makes it possible to adopt children in the game, who can be housed in any of the new homes as well as the existing ones in Skyrim. Small radiant quests are also added, giving the player tasks such as defending their home from a bandit raid or giant attack.
Like with Dawnguard, speculation for the third DLC began with the release of Patch 1.8 for beta testing on October 24th. The patch contained references to new locations, animations, and armors prefixed with "DLC02". On November 4th, Bethesda announced the DLC with the release of a trailer, with a release date of December 4th for the Xbox 360 priced at 1600 MS points. Like with Dawnguard and Hearthfire, Dragonborn is a timed exclusive. Bethesda has not commented on the features of Dragonborn directly, but the trailer indicates the player will travel to the island Solstheim which was previously featured in the Morrowind expansion, Bloodmoon. The island will contain new locations, including refugee sites set up by Dunmer after the eruption of the Red Mountain, and see the return of Rieklings, a common enemy from Bloodmoon. The main quest will concern itself with a rogue Dragon Priest on the island who is described as the "first" Dragonborn.