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Nerd Alert: You Know You’re Addicted to Skyrim When… (a non-traditional review)

November 27, 2011

After having logged about 40 hours in the immersive and fascinating Nordic world of Skyrim, I can officially say I am hooked on its charms.  I am an avid fan of Bethesda’s previous entries in the Elder Scrolls series, especially Morrowind, where a player could pillage, plunder and charm his or her way into celebrity status without ever coming close to beginning the main storyline quest.  Oblivion was a little disappointing in terms of sandbox-style wandering, and I wasn’t a big fan of the never-ending onslaught of repetitive Oblivion gates one had to hack-and-slash through to achieve anything worthwhile in terms of loot/fame.  Still, the blessed majesty that is the Nord realm of Skyrim more than makes up for the faults of its predecessor.  Here are 5 reasons you might need to put down the controller…

5.) Your neighbor wonders why you are scavenging her yard for Nirnroot.

The plant gathering and alchemy system from Oblivion is back, but without the need to carry around that obnoxious mortar and pestle.  You can now eat each ingredient (although why one would want to consume something called a “deathbell”,  I’m sure I don’t know) to find out some of its properties, and you can conveniently find alchemy labs in most shops, random necromancer caves, and for purchase in your player-owned homes.   Most shopkeepers carry a decent amount of useful potions whether you are a mage needing to charge up your magicka, or a battle-honed warrior who needs to stock up on the heath potions, stat.

4.) You are afraid to open your closet before sending someone to scout ahead for trolls.

The caves in Oblivion and Morrowind were all fairly standard dungeon-crawling stuff, usually full of one main type of enemy (imps, bandits or trolls) and tons of barrels full of useless crap.  In Skyrim, each cave has its own design and personality (my favorite so far has been Fallowstone Cave, a quest-related cave full of giants and decorated with ancient drawings, human bones and mammoth tusks). Although the “loot” in these caves is sparser than in previous entries in the series, it is also more useful (at the very least food or alchemy ingredients), saving you from the inevitable cursing when you come across your 800th pair of tongs.  The enemies are also leveled when you enter the cave, allowing you to return at a higher level to lay the smack down if you get pummeled the first time that giant takes a whack at you.

3.) When you arrive at your local Target, you announce, “What do I have to do to become Thane of this realm, anyway?”

Cities and towns in Skyrim are more gorgeously rendered than in any game I’ve seen this year.  They are also realistically scaled;  in a marsh you encounter a small village on stilts, on a mountainside you discover a walled fortress.  Each city’s quests are also more logically presented.  Rather than running errands all over the realm for a paltry sum of gold, most of these minor missions will have you build favor in the local Jarl’s (king/ruler of each domain in Skyrim) eyes, which in turn can lead to becoming a Thane (local aristocrat) and purchasing your own home in that settlement.  Each home I’ve purchased so far (Breezehome in Whiterun and Honeyside in Riften) is its own gem; you can customize the furnishings and the homes actually look LIVED in.  Thanks to the game’s Radiant AI system, as you build a rep in each town, citizens, shopkeepers, and even children will react differently to you through their banter.

2.) That bird that keeps flying into your sliding glass door won’t hold still so you can harvest its soul.

Dragons are an essential part of Skyrim‘s main quest, although the majesty and awe inspired by the appearance of the first few eventually diminishes into the practicality of having to slay the beasts to improve your Thu’um powers.  They are a sight to behold at first, but you’ll spend hours (if you are a  warrior like myself) trying to get the buggers to stand still so that you can hammer their brains in to harvest their powers and the valuable dragon bones and scales that will earn you some easy cash.  Your goal in the main quest line is to harness the powers of the “dragon shouts”, which can lead to some interesting powers (including a fast sprint, fire-breathing, and the ability to stun opponents).

1.)That annoying driver that cut you off doesn’t understand that your “Skyrim Hands” are blasting him with deadly lighting power.

To sum up, Skyrim will suck your life away.  That’s the ultimate compliment, really.  The folks at Bethesda have created a world so encompassing that it stands on its own as a fable.  The best part about Skyrim is how differently it can unfold for each player and each play through.   Whether you are an elf, orc or Imperial, mage, thief or warrior, how you choose to discover Skyrim is the beauty of the whole experience.  Get playing!

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