The Elder Scrolls series began for me with Oblivion, at a friend’s. By the time my brother bought an Xbox 360, I was as familiar as anyone to its general look and feel. In short, I had already “explored” it without really “savouring” it. My tactic of generally staying away from gossip and pre-release info has, I think, paid off with Skyrim. It’s a game that needs to be taken in slowly in order to allow the best aspects to shine through, because those best aspects are likely going to be your very own reactions to the things you discover. This doesn’t just apply visually, as beautiful as the scenery generally looks; the game plants little pieces of story information for you to pick up and keep in mind. The world of the game operates as a whole. Walking down a road to visit a city for the first time (which the game highly encourages by not letting you zip over immediately), you could potentially meet many different characters with whom you’ll become more familiar with later on. On another level however, attention must be paid to the many ways that the game deliberately detracts from its widely-touted artificial beauty. The world of Skyrim is less pleasant than its Oblivion counterpart through its stories (many characters are now far more ambiguous), its combat system (which can be quite merciless should you let your guard down just momentarily) and its environment (marked by jagged black rocks and freezing white snow, vengeful mythical beasts and even angrier bears that will tear you to shreds). In these cases, Skyrim lacks the kind of contextual balance and reassurance of the previous game, and how that is received differs from person to person. That supposed lack of frequent episodic charm puts the previous game out on top at some points. As a result, some characters are simply not appealing (especially in regard to one of my personal favourite features, the Dark Brotherhood, which served as one of the most memorable highlights in Oblivion) and to some the game may seem frustratingly tougher from the start. However, these darker moods and tendencies serve one of the game’s main attractions (one of the centrepiece stories, the Skyrim Civil War) very well, and lore-wise, we simply couldn’t accept Skyrim any other way. Ambitious, attractive, deep, if lacking in some alternative flavours.
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