The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim|
|Developer(s)||Bethesda Game Studios|
|Distributor(s)||Bethesda Softworks (retail)
|Series||The Elder Scrolls|
|Engine||Creation Engine with Havok physics|
|Distribution||DVD, Blu-ray Disc, download|
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls action role-playing video game series, following The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Skyrim was released on November 11, 2011, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Three downloadable content (DLC) add-ons were released—Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn—which were repackaged into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition, which released on June 4, 2013.
Skyrim's main story revolves around the player character's efforts to defeat Alduin, a Dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world. Set two hundred years after Oblivion, the game takes place in the fictional province of Skyrim. Over the course of the game, the player completes quests and develops their character by improving their skills. Unlike previous Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim does not require the player to select a character class at the beginning of the game, negating a problem the development team felt previous entries had by forcing the player into a rigid play-style too early in the game. Skyrim continues the open world tradition of its predecessors by allowing the player to travel anywhere in the game world at any time and to ignore or postpone the main storyline indefinitely.
The game was developed using the in-house Creation Engine, built specifically for the game. Skyrim is not a direct sequel to previous Elder Scrolls games, but during development it was considered a spiritual successor to Oblivion and 2008's Fallout 3. The team opted for a more unique and diverse game world than Oblivion's Cyrodiil, which game director and executive producer Todd Howard considered less interesting by comparison. Skyrim premiered to critical acclaim, with reviewers particularly responding well to the refined character development system over previous Elder Scrolls entries. Criticism was directed to the game's lack of polish and weak melee combat. The game shipped over seven million copies to retailers within the first week of its release, and sold over 20 million copies across all three platforms.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing game, playable from either a first- or third-person perspective. The player may freely roam over the land of Skyrim, which is an open world environment consisting of wilderness expanses, dungeons, cities, towns and villages. The player may navigate the game world faster by riding horses, or by utilizing a fast-travel system that allows them to warp to previously-discovered locations. The game's main quest can be completed or ignored at the player's preference after the first stage of the quest is finished. Non-player characters populate the world and can be interacted with in a number of ways; the player may engage them in conversation, or kill them. As in previous Elder Scrolls games, killing certain NPCs can make some quests or items unobtainable. If witnessed, crimes like murder and theft accrue the player bounty points in each of the world's nine districts. Should the player be stopped by a guard, they may wipe their bounty with gold or jail time, or may resist arrest which will trigger an aggressive pursuit. NPCs may allocate the player additional side-quests, and some side-quests have parameters adjusted based on nearby dungeons the player has yet to explore. Some NPCs that are befriended or hired by the player may act as companions who will accompany the player and provide aid in combat. The player may choose to join factions, which are organized groups of NPCs such as the Dark Brotherhood, a band of assassins. Each of the factions has an associated quest path to progress through. The cities and towns in the game world each have an economy, which the player can stimulate by completing jobs such as farming.
A perpetual objective for the player is to develop their character. At the beginning of the game, the player creates their character by selecting one of several races, including humans, elves and anthropomorphic creatures, and then customizes their character's appearance. Over the course of the game, the player improves their character's skills, which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There are eighteen skills divided evenly between the three schools of combat, magic and stealth. When the player has trained skills enough to meet the required experience, their character levels up. Each time their character levels, the player may choose to select a skill-specific ability called a perk, or store perk points for later use. Unlike earlier entries in The Elder Scrolls series which used a character class system to determine which skills would contribute to the character's leveling, Skyrim allows the player to discover preferred skills as they play the game and rewards the player with more experience when a frequently-used skill is leveled. A head-up display (HUD) appears when any of the player's three main attributes are being depleted. Attributes regenerate over time, although this process can be accelerated by taking potions or regenerative spells. Health is depleted primarily when the player takes damage, and the loss of all health results in death. Magicka is depleted by the use of spells and by being struck by lightning-based attacks. Stamina determines the player's effectiveness in combat and is depleted by sprinting, power attacking, and being struck by frost-based attacks. The player's inventory can be accessed from the menu and items can be viewed in 3D, which may prove essential in solving puzzles found in dungeons.
The player's effectiveness in combat relies on the use of weapons and armor, which may be bought or created at forges, and magic, which may be bought or unlocked by finding spell tomes. Weapons and magic are assigned to each hand, allowing for dual-wielding, and can be swapped out through a quick-access menu of favorite items. Shields can be used to fend off enemy attacks and reduce incurred damage, or offensively through bashing attacks. Blunt, bladed and hacking weapons can be used in close combat and each have specific advantages and roles; for example, the player can perform power attacks with each weapon. Magic can be used in the form of spells, which have many different function, such as the regeneration of health or the depletion of enemy health. A bow and arrow may be utilized in long-range combat, but the bow can be used as a defensive melee weapon in close combat. The player can enter sneak mode and pickpocket, or deliver sneak attacks to unsuspecting enemies.
When exploring the game world, the player may encounter wildlife. Many creatures in the wilderness are immediately hostile towards the player. Skyrim is the first entry in The Elder Scrolls to include Dragons in the game's wilderness. Like other creatures, Dragons are generated randomly in the world and will engage in combat with NPCs, creatures and the player. Some Dragons may attack cities and towns when in their proximity. The player character can absorb the souls of Dragons in order to use powerful spells called "Dragon Shouts". Each Shout contains three words, and the strength of the Shout will vary depending on how many words have been spoken. The words to Shouts can be learned by visiting "Word Walls" in dungeons. The words to each shout are unlocked for use by spending the absorbed souls of slain Dragons. A regeneration period limits the player's use of Shouts in gameplay.
Skyrim is set 200 years after the events of Oblivion, though it is not a direct sequel. The game takes place in the land of Skyrim, a province of the Empire on the continent of Tamriel, amid a civil war between two factions. The Stormcloaks, led by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, are made up of Skyrim's native Nord race. Their goal is an independent Skyrim free from Imperial interference. The Imperial Legion, the military of the Empire, opposes the Stormcloaks and seek to reunite and pacify the province. General Tullius leads the Imperial forces in Skyrim.
The story begins with the imprisoned player being led to an Imperial execution in the town of Helgen, alongside several Stormcloak soldiers and their leader, Ulfric Stormcloak. A Dragon unexpectedly interrupts the procession, attacking and destroying the town. The player escapes and journeys to the nearby town of Riverwood, whose residents are now fearful that the Dragon could strike their town as well at any moment. The player is asked to make their way to the city of Whiterun, to request aid from the city's Jarl—the game's equivalent of a lord—against the Dragon threat. The Jarl, Balgruuf the Greater, accepts. He also directs the player to retrieve a Dragonstone, a magical artefact that shows the location of ancient Dragon burial sites.
The player returns to Whiterun with the Dragonstone, only to learn that another Dragon has appeared near the city. After slaying the Dragon with assistance from the city's guards, the player unexpectedly absorbs the Dragon's soul which grants them the ability to perform a magical ability called a "Thu'um", or Dragon Shout. The city's guards are astonished, and inform the player that they must be a Dragonborn, a mortal with the soul of a Dragon. After returning to the Jarl with news of the Dragon's defeat, the player is summoned to meet with the Greybeards, an order of monks who live in seclusion in their temple of High Hrothgar on the slopes of Skyrim's tallest mountain, the Throat of the World.
The Greybeards further train the player in the "Way of the Voice", teaching the player more powerful Thu'um's and instructing the player on their destiny and role of the Dragonborn. The player learns that Skyrim's civil war is the last in a sequence of prophetic events foretold by the Elder Scrolls, which also predicted the return of Alduin, the Dragon-god of destruction. Alduin is prophesied to destroy the races of Men and Mer, and consume the world. The player character is the latest "Dovahkiin", a Dragonborn, an individual with the body of a mortal and the soul of a Dragon. Dovahkiin are anointed by the gods to help fend off the threat Alduin and other Dragons pose to Skyrim and Tamriel.
The Greybeards task the player with retrieving the legendary Horn of Jurgen Windcaller as a final test. However, the player discovers the Horn has been stolen, and the culprit wishes to meet with the Dragonborn. The thief reveals herself as Delphine, Riverwood's innkeeper. Delphine wants the Dragonborn to prove their power before explaining her actions, and they head to the village of Kynesgrove, where a Dragon burial mound is supposedly located. Once there, the player and Delphine witness Alduin reviving a Dragon from the burial mound and defeat the Dragon. Delphine later reveals that she one of the last surviving members of the Blades—an Order of bodyguards sworn to protect Dragonborn Imperial Emperors. She explains that the Blades have been out of purpose for centuries with no Dragonborn Emperor, and now with the player character being the next Dragonborn, the organization has finally regained its purpose. Afterwards, Delphine helps the player infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy near the city of Solitude, the headquarters of the Aldmeri Dominion in Skyrim, to follow up on her suspicions about the Thalmor's possible involvement with the Dragon threat. While there, Delphine and the player discover the Thalmor are searching for a man named Esbern, an archivist of the Blades Order. Delphine then instructs the player to locate Esbern, known to be hiding in the sewers and ratways of the city of Riften.
The player character accompanies the Blades in search of Alduin's Wall, a prophetic engravement located in an ancient Blades fortress known as Sky Haven Temple. While the Blades set up in the temple, the player character learns that the ancient Nords used a special Thu'um against Alduin called "Dragonrend", representing mankind's comprehensive hatred for the Dragons, to cripple his ability to fly so they could engage him. To gain more information, the player meets the ancient Dragon Paarthurnax, the leader of the Greybeards who was once one of Alduin's most feared generals. Paarthurnax reveals that Alduin was not truly defeated in the past, but was cast into the currents of time by the use of an Elder Scroll in the hope was that he would never reemerge. The player manages to locate the Elder Scroll within the ancient Dwemer ruin of Blackreach and uses it to peer through a window in time, learning the powerful Dragonrend Shout to combat Alduin.
Armed with the knowledge of how the ancient Nords defeated Alduin, the player battles Alduin on the summit of the Throat of the World. Overpowered by the player, Alduin flees to Sovngarde, the Nordic afterlife. The player learns that Dragonsreach, the palace of the Jarl of Whiterun, was originally built to trap and hold a Dragon. Balgruuf refuses to allow the player to utilize Dragonsreach and possibly endanger the city if the civil war between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion still rages. With the help of the Greybeards, the player calls a council between General Tullius—the Imperial Legion's commander—and Ulfric Stormcloak, successfully calling for a temporary armistice while the Dragon threat exists. If the civil war questline has been completed beforehand, thus ending the war, the Jarl eventually agrees with persuasion.
The player summons and traps a Dragon named Odahviing in Dragonsreach, learning from him that Alduin has fled to Sovngarde through a portal located high in the mountains, at an ancient fort called Skuldafn. Odahviing, impressed with the player's Thu'um and ability to capture him, agrees to fly the player to Skuldafn, claiming Alduin has shown himself as weak and undeserving of leadership over the Dragons. Upon arrival at Skuldafn, the player travels to Sovngarde and meets with Ysgramor, the legendary Nord who, along with his Five Hundred Companions, drove the Elves out of Skyrim. Ysgramor informs the player that Alduin has placed a "soul snare" in Sovngarde, allowing him to gain strength by devouring the souls of deceased Nords arriving there. The player meets up with the three heroes of Nordic legend who defeated Alduin originally, and, with their help, destroys the soul snare and defeats Alduin once and for all.
If the player did not kill Paarthurnax in an earlier side quest, an alternate conclusion is given. The player returns to the summit of the Throat of the World in which Paarthurnax and several other Dragons wait. Paarthurnax explains that even though Alduin is defeated, they are in no condition to celebrate for he was once their ally and is still one of their kin. Having asserted his authority over many Dragons, Paarthurnax convinces those loyal to him to leave Tamriel and bids farewell to the Dragonborn.
- Daniel Riordan as Alduin
- Christopher Plummer as Arngeir
- Joan Allen as Delphine
- Max von Sydow as Esbern
- Paul Eiding as Felldir the Old
- Paul Ganus as Hakon One-Eye
- Michael Hogan as General Tullius
- Lynda Carter as Gormlaith Golden-Hilt
- Claudia Christian as Legate Rikke
- Charles Dennis as Odahviing
- Charles Martinet as Paarthurnax
- Vladimir Kulich as Ulfric Stormcloak
- Michael Gough as Heimskr
Having completed work on Oblivion in 2006, Bethesda Game Studios began work on Fallout 3, which would eventually release in 2008. It was during this time that the team began planning their next Elder Scrolls game. From the outset, they had decided to set the new entry in the land of Skyrim, incorporating Dragons into the main theme of the game. Full development begun following the release of Fallout 3 in 2008; the developers considered Skyrim a spiritual successor to both Fallout 3 and previous The Elder Scrolls games. The game was developed by a team of roughly 100 people composed of new talent as well as of the series's veterans. The production was supervised by Todd Howard, who was the director of many titles released by Bethesda Softworks.
The team set the game in the province of Skyrim, designing it by hand. While similar in size to Oblivion's game world Cyrodiil, the mountainous topography of the world inflates the game space and makes it more difficult to traverse than the relatively flat Cyrodiil. In designing Skyrim's world, the team opted for a different approach to what was taken with Oblivion; art director Matt Carofano considered the more surrealistic approach of Skyrim's world design as a departure from Oblivion's generic representation of classic European fantasy lore. Howard expressed the team's desire to re-encapsulate the "wonder of discovery" of Morrowind's game world in Skyrim, as the return to the classic fantasy of Arena and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall in Oblivion meant sacrificing a world with a unique culture. As a way of creating diversity in the world, the team divided the world into nine sectors, known as holds, and attempted to make each hold feel topographically unique from another; in addition, the team wanted to reflect the socioeconomic background of the NPCs by making some of the world's locations elaborate and wealthy and others poorer and lower-tech.
The team sought to make each of the game's ten races feel unique; Howard considered that the player's choosing of a race at the beginning of the game is a more important decision than it has been in previous The Elder Scrolls games because the culture of Skyrim's world contains more racism. However, he iterated that the player's choice of race does not have major game-affecting consequences as it simply adds "flavor" in different NPCs' dispositions towards the player, and is not meant as a way of locking players out of particular quests. Efforts to making Skyrim's world feel hand-crafted extended to the team abandoning the use of generated landscapes as they had done in Oblivion. While one team member was charged with designing dungeons in Oblivion, Skyrim's 150 dungeons were designed by a small team of eight people. Skyrim features 244 quests and over 300 points of interest.
Skyrim is powered by Bethesda's own Creation Engine, a new engine created prior to Skyrim's release. After Fallout 3's release, the team devised numerous design objectives to meet for Skyrim, and as Howard described, the team "got all those done and kept going". Had the team not been able to meet their design goals with current hardware, they would have waited for the next generation and released Skyrim then, but, as Howard felt, the current technology did not hold the team back at all. The Creation Engine allows for numerous improvements in graphical fidelity over Bethesda's previous efforts. For example, the draw distance renders farther than in previous The Elder Scrolls games; Howard provided an example where the player can stare at a small object such as a fork in detail, and then look up at a mountain and run to the top of it. Dynamic lighting affords shadows to be created by any structure or item in the game world, and while Bethesda utilized SpeedTree to produce flora in previous games, the Creation Engine utilized by Skyrim allowed for greater detail than what had been allowed by SpeedTree. For example, with Bethesda's own technology, the team were able to give weight to the branches of trees which affect how trees blow in the wind; in addition, the technology affords wind to affect the flow of water in channels such as rivers and streams. Because of the large presence of snow in Skyrim's game world, the technological upgrades were applied to weather effects and allow for dynamic snow fall upon the terrain, instead of snow that was rendered as a textural effect in previous games.
The team made use of Havok's Behavior toolset for character animation, which allows for a greater fluidity between the character's movements of walking, running and sprinting, and also increases the efficiency of the third-person camera option which had been criticized in Oblivion. The toolset allows interactions between the player and NPCs to take place in real-time; in Oblivion, when the player went to interact with an NPC, time would freeze and the camera would zoom in on the NPC's face. In Skyrim, NPCs can move around and make body gestures while conversing with the player. Children are present in the game, and their presence is handled similarly as in Fallout 3 in that they cannot be harmed by the player in any way since depictions of violence involving children in video games is a controversial and largely-debated issue. Skyrim makes use of the Radiant AI artificial intelligence system that was created for Oblivion, and it has been updated to allow NPCs to "do what they want under extra parameters". The updated system allows for greater interaction between NPCs and their environments; NPCs can perform tasks such as farming, milling and mining in the game world, and will react with each other.
30-second sample from the theme of Skyrim.
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
The team employed Jeremy Soule to compose music for Skyrim after his work on Morrowind and Oblivion. He composed "Dragonborn", the game's main theme. "Dragonborn" was recorded with a choir of over thirty people, singing in the game world's Dragon language. Creative director Todd Howard envisioned the theme for Skyrim as the Elder Scrolls theme sung by a choir of barbarians. This became a reality when the idea was passed by Soule, who recorded the 30-man choir and layered three separate recordings to create the effect of 90 voices. The language, Draconic, was created by Bethesda's concept artist Adam Adamowicz, and he developed a 34-character runic alphabet for the game. The lexicon of Draconic was expanded as needed; as lead designer Bruce Nesmith explained, words were introduced to the lexicon "every time [the studio wanted] to say something".
As with the previous two entries in the series, the soundtrack to Skyrim is sold via Jeremy Soule's distributor DirectSong; on November 4, 2011, a physical-only release consisting of 4 audio CDs was announced, coinciding with the launch of the game. All copies preordered before December 23 will be personally autographed by Soule. Following an October 17 tweet from Pete Hines, vice president of public relations and marketing at Bethesda, stating "The OST would take 4 CDs", a 4-disc CD set release was spotted by Digital Song customers during an account display error. "Day One" preorders from Amazon.de also include a 5-track promotional Skyrim soundtrack sampler. A digital version of the 4-disc CD soundtrack was released on January 31, 2013 via iTunes.
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Original Game Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Jeremy Soule|
|Released||December 23, 2011
January 31, 2013 (Digital Download)
|Genre||Video game soundtrack|
|Length||218:19 (Full Soundtrack)
63:00 (Disc 1)
56:04 (Disc 2)
56:41 (Disc 3)
42:35 (Disc 4)
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Original Game Soundtrack) (Disc 1)|
|3.||"From Past to Present"||Jeremy Soule||5:06|
|4.||"Unbroken Road"||Jeremy Soule||6:26|
|5.||"Ancient Stones"||Jeremy Soule||4:48|
|6.||"The City Gates"||Jeremy Soule||3:48|
|7.||"Silent Footsteps"||Jeremy Soule||2:53|
|9.||"Tooth and Claw"||Jeremy Soule||1:51|
|10.||"Under An Ancient Sun"||Jeremy Soule||3:44|
|11.||"Death Or Sovngarde"||Jeremy Soule||3:02|
|13.||"Distant Horizons"||Jeremy Soule||3:55|
|15.||"The Jerall Mountains"||Jeremy Soule||3:22|
|16.||"Steel on Steel"||Jeremy Soule||1:45|
|18.||"Imperial Throne"||Jeremy Soule||2:23|
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Original Game Soundtrack) (Disc 2)|
|2.||"Night Without Stars"||Jeremy Soule||0:43|
|3.||"Into Darkness"||Jeremy Soule||2:55|
|4.||"Kyne's Peace"||Jeremy Soule||3:52|
|6.||"Far Horizons"||Jeremy Soule||5:33|
|7.||"A Winter's Tale"||Jeremy Soule||3:22|
|8.||"The Bannered Mare"||Jeremy Soule||2:30|
|9.||"The Streets of Whiterun"||Jeremy Soule||4:07|
|10.||"One They Fear"||Jeremy Soule||3:16|
|11.||"The White River"||Jeremy Soule||3:31|
|12.||"Silence Unbroken"||Jeremy Soule||2:24|
|13.||"Standing Stones"||Jeremy Soule||6:39|
|14.||"Beneath the Ice"||Jeremy Soule||4:16|
|16.||"Journey's End"||Jeremy Soule||4:10|
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Original Game Soundtrack) (Disc 3)|
|1.||"Before The Storm"||Jeremy Soule||1:09|
|2.||"A Chance Meeting"||Jeremy Soule||3:12|
|3.||"Out of the Cold"||Jeremy Soule||3:04|
|4.||"Around The Fire"||Jeremy Soule||3:12|
|5.||"Shadows And Echoes"||Jeremy Soule||2:21|
|6.||"Caught Off Guard"||Jeremy Soule||1:13|
|8.||"Blood And Steel"||Jeremy Soule||2:12|
|9.||"Towers And Shadows"||Jeremy Soule||2:24|
|10.||"Seven Thousand Steps"||Jeremy Soule||1:08|
|12.||"Watch The Skies"||Jeremy Soule||2:23|
|13.||"The Gathering Storm"||Jeremy Soule||2:55|
|14.||"Sky Above, Voice Within"||Jeremy Soule||3:59|
|15.||"Death in the Darkness"||Jeremy Soule||2:38|
|16.||"Shattered Shields"||Jeremy Soule||2:40|
|18.||"Wind Guide You"||Jeremy Soule||9:05|
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Original Game Soundtrack) (Disc 4)|
|1.||"Skyrim Atmospheres"||Jeremy Soule & Mark Lampert||42:35|
Marketing and release
Skyrim was first announced at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California, on December 11, 2010. The center was the host of Spike's annual Video Game Awards; Howard appeared on stage during the awards and presented its announcement trailer, which introduced the game's story and revealed its "11–11–11" release date. It was the cover story for the February 2011 issue of the Game Informer magazine, wherein journalist Matt Miller wrote a fifteen-page article that revealed the first details about the game's story and gameplay. Asked about downloadable content (DLC) packages in a June 2011 interview, Howard expressed that it was the team's intention to release DLC packages after having done so for previous releases; he revealed that it was the team's goal to release a lower number of DLC packages that were larger in content than those released for Fallout 3, as he felt that releasing a larger number of low-content packages was "chaotic". Via a press release, the team announced that the first two planned DLC packages would release on the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live a month ahead of PCs and the PlayStation 3 system. At the 2011 QuakeCon conference, the team unveiled Skyrim's special edition package. Bundled with a copy of the game is a map of the game world, a 12-inch figurine of the game's antagonistic Dragon Alduin, as well as a 200-page concept art book and a DVD feature about the making of Skyrim.
In October 2011 pictures of many pages of the manual of the game were leaked, later followed by footage from the introduction, revealing some more details. By November 1, 2011, a copy of the Xbox 360 version had been leaked and made available through the internet, allowing people with a hacked Xbox 360 to play Skyrim 10 days before its official release. In the Netherlands, the game has been available for purchase since November 7. On November 10 stores in Australia began selling the game ahead of its release on November 11.
A compilation package called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Legendary Edition was released on June 4, 2013. It contains the 1.9 patch, and the three expansions along with the main game.
A wide variety of both official and fan-created modifications are available for Skyrim, using the packaged "Creation Kit". These mods are aggregated on the Steam Workshop and Skyrim Nexus, among other sites. The mods include features such as more vibrant night sky, new lighting systems, new characters and locations, user interface updates, and more. The first official Skyrim modification was The Fall of the Space Core, Vol. 1, created by Bethesda in collaboration with Valve Corporation. It causes the Space Core – a fictional device from Valve's video game Portal 2 – to fall from the sky and land in a burnt-out house near Whiterun. The Space Core (voiced by Nolan North) acts as a non-player character, following the player around the world of Skyrim and dispensing space-related comments.
Dawnguard, the first downloadable add-on for Skyrim, revolves around a battle between the Dawnguard and Clan Volkihar. The Dawnguard, a band of vampire hunters, rely on the use of their trademark crossbow weapons in their pursuit against Clan Volkihar, a family of vampires. Early in Dawnguard's quest line, players must choose which faction they join forces with. Dawnguard adds new content to the game including weapons, magic and armor, and expands the abilities afforded to players who choose to become either a vampire or a werewolf. It also adds two new areas outside of the main land of Skyrim to explore—the Soul Cairn, a plane of the realm Oblivion, and the Forgotten Vale, a secluded glacial valley. Dawnguard released on the Xbox 360 in English-speaking territories on June 26, 2012, and in European countries in mid-July 2012. Via the digital distribution platform Steam, Dawnguard released for Windows on August 2, 2012. Performance issues on the PlayStation 3 platform hampered Dawnguard's, and subsequent content add-ons', release on it. Dawnguard eventually released on the PlayStation 3 on February 26, 2013 in North America and on February 27, 2013 in Europe.
Hearthfire, Skyrim's second add-on, allows players to build houses and adopt children. Three plots of land are added to the game world, which players can purchase. Once land is purchased, players select rooms to add on to the basic template of the house, built from raw materials like lumber and clay which can be harvested or purchased. Players may also adopt up to two children and have them live with the player's spouse in their houses. Hearthfire released for the Xbox 360 on September 4, 2012 and for Windows on October 4, 2012. It later released for PlayStation 3 on February 19, 2013 in North America and February 20, 2013 in Europe.
Dragonborn is the third and final add-on for Skyrim. It revolves around the player character's efforts to defeat Miraak, the first Dragonborn who has become corrupted and seeks to control the world. The add-on takes place on the island of Solstheim, which like Skyrim is presented as an open world. It adds new content to the game and allows players to ride on the backs of Dragons. Dragonborn released for the Xbox 360 on December 4, 2012, for Windows on February 5, 2013, and for PlayStation 3 on February 12, 2013.
In April 2013, Bethesda announced via their blog that they were "moving on" from Skyrim and preparing to work on other projects. They added that they would only be releasing "minor updates" for the game.
At the launch of Skyrim, a multitude of technical issues ranging from small to large in scale were being reported. Some examples include a texture down-scaling issue on the Xbox 360 version when the game was run from the hard drive; crashes, slowdown and frame rate issues on the PlayStation 3 version when save files exceeded 6 MB, commonly occurring due to extended game play times; and various crashes and slowdowns on the Windows version. According to Skyrim's director Todd Howard the misconception of 'restrictive RAM' is incorrect, "It's literally the things you've done in what order and what's running."
Since release several patches have been published to address technical issues and improve overall gameplay. Patch 1.2 was released on November 29, 2011, to fix some of the game's issues; however, some players reported new bugs in the game following the patch, including more frequent game crashes. Patch 1.3 was released on December 7, 2011, to improve stability, further address known issues, and fix some of the problems that were introduced in version 1.2. Patch 1.4 was released on February 1, 2012, for the PC. Another list of issues and bugs were addressed in this patch as well as the Skyrim launcher support for Skyrim Workshop (PC). Patch 1.5 was released on March 20, 2012, for the PC. Numerous bugs were fixed, as well as the inclusion of new archery/spellcasting killcams. On April 12, 2012, Bethesda announced that Kinect support would be coming for the Xbox 360 version of Skyrim. It features more than 200 voice commands. Patch 1.6 was released on May 24, 2012, for the PC. This includes a new feature – mounted combat. Patch 1.7 was released on July 30, 2012, for the PC, and 1.8 was released on November 1, 2012, for the PC. These two introduced only minor bugfixes. Patch 1.9 was released on March 18, 2013. In addition to providing various bug fixes, this patch also added new features, most namely the new 'Legendary' difficulty and 'Legendary' skills.
An unofficial community patch tries to fix remaining issues unattended by the official patches. The latest iteration of the so-called Unofficial Skyrim Patch, released in May 2014, lists hundreds of gameplay, quests, and other bugs as fixed in the game and its add-ons.
Skyrim received acclaim from reviewers upon its release. The removal of the character class system from previous Elder Scrolls entries was well received. Billy Shibley of Machinima's Inside Gaming and Charles Onyett of IGN praised its removal because it allowed players to experiment with different skills without having to make decisions about a class early in the game. John Bedford of Eurogamer opined that by removing the character class system, the game tailored for players who wanted to build an all-around character while still also providing the opportunity for other players to specialize in a preferred play-style. Steve Butts of The Escapist considered the addition of perks to the character development system "a great method to make your character feel even more unique and personal". Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot praised the way perks allowed for the player's preferred skills to become more powerful over time, stating that the perk system "forms around the way you play, but allows for tweaking so that you retain a sense of control". The user interface (UI) that navigates the player's items and spells was also praised by reviewers for its accessibility; Bedford complimented its "elegant design" which succeeded Oblivion's cumbersome UI.
The art style of the game world drew acclaim from many reviewers, who welcomed the departure from Oblivion's Cyrodiil. Jason Schreier of Wired described the land of Skyrim as a "Viking-inspired treasure trove of flavor and charm", noting its contrast to Cyrodiil which he considered generic by comparison. The Staff at Edge magazine described Cyrodiil as a "patchwork of varying terrains", praising the more consistent design of Skyrim. Shibley praised "the lack of copy-and-paste level design that's plagued Bethesda's previous games, [...] giving a lived-in and handcrafted look to the world". Bedford noted that the improved graphical fidelity over Oblivion allowed the game world to feel more lifelike, praising the "misty mountain setting, complete with swirling fog and high-altitude snowstorms". An editor for PC PowerPlay praised the diversity of the dungeon design. Andrew Reiner of Game Informer cited criticisms Oblivion faced for repetitive dungeons, noting that "the composition of each dungeon is largely unique and individualized" in Skyrim. He also favored the design choice to have a quick route out of a dungeon leading from its last room, eliminating the problem he identified Oblivion as having where the player would clear a dungeon and then have to go all the way back to the beginning to exit it. Many reviewers praised the large amount of things to do in the world away from the main story. Tom Francis of PC Gamer opined that it was difficult to explore the world without becoming distracted by things to do, explaining that "it's hard to walk for a minute in any direction without encountering an intriguing cave, a lonely shack, some strange stones, a wandering traveller, a haunted fort".
Reviewers welcomed the ability to dual-wield weapons and magic. An editor for PC PowerPlay felt that the dual-wielding ability "transforms the tactical scope of each combat encounter". Shibley noted that the dual-wielding option gave the player more freedom to experiment with combat, explaining that "the ability to apply a spell to each hand [...] generates huge potential for getting creative with your spell combinations". However, many reviewers were critical of the melee combat, feeling that it had not been improved upon as much as other areas in the game. Justin McElroy of Joystiq explained that "what should be thrilling fights in Skyrim are often weighed down by the same clunky melee system Oblivion suffered from". Onyett described melee combat as "flat" and "floaty", and that "many times it feels like you're slicing air instead of a mythical creature's flesh". Franics agreed with this sentiment, explaining that "too much of the time, you wave your weapon around and enemies barely react to the hits".
Many reviewers noted glitches while playing Skyrim, some game-breaking. Nick Cowen of The Guardian pointed out that the game's glitches were a trade-off for its ambitious scope, himself experiencing glitches that forced him to reload earlier saves. Edge began their review by criticizing the lack of polish, while still acknowledging many areas in the game which made up for it. In addition, the quality of the main quest divided some reviewers. While Reiner praised the main quest as "superbly penned" and "Bethesda's best effort to date", Butts and Francis criticized the fact that the story was delivered primarily through conversations and quest journals, rather than through the player's own interactions. While the Dragon battles were well-received, some reviewers observed flaws in the AI for Dragons. Onyett pointed out their "predictable attack patterns", which Francis agreed with, explaining that "fighting them never changes much: you can just ignore them until they land, then shoot them from a distance when they do". Reiner felt that due to the repetitiveness of their attack patterns, the Dragons weren't challenging enough for low-level players. Edge pointed out a curve in difficulty for players who favored archery and magic, as Dragons were difficult to attack while airborne.
During the first day of release, Steam showed over 230,000 people playing Skyrim concurrently. After two days of the game's launch 3.4 million physical copies were sold of those sales, 59% were for the Xbox 360, 27% for the PS3, and 14% for the PC. In the first week of release, Bethesda stated that 7 million copies of the game had been shipped to retailers worldwide, and that total sales through the following Wednesday were expected to generate an estimated US$450 million. By December 16, 2011, this had risen to 10 million copies shipped to retail and around US$620 million. Additionally, Valve stated that it was the fastest selling game to date on their Steam platform. Steam's statistics page showed the client breaking a five million user record by having 5,012,468 users logged in January 2, 2012. Total number of sold copies on the PC platform is difficult to confirm because Steam doesn't publicly publish digital sales. During this time, Skyrim was the most-played game on Steam by a huge margin, with double the number of players as Team Fortress 2, the second-placed game. In the United Kingdom, Skyrim was the 9th best selling title of 2012. In June 2013, Bethesda announced that over 20 million copies of the game had been sold. In regards to sales on the PC, Todd Howard stated in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun that “Skyrim did better than we’ve ever done on PC by a large, large number. And that’s where the mods are. That feeds the game for a long time."
Skyrim received awards from various gaming sites and publications. IGN and GameSpot named Skyrim "PC Game of the Year". It also received GameSpot's "Readers' Choice" award. The game received the "RPG of the Year" award from Spike TV, IGN, X-Play, GameSpot and GameSpy. It received "Overall Game of the Year" wins from Spike TV, X-Play, Machinima.com, GameSpot, 1UP.com, Game Revolution, GameSpy Joystiq and the Interactive Achievement Awards. It was voted No.1 in Good Game's top 100 video games of all time.
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