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.
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. The game 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. A perpetual objective for players is to improve their character's skills, which are numerical representations of certain abilities.
Skyrim was a critical and commercial success, shipping over 7 million copies to retailers within the first week of release and went on to sell over 20 million copies across all platforms. Several add-ons have subsequently been released, which include Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn. A collection, which was released as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition, a package including the latest patch and all three expansion packs, was released on June 4, 2013 for all three platforms.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing game, playable from either a first- or third-person perspective. The game is presented as an open world, allowing the player free roam over Skyrim, a large, open environment. The player may navigate the game world faster by riding horses, or by utilizing a fast-travel system that allows the player to warp to previously-discovered cities, towns and dungeons. A main quest is assigned to the player at the beginning of the game, but it can be completed at the player's leisure, or ignored given the prerequisite that the first stage of the quest is completed. Non-player characters (NPCs) allocate the player additional side-quests, and the parameters to some of these side-quests may be adjusted, for example by sending the player to a dungeon that has not been previously explored. The player can interact with NPCs in other ways as well, for example by having conversations with them, which may probe the opportunity to be assigned a quest by the NPC. 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 a headquarters, and they have their own quest paths which the player can progress through. Each of the cities and towns in the game world has 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 human, elven, or anthropomorphic races, 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 perks 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. The head-up display (HUD) appears when any of the player's three main attributes are being depleted. Health is depleted primarily by damage through combat and although it is regenerated naturally over time, it can also be restored by spells, potions, or resting; 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; both magicka and stamina can be regenerated in similar ways to health. The player's inventory can be accessed from the menu and items can be viewed in 3D, which can be 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. 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 either 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; as an example, the player can perform power attacks with each weapon. Magic can be used in the form of spells; each of the eighty-five spells has a different function, such as the regeneration of health or the depletion of enemy health. The 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 while the player explores the world, and 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 shouts 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 not a direct sequel to Oblivion, but a new chapter in The Elder Scrolls series, set 200 years after the events of Oblivion. As with previous The Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim begins with the player character as an unknown prisoner. The player was caught in an Imperial ambush while attempting to cross the border into Skyrim, on a wagon with several Stormcloak soldiers, Ulfric Stormcloak himself, and a horse thief. They are all headed to Helgen to be executed. As the player character is about to be beheaded, a Dragon arrives, interrupting the execution and destroying the town. The player eventually 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. Among the individuals aiding the player are Delphine (voiced by Joan Allen) and Esbern (voiced by Max von Sydow), two of the last remaining Blades, and Master Arngeir (voiced by Christopher Plummer), a member of the Greybeards.
Following the Dragon attack on Helgen, the player character may choose to escape either with Hadvar, an Imperial soldier, or Ralof, a Stormcloak rebel. After the escape, the player travels to the town of Riverwood. The player is asked to journey to the city of Whiterun, and request aid from the Jarl against the Dragon threat. The Jarl agrees to send soldiers to Riverwood, but asks that the player retrieve a Dragonstone. The player discovers a Word Wall in the process, learning their first "Thu'um", one of the dragon shouts, in the process.
Upon returning to Whiterun, the player is asked to assist in defending the city from an attacking Dragon. After defeating the Dragon, the player character absorbs the Dragon's soul. This gives the player great power. Astonished, the Whiterun soldiers tell the player that they may 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 highest mountain, the Throat of the World. The Greybeards further train the player in the "Way of the Voice", teaching the player more powerful Thu'ums and instructing the player on their destiny and role of the Dragonborn. As a further test, the Greybeards task the player with retrieving the legendary Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. However, the player discovers the Horn has been stolen by another, who wishes to meet with the Dragonborn. The thief reveals herself as Delphine, Riverwood's innkeeper and one of the last surviving members of the Blades. Delphine and the player witness Alduin reviving a Dragon from a burial mound and defeat the Dragon. Afterwards, Delphine helps the player infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy near 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 Riften.
The player character accompanies the Blades in search of "Alduin's Wall", 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 leader of the Greybeards, an ancient Dragon, and once one of Alduin's most feared generals, named Paarthurnax. Paarthurnax reveals that Alduin was not truly defeated in the past, but was sent forward to an unspecified point in time by the use of an Elder Scroll, in the hopes that he would get lost. The player manages to locate the Elder Scroll within the 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. The Jarl 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 and Ulfric Stormcloak, successfully calling for a temporary armistice while the Dragon threat exists. If the war has already ended the Jarl will eventually agree 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, defeating Alduin.
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 the other Dragons wait. Paarthurnax explains that even if 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.
Skyrim was conceptualized shortly after the release of Oblivion in 2006. 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.
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.
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. Focus was put into making 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. Bethesda employed over seventy voice actors to record the voices of NPCs in the game; the total number of lines recorded for NPCs is over 60,000. The cast includes Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, Joan Allen, Lynda Carter, Vladimir Kulich and Michael Hogan. Skyrim features 244 quests and over 300 points of interest.
30-second sample from the theme of Skyrim.
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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 (Featured Music Selections)|
|2.||"Under an Ancient Sun"||Jeremy Soule||3:42|
|3.||"The Streets of Whiterun"||Jeremy Soule||4:07|
|4.||"Sky Above, Voice Within"||Jeremy Soule||3:59|
|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||42:35|
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.
On May 29, 2012, Bethesda announced Dawnguard, the first downloadable add-on for Skyrim. The Xbox 360 version of Dawnguard launched in English-speaking territories on June 26, 2012, and in France, Italy, Germany and Spain in mid-July 2012. It was released on Windows (via Steam) on August 2, 2012. Due to performance issues, the PlayStation 3 version of Dawnguard had been delayed indefinitely, and Bethesda had expressed concern that future Skyrim DLC may not be able to be added to the system as well. On January 18, 2013, Bethesda announced that all three DLC expansions would be released on the PlayStation 3 during February 2013. The DLC was released for PS3 on February 26, 2013, in North America and on February 27, 2013, in Europe. Bethesda released a trailer for Dawnguard on June 1, 2012, revealing that the add-on would focus around the return of Lord Harkon, the ruler of an ancient Vampire clan named the Volkihar. Harkon wishes to use the powers of the Elder Scrolls to blot out the sun, allowing Vampires to overwhelm Tamriel.
The second add-on for Skyrim, Hearthfire, was released on September 4, 2012, for Xbox 360 and October 4, 2012, on PC. It was released for the PlayStation 3 on February 19, 2013, in North America and February 20, 2013, in Europe. The add-on allows the player character to purchase a plot of land and build their own home from raw materials such as lumber and clay, with the option of adding greenhouses, bee hives and alchemy/enchanting facilities. Hearthfire also introduces the option to raise a family by adopting children. Hearthfire received mixed to negative reception, due to a number of bugs that kept new gameplay elements from being unlocked, such as not being able to obtain the deed to Lakeview Manor because the seller is in a Dark Brotherhood contract, amongst others. No patches have been announced yet.
Dragonborn is the third add-on for Skyrim. It was released on December 4, 2012, for the Xbox 360; the PC version was released February 5, 2013, and the PlayStation 3 version released later on February 12, 2013, in North America and on February 13, 2013, in Europe. The DLC's first trailer, released on November 5, 2012, revealed that it will allow the player to ride Dragons, and that the plot will revolve around the return of the first Dragonborn/Dovahkiin to the island of Solstheim (previously featured in Bloodmoon, an expansion of Morrowind, the third game in the series). Solstheim is a Dark Elf territory, given to them by Skyrim after the eruption of the Red Mountain forced them to flee Morrowind. Players will have the chance to explore locations from Morrowind, such as Raven Rock, Fort Frostmoth and a village belonging to the Skaal, a wild tribe of Nords.
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 on August 2013, lists hundreds of gameplay, quests, and other bugs as fixed in the game and its add-ons.
A wide variety of 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 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.
Reviewers praised the game for streamlining character development by removing the character class system of previous entries in the Elder Scrolls series. Billy Shibley of Machinima's Inside Gaming praised its removal because it allowed players to experiment with different skills without having to make decisions about a class early in the game. Charles Onyett of IGN agreed with this sentiment, stating "major decisions don't need to be made until you're already out in the world and can try out magic, sneaking and weapon combat, emphasizing first-hand experience over instruction manual study, letting you specialize only when you're ready". Tom Francis of PC Gamer noted that "you don't have to decide what you're going to focus on when you create your character, you can just let it develop organically". 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.
The introduction of character perks was also well received by reviewers. Onyett noted that Bethesda had capitalized well off the praise for the perk system in Fallout 3. The staff at Edge Magazine praised the perk system as it "honed the abilities players want and enjoy using". Steve Butts of The Escapist noted that perks help "motivate you to keep improving and defining your character", and that they "are 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 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. Edge 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". Butts agreed with Bedford, explaining that "you feel the cold as the snows swirl around the mountain passes". Andrew Reiner of Game Informer cited criticisms Oblivion faced for repetitive dungeon design, 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. An editor for PC PowerPlay also praised the diversity of the dungeon's designs, explaining that "while you will see some similar features from dungeon to dungeon, most areas boast elaborate hand-crafted chambers that mark them apart".
The amount of content given to the player aside from the main story was cited as one of the game's strengths. Reiner lamented that even ignoring NPCs would not prevent the game from giving him more quests, finding himself "overwhelmed" by the amount of quests to do. Bedford noted that "focusing on the main quest becomes an exercise in futility", praising the game's ability to constantly introduce content to the player. VanOrd singled out the diversity of the quests as one of his favorite touches to the game, explaining that a simple quest such as "searching for a lost dog turns into a grander quest than you could have guessed". Francis 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".
Dual-wielding weapons and magic was a change to the combat welcomed by many reviewers. Onyett found that mixing spells with melee weapons was a fluid system which afforded a great deal of control over his character, also praising the ability to assign a spell to both hands and create a powerful version of that spell more "satisfying" than the magic systems of previous Elder Scrolls. PC PowerPlay agreed with Onyett, elaborating that dual-wielding "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". 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.
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. Aside from technical issues, there were other areas pointed out by reviewers as being lackluster. Many 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".
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. 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. 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. As of July 2012, an estimated 10 million copies have been sold; of those sales, 59% were for the Xbox 360, 27% for the PS3, and 14% for the PC. 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.
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."
Guards in Skyrim often repeat the line: "I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee". The latter part of this phrase quickly took off as an Internet meme in the form of "I used to X, but then I took an arrow to the knee" with numerous image macros and video parodies created. The reference to Skyrim was mentioned in an episode of CBS television drama series NCIS. In the video game Borderlands 2 a non-playable character says "I used to be a vault hunter like you, until I took a bullet to the knee".[importance?] Another "arrow to the knee" reference to Skyrim can be found during an escort quest in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. The quest takes place in Pandaria's Krasarang Wilds zone. While escorting a group of neutral pandaren, one of the Pandaren guards gets injured and utters the phrase.
In Skyrim, the Dragon Shout "Unrelenting Force", spoken as "Fus Ro Dah" which translates as "Force Balance Push", invokes psychokinetic powers; the phrase "Fus Ro Dah" is used by commentators outside the context of gaming.
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