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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim cover.png
Developer(s)Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher(s)Bethesda Softworks
Director(s)Todd Howard
Producer(s)
  • Ashley Cheng
  • Craig Lafferty
Designer(s)
Programmer(s)Guy Carver
Artist(s)Matthew Carofano
Writer(s)Emil Pagliarulo
Composer(s)Jeremy Soule
SeriesThe Elder Scrolls
EngineCreation Engine
Platform(s)
Release
  • Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • November 11, 2011
  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • October 28, 2016
  • Nintendo Switch
  • November 17, 2017
  • PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
  • November 11, 2021
Genre(s)Action role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open world action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth main installment in the Elder Scrolls series, following 2006's The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on November 11, 2011.

The game's main story revolves around the player's character, the Dragonborn, on their quest to defeat Alduin the World-Eater, a dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world. The game is set 200 years after the events of Oblivion and takes place in Skyrim, the northernmost province of Tamriel. Over the course of the game, the player completes quests and develops the character by improving skills. 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.

Skyrim was developed using the Creation Engine, rebuilt specifically for the game. The team opted for a unique and more diverse open world than Oblivion's Imperial Province of Cyrodiil, which game director and executive producer Todd Howard considered less interesting by comparison. The game was released to critical acclaim, with reviewers particularly mentioning the character advancement and setting, and is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Nonetheless it received some criticism, predominantly for its melee combat and numerous technical issues present at launch. The game shipped over seven million copies to retailers within the first week of its release, and over 30 million copies on all platforms as of November 2016, making it one of the best selling video games in history.

Three downloadable content (DLC) add-ons were released separately — Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn, which were bundled along with the base game into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Legendary Edition and released in June 2013.

A remastered version, titled The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2016. It includes all three DLC expansions and a graphical upgrade. A port for the Nintendo Switch was released on November 2017. A separate VR-only version, titled The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, was released in November 2017 for the PlayStation 4 using PlayStation VR, and for Windows-based VR headsets in April 2018. In addition, the Special Edition is planned for release on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S as part of a compilation titled The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition in November 2021.

Gameplay

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—an open world environment consisting of wilderness expanses, dungeons, caves, cities, towns, fortresses, and villages.[1] Players may navigate the game world more quickly by riding horses, paying for a ride from a city's stable or by utilizing a fast-travel system which allows them to warp to previously discovered locations.[2]

Non-player characters (NPCs) populate the world and can be interacted with in a number of ways: the player may engage them in conversation, marry predetermined ones, or engage them in lethal or nonlethal combat. As in previous games in the series, killing certain NPCs can make some quests or items unobtainable. Some NPCs cannot be killed because of their significance to the narrative. If witnessed, crimes like murder and theft accrue the player a bounty which is tracked independently in each of Skyrim's nine holds. If the player is detained by a guard, they may eliminate their bounty with gold, serve jail time or resist arrest, triggering combat. It is also possible to bribe or persuade guards if the crime is a minor offense. NPCs frequently offer the player additional side-quests; some have parameters adjusted based on nearby unexplored areas.[3][4] Some NPCs who are befriended or hired by the player may act as companions who will accompany the player and aid them in combat.[5] The player may choose to join factions, organized groups of NPCs—for example, the Dark Brotherhood, a band of assassins.[6] Each of the factions has an associated quest path to progress through. Each city and town in the game world has jobs that the player can engage in, such as farming.[7]

The player's character engages in combat with monsters while exploring a dungeon. The player may dual-wield weapons and magic at the same time in order to be more effective against enemies.

Players have the option to develop their character. At the beginning of the game, players create their character by selecting their sex and choosing between one of several races including humans, orcs, elves, and anthropomorphic cat or lizard-like creatures and then customizing their character's appearance.[8] Over the course of the game, players improve their character's skills which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There are eighteen skills divided evenly among the three schools of combat, magic, and stealth. When players have trained skills enough to meet the required experience, their character levels up. Each time their character levels, the players may choose to select a skill-specific ability called a perk or store perk points for later use. Earlier entries in The Elder Scrolls series used a character class system to determine which skills would contribute to the character's leveling but Skyrim allows players to discover preferred skills as they play the game and it rewards them with more experience when a frequently used skill is leveled.[3][9] A head-up display (HUD) appears when any of the player's three main attributes (health, magicka, and stamina) are being depleted. Attributes regenerate over time, although this process can be accelerated by using 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, certain poisons and by being struck by lightning-based attacks. Stamina determines the player's effectiveness in combat and is depleted by sprinting, performing heavy "power attacks" and being struck by frost-based attacks. Items in the player's inventory can be viewed three-dimensionally, which helps solving puzzles in dungeons.[10]

The player's effectiveness in combat relies on the use of weapons and armor (which may be bought, found, stolen and/or forged) and on the use of magic spells which may be bought, stolen and/or unlocked by finding spell tomes.[failed verification] 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.[11][failed verification] Some weapons and spells require both hands. 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. Spells have several functions such as regenerating the player's health, attacking enemies, confusing enemies, temporarily raising the dead, casting light or turning iron into silver.[12] Bows are used for long-range combat and for bashing enemies in melee combat. The player can enter sneak mode and pickpocket or deliver powerful 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. However, game animals such as elk and deer will simply run away.[1] 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.[13] The player character can absorb the souls of dragons in order to use powerful spells called "dragon shouts" or "Thu'um". Each shout contains three words in the language spoken by dragons, 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 or around the wilderness. The words to each shout are unlocked for use by spending the absorbed souls of slain dragons.[14][15] A regeneration period limits the player's use of shouts in gameplay.[16]

Synopsis

Setting

Skyrim is set 201 years after the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, although it is not a direct sequel.[14] Skyrim is a cold and mountainous region in the north of the continent of Tamriel. It has traditionally been divided into nine administrative sections, called "holds", each governed by a jarl from a larger town. Of these settlements, five - Solitude, Windhelm, Markarth, Riften, and Whiterun - are richer and more powerful. The landscape is littered with forts, camps, and ruins, some of which were built by the now-extinct race of the Dwemer, or Deep Elves.

While the Nordic race of men are the predominant race in Skyrim, the region forms one province of the much larger Empire, ruled by the Imperials. The Empire has recently fought a war with the Aldmeri Dominion, a powerful confederation of elves, who believe that they are racially superior to the races of men, such as the Imperials and Nords. While the conflict, known as the Great War, ended in a military stalemate, the greatly weakened Empire was forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty called the White-Gold Concordat.

While most of Tamriel worship a religious pantheon consisting of eight deities, the Nords of Skyrim are accustomed to worship nine, believing that the Nordic general Tiber Septim, the founder of the Empire, ascended to godhood after his death, becoming the deity Talos. The Dominion, led by the intolerant Thalmor sect, rejects this notion, since it implies that a man became greater than any elf, and thus instituted a clause in the Concordat which forbade Talos worship in the Empire. This condition, which was received with great anger in Skyrim, was one of the principal reasons behind the rebellion of Ulfric Stormcloak, the Jarl of Windhelm, against the Empire's Imperial Legion; the game begins with the conflict between the Stormcloaks and Imperials finely poised.

The race of dragons has long been almost completely extinct - the survival of the last, the sage Paarthunax, is known only to the Greybeard order of monks. Having ruled over vast swathes of Tamriel in the ancient past, their hegemony was overthrown by the "Dragonborn" warriors, humans who could absorb a dragon's soul and use the powerful draconic spells called "shouts". Three of the most powerful even managed to cast Alduin, the black dragon foretold to consume the world, into the currents of time using an Elder Scroll, a powerful and mystical artifact. The Dragonborn heritage persisted much later than the dragons themselves - Tiber Septim had been one - but the last had died during the events of Oblivion. However, ancient Nordic prophecy maintained that when Alduin at last re-emerged into the world, a "Last Dragonborn" would also appear to fight and defeat him.

Characters

The player character can be male or female, from one of ten races, and is typically referred to as the "Dragonborn". Each of the ten races has, in addition to a bonus for certain skills, a power specific to their race - for example, Nords start with a bonus to several martial skills, and the ability to frighten enemies for a short period. The player can recruit one non-player character (NPC) at a time as a follower, who can travel and fight with the Dragonborn; there are forty-five available followers in the base game, with thirteen more added in the DLC expansions.

Outside of followers and Alduin, the primary antagonist, NPCs prominent to the plot of Skyrim include Balgruuf, Jarl of Whiterun, a town in the center of Skyrim; Arngeir, the leader of the Greybeard monks; Delphine and Esbern, two of the last members of the Blades, an order of warriors who had been decimated during the Great War; and Paarthurnax, the last surviving dragon and grandmaster of the Greybeards. Also notable is Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm, who leads a rebellion against the Empire's Legion, commanded in Skyrim by General Tullius and Elisif, Jarl of Solitude; the Dragonborn can join and assist either side to gain victory in the civil war. Other factions that the Dragonborn can join include: the Companions, a noble order of warriors; the College of Winterhold, an institution dedicated to the magical arts; the Thieves Guild, a league of burglars who have fallen on hard times; and the Dark Brotherhood, a fellowship of assassins.

Plot

The execution of the player character by the Imperials in Helgen, a small settlement in Skyrim's south, is interrupted when Alduin starts laying waste to the village. The player manages to escape through the tunnels underneath the keep, and heads to the nearby village of Riverwood, whose inhabitants ask the player to inform the Jarl of Whiterun, a large town to the north, of the dragon attack. After meeting with Jarl Balgruuf, and retrieving a tablet with information about the dragons from a nearby barrow on his behalf, the player kills a small dragon which attacks nearby and absorbs its soul. After "shouting", the player is informed that they must be Dragonborn, and is soon summoned by the Greybeard monks. After a long journey and climb up the Throat of the World, the tallest mountain in Tamriel and home of the Greybeards, the Dragonborn is informed by Arngeir of their heritage and role in stopping Alduin, and begins their training.

The Dragonborn is intercepted on one training quest by Delphine, a member of the order of the Blades, who in ancient times had served the Dragonborn. Delphine arranges for the Dragonborn to infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy to gain information; they learn that another member of the Blades, named Esbern, is in hiding in Riften. When Delphine and the Dragonborn find him, he reveals that the ancient Blades had carved a massive engraving in a temple in the Reach, an unstable region in Skyrim's west. This carving, called Alduin's Wall, depicted the dragon's defeat at the hands of the ancient Nords, and Esbern deciphers that those warriors had used a special shout to remove his ability to fly.

The Dragonborn questions Arngeir, who reveals that the shout goes against the creeds of the Greybeards. He directs the Dragonborn to Paarthurnax, who lives on the summit of the Throat, to better conceal his existence. Paarthurnax reveals that although neither he nor anyone else knows the shout, Alduin's defeat through the power of an Elder Scroll had left a gash in time, and theorises that reading a Scroll would allow the Dragonborn to look through time and learn the shout from those who created it. Having delved into a massive Dwemer city called Blackreach, far below the ground, the Dragonborn retrieves the Scroll and reads it on the Throat, the site of the ancient battle. Alduin arrives and fights with Paarthurnax and the Dragonborn, who has learnt the shout and overpowers Alduin, who flees.

The Dragonborn learns from Esbern how to summon a dragon named Odahviing, whom they trap in Whiterun with Jarl Balgruuf's assistance. Odahviing, believing that the Dragonborn is mightier than Alduin, turns on his former leader and reveals that he has gone to recover his strength in Sovngarde, the Nordic afterlife. Since the portal to Sovngarde cannot be reached on foot, Odahviing bargains his freedom in exchange for flying the Dragonborn there. Entering Sovngarde, the Dragonborn meets the three heroes who had defeated Alduin originally; with their help, the Dragonborn kills Alduin.

Development

Having completed work on Oblivion in 2006, Bethesda Game Studios began work on Fallout 3. It was during this time that the team began planning their next The 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.[17] Full development began 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.[18] The game was developed by a team of roughly 100 people composed of new talent as well as of the series' veterans.[17] The production was supervised by Todd Howard, who has been the director of several titles released by Bethesda Softworks.[17]

Design

The team set the game in the province of Skyrim, designing it by hand. While similar in size to Oblivion's game world of Cyrodiil, the mountainous topography of the world inflates the game space and makes it more difficult to traverse than Cyrodiil, which was relatively flat.[16] In designing Skyrim's world, the team opted for a different approach to what was taken with Oblivion; art director Matt Carofano considered the "epic-realism" of Skyrim's world design as a departure from Oblivion's generic representation of classic European fantasy lore.[8] 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.[19] As a way of creating diversity, the team divided the world into nine sectors, known as holds, and attempted to make each hold feel topographically unique from one another; in addition, the team wanted to reflect the socioeconomic background of the NPCs by making some locations elaborate and wealthy while others are poorer and lower-tech.[3]

Within Skyrim's universe is the use of "dragon language". The alphabet was constructed to look aesthetically dragon-like, hence the use of claw-like markings.[15]

The team sought to make each of the game's ten races feel unique; Howard considered the player's choice of race at the beginning of the game a more important decision than it had been in previous The Elder Scrolls games because the culture of Skyrim's world contains more racism. However, he reiterated 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.[20] Efforts to make Skyrim's world feel hand-crafted extended to the team abandoning the use of generated landscapes as they had done in Oblivion. While just one team member was charged with designing dungeons in Oblivion, Skyrim's 150 dungeons were designed by a group of eight people.[21] Skyrim features 244 quests, over 300 points of interest with a map marker and numerous unmarked locations.[22]

Engine

Skyrim is powered by Bethesda's Creation Engine, forked from the Fallout 3 codebase specifically for Skyrim.[23][24] After Fallout 3's release, the team devised numerous design objectives to meet for Skyrim, and according to Howard, the team "got all those done and kept going".[20] 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,[25] but Howard felt that the technology of the time did not hold the team back at all.[20] 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 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.[19] Dynamic lighting allows shadows to be created by any structure or item in the game world, and the Creation Engine allowed for greater detail in flora production than SpeedTree had in previous Bethesda games.[14] For example, with Bethesda's own technology, developers were able to give weight to the branches of trees, which affects how trees blow in the wind. In addition, the technology allows wind to affect the flow of water in channels such as rivers and streams.[4] 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.[4]

The team used 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.[4][26] 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 to Fallout 3 in that they cannot be harmed by the player in any way,[14] since depictions of violence involving children in video games are controversial.[27] Skyrim uses 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".[13] 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 to each other.[28]

Audio

The team employed Jeremy Soule to compose the music for Skyrim, who previously worked on Morrowind and Oblivion. The game's main theme "Dragonborn" was recorded with a choir of over 30 people singing in the fictional dragon language.[29] 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.[30] Bethesda's concept artist Adam Adamowicz created the Draconic language, and also developed a 34-character runic alphabet for the game.[15] He expanded the lexicon of Draconic as needed; Bruce Nesmith explained that words were introduced to the lexicon every time that the studio "wanted to say something".[13]

Bethesda released four audio CDs along with the game on November 11, 2011. The soundtrack to Skyrim is sold via Jeremy Soule's distributor DirectSong, and Soule autographed all physical copies ordered via DirectSong.[31] "Day One" pre-orders from Amazon.de also included a five-track promotional Skyrim soundtrack sampler.[32] A digital version of the soundtrack was released via iTunes on January 31, 2013.[33]

The voice-overs in the game included more than 70 actors and over 60,000 lines of dialogue.[34] Casting director and production supervisor Timothy Cubbison worked with Bethesda to evaluate auditions and oversee the recordings.[35] The full cast consisted of three Academy Award nominees and several other high-profile actors including Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Joan Allen, Michael Hogan, and Vladimir Kulich.[34]

Marketing and release

Skyrim was announced at the Spike Video Game Awards on December 11, 2010; Howard appeared onstage during the awards and presented the announcement trailer, which introduced the game's story and revealed its "11–11–11" release date.[36] 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.[14] Asked about downloadable content (DLC) packages in a June 2011 interview, Howard expressed the team's intention to release DLC packages, 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".[37] 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.[38] At the 2011 QuakeCon conference, the team unveiled Skyrim's collector's edition package. Bundled with a copy of the game is a map of the game world, a 12-inch figurine of Alduin, as well as a 200-page concept art book and a DVD feature about the making of Skyrim.[39]

In October 2011, pictures of many pages of the manual of the game were leaked,[40][41] later followed by footage from the introduction, revealing some more details.[42] By November 1, 2011, a copy of the Xbox 360 version had been leaked and made available through the Internet, allowing those with a hacked Xbox 360 to play Skyrim 10 days before its release.[43][44] In the Netherlands, the game has been available for purchase since November 7.[45] On November 10, stores in Australia began selling the game ahead of its November 11 release date.[46]

Remastered version

On June 4, 2016, Bethesda announced The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition, a remaster for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.[47] It was released on October 28, 2016.[47] Windows players who owned the original game and all of its downloadable content on Steam were offered the Special Edition for free.[47] The remastered version contains an upgraded game engine as well as numerous graphical enhancements, along with mod support on consoles.

Other versions

In October 2016, the reveal trailer for Nintendo Switch featured gameplay of Skyrim on the console. At the time, it was reported that Bethesda only used the game for the reveal trailer and that it was not officially releasing on the Nintendo Switch. On January 13, 2017, Todd Howard confirmed that the game will come out on the Nintendo Switch, making it the first The Elder Scrolls title to be released on a Nintendo platform (not counting the Skyrim pinball adaptation that was part of the Bethesda Pinball collection, released in late 2016 for Zen Pinball 2, which was available for the Wii U), as well as the first game Bethesda has confirmed to be released for a Nintendo home console since Home Alone for the NES in 1991.[48] During Bethesda's E3 2017 showcase, it was revealed that the Nintendo Switch version will support Amiibo and the Joy-Con motion controls.[49]

At E3 2017, Bethesda announced a PlayStation VR version of Skyrim for release in November 2017.[50] A standalone VR port of the game was released for Windows on April 2, 2018, supporting the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.[51]

A parody of Skyrim's numerous ports and re-releases, titled Skyrim: Very Special Edition was released by Bethesda at their E3 2018 press conference for Amazon Alexa, with them also saying it would be also released for the Etch A Sketch, Motorola pagers and Samsung smart refrigerators.[52] The Alexa version was found to be a legitimate version of the game developed by Bethesda, playing off the joke that the studios had seemingly ported Skyrim to all possible platforms following its E3 2017 announcements.[53]

Compilations

A compilation package called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Legendary Edition was released on June 4, 2013. It contains the version 1.9 patch and the three expansions, along with the main game.[54]

As part of Skyrim's 10th anniversary celebration, another compilation titled The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition is set to release in November 2021 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. It includes all the content from Special Edition and over 500 Creation Club elements.

Related games

While Skyrim was being ported to next-generation systems, Zen Studios also developed a virtual pinball adaptation of the game as part of the Bethesda Pinball collection, which became available as part of Zen Pinball 2, Pinball FX 2[55] and Pinball FX 3,[56] as well as a separate free-to-play app for iOS and Android mobile devices.[57] A Skyrim themed expansion for the digital collectible card game The Elder Scrolls: Legends, titled Heroes of Skyrim, was released on June 29, 2017.[58]

Additional content

Official expansions

Dawnguard was the first downloadable add-on for Skyrim, revolving around a battle between the Dawnguard and Clan Volkihar. The Dawnguard are a band of vampire hunters who 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 of the two factions to join forces with. Dawnguard adds new content to the game, including weapons, spells, 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 to explore outside of the mainland of Skyrim: the Soul Cairn (a plane of the realm of 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.[59] It was released for Windows on August 2, 2012, via the digital distribution platform Steam.[60] Performance issues on the PlayStation 3 hampered Dawnguard's release on that platform. It was released on the PlayStation 3 on February 26, 2013, in North America, and on February 27, 2013, in Europe.[61]

Hearthfire was Skyrim's second add-on, which 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 build a small basic house, then select rooms to add on. The house and its additions are built from raw materials such as lumber and clay, which can be gathered or purchased. Players may also adopt up to two children and have them live in the home, along with the player's spouse.[62] Hearthfire was released for the Xbox 360 on September 4, 2012, and for Windows on October 4, 2012.[63] It was later released for PlayStation 3 on February 19, 2013, in North America, and February 20, 2013, in Europe.[64][65]

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 Solstheim, an island northeast of Skyrim which is presented as an open world. It adds new content to the game and allows players to ride on the backs of dragons, along with other shouts that can be learned exclusively from Solstheim. Dragonborn was released for the Xbox 360 on December 4, 2012,[66] for Windows on February 5, 2013, and for PlayStation 3 on February 12, 2013.[67][68]

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.[69]

Community content

A wide variety of official and fan-created mods, short for modifications, are available for Skyrim, which are generally made using the packaged Creation Kit. These mods are distributed freely on file-sharing sites such as Nexus Mods, and are also officially aggregated via the Steam Workshop's controlled content distribution mechanism. The mods may include features such as better game stability, improvements and tweaks of gameplay features, significantly enhanced visuals, overhauled weather systems, new characters and locations, user interface updates, and more.[70][71]

The first official Skyrim modification was The Fall of the Space Core, Vol. 1, created by Bethesda in collaboration with Valve. It causes a fictional device known as the Space Core from Valve's video game Portal 2 to fall from the sky and land where the player can recover it. The Space Core acts as a non-player character voiced by Nolan North which follows the player around the world of Skyrim and dispenses space-related comments.[72][73]

Enderal: The Shards of Order is a total conversion mod of Skyrim developed by SureAI as a sequel to Nehrim: At Fate's Edge which was developed for Oblivion.[74] It was released in July 2016,[75] initially in German only. An English version was released August 16, 2016.[76]

Reception

Skyrim received critical acclaim upon release. The removal of the character class system, present in previous The 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.[87][92] John Bedford of Eurogamer stated that by removing the character class system, the game tailored itself to players who wanted to build an all-around character, while still letting other players specialize in a preferred play-style.[93] Steve Butts of The Escapist considered the addition of perks to the character advancement system "a great method to make your character feel even more unique and personal".[94] 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".[85] The user interface was also praised by reviewers for its accessibility;[85][87][95] Bedford complimented its "elegant design" which succeeded Oblivion's comparatively complex interface.[93]

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.[91] The Staff at Edge magazine described Cyrodiil as a "patchwork of varying terrains", praising the more consistent design of Skyrim.[96] 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".[92] 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".[93] An editor for PC PowerPlay praised the diversity of the dungeon design.[97] Andrew Reiner of Game Informer cited criticisms that 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 a 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.[95] Many reviewers praised the large number of things to do in the world outside of the main story.[85][93][95] Tom Francis of PC Gamer noted that it was difficult to explore the world without becoming distracted by things to do, stating 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, [or] a haunted fort".[89]

Reviewers welcomed the ability to dual-wield weapons and magic.[87] An editor for PC PowerPlay felt that the dual-wielding ability "transforms the tactical scope of each combat encounter".[97] Shibley noted that the dual-wielding option gave the player more freedom to experiment with combat, writing that, "the ability to apply a spell to each hand ... generates huge potential for getting creative with your spell combinations".[92] However, reviewers were critical of the melee combat, feeling that it had not been improved upon as much as other areas in the game.[85][92][93][96] Justin McElroy of Joystiq felt that "what should be thrilling fights in Skyrim are often weighed down by the same clunky melee system Oblivion suffered from".[98] Onyett described the melee combat as "flat" and "floaty", and that "many times it feels like you're slicing air instead of a mythical creature's flesh".[87] Francis agreed with this sentiment, stating that, "too much of the time, you wave your weapon around and enemies barely react to the hits".[89]

The game received minor criticism in several areas. 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",[95] 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.[89][94] While the dragon battles were well-received, some reviewers observed flaws in the AI for dragons. Onyett pointed out their "predictable attack patterns",[87] which Francis agreed with, claiming that "fighting them never changes much: you can just ignore them until they land, then shoot them from a distance when they do".[89] Reiner felt that, due to the repetitiveness of their attack patterns, the dragons were not challenging enough for low-level players.[95] Edge pointed out a curve in difficulty for players who favored archery and magic, as dragons were difficult to attack while airborne.[96] Many reviewers noted glitches while playing Skyrim,[85][87][91][96][99] some game-breaking.[89][92][95][98][100] Nick Cowen of The Guardian pointed out that the game's glitches were a trade-off for its ambitious scope, and that he had experienced glitches that forced him to reload earlier saves.[100] Edge began their review by criticizing the lack of polish, while still acknowledging many areas in the game which made up for it.[96]

Technical issues

At the launch of Skyrim, many technical issues of varying severity were reported. Some examples include a texture down-scaling issue on the Xbox 360 version when the game was run from the hard drive;[101] crashes, slowdown and frame rate issues on the PlayStation 3 version when save files exceeded 6 MB,[102] commonly occurring due to extended gameplay times;[103] and various crashes and slowdowns on the Windows version. According to Skyrim's director Todd Howard, the notion that bugs were caused by "restrictive RAM"[104] is incorrect. Howard said, "It's literally the things you've done in what order and what's running."[105]

Since release, several patches were 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;[106] however, some players reported new bugs in the game following the patch, including more frequent game crashes.[107] Patch 1.3 was released on December 7, 2011, to improve stability, further address known issues, and fix some problems that were introduced in version 1.2.[108] Patch 1.4 was released on February 1, 2012, for the PC. Another list of issues and bugs were addressed in this patch, and Skyrim launcher support for Skyrim Workshop (PC) was provided.[109] Patch 1.5 was released on March 20, 2012, for the PC. Numerous bugs were fixed, and new archery/spellcasting kill cams were included.[110] On April 12, 2012, Bethesda announced that Kinect support would be coming for the Xbox 360 version of Skyrim, with over 200 voice commands.[111] Patch 1.6 was released on May 24, 2012, for the PC. This includes a new feature: mounted combat.[112] Patch 1.7 was released on July 30, 2012, for the PC,[113] and 1.8 was released on November 1, 2012, for the PC.[114] 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 prominently the new "Legendary" difficulty, and "Legendary" skills, which effectively remove the level cap.[115]

An unofficial community patch attempts to fix remaining issues unattended by the official patches.[116][117] It lists hundreds[118] of gameplay, quest, and other bugs that it fixes in the game and its add-ons.[119][120]

Sales

During the first day of release, Steam showed over 230,000 people playing Skyrim concurrently.[121] Within 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.[122] 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.[123][124] By December 16, 2011, this had risen to 10 million copies shipped to retail and around US$620 million.[125] Additionally, Valve stated that it was the fastest selling game to date on their Steam platform.[125] Steam's statistics page showed the client breaking a five million user record by having 5,012,468 users logged in on January 2, 2012. The total number of sold copies on the PC platform is difficult to confirm because Valve does not publicly publish digital sales.[126] Shortly after its release, 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.[127] In the United Kingdom, Skyrim was the 9th best selling title of 2012.[128] In June 2013, Bethesda announced that over 20 million copies of the game had been sold.[129] Regarding 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."[130] Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, a market research firm, estimates that the game has sold 22.7 million copies worldwide.[131] In November 2016, Howard announced that Skyrim had sold over 30 million copies.[132]

Awards and legacy

Skyrim received awards from numerous gaming sites and publications, and has been considered to be among the best video games of all time.[147][148][149][150] IGN and GameSpot named Skyrim "PC Game of the Year".[133][134] It also received GameSpot's "Readers' Choice" award.[134] The game received the "RPG of the Year" award from Spike TV,[135] IGN,[136] X-Play,[137] GameSpot[138] and GameSpy.[139] It received "Overall Game of the Year" wins from Spike TV,[135] Giant Bomb,[151] X-Play,[137] Machinima.com,[140] GameSpot,[141] 1UP.com,[142] Game Revolution,[143] GameSpy[144] Joystiq[145] and the Interactive Achievement Awards.[146] It was voted No. 1 in Good Game's top 100 video games of all time[152] and No. 1 in PC Gamer's "The 100 Greatest PC Games of All Time".[153] In Giant Bomb's 2017 Game of the Year Awards, the game was a runner-up for "2017's Old Game of the Year".[154] The VR version was nominated for "Best Virtual Reality Game" at the Gamescom 2017 Awards;[155] for the Coney Island Dreamland Award for Best Virtual Reality Game and the Tappan Zee Bridge Award for Best Remake (along with the Switch version) at the New York Game Awards 2018;[156] for "Excellence in Technical Achievement" and "VR Game of the Year" at the 2018 SXSW Gaming Awards;[157][158] and for "Best VR/AR Game" at the 2018 Game Developers Choice Awards.[159][160] At the 17th Annual National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards, the VR version was nominated for "Control Design, VR", "Direction in Virtual Reality", and "Sound Mixing in Virtual Reality", while the Switch version was nominated for "Costume Design".[161][162] The VR version won the award for "Best VR Game" at the 2018 Golden Joystick Awards.[163][164]

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