Bethesda's flagship fantasy role-playing series returns with a new storyline and more detailed, open-world environment. Taking place centuries after the events chronicled in 2006's Oblivion, the game finds the continent of Tamriel in chaos after the High King of Skyrim is found murdered. Yet political turmoil is only the beginning of the problems. Dragons, long believed to be a relic of the past, are now flying across the lands and threaten to tear away the fabric of civilization in one fell swoop.
You are Skyrim's last hope, a descendent of the fabled Dragonborn, who can speak the language of dragons and channel their mystical powers after slaying them. The main quest involves discovering why the dragons have returned, but as with previous games in the Elder Scrolls series, you are free to embark on your own adventures. There are five major cities in Skyrim, each home to a different culture and way of life, and an estimated 500 distinct places of interest. The publisher claims the game offers 300 hours of content for those looking to explore every nook and cranny in the 3D world.
You can adapt your male or female hero to fit your playing style, whether it's hacking and slashing at creatures directly, slinging arrows from the cover of darkness, or casting powerful spells. There are hundreds of pieces of equipment and weapons to find or purchase, allowing you to mix and match shields, staves, swords, and spells to suit your needs. Defeating enemies earns you experience that can be used to level up attributes in three key areas: magica, health, and stamina.
A new graphics engine brings the province of Skyrim to life with surging rivers, rolling clouds, changing weather, and more varied terrain at different elevations. The interface features a more minimalistic scheme than what was used in Oblivion, and the number of voice actors has increased to offer more diversity in the speaking roles. Quests include more dynamic elements, and dragons will appear randomly throughout your travels, giving you the option to flee or to stand your ground and fight.