The Elder Scrolls role playing series is known for the liberating amount of options it offers players, giving them the freedom to chart the course of their own unique adventures. In the opening section of Skyrim, having just escaped the dangers of a monster-infested dungeon, you're confronted with dozens of choices.
Most pressingly, do you go follow the man who says he can guide you to the local town or ignore him and make your own way through the northernmost province of Tamriel, a massive open world with a chilly Nordic flavour to it? These decisions have always been what define the Elder Scrolls series and the excellent Skyrim doesn't buck the trend.
Who are ya?
The first batch of decisions you'll encounter centre around what type of character you want to be. Whatever you pick, Skyrim has a wealth of gameplay opportunities for you. You can choose between a number of different character races, each of which has his or her own unique abilities. Nords have a 50 percent resistance to frost and an ability that makes enemies flee in fear for a time, while Argonians are able to quickly regenerate health and breathe underwater.
Experience points earned by completing quests and defeating enemies can be spent on further developing characters. Different ability trees allow for the creation of characters specifically tailored to the way you want to play the game. If you favour large swords you can sink points into two-handed weapons, while those who'd rather keep their distance can develop archery and ranged magic skills instead. Alternatively, you can combine a close range weapon with a distance one.
It takes all sorts
This enables you to dictate the overall type of gameplay experience you have. Players looking for an action oriented one can develop warrior builds and get up close and personal with melee weapons, learn a few magical spells and generally deal with most situations with an attack first and talk later attitude.
Adventurous players can spend hours of their time boosting their lock picking skills so that they can get around unhindered and work on bolstering their persuasive speech abilities to get them out of trouble with the law.
If you would rather your character has a quiet life and spends his days earning an honest buck then you can opt to get a job, earn some money, meet a nice lady (or lad), get married and live out your life helping others without ever seeing a single demon (although we think that would gets a bit boring).
On a mission
Skyrim's main quest line sees you taking on the role of a hero destined to rid the world of an ancient, evil Dragon God and bring peace to a land suffering at the hands of civil war. As already mentioned, whether or not you follow it is totally up to you. Either way, you'll encounter 100s of varied quests to complete.
Each provides something a little different, whether its joining the Thieves Guild and setting out to rise through the ranks, serving the Dark Brotherhood and becoming an assassin, or pledging your allegiance to either the Imperials or the Rebels and taking part in Skyrim's civil war.
Inspired by Norse mythology, Skyrim's stunningly beautiful world offers detailed environments that feel like real places with history, and if you're not careful you'll spend as many hours simply wandering around as you will trying to complete quests. The massive world consists of a variety of terrains, from snow-covered lands to icy peaks, marshes, forests and even a tundra. With so much of the game spent exploring, the constantly changing surroundings go a long way to keeping things from becoming stale.
Although Skyrim might not be a radical step-up from the last Elder Scrolls game, 2006's Oblivion, it significantly refines everything that made its predecessor one of the finest role playing games to date. With better visuals, a stronger story, a cleaner interface and a world in which you can lose yourself for 100s of hours, Skyrim definitely isn't a game to be missed.
+ Vast customisation options.
+ A beautiful world to explore.
+ Absolutely tonnes to do.
- A couple of odd low resolution textures.
- Options can initially be a little overwhelming.
- Punishing boss fights.