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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Tinker, tailor, soldier, necromancer.

There are dragons! Unlimited dragons, purportedly, and I probably should have chased one of them down in my three hours with Skyrim. Instead, I got distracted by crafting swords. This may not have been ideal journalistic practice, but it does speak to what Skyrim really is, as opposed to what all those dramatic trailers present it as.

Fighting dragons is an element of Skyrim, but Skyrim is not really a game about fighting dragons. For all the pomp and splendour of the marketing, this is very much an Elder Scrolls game, and as such is set on evolving and expanding the various roleplaying systems that Bethesda's fantasy adventures have set up over the last couple of decades. This means, on my part at least, obsessively scouring the game's vast and mountainous world for items to scavenge, equip, sell or upgrade. Some strange part of my brain responds far better to this sort of activity than to engaging in to-the-death combat with creatures the size of schoolbuses.

So most of my 180 minutes playing Skyrim from the start (with the introductory, storyline-setting quest neatly excised) was spent crafting and cooking. Underground, overground, scavenging free. A few simple recipes were achievable from the off, but soon I ran into the Dilemma of Dilemmas - to focus my level-up points into becoming more of a powerhouse mage, or into being able to build bigger and better items.

Having been beaten to death by bandits and Norse zombies more times than I could count because I'd been creeping around dungeons with the sole intent of finding crafting stations so I could make better shoes, it wasn't long before I reflected that I may have made the wrong decision. Sure, my shoes had a higher armour rating and my dagger was that much pointier due to the iron ingot I'd found, but shoes and cutlery only get you so far.

Perhaps it would be best if I got someone else to do my fighting for me. And so it was that I refocused my energies on the dark art of zombie-summoning. So long as I could fell one opponent safely (and my upgraded dagger made that significantly easier than it was), I could resurrect it as a servile shadow of itself, duty bound to attack anyone who attacked me. Then I could sit back and mop up whatever was left afterwards.

So I was some sort of tailor-necromancer (though you shouldn't use the 'N' word in Skyrim - technically, what I did was Conjuration), and that, truly, is the joy of Skyrim. It's an open canvas to roleplay on: if you want to be Big Bad Mr Dragon Hunter, go for it. If you want to be a necrom… uh, conjuring kleptomaniac, go for it. The game won't get in your way.

Also to be found are strange, small vignettes - simple scenes it's hard not to spin your own interpretation from. Deciding to swim to the facing shore, I found a lonely fisherman sat on a tiny island. Perhaps, at some point later in the game, he would have a fuller purpose, but here he just sadly observed that there would be enough fish for everyone if no-one was too greedy.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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Alec Meer avatar

Alec Meer


A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.