Pimpin Reviews: The most comprehensive Review of Skyrim EVER

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Pimpin Reviews: Skyrim Month

The most comprehensive Review of Skyrim EVER

Previously: Part 5:Daedric Quests, Misc, and Radiant Story

*Warning, this review contains mild spoilers about the quest line of this part of the game.

Skyrim <br />Developer: Bethesda<br />Genre: Adventure RPG<br />Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

It's fair to say that the fifth installment of The Elder Scrolls series is more than just a big game. TESV: Skyrim is a huge game. It's the type of game in which players get so lost they wake up with an Amber alert and their faces on every milk carton in a fifty-mile radius. Reviewing this game is a colossal task, with so much to do and so much to cover that a few thousand words simply won't cut it. That's why all this month and part of next, Pimpin Reviews will be reviewing the multiple faces of Skyrim, its essential plot lines, and how the game mechanics work within each segment. Attempting to give a fully comprehensive review of an endless game of epic proportions is not easy, to say the least. But if David could take down Goliath with just a stone, maybe a pen is enough for me to take on this year's gaming giant.

When booting up this beast of a game, the player assumes the role of the Dovahkin, or Dragonborn, a hero of unknown gender, race, or origins. Of course, all these things are left up to the player's discretion either through the character creation screen or their own imagination. Finding themselves on the path to an untimely execution, the player is ironically saved by the interruption of a dragon attack. Fleeing both from custody and the unrelenting wave of destruction the dragon has brought, the player is released into Skyrim, the land of the Viking-like Nords.

The beautifully rendered land of Skyrim is not without its problems, however. Despite the recent onset of Dragons, which most people assumed was mythological, the peoples are also divided in a bloody civil war. The Empire, the one that the player had saved from certain doom in Oblivion, has been weakened by perpetual war with the Thalmor, the high elven leadership. In order to bring peace to the land, the emperor reluctantly agreed to a truce in which would force the human races to stop the worship of Talos, a Nordic man who allegedly ascended to godhood after conquering the entire known world.

Many people in Skyrim, however, refuse to accept these conditions. Including Ulfric Stormcloak, who began the insurrection by assassinating the High King of Skyrim and proclaiming independence from the Empire. A mix of both a faction and a main quest, the player can choose to fight for either side (or none at all), and reclaim Skyrim for either the Imperial Army or the Stormcloak rebellion. This part of the game is a mix between being part of the Maine Questline and being an independent faction, you don't have to do it, but the game pushes you in that direction from the onset. Sadly, conquering the land has little merit or memorable moments, and is usually just a samey fort capturing fiasco. It would have been much better had the player been invading cities that aligned with the enemy.

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*Gulp*

Regardless, Skyrim's main antagonist is truly the Dragon menace. From the start of the game, the player will find these beasts terrorizing country sides, settlements, and cities. The act as random encounters for the most part, sweeping into the picture and demanding attention. The first couple of times are really cool, since these beasts act quite menacingly perching on top of buildings and raining death on the population. But it quickly becomes more of a chore, since in higher levels they pose little threat.

Thankfully, the Main Quest isn't dampened by this. It's a lot longer than the last installment's counterpart, which was also the biggest flaw of that game. It's a lot of fun, as it takes players to unimaginable places and deals with great bits of history and lore that can be expanded upon for those interested. The biggest fault with it, however, was that it never consolidated the forces that the player gathers to fight the ultimate evil. Instead, you can completely ignore some allies in favor of others. It doesn't help for most that at the end of the game, the world will show little reaction to your heroic endeavors.

What sets the player apart from the general population is that the Dragonborn has the innate ability of using the Thu'um, or the shouts of dragons. In The Elder Scrolls Universe, when a dragon spouts fire or shoots lightening, it is actually calling upon a power found within the language that they speak. A dual between two dragons is actually a deadly debate. There are almost 30 of these shouts available to the player character, ranging from simple blast of fire to calling a storm or clearing the skies. Each shouts has three upgrades available, which can be "purchased" when the player slays a dragon and absorbs its soul. These shouts are useful, especially in the lower levels, but are ultimately not as creative or essential as I had hoped they would be.

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Dirty Mouth?

Shouts are learned from Word Walls, found in tombs and ontop of mountains and are guarded by the fiercest of foes. There is no need to endlessly search every inch of the game map for them, thankfully, as many NPCs will point you towards them during quests. A courier will also appear at random delivering a "note from a friend", which contains the location of one of these sources of power. This can be a little exhausting, however, as even the simplest dungeon can be a little demanding.

The dungeons are not without their merits, however. Unlike in Oblivion, they aren't simple copy pastes of each other. Most contain excellent lore or interesting puzzles, and if you're lucky contain a Dragon Priest boss at the end. Dragon Priests were once mortal men that pledged allegiance to their scaly overlords, and where bestowed great powers through masks that can be collected as part of a side-quest. Ideally, if forces a lot of exploration that shows off a lot of what the game has to offer.

Do you hear me! I love you!

This is great, because the world map of Skyrim is quite huge. There are 8 holds in Skyrim, each lead by a Jarl who sits on the throne of the most prosperous city in the area. Each city is drastically different from another, both in leadership, aesthetic design, and culture. It's a step in the right direction after the woefully under populated cities of Oblivion. For some players, though a majority will be spent exploring the vast wilds of Skyrim. Made up of a mix of perilous mountaintops and sunny valleys, the beautiful land has endless caves, forts, ruins, and settlements to explore.

As with Oblivion, the main quest is not the core of the game. There is a plethora of sidequests, both handcrafted by Bethesda and developed by the game internally using the Radiant Story feature expanded upon later. Side quests are engaging and fun as ever, dealing with as many unique aspects of the universe as those in Oblivion had. These are by far some of the best parts of the game, because whether the player is solving a murder mystery or exploring a haunted house, they're having fun.

That is until they run into one of the game's many bugs. For some, the abundance of bugs in Bethesda games becomes a game breaker, but I've never dealt with a similar experience. The game's are simply huge, and each playing experience is different. It's impossible to catch them all, but not that I'm discouraging them from trying. Saving often and deleting old saves should be enough to keep the game performing at a higher level, and if you happen to run into one of these bugs, laugh at its expense or go onto something else. There is always more to do in the world of Skyrim

Also similarly to Oblivion, factions and guilds make returns and dominate most of the quest lines available. There's the glorious Companions Guild, Skyrim's native faction of fighters, mercenaries, and warriors. The sneak and plunder Thieves guild. The notorious Dark Brotherhood. There's a Mages College in Winterhold, and even a Bard's College in Solitude. Sadly, there isn't much to cover in the Bard's college, since it has only a couple of quests and absolutely no singing or music involved.

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How you doin?

But the people of Skyrim don't care about bards. They care about manly men that can swing axes and create legends. For this they have the Companions. Based in the city of Whiterun, these men and women of might and honor operate out of the mead hall Jorrvaskr. The companions are a proud group of warriors with an incredibly long history. The name itself refers to the 500 companions of the first Nordic king Ysgramor. For those not too familiar with the universe's lore, Ysgramor is a fabled hero who first drove out the elves from Skyrim and established the first dynasty of human rulers. Loading screens, characters, and some of the many in-game novels are quick to remind you that all modern kings of Skyrim are said to be descendants of his historic rule.

Jorrvaskr itself is a building enriched in lore. It is said that the city of Whiterun spawned around the headquarters of this ancient guild, an odd-looking fortress that sits on top a mountain and is actually an overturned Viking-style ship. Adjacent to the building is the ancient Skyforge, a mysterious forge of unknown origins built into the side of the mountain, run by the greatest blacksmith in Skyrim. Its heat is used to light the funeral pyres of fallen members, or "shield-brothers." They are given this nickname because The Companions haven't had any true leaders since Ysgramor himself. Instead they have a "Harbinger" who acts as council to all the members.

All this background information and lore may seem a little irrelevant, but it really adds depth to the game that was lacking from Oblivion. The Fighter's Guild, in comparison, was an unfeeling uncaring bureaucracy. The history of The Companions gives a lot of character and life to the guild and everyone in it. Except for Modryn Oreyn, the badass Dark Elf that was second in command, all the leaders of the Fighters Guild were all soulless and uninteresting. Especially Vilena Donton, the elderly matron of the guild, whose patronizing businesslike attitude added a feeling of soulless administration to the entire guild.

Instead, we're led by Kodlak Whitemane, the current Harbinger of The Companions and an old and grizzled Nordic warrior of great honor. We've also got Farkas and Vilkas, brothers that are the brains and the brawns of a great warrior split in two. And of course, we can't forget Aela, the sexy huntress. All these characters made The Companions feel more real than the Fighters Guild of Cyrodiil. They all had unique origin stories on top of their personalities; it's simple things like this that bring life to the world of Skyrim.

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I'm going to wipe the ugly off your face

However, while Ysgramor had 500 Companions, this modern-day version of Jorrvaskr has a measly 13. This would have been excusable if the mead hall had just been a centralized meeting place of companion leadership, from which they planned and assigned tasks received. However, it turned out to be the sole location of any sort of gathering of Companions. While the Fighters Guild may have felt like a bureaucracy, it at least felt like a real and efficient organization from which to purchase the help of mercenaries. There was a location in every major city, and within those locations were a handful of characters like the "porters" that, while not interesting by themselves, served a realistic purpose within the guild.

Joining The Companions is as simple as walking into Jorrvaskr and talking to Kodlak. From there, you'll prove yourself in a little brawl and be on your merry way to advancing through the ranks of the guild. The real quest line kicks in once you've been accepted into the super-secret faction of the group's leaders called The Circle. You'll also be blessed (or cursed, depending on your interpretation) with Hircine's Gift, the ability to transform into a Werewolf. This is a trait that all Companion leaders share. This means you'll also be going up against the Silver Bloods, a notorious group of werewolf hunters.The rest of the time-save for some twists and turns-you'll be hunting down the fragments of Wuuthrad, Ysgramor's fabled battleaxe.

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Nom Nom Nom Nom

Much like Jorrvaskr itself, the main plotline of this guild is just too small. It's suitably epic, but it's just far too short. It would have been great if Jorrvaskr had been an ending hub, and before the player character reached it he had to do some quests and odd jobs around the world, a la the Mages Guild from Oblivion. Simple things like this would have helped to establish the guild and your place within it. On top of that, it seemed odd to me that the main antagonists, The Silver Hand, predominantly hid in ruins and abandoned forts despite doing what seems like an honorable job. I mean, if you try to release any of the wolves they cage up, the beasts turn feral and attack all in sight. That sounds a lot more like what the good guys would do to me. Besides, to me it would have been much more badass if you could see the Silver Hand wandering the streets of Whiterun, questioning anyone if they had seen some suspicious activity during the night. It really would have added some scope and depth to the enemy. Better yet, it could have been much more interesting if it was served as an alternative enemy guild to join.

Playing as a Werewolf is an interesting feature, sure to be a major selling point for some fans. However, for me it soon became more of a spectacle than a real addition to the game. The added health and attack points were useful when my character was low level, but as I became increasingly able to handle tougher opponents, waiting for the arduous transformation sequence to play out before advancing became more of a hassle than anything else. But spectacle though it may be, it sure is an awesome one. Especially for some of those opponents that you just really want to unleash your wrath upon. In addition, fighting a dragon while in beast form is a can't-miss experience.

Stepping away from the guild itself, let's look over at combat in Skyrim as a whole. The skills are split into three tiers; offensive, defensive, and crafting. Your offensive skills are two-handed weapons, one-handed weapons, and archery. Defensive skills are Block and Heavy Armor. And lastly, smithing counts as the crafting skill. The combat is much more intuitive and fluid than in Oblivion, and much more responsive. The most impressive add-on is finishing moves. These slow-motion events are triggered when an attack does enough damage to kill an enemy, and are specific to the weapon, situation, and opponent you're facing.

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Peekaboo in Skyrim is a life or death sorta thing

Other alterations from Oblivion's combat include the merging of blade and blunt classes (the club kind, not the drug kind). Also, two-handed and one-handed can be specialized through the new skill trees and the perk system they've introduced. Now when you level up, you can pick to increase your health, magicka, or stamina as well as unlock a point that can be used to select one of the various perks that each individual skill comes with. You can also switch and swap classes based on Guardian Stones found around the world. The Warriors stone, for example, improves associated combat skills 20% faster.

Many other skills from Oblivion have been removed from the sequel. The biggest exclusion is Armorer. In Skyrim, weapons don't realistically degrade due to use anymore like they did in the last game, so there's no use for repair hammers anymore. Instead, they're replaced by forges, anvils, workbenches, and grindstones that are all used for the new skill smithing. It's pretty cool to be able to create and improve weapons and armor, but I don't see why they couldn't have made it more useful by using it to repair weapons once in a while.

Hand-to-hand has also been removed, which is a little disappointing, but there are specific enchantments and gear that improve the power of your fists, and Khaijits (the cat people of this universe) can even use their claws as weapons. Your character can also be challenged or challenge others to brawls on the street. Other cool additions to skills include the new ability to bash people with your shields, which is really fun to do. Other good touches include the fact that arrow types now differ in damage quite dramatically.

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I'm thinking this could be the next cover for Vogue Magazine

While some may worry about the combat being streamlined, the reality is that combat in Skyrim is a lot more fluid and a lot more fun that in Oblivion. It's much more responsive than ever before, and it makes it a lot more fun to play. The finishing moves, consisting of brutal decapitations and gut-wrenching stabbings, just add a layer of finesse to the entire game. A lot of players couldn't get into Oblivion because the combat was a underwhelming, but there's a lot more there to draw the player into it this time.

Its been 200 years since the events of the previous game, and the Thieves Guild of Skyrim is drastically different than that of Cyrodiil. The old guild was a loosely associated organization of every kind of criminals from robbers, smugglers, pickpockets, and petty criminals. Lead by the legendary Gray Fox, an untouchable criminal mastermind, the group was less of a hardcore gang of felons and more of a Robin-Hood-esque crew of good guys stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor. In the newest installment, the Thieves Guild is based in the sewers of the crime -infested city of Riften. The city's Jarl is in the pocket of the guild's matron, a large-scale meadery owner. And lastly, members are no longer held to a code of honor or sense of duty to the poor. The player is dealing with merciless thugs and cutthroats, and a much darker guild than ever before.

Someone needs to make one of these of me

It's highly appreciated, though. It's nice to finally play with thieves who do legitimate crime. Joining the guild is as simple as walking into the bustling Riften market square, where a charismatic Scot will approach you with a simple task that will prove your worth as well as initiate you into the guild. I recommend you join, because membership comes with a bunch of perks. For one, guild fences are the only people who will buy stolen goods. The rest of the world still becomes sentient to any ill-gotten gains the moment they get into your possession, a trait carried over from the last game. Even more useful is the ability to bribe guards on the spot, which can get the player out of trouble no matter what kind of bind they're in. But the largest perk, of course, are the many opportunities to score some gold.

The primary way to earn gold is through the main quest line of the guild, which can be a little hit-or-miss. The premise is that the guild has fallen on some tough times since the murder of the previous guild master by a member within the guild. The player character is, of course, tasked with bringing glory and power back to the guild while hunting down and revealing the traitor that doomed the entire enterprise. There's a lot of cool occult stuff, interesting quests, and useful rewards but the biggest flaw in the main quest has to be that there is definitely not enough thieving. Unlike the main quest line from the Oblivion guild, there are no central mission quests that deal directly with stealing goods and selling them to fences. Even the final quest isn't a grand heist like it was in the last game, where you stole one of the freaking Elder Scrolls themselves from under the noses of the Imperial Guard. It's a bit of a let down.

If you are looking for some thieving, you're better off trying the endless odd jobs that a handful of special members offer. They come in a decent variety too, and are of some real importance. Jobs involve everything: planting evidence; robbing specific houses, items, or cars; forging business ledgers to create disruptions in profits. Doing a couple of these jobs in some of the specific holds unlocks larger jobs, which once completed advance the entire guild alongside your own finances. This brings in new merchants, more gold, and various changes to the look and feel of the guild as it gets richer. Simple additions like this make the repetitive quests worth doing, as the player will actually see the guild evolve as a direct consequence of their actions.

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Not sketchy at all.

The best arsenal for a thief is less in his tools and more in his skills. In Skyrim, these skills include lockpicking, pickpocketing, light armor, sneak, speech, and somewhat inexplicably, alchemy. When trying to stay in the shadows, toggling the crouch key brings back a the familiar see-through Eye Icon from the last game. When it is closed, it means that Non-Player Characters are completely unaware of the player's presence. As it opens up, enemies in the area will start searching for the player character, and when its completely open, they're looking at you. A bunch of factors influence the effectiveness of your sneak such as the weight of your clothing, the type of your armor, and even the speed of your movements.

Sneaking is some of the most fun to be had in the game. Slow-motion cutscenes are triggered as you sneak up and literally back-stab an opponent, or slit the throat of an unwitting civilian. My personal guilty pleasure is creeping around with a poisoned arrow, finding good leverage, and shooting an enemy dead before disappearing into the darkness of the night. There's a bunch of other cool tricks that can be done with a bow and an arrow. Firing an arrow randomly will draw an enemy's attention to the area it landed, allowing you to get a better view. Shooting at a soft substance like wood will only be noticed by a few enemies as opposed to if you hit harder substances like rock or steel, from which the increased volume of the impact will draw the attention of a greater radius of baddies. Not to mention certain perks that allow you to zoom in, basically snipe, with the bow and even slow down time while doing it.

Lockpicking (formerly named security) takes more after the newest Fallout games this time around. Instead of the annoying old tumblers, that were nearly impossible to predict, you pick a position and rotate the bolt and pick independently until it twists open. Its also a lot more useful in Skyrim, as chests and locked doors are a lot more prevalent around the world. Pickpocketing as a skill returns but I can't say much because honestly despite hundred of attempts, I still have not performed a single goddamn successful thievery.

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Good Kitty / Bad kitty

All of this new stuff is allowed by the abandonment of the old Gamebyro engine, which had been featured in every Bethesda game from Morrowind to New Vegas. Skyrim introduces the internally developed Creation Engine, which allows for a much-needed improvement to the technology that creates such a real world. Gone are the static shots that cut through time when you start a conversation with an NPC, which is now fluidly done in real time. Other characters can be seen in the background, performing their daily tasks and interacting with one another. Not even the person you're talking to is standing still all the time, and are frequently seen resuming their tasks like cooking, cleaning, and blacksmithing while conversing with the player character.

It's the improvement of the Radiant AI system that breathes life into these characters. Though many have assigned schedules, most work 12 hour shifts from 8am to 8pm and hit the local tavern for a drink before going to bed for the night. But this changes to account for the children, the elderly, and even the poor. Unlike in Oblivion, character models have realistic variation, the most obvious being children interacting like they did in Fallout: New Vegas (being whiny-voiced annoyances that sadly cannot be murdered).

That's not to say that all the issues with the AI have been fixed, because they do act remarkably stupid some of the time. Most of these include times of combat, where a stealth character will rush in yelling chants filled with bravado, or mages attack with daggers rather than their large arsenal of supposedly deadly spells. If the player decides to bring a companion along on their mighty quests, they'd best be prepared for their allies to perpetually block doorways, crowd pathways, and even obscure quest markers, though the more detailed way to give them instructions makes them much more manageable than ever before.

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That awkward feeling when you know an entire city's GDP is about to take a dip

The bulk of AI stupidity is seen when sneaking around large groups of enemies. A comrade that was alive and kicking just a moment before can suddenly be found laying face first in a pool of their own blood and the only reaction of his bandit friends would be, "I will avenge you," before casually walking away to resume their dinner. The player can even shoot an enemy directly in the chest with an arrow and, as long as they've remained hidden, the NPCs will brush it off and blame it on the wind or something. It's worrisome that not even a simple fix was included. Something as simple as leaving an entire room on high alert after such an event, even if they don't find the player character right away, they should still be searching.

Luckily, interaction with NPCS has improved with the new Speech skill, an amalgamation of Speechcraft and Merchantile. First of all, Skyrim has abandoned the old speech wheel mini-game from Oblivion. Instead, options like Persuade, Intimidate, Bribe, and even Brawl open up as you level it up. Speaking with the many inhabitants of Skyrim open up many diverse and interesting options , even the characters that aren't significant in any way. I was particularly fond of one particular thief, a girl named Sapphire, with a particularly dark past. Speech perks even allow you to invest gold in businesses that will influence what they carry, how much they carry, and how much gold they have to buy any goods you're selling.

Previously a school of magic, Alchemy now counts as a stealth skill even though it doesn't make sense. But despite this awkward inconsistency, alchemy is greatly improved from how it was handled in Oblivion. In Skyrim, Alchemy is done in labs scattered throughout the world rather than by carrying around heavy mortars and pestles. Even if it isn't as on-the-go as before, its a much more realistic and appealing approach to the skill. Speaking of realism, ingredients you pick up are initially unknown as they would be if you picked up a random ingredient in real life. Players discover ingredient effects by tasting food and through trial and error on the Alchemy table. The skill is way overpowered, however, seeing as how the strongest potions and poisons can make you invincible and kill enemies in a single hit.

****Continues from TOP****

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What a coincidence, I was going to invite you into my bedroom

But if you're looking for real power, you're better off joining the untouchable band of assassins that make up the Dark Brotherhood, an elusive band of professional assassins. In Oblivion, the guild had an invisible hand in all sorts of influential pockets and a presence in the deepest fears of the entire population. Unstoppable, the group was running high with their efficient and lucrative dealings with death. When they're presented in Skyrim however, the shadow organization has somewhat symbolically become a shadow of its former self.

Joining is as memorable as it has ever been. Since the downfall of the guild in the events leading up to this installment, the members in Skyrim have abandoned the old ways of the guild. The Night Mother, the mysterious spiritual leader of the assassins, has all but vanished. A Listener, the blessed leader that heads her commands, has not been chosen, and the five tenets that held the brotherhood of killers in line have been abandoned. Loosely held together by the alliance to their matron, the guild relies on word of mouth to spread the
wishes of their customers, who they can only hope to contact in time.

For Pony!

From the start of the game, rumors start circulating about an orphan boy whose been attempting to get in contact with the organization. Carrying out the boy's task will alert the organization of your willingness to kill for hire, an amiable quality to this counter-culture. From there, you'll be the subject of a very interesting initiation, which I will not spoil. And if dare to you pass, you're well on your way to something huge. The likes of which Skyrim, and entire Elder Scrolls series has never seen before.

However, you can also choose the path toward extinguishing the guild itself in that initiation quest. Though it is a much shorter path, it's still nice to be given the freedom to choose. Personally, I would never do it. The experience and rewards of being an agent of the night are far too great to pass up. There are plenty of memorable missions along the way. This time around, smaller scale assassinations are no longer a part of the main questline. Instead, they're handled as optional side quests, and I won't spoil anything, but the main questline for the Dark Brotherhood involves the largest scale operation the game's universe can possibly offer. It's much appreciated.

There's an incredible variety of quests to do. My personal favorite was uncovering and then stealing the identity of a chef in order to poison a dinner party. However, I'll admit that for the most part quests are just a little less interesting than they were in Oblivion. I'm peeved that there was no quest like the Whodunit one from the last installment: a mission in which the player is tasked with eliminating a house full of contestants searching for a fictional hidden treasure, but without alerting any of them to his true intentions. Turning each of the contestants against each other and messing with their emotions and fears made me feel like a real assassin; it was one of the most memorable parts of the game.

Don't get me wrong, the Dark Brotherhood missions in Skyrim are suitably badass, but it's hard to compare them favorably to the ones from Oblivion. That's not a real criticism, though. I found the questline of the last game to be godly, so it's still pretty amazing this time around. You'll also meet a colorful cast of characters, including a 10-year-old vampire and a schizophrenic jester. They may not be as majestically sexy as Lucien Lachance or as comedic as the gentle-giant Gogron gro-Bolmog, but they're still an interesting assortment of unique personalities. The precious dark humor and aloof praise of murder is still intact, and thankfully there is an endless amount of contracts to be hunted, tormented, and sent back to the void.

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What is life's greatest illusion?
Progressive Tax Rates?

The changes to the Dark Brotherhood seem to mirror the changes to the universe itself since the events of Oblivion. When the series departed from the bright meadows and lush forests of Cyrodiil, it left behind the high fantasy tone the previous game had reveled in. There are still fantastical races and otherworldly powers, but they're handled in a different way. The most overt change in tone comes from the art direction developer Bethesda has chosen to take. At its core, the heartless arctic tundra that makes up the province of Skyrim is dark, real, and alive. As expected, the lore calls for a snow-covered terrain, but the world is much more varied than just that. The freezing exterior is countered by interiors with large, warm fireplaces. Caves and forts are damp and dark. And the game mimics this by avoiding clear moral altruisms every chance it gets.

This is easily the darkest entry into the series thus far, but not the generic dark fantasy that's encumbered recent RPGS. A large part of the game is the battle between The Empire and the Stormcloak Rebels, both of which fight for respectable causes but both of which are fatally flawed. The Empire has forfeited the rights of the people to a foreign invader, and the Stormcloak leader is a racist power monger. In this and many other parts of the game, there is no clear party holding a higher moral standing.

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Oliver Cromwell v King Charles I Reenactment

Racism is one of many dark topics that's touched on in Skyrim, in many different forms. Some cities contain ghettos for undesirable races. Foreigners are scapegoated and stereotyped on a daily bases. Religious oppression is commonplace, though not heavily enforced. The villagers have a great fear of the unknown, blabbering on and on about rumors of Dragon attacks. The "Beast Races" make fewer appearances, often as traveling nomads or isolated counter-cultures, as this is the land of the Viking-esque Nordic race, much different than that of the cosmopolitan Imperials. Even Magic, what used to be a commonly-held practice in Oblivion, is viewed with skepticism and fear by the general populace.

It gets worse than that. For example, there's a mission where the player deals with a necrophiliac necromancer and another where they investigate the brutal murder of a little girl. Missions like these were not commonplace in the previous installment. Skyrim deals with much deeper issues than the series has ever handled before. Even the main conflict between the Rebels and the Empire is eerily reminiscent of the European Imperial conquest, or if you want to get a little controversial, the recent American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Harrison Ford?

There are other ways in which the game attempts to make the world more realistic as well. The
game world is littered with books from all genres. Non-fiction novels retell the extensive lore of The Elder Scrolls' universe and previous titles. Fictional stories talk of great kings, powerful warriors, and the occasional lusty Argonian maid. As always, players can buy houses but can now decorate them by interacting with the furniture. There's also an ability to get married this time around, regardless of sexual orientation. Telegraphing your availability does become somewhat of a joke though, since almost every NPC in the world will immediately drop their panties for a chance to ride the Dragon Born.

Not that they'll do that, or much of anything. After a brief ceremony, a player's spouse simply hangs around his house and can occasionally be bothered for dinner, reminiscent of 1950s America. You can't really get divorced or remarried though, even if you murder you first wife and drag her lifeless corpse to a giant's lair and laugh maniacally as the mammoths stomp over her desecrated corpse. Which is a bit of a bummer. Or so I've heard.If the player chooses to remain an eligible bachelor, however, there are still many ways in which they can take care of themselves. The player can interact with many more objects the world than in Oblivion. The player can mine for precious ores with a pick axe, and even cook their favorite meals with the right ingredients and recipes, an option that lends itself to a sadly missing hardcore mode a la New Vegas. Mod bait, perhaps

It's not just what's available in the world that makes it live, but the people within it. In Oblivion, most characters spouted the same 2 or 3 lines of dialogue endlessly. Instead of a dozen or so voice actors doing the voices for each race, Skyrim features 70 or so actors who repeat about 60,000 lines of dialogue. It's a noticeable difference, even minor characters with no real role have a little exposition and back story. It's a welcome trade-off to the endless mudcrab-fearing public from Oblivion. That's not to say it's perfect just yet, but I'll refrain from making the joke about the inordinate frequency of knee injuries among guardsmen.

Requiescat en pace

Cities themselves are more diverse than ever before, facing a variety of social, economic, and political problems. The series has abandoned overt physical differences in exchange for more subtle, meaningful ones. Cultures, values, finances, and the individual attitude of city-leaders ( known as Jarls) influence how a city looks and its people behave more than the counts and countesses of Oblivion. Even the various forts, caves, and buildings found in the wild have a greater reason to be around. They're usually placed in locations advantageous for their purpose whether it be hunting, treasure driving, or marauding and given a sensible reason or lore that explains their existence, whether it be through a book, a letter, or the actions and words of enemies found within.

The game has many randomly scripted events too, encounters with the world that make the experience of each player slightly different than the rest. You'll find the bodies of lovers separated by a lethal encounter with a bear, or a bandit fleeing from the guard. For me, the most memorable was stumbling across a lonesome dog in the wild, and taking it under my wing after finding its poor owner brutally murdered by a pack of wolves not to far away. We were going to make history, he was going to be the next Dogmeat. I would call him, Dragonmutt. Or Woofabark, as he is known in their language. Sadly, our reign of terror ended prematurely as the poor beast staggered into a shout I was using fighting some Thalamor. Unfortunately, from then on history will only remember him as the dog I FUS RO DAH'd off a mountain.

In order to hone their powers, the player may want to take a step away from the adventuring path and spend a little more time in the classroom. In Skyrim, the gifted few who want to study the various schools of magic can do so at the College of Winterhold. The equivalent of the Mages Guild of Cyrodiil from Oblivion, the College of Winterhold is an autonomous organization that did not fall despite the collapse of the former at the start of the fourth era. Also unlike the Mages Guild, the college doesn't condemn the use of the dark arts. Necromancy isn't only accepted, but encouraged - the pursuit of knowledge in all studies are, in fact.

Trojan Man!

This is mainly because the College of Winterhold isn't as integrated with the general population as the Mages Guild was. The College serves more as an Ivory Tower than a franchise, a palace of knowledge and scholarship isolated from the rest of the savage world. It wasn't always this way, however, not before the Great Collapse at least. The College was once the jewel in the crown of the City of Winterhold, attracting merchants and traders from around the world. But seventy years prior to the events of the game, an unrelenting succession of storms tore most of the city from its roots and dropped it into the adjacent Sea of Ghosts.

The College, however, was left relatively unaffected. And the mages quickly became scapegoat for the disaster. But the tragedy isn't only factor that has influenced the college's eventual isolation. Skyrim is the land of the Nords, a fierce race of natural born warriors, people who value the grit and glory of combat. The power of magic is considered less of something to be respected, but moreso the arsenal of the weak and cowardly. It doesn't help that magic is also largely blamed for the events of the Oblivion crisis itself. Not that this really matters, the mages are content with their segregation.

This is because the College of Winterhold is largely self-sufficient of the rest of Skyrim at large. Sitting on the top of an isolated glacier, the university itself is huge. The castle like building is made up of four main parts. The mages reside in the Halls of Countenance and attainment, where the player receives his own special room. The Hall of Elements plays home to the Arch Mage, the lead administrator. There's also a mammoth library called The Arcanaeum, which is home to over 100 different books. Lastly, the Midden is an underground labyrinth of failed experiments long forgotten. There's an entire other world to be lost in past the front gates.

Gaining admission to the school isn't exactly as difficult as getting into MIT. A short initiation sequence proving the most basic magical ability gets the player enrolled for life. But there's a lot to get done when you're finally admitted. For once, the main quest line for this faction is appropriately lengthy. But there's a ton of sidequests to do too. Thankfully, a lot of them aren't just simple variations of the same goals. From interacting with fellow students, to uncovering long forgotten secrets, unlocking master spells, and even chasing down rogue wizards, and there's much much more.

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Next, on MTV's Cribs

The main quest involves uncovering an ancient artifact of untold magical power. Not only is it lengthy, but its very suitably epic. There's a lot of fun to be had, especially the quest leading up to the end, which scores it major points on the wowness factor. It also feels a lot more scholarly than the Arcane University of Oblivion too. Though I still feel like the main quest should have spent less time dealing with underground ruins and more within the actual university itself. But if the player spends his time with it, it really feels like a living breathing university where one can go to hone their talents. And hone their talents they will, because there's a myriad of powers to unlock.

As opposed to in Oblivion magic really feels like some sort of untamed arcane power. There are six schools of magic to be studied in Skyrim Alteration is the school of manipulation of the physical world, such as breathing underwater. Illusion involves the control over the mind of the enemy, like invisibility. Restoration is the school which allows the management of life forces. Conjuration bestows the caster the ability to raise the dead or summon demons. And Destruction allows the player to harness the power of the elements.

Still have no clue what this is supposed to be

Enchanting is now also a school of magic, which allows the payer to add potent abilities to weapons and attire. They've eliminated the school of mysticism from Oblivion, a welcome streamlining of skills available. This isn't the only way that magic has been improved for Skyrim. There is a noticeable improvement in the animations for spell casting, and equipping them now allows you watch them bounce almost joyfully (or menacingly) in your hand in a way that feels very real and powerful.

The player can now also dual wield spells, equipping one on each arm. If they chose to unlock the ability in the skill tree, they can also make a combination blast using both hands for a singular spell. Sadly, the opportunity to mix and match spells when combining them is missing. Speaking of better animations, this is mostly notable for the school of Destruction. No longer are spells just different color variations of the same projectile ball. There are ice spikes, streams of fire, bouncing electrical beams, and even larger area of effect spells for the more advanced casters.

Spells are no longer just bought anymore. Instead, they're learned through spell tomes that can be found throughout the world or purchased from high level wizards. It may not be a big deal, but it adds a certain sense of realism to the game world. There are a ton of new and much more unique spells that weren't featured in Oblivion. My personal favorite is transmute, a spell that steals from the players life force and converts it to magical energy known simply as Magicka. However, you can no longer create custom spells on your own, which is a major bummer.

That's not the only downside to the study of the Magics. Personally, I find it much too weak and the regeneration rate much too slow. If the player misses a spell or two, it's a lot more difficult to make up for than ever before. It's not as easy to make a mixed class as it was in Oblivion either. A player really needs to be a lot more dedicated to magic use or combat, since it's absolutely brutal to keep switching back and forth on a moments notice. Personally, I'm just very disappointed that the dark art of Necromancy isn't a school of its own, but spread amongst other schools instead.

Yes, this can be you!

Magical powers aren't only available to wizards, either. There are a variety of staffs to use as well. Which you can also dual wield a la Gandalf. Blessing are usually activated through altars of the eight divine or bestowed upon the player by some sort of higher power. Blessings are usually temporary boosts to certain attributes, but some are long lasting and exchangeable. Players will also receive certain powers based innate magical abilities either gained or born with. Vamparism, which makes a return in a similar (but weaker) form than in Oblivion is one example.

Vamparism works very much like it did in the last installment. If the player spends too much time around the creatures of the night, he'll contract Sanguinare Vampiris. If left untreated, it will transform the player into a blood thirsty vampire. Unlike Porphyric Hemophilia, the vampire disease in Oblivion, Skyrim's vampires gain significantly less bonuses and resistances. Accepting this may need some cognitive dissonance for long time fans, who know that the universe's lore states Nordic Vampires are the fiercest of all.

Players who choose to be seduced by the dark side will have to feed on a sleeping NPC in order to retain an illusion of humanity. Few places will not turn immediately hostile upon the site of a feral vampire that hasn't fed within a triad of days. Vampirism and Lycanthropy (the ability to shape shift into a werewolf) can both be cured through special quests. A player may become a vampire as many times as they like, but curing the beast blood from your body is a permanent decision.

Those seeking untold powers will want to gain them from the divines themselves. In the game's universe, there are two kinds of celestial beings -the Daedra and the Aedra. Which play very different roles in both the lore and the Skyrim experience

Most of the population worships a group of Aedra known as the Eight Divines. Akatosh is the Zeus-esque chief deity of all the gods. Dibella is the goddess of beauty while Mara is the goddess of love. Arkay is the balance between life and death. Zenithar is the patron of work, commerce, and wealth. Stendarr is the god of mercy. Kynareth is the goddess of the heavens and the matron of travelers. Lastly, Julianos is the god of literature, law, history, and contradiction. Some people choose to include Talos, essentially the world's equivalent of Jesus, though as of late his reverence has become somewhat of a hot-topic issue.

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I'm fairly sure this is somewhere in the Vatican too

Daedra worship is far less accepted. Followers are forced to practice their occult activities far from the general population. These gods aren't considered wholly evil by nature, but they're not the type of people that one would invite to a party, either. There are sixteen Daedric Princes that love to dabble in mortal affairs. Azura is the goddess of dusk and dawn. Boethiah rules over deceit, conspiracy, and treason. Clavicus Vile is the lord of bartering and meddling. Hircine is the god of the hunt. Malacath is the patron of the spurned and the ostracized. Mehrunes Dagon is the lord of destruction and Molag Bal the leader of slavers and rapists. Mephala is the web spinner, Vaermina the nightmare weaver, and Meridia the guardian of the living. Nocturnal acts as the mistress of shadows and her sister Namira the matron of the hideous. Peryite is the taskmaster, Sheogorath the madgod, and Sanguine the lord of hedonisms. Lastly, Hermaeus Mora is the Daedric lord of forbidden knowledge.

Unlike the Daedra, the Aedra don't like to revel in the misery or the affairs of mortals. The player will have very few interactions with these extraterrestrial beings. The most common way for a player to interact with one is to find a shrine or a temple within a city or out in the wilds, where they can pray to it in exchange for a blessing in the form of a stat-boost. There are a handful of quests involving followers, but once again the Aedra don't make much of an impact in the game play experience.

Very much unlike the Daedra, who play roles in some of the best quests the game has to offer. For the most part, the player will stumble into servitude of one of these menacing gods without even knowing it. Open the right doors, accept the right quest, or simply talk to the right person and the player will get suckered into performing a task at the behest of one of these trickster gods. Compared to Oblivion, which required you to do some arbitrary sacrifice, the Deadric Quests in Skyrim really place the player at the mercy of the gods. It's a great touch.

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WWJD

Not that it completely stops that annoying "collect X amount of random crap to sacrifice" altogether, but far fewer of the quests require it. There is a minimum level cap before starting certain quests, however, a tool that I feel would have been beneficial to have been implemented in other parts of the game as well. The quests that you don't stumble upon can be a bit difficult to find ,I personally needed to look them up, but for the most part the player is will come across the quests as they progress throughout the natural course of the game.

The player will definitely want to take the time to do them, seeing as become a Daedra's Champion (a title I feel like they throw out too loosely) will come with some handy swag. Daedric artifacts are some of the strongest items in the game. There are a bit over a dozen of them to collect, and some famous items from previous games -like the infamous Wabbajack, a staff that morphs enemies into random creatures- make a worthwhile return. Still, there is a heavy division between gods that give out unique reward and those who offer meek barely remarkable blessings. The player will feel short changed buy some of the random crappy rings and armors after being spoiled by tools like Merhunes Dagon's Razor or the Mace of Molag Bal. To add insult to injury, most of these rewards are weaker than their Oblivion counterparts to begin with.

Speaking of being weaker than the Oblivion counterpart, Skyrim's User Interface is downright ugly. In the last game, a single button opened a display that included the player's map, questlines, and even their stats. And it was all nicely compacted onto a screen that looked like a journal. For Skyrim, Bethesda has chosen to go with something much clunkier in appearance and usage. For one, the new map is a mess. Don't get me wrong, the new 3D effect is nice, but the sacrifice of utility for aesthetics just isn't worth it. For starters, sections you haven't explored are covered in clouds, making it even harder to see the roads that are barely distinguishable to begin with. It doesn't help that quest markers can be a bit possessive, covering an entire area indicator and making it impossible to select. They can also be a little omnipotent as well, requiring you to stand on a specific spot or knowing exactly where everything is.

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It can be a bit of a clusterfuck, too

The map isn't the only thing that's wrong with the User Interface either. The menu and magic inventories are infamously unintuitive. It's impossible to rearrange items by weight or value. The player can't see his character in third person either, which is a major annoyance. What's the point of making fancy armor if the player can't take the time to truly appreciate it? However, the fact that they added some extra divisions to separate potions and foods from books and miscellaneous is a nice feature. The hotkey feature has been improved as well. Instead of the D-pad, there's a simple scroll down menu that can be activated in-game and pauses the action. It's all alphabetical though, so it can get a little difficult to organize.

But if you happen to be the type that loves organizing things, there is a plethora of houses to be bought and stocked with all the loot the player will gather in their many adventures. The player can interact with more of the objects found in the house a lot more as well, such as being able to stock the bookshelves. It's still not perfect though, the player will need to fiddle with most of their junk for hours to get everything straight anywhere else.

Fast travel is back and better than ever. It works about the same, for players who don't want to spend hours on end endlessly traversing the landscape. But for those who don't want to fully utilize this unrealistic feature, a horse drawn carriage appears outside of each town that will take the player to any of the major cities in Skyrim. The rides are criminally undercharged, and the driver makes witty remarks at each city, which is something any adventurer worth his or her salt can't miss. You still can't fast travel from safe indoor locations, which is a big annoyance when traveling around a bit.

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Good Old Inflation

When Bethesda set out to create Skyrim, they set out to also create a never ending and completely unique single player experience. They called this ambitious endeavor Radiant Storytelling. While it is far from perfect, Bethesda has really created something to be marveled. The system works as a narrator for the player character, keeping track of their actions and adjusting the world accordingly. If you kill a man's wife and daughter, you'll find him in the taverns drinking away his sorrows. If you steal the weapon you've been hired to retrieve, the original owner may give you the cold shoulder next time you're in town.

The system also makes each quest slightly altered to your preferred gaming experience. This also means that each player gets a slightly different experience than anyone else playing the game. When you accept a quest, the game automatically looks for dungeons or locations you haven't explored, and custom places enemies that will give you both a challenge and a rest, depending on what the player seems to need. The game will also track friendships and enemies, generating quests based on them or unlocking bigger quest through them. NPC's will also change their dialogue to make quips about recent quests you've been on or unique items you may carry. This is noticed mostly with the guards, and many of their comments are priceless.

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Find it on the Escapist Store!

This may not seem enough for some people. A common criticism levied against Bethesda games is that the world doesn't alter or respond much to player's actions and achievements. Which I guess is true, considering much of the AI will still refer to you as common rubble despite being the Arch Mage, Lead Companion, Dark Brotherhood Listener, and have saved the world thrice-over. It can be frustrating for some players, but it's never really bothered me.

Unlike the developer's promises said it would, the radiant questing doesn't have as much success in creating a never ending experience. Most of the radiant quests are mindless and repetitive. Usually some variations on something needed to be killed, collected, stolen, or cleared. It may not be something that can keep a player going on endlessly. But I think that it may be the solution to the big problem I had in Oblivion whenever I'd go back after repeated playthroughs, knowing that I had done absolutely everything I could possibly do time and time again.

Ultimately, I believe the extent to which a player will enjoy Skyrim is if they are a readers or writers at heart. Writer's will marvel in a world that they can call their own. They'll create elaborate back-stories for each of their characters. They'll follow a moral guideline while playing through quest. Some may even ignore most of the game's content altogether, and become traveling salesmen selling off wild game. Readers will be looking for more of the experience, they'll be looking for stronger stories, more climactic endings, and ultimately, may be a bit let down. But neither will ever regret the time they've spent in Skyrim

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Come lose yourself

But the distinction between these has been blurred a bit. In Oblivion, the player played the role of a faceless prisoner who stumbled into a world-saving quest -which he could also promptly ignore. But in Skyrim, there's no mistake. The player is the Dragonborn. It's up to him to save the world and defeat the ultimate evil. For some older fans of the series, it may start to feel less like we're writing our own stories and more like we're playing someone else's. Thankfully, all the "legacy" and "destiny" crap aren't forced within the first moments of the game, so it can be marginalized to a niggling feeling of wrongness for most.

Don't get me wrong, most people will enjoy the game either way. It's a fantastically crafted, amazing experience that I hope no one misses out on. It's by far the best game of last year, and by far one of the best games that you will ever play. If you haven't already, Pick up this game. Thank you for enjoying this review series and thank everyone for their comments and inspiration. It's been a rough couple of weeks for me lately, so I appreciate you all greatly. I'll be taking what I hope is a well deserved rest for a bit, but I will eventually be back with more Pimpin Reviews. Thank you all :)

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Statistics

Pages: 19
Words: 9,674
Characters(no spaces): 46,445
Characters(with spaces): 56,033
Paragraphs: 87
Time spent in Skyrim: 189hts 45mins 33secs
Time spent writing: Approximately 35-45 Hours

Special Thanks to my two lovely editors

Divine Miss Bee
Lost In The Void

Pimppeter2:
Snip

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Outstanding my friend, outstanding.

This review was pretty much like getting the royal treatment in a private airplane. But to prove I have read all of this (which is why it took me so long to finally make a post) I want to address a few things if I may.

For the Companions section of your review: Hands down I agree with you completely. Every aspect of it feels much better indeed then the Fighter's Guild in Oblivion (seriously, I couldn't even finish the fighter's guild in oblivion because it was so boring and no one bothered interacting with you.) Aela was the one that stood out to me the most. Not because she's a hot huntress really, but because she has a strong belief about that 'blessing' which I am a huge fan of the blessing. Can't really see it as a curse because everything about it is a plus. The only con is that the public will hate you for it so yeah.

As for the Dark Brotherhood.. indeed I shall favor that over all other guilds even over the College of Winterhold. Because the Dark Brotherhood really has depth to the missions even from the very start of it (Having to choose which person to kill with a sack over their head? Intense.) Personally the ending was the most favorable if not the best plot point Skyrim has to offer.

Have to state this as a disagreement though- about the Necromancy class/skills. I understand it would of been legit to have it as it's own thing but really Conjuration (since I am all about Conjuration for it's my favorite school of magic to use) is about control. Illusion isn't control for me, rather it's manipulation that only makes friends and foes, or makes you better at sneaking. Conjuration though, grants you abilities that make up for the lack of allies or people to follow you. Heck, you can have better followers and have no penalties for accidentally killing/hurting them. Zombies are only good for the time being, yet they vanish at a point (Spoiler: Unless you're a master at Conjuration, a spell to bring someone back forever to serve you. That right there is what makes me love Conjuration to death. Why study destruction when I can just bring a great destruction mage back to life to serve me while I use conjuration being at it's prime?)

Anyhow loved this review, and I even got the sensation of wanting to play Skyrim at the moment just because of the aspects that you kindly provided. I thank you for that, and shall look forward to your upcoming reviews my friend.

Caramel Frappe:

Pimppeter2:
Snip

image

Outstanding my friend, outstanding.

This review was pretty much like getting the royal treatment in a private airplane. But to prove I have read all of this (which is why it took me so long to finally make a post) I want to address a few things if I may.

For the Companions section of your review: Hands down I agree with you completely. Every aspect of it feels much better indeed then the Fighter's Guild in Oblivion (seriously, I couldn't even finish the fighter's guild in oblivion because it was so boring and no one bothered interacting with you.) Aela was the one that stood out to me the most. Not because she's a hot huntress really, but because she has a strong belief about that 'blessing' which I am a huge fan of the blessing. Can't really see it as a curse because everything about it is a plus. The only con is that the public will hate you for it so yeah.

As for the Dark Brotherhood.. indeed I shall favor that over all other guilds even over the College of Winterhold. Because the Dark Brotherhood really has depth to the missions even from the very start of it (Having to choose which person to kill with a sack over their head? Intense.) Personally the ending was the most favorable if not the best plot point Skyrim has to offer.

Have to state this as a disagreement though- about the Necromancy class/skills. I understand it would of been legit to have it as it's own thing but really Conjuration (since I am all about Conjuration for it's my favorite school of magic to use) is about control. Illusion isn't control for me, rather it's manipulation that only makes friends and foes, or makes you better at sneaking. Conjuration though, grants you abilities that make up for the lack of allies or people to follow you. Heck, you can have better followers and have no penalties for accidentally killing/hurting them. Zombies are only good for the time being, yet they vanish at a point (Spoiler: Unless you're a master at Conjuration, a spell to bring someone back forever to serve you. That right there is what makes me love Conjuration to death. Why study destruction when I can just bring a great destruction mage back to life to serve me while I use conjuration being at it's prime?)

Anyhow loved this review, and I even got the sensation of wanting to play Skyrim at the moment just because of the aspects that you kindly provided. I thank you for that, and shall look forward to your upcoming reviews my friend.

Thank you so much. Your kind words go a long way in making all of this worthwhile. Thanks for commenting!

I am now going to go sleep because I think my eyes need the rest. However, this was exceptionally thorough, and well-written enough to keep me going until the end! Props to you.

TheBobmus:
I am now going to go sleep because I think my eyes need the rest. However, this was exceptionally thorough, and well-written enough to keep me going until the end! Props to you.

Caramel Frappe:

Pimppeter2:
Snip

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You sir are a genius.

 

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