So, Skyrim was released almost two months ago, to the noise and fanfare of glorious dragon shouts. Its coming was much heralded and much celebrated. There was even a thread here about it, where many enthused and a few ranted
. Rather than make a complete blow-by-blow or go too long, I want to address a few key aspects in particular.
1. Gameplay, or "I like the part where I behead that monster with a mace, and the part where I marry next"
So, you run around in either first or third person. You can talk to people and have conversations enabled through clickable responses, learn about quests or build relationships through these responses, you can interact with objects to pick them up or lift them around, you can pickpocket people, and so on. You can have combat with a weapon (ranged or melee), a shield, or magic. It is all controlled the same way, with left or right clicks (on a PC).
Also, there are dungeons, cities, and a vast overland to explore. You're free to kill townspeople, though guards will pursue you. You are free to jump off ledges, though you will die if you fall too far. This game doesn't hold you to one route, or one moral code, but there are limits.
Leveling up is fairly simple. You do stuff. As you do stuff, the skill of the thing you're doing improves. When you do it enough, you level up, and you get to improve either magic, health, or stamina and give yourself a bonus trait, like +20% to light armor or better enchantments or whatever.
2. Story, or convenient excuses for doing things.
The main story is that you're a dragonborn in Skyrim, the home of the Nords. But you don't know it yet. You're caught up in civil war between an Empire trying to reassert itself and a native movement that seeks native rule. Cue ambiguous music. A dragon comes in and wrecks the day. You discover your heritage and try to save everyone from dragons.
Or, you know, you can ignore all of that after about a half hour in the game and decide to be a master thief or mage extraordinaire or random wanderer or an assassin or something. You'll still have, like, a gazillion things you can do without ever seeing a dragon again. You don't even have to take quests if you don't want to, though quests, even random ones, will usually point you towards some exciting location or dialogue.
But seriously, the plotline writing is pretty good for even things like the College of Winterhold. And keep an eye out for the Wabbajack.
3. Characters, or that part where I talk to people.
They're around. Your own character can be male or female, and split between a number of different races that have certain powers and appearances. If you've played any RPG with different races, you know the drill.
You can talk to other characters. They're rarely memorable as individuals by name, but that's because there's so many of them. On the other hand, you will remember there being a lot of characters, and you will remember some of them by function (the priestess to the Temple of Mara), and perhaps a few names (like Lydia the housecarl) will even stick with you. There's a great breadth and variety of characters, and you'll likely get attached to some of
them, but its breadth defeats my memory.
4. Graphics and atmosphere: it's very gorgeous, especially in how it renders snowscapes. There. Done.
5. So, how fair is it towards women? Other races? So on?
Pretty fair. To speak of character creation, you can be a man or a woman without any differences in stats. While other races in the game (including several human variants) get different bonuses, these bonuses are slight, such that a redguard mage or a briton heavy warrior are just as feasible as anyone else. Many clothing choices are not skewed towards being provocative for any one gender; the armor I wore on female avatars was always reasonable. Women possessed many positions of power or authority, serving as guards, jarls (think lords), heads of guilds, and the like. Tensions along racial or ethnic lines form a part of the world; high elves are suspect after the Empire lost a war against a country of them, the Nords are often viewed as downtrodden by the Empire, many distrust non-human races by default, and so on. This can put the player in the role of either oppressor or vindicator; while some associated plots are rather tried or stereotypical, they nonetheless made a strong effort overall to encompass the problems of prejudice in a fantasy world.
Undoubtedly, a sharp gamer will spot points in the game that will make them frown. Marriage exists in the game, and is fully bisexual, but it doesn't radically change the game. Alternative genders are, to my knowledge, absent entirely. There's a skill that gives +10% to bartering with the opposite sex, but no equivalent for the same sex. These are admittedly minor points, but ones that prevent it from being perfect.
Overall, I quite enjoyed it.
indeed. (I spent about 40 hours as a male Nord sneaky brawler, and another twenty as a heavy-armored female elf specializing in destruction and conjuration magic. I did most consistent questlines, though I still have so many quests, dungeons and even a whole city yet to explore.)