Skyrim is the fifth game in the legendary The Elder Scrolls series released by Bethesda 11th November 2011 in western world and 8th December 2011 in Japan. The game is available both as disc version as well as from Steam. It is available for PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. This review is based on the PC version of the game. Graphics The graphics of Skyrim can be described by only one word: fantastic! Compared to the previous game of the series called Oblivion the graphics have taken huge steps towards realism. Unlike the Oblivion, in which everything were shown as bright and full of colors, in Skyrim the graphics use more different shades of grey though it still is colorful. The landscape looks stunning even with moderate setting, the one I used as I was playing with my laptop. And when the graphic settings are turned to full it's just beautiful. Unlike Oblivion, which in doesn't run too well with my laptop, the graphics of Skyrim doesn't put too much pressure to hardware. Of course, when I tried with full settings, the game was a bit laggish, but after I changed to moderate settings I got constant FPS of 25. This was actually a big surprise for me as I was sure a game like Skyrim wouldn't run even with lowest settings in my laptop, which isn't designed for gaming. Audio The music of the game is fantastic, which I was kind of expecting. Not once during the nearly one hundred hours of playing I though of turning the music off. The tracks are varied enough and each one fits perfectly of the given situation while not trying to get your attention away from the actual game. The general sounds are done well. The sound of casting spells are good and well synchronized , the noise caused by animals or enemies makes it possible to determine the general direction they are coming from and different ground and floor types give a slightly different sound while walking or running. The voice acting is generally done well, this time there are a lot of different accents used. Unfortunately I have two complains regarding voicing; first, few times I noticed that the voice changed a bit in the middle of conversation. The second problem, which is hilarious at first but gets more annoying, is with certain accents used; most of the female guards sound like Russian people, which doesn't fit too well among other accents, and most of the male guards sound like imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is especially annoying after several hours of playing. Controls While PC the player has basically two options; they can either use the combination of mouse and keyboard or use XBox 360 controller connected to PC. After trying out both I ended up using mouse and keyboard even though both have pros and cons. Mouse and keyboard offers more precision especially with spells and bows, which makes it far superior in ranged combat. This control method also gives the ability to use hotkeys. On the other hand the default button configuration is a bit confusing at times, especially when dealing with inventory. The problem comes with the confusing use of both "E" and "R" keys; it's always depending on situation and the logic isn't always the same. Due this, before one gets used to it, it's quite common to press wrong key, which may result something not wanted. A good example is when selling. When selling items you sell the selected item with "R" key and use or equip the item with "E" key. Fine so far but if the stack is big enough the player must confirm the amount of items sold by pressing "E" key. This is especially irritating when dealing with alchemy ingredients, as pressing "E" will make the character to eat the item, not sell it. Another problem with mouse and keyboard is with the menu system. There is no key to change between different menu categories (system, inventory and journal) and the mouse is required for this. The pressing of keys doesn't also always work well enough, especially arrow keys and mouse clicks may not always be recognized by the game at the first time. The XBox 360 controller works in every way more smoothly than mouse and keyboard. In fact the controller makes it far easier to manage the speed of the character while walking and running as the game recognize how much you moved the stick. On the other hand the ranged combat is more difficult with controller as it's not as precise compared to mouse. The controller also doesn't offer the hotkeys like keyboard does. There is also one serious problem which affects both control methods; the "Favorite" item system. Basically the game allows player to mark different spells and items as favorite and the list of those can be accessed with one key or button. The problem is that the game doesn't always want to follow the logic of player. Lets say that player has equipped sword in right hand (main hand) and mace in left hand (off hand). The swapping of left hand, which can be used by using either right mouse button or left trigger, works well enough, but when player wants to change the main hand weapon the problems arise. Most of the time the game thinks that the player should keep the main hand weapon and swap the off hand instead, though not always. The same thing happens with spells as well so it's not restricted on weapons alone. The only sure way to get around this is either to equip a weapon that uses both hands or remove both weapons or spells and then equip the main hand and then the off hand. Very annoying problem. The world and plot Skyrim takes place in the land of Skyrim, the northern part of the known world, and thus also the homeland of nords. 200 years has passed since the events of Oblivion. The game begins from a situation where the Imperials are transporting the player among other prisoners to small fortress. It is clear right away that the only thing waiting is the execution as most of the other prisoners are members of Stormcloaks, a rebel army led by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, who had murdered the High King of Skyrim. Just when the player is going to be executed a dragon attacks, causing chaos in the fortress, allowing the player to escape. The main plot of Skyrim deals with the appearance of dragons, while the war between Stormcloaks and Imperials. While the main plot is rather straight forward, not giving much choices for player, the major sub-plot of civil war gives more freedom of choose for the player. In fact, without revealing too much, the first opportunity to choose the side comes right at the beginning of the game as the player is escaping. Besides the main plot and the major sub-plot there are lots of things to do; factions to join, side quests, general tasks like hunting down bandits, and so on. There is never a moment when player doesn't have anything to do. And if, by some kind of miracle, there is no unfinished tasks or side quests, the player can always travel to new town or city and the problem gets fixed almost by itself. The land of Skyrim is big. Big in good way. Travelling never become a chore even if it may take some time to actually travel across the land by foot as there is always new things to see and new places to explore. And if player wants to safe time they can hire a wagon to travel between the few main cities for a small price or fast travel to the nearest location of their target destination which has already been visited once. The world itself feels like it's actually alive; in wilderness there are lots of small random animals running around, only part of those being actually aggressive. In cities and towns the citizens have their daily routines and they may stop to chat with each other. And here comes the special thing in Skyrim; the discussions between two NPCs have actually logic and topic, not just some random lines chosen for random topics. Basically player can stop nearby and listen to these conversations, which may reveal parts of the lore or give a player a hint of place to visit next. No other game I have seen thus far has a such realistic banter between two random NPC. What made Oblivion terrible was the dungeons and level scaling in them. Basically in Oblivion there was no need to visit more than one dungeon, which then could be raided infinitely for better equipment. In Skyrim each dungeon gets a relative level assigned to it when player visits it the first time. Visit it later and the enemies left inside are still in same level as they were last time. And when a cavern or other place gets cleared it will stay cleared. The only exception to this rule is if a new quest gets assigned to cleared location. In this case the location gets repopulated and the enemies are assigned new level relative to character's level. And the dungeons are different from each other so it's always a new experience to explore a dungeon for the first time. The only problem I have with the world is that certain characters, namely those who are related to quests, are basically immortal. This means no quest can be broken due death of NPC. While this is very good thing when dealing with dragons, which may change their target without warning and concentrate on NPC instead of player, it also makes the game feel more unrealistic as certain characters just won't die whatever happens.