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Skyrim review roundup: The best Elder Scrolls yet?

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim hits shelves tomorrow, and according to the reviews, this fantasy game is (mostly) a masterpiece. 

By Matthew Shaer / November 11, 2011

Skyrim, the latest title in the Elder Scrolls franchise, hits shelves this week. So how does Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim measure up?

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If you like first-person shooters, 2011 is the year for you – big-budget titles such as Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 have all hit shelves in recent weeks, to widespread critical acclaim. But what if you prefer a good old ol' RPG? Well, in that case, look no further than Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the new fantasy epic from the team at Bethesda. Skyrim hits shelves tomorrow. How does it stack up, you ask? Let's go to the reviews. 

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The world 

"Unlike its 2006 predecessor The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which at times felt like a carbon copy of Generic Fantasy Map #40192, the world of Skyrim is a Viking-inspired treasure trove of flavor and charm," writes Jason Schreier of Wired. "Every city has its own personality. Many have their own cultures, each fraught with racial conflicts and frightening adversaries. Gone are Oblivion’s bland medieval cities and repetitive demonic gates. Speaking with Skyrim director Todd Howard earlier this week, I asked him if there was any one element of the game he thought the team had really knocked out of the park. His answer was quick and to the point: 'The world.' I have to agree."

The quest

"There's a story, which guides the player's progress to an extent," writes Nick Cowen of the Guardian. "It begins with an escape from the headsman's chopping block and then the player is cut loose in the massive world of Skyrim with the barest essentials in information about themselves and the land they now inhabit. Skyrim is plagued on two fronts – by a bloody civil war and by the return of a race of dragons that, until recently, were extinct. The player is also aware that they are the last of a race called the Dragonborn, and they are also all that stands between Skyrim and its ultimate destruction. Still, that's enough to be getting on with, eh? The plot then proceeds to reveal its pleasures by inches, one mission and side-quest at a time." 

The hero, and his beard

"Skyrim is not a great leap from Oblivion, or even Morrowind, but it is the finest chapter in the series to date: an unforgettable journey into another world, and a bracing emancipation from the linearity that typifies modern gaming," writes the team at CVG. "One of the biggest changes is how you create your hero. By the time you'd escaped the sewers in Oblivion you had already decided your class and base stats. When you start Skyrim, the only things you get to choose are your race, sex and appearance. The editor is fantastic, frankly, with a wealth of sliders and presets, as well as something sorely missing from Oblivion - a large selection of beards."

The leveling-up

Even the leveling process is full of "wonder," writes Jason Wilson of GamePro. "I've always appreciated that you level up in The Elder Scrolls by using your skills, and nothing's different about this in Skyrim. But this game has fewer skills than before, and after 65 hours of playing, I didn't miss the skills such as Athletics or Blunt, and not just because I prefer to fight with magic. The perks, which grant abilities along skill trees, make Skyrim's approach to your players' skills engrossing; I felt more powerful and capable as I leveled up, something I didn't feel as much in Oblivion. And the way the skill trees are laid out as glowing constellations is gorgeous. It's unique."

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