The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open world action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth main installment in The Elder Scrolls series, following 2006’s The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on November 11, 2011.
The game’s main story revolves around the player’s character, the Dragonborn, on their quest to defeat Alduin the World-Eater, a dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world. The game is set 200 years after the events of Oblivion and takes place in Skyrim, the northernmost province of Tamriel. Over the course of the game, the player completes quests and develops the character by improving skills. The game continues the open-world tradition of its predecessors by allowing the player to travel anywhere in the game world at any time, and to ignore or postpone the main storyline indefinitely.
Skyrim was developed using the Creation Engine, rebuilt specifically for the game. The team opted for a unique and more diverse open world than Oblivion’s Imperial Province of Cyrodiil, which game director and executive producer Todd Howard considered less interesting by comparison. The game was released to critical acclaim, with reviewers particularly mentioning the character advancement and setting, and is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Nonetheless it received some criticism, predominantly for its melee combat and numerous technical issues present at launch. The game shipped over seven million copies to retailers within the first week of its release, and over 30 million copies on all platforms as of November 2016, making it one of the best selling video games in history.
Three downloadable content (DLC) add-ons were released separately — Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn, which were bundled along with the base game into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Legendary Edition and released in June 2013. A remastered version, titled The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2016. It includes all three DLC expansions and a graphical upgrade. A port for the Nintendo Switch was released on November 2017. A separate VR-only version, titled The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, was released in November 2017 for the PlayStation 4 using PlayStation VR, and for Windows-based VR headsets in April 2018.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing game, playable from either a first or third-person perspective. The player may freely roam over the land of Skyrim—an open world environment consisting of wilderness expanses, dungeons, caves, cities, towns, fortresses, and villages. Players may navigate the game world more quickly by riding horses, paying for a ride from a city’s stable or by utilizing a fast-travel system which allows them to warp to previously discovered locations.
Non-player characters (NPCs) populate the world and can be interacted with in a number of ways: the player may engage them in conversation, marry predetermined ones, or engage them in lethal or nonlethal combat. As in previous games in the series, killing certain NPCs can make some quests or items unobtainable. Some NPCs cannot be killed because of their significance to the narrative. If witnessed, crimes like murder and theft accrue the player a bounty which is tracked independently in each of Skyrim’s nine holds. If the player is detained by a guard, they may eliminate their bounty with gold, serve jail time or resist arrest, triggering combat. It is also possible to bribe or persuade guards if the crime is a minor offense. NPCs frequently offer the player additional side-quests; some have parameters adjusted based on nearby unexplored areas. Some NPCs who are befriended or hired by the player may act as companions who will accompany the player and aid them in combat. The player may choose to join factions, organized groups of NPCs—for example, the Dark Brotherhood, a band of assassins. Each of the factions has an associated quest path to progress through. Each city and town in the game world has jobs that the player can engage in, such as farming.
Players have the option to develop their character. At the beginning of the game, players create their character by selecting their sex and choosing between one of several races including humans, orcs, elves, and anthropomorphic cat or lizard-like creatures and then customizing their character’s appearance. Over the course of the game, players improve their character’s skills which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There are eighteen skills divided evenly among the three schools of combat, magic, and stealth. When players have trained skills enough to meet the required experience, their character levels up. Each time their character levels, the players may choose to select a skill-specific ability called a perk or store perk points for later use. Earlier entries in The Elder Scrolls series used a character class system to determine which skills would contribute to the character’s leveling but Skyrim allows players to discover preferred skills as they play the game and it rewards them with more experience when a frequently used skill is leveled. A head-up display (HUD) appears when any of the player’s three main attributes (health, magicka, and stamina) are being depleted. Attributes regenerate over time, although this process can be accelerated by using potions or regenerative spells. Health is depleted primarily when the player takes damage and the loss of all health results in death. Magicka is depleted by the use of spells, certain poisons and by being struck by lightning-based attacks. Stamina determines the player’s effectiveness in combat and is depleted by sprinting, performing heavy “power attacks” and being struck by frost-based attacks. Items in the player’s inventory can be viewed three-dimensionally, which helps solving puzzles in dungeons.
The player’s effectiveness in combat relies on the use of weapons and armor (which may be bought, found, stolen and/or forged) and on the use of magic spells which may be bought, stolen and/or unlocked by finding spell tomes. Weapons and magic are assigned to each hand allowing for dual-wielding, and can be swapped out through a quick-access menu of favorite items. Some weapons and spells require both hands. Shields can be used to fend off enemy attacks and reduce incurred damage or offensively through bashing attacks. Blunt, bladed, and hacking weapons can be used in close combat and each have specific advantages and roles. For example, the player can perform power attacks with each weapon. Spells have several functions such as regenerating the player’s health, attacking enemies, confusing enemies, temporarily raising the dead, casting light or turning iron into silver. Bows are used for long-range combat and for bashing enemies in melee combat. The player can enter sneak mode and pickpocket or deliver powerful sneak attacks to unsuspecting enemies.
When exploring the game world the player may encounter wildlife. Many creatures in the wilderness are immediately hostile towards the player. However, game animals such as elk and deer will simply run away. Skyrim is the first entry in The Elder Scrolls to include dragons in the game’s wilderness. Like other creatures, dragons are generated randomly in the world and will engage in combat with NPCs, creatures and the player. Some dragons may attack cities and towns when in their proximity. The player character can absorb the souls of dragons in order to use powerful spells called “dragon shouts” or “Thu’um”. Each shout contains three words in the language spoken by dragons, and the strength of the shout will vary depending on how many words have been spoken. The words to shouts can be learned by visiting “word walls” in dungeons or around the wilderness. The words to each shout are unlocked for use by spending the absorbed souls of slain dragons. A regeneration period limits the player’s use of shouts in gameplay.