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9 Months in Skyrim

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Considering it's been a long while since it's release and most people who've wanted to try it probably have, this will just be a few impressions and whatnot.

I had an absolute blast with this game, despite putting it down for weeks at a time to do other things. The story held my attention enough that I could play something else and still wonder where the next mission would take me, and usually have a fairly satisfying conclusion. Of all the main quest lines, the Thieves Guild and Daedric quests proved to be the most fun for me. Partially because of some awesome one time events (Nightingales, Blackmarsh, Runed Lexicon) and partially because of their variety. The difference between dungeons and caves in this game vs dungeons and caves in say Oblivion is night and day. Each new area, of which there are a staggering number, is different than a previous one even if similar ideas are revisited. This makes every cave you enter and every fort you stumble upon a totally new adventure inside the context of the larger conflicts. That went a long way to keeping things interesting and making you want to come back to the world.

Character and enemy designs were also improved significantly from previous games, even if you end up seeing a lot of the same ones by the 100th hour. It was nice to be able to turn off quest markers and still know who to talk to because of the diversity of the character's appearances. There were some questionably "shiny" characters here and there, but overall I really liked the little graphical flourishes.

Sound played a big role in this game for me. The ambient noises inside caves and mines and crypts do an excellent job of pulling you into the environment and making it more believeable. Subtle little things like water trickling and rocks tumbling, accompanied by the subtle music changes, went a long way to selling the atmosphere. Playing this game with surround sound headphones was like getting lost in another world. It wasn't until about 130 hours in that I actually turned down the music some because it was playing significantly louder than the two important characters who were talking at the time. Nice thing about that, details like that and difficulty and others can be changed on the fly, mid conversation, without missing a beat.

Overall, there are a couple of rough spots, like sometimes getting stuck on the environment and having to load a previous save, or talking to a quest character and a dragon randomly swoops down and murders them mid conversation, but they really don't happen too often and with the generous way the game autosaves for you, you're never that far behind your last "checkpoint". They have done several large patches for the game, and I'm not sure what all of them did, but I noticed they added combat abilities while on your horse which was greatly appreciated. Also, I love that when you own a horse and you go fast traveling all over the world, the horse is just right there outside town waiting for you. Speaking of horses, as far as I'm concerned there is only one horse in the game: Shadowmare. He has WAY more health, WAY more stamina, and he has glowing red eyes. If you have him (just do like 4 Dark Brotherhood quests and he's yours) and you manage to let him die, restart that shit. I did not do this because I thought he'd resurrected himself before, and when he did not respawn and I was forced to buy one of the shitty, no stamina having regular horses. Ended up killing that useless thing myself.

Overall, absolutely excellent game. For all the stuff it has going on at any one time, it's impressive. I played on 360 and only occasionally noticed any pop ups or texture pop in, but I've seen it run on a friend's high end PC and so I know what it CAN look like, and it looks fantastic. The controls are solid, menus work very well for the huge amount of stuff you have at all times, and the quests are mostly entertaining. I have not tried the DLC Dawnguard yet because I wanted to finish the base game before I bought and installed any add ons, but it's something I'll be going back to ASAP. ~142 hours total on my main save, and the amount of content that I still haven't seen yet in the base game is staggering. This is one of those games that I will still be happily putting into my Xbox for years and (most likely) be able to see something new every time. That's impressive.

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