The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a single-player role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.
It is the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls action/adventure RPG fantasy video game series, and follows The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion by approximately 200 years, during the Fourth Era. The game was announced on November 11, 2010 at the Spike Video Game Awards in Los Angeles, with a release date of November 11, 2011. It features Radiant A.I., along with Radiant Storytelling or Radiant Story, to help enhance quests, and a new and improved graphics engine.
Two hundred years have passed since the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and it is now 4E 201. The High King of Skyrim has been killed, and the threat of Civil War looms over the land of Skyrim; One side wishes to secede from the weakened Third Empire, while the other wishes to remain a part of it. To make matters worse, this schism is the final event in a prophecy foretold by the Elder Scrolls that will lead to the return of the dragons under Alduin, the Nordic god of destruction.
The player starts the game on a cart heading for the chopping block after being caught with the Stormcloaks in an ambush by the Imperial Legion. As the player lays their head on the chopping block, the dragon Alduin attacks. In the midst of the chaos, Hadvar, several Stormcloaks, along with their leader and fellow prisoner, Ulfric Stormcloak, assist in the player's escape. The player may choose between the assistance of Ralof, the Stormcloak who arrived with Ulfric, or Hadvar, the Imperial soldier tasked with reading off the names of the prisoners being sent to their execution. After assisting and gaining the favor of Jarl Balgruuf the Greater, The player later learns that they are Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn, a person charged with the duty of defeating Alduin and the dragons. Eventually, the player meets Delphine, and Esbern, two of the last remaining Blades, and becomes the pupil of the esteemed Greybeards of High Hrothgar.
You should have acted. They're already here.
The Elder scrolls told of their return.
Their defeat was merely a delay.
From the time after Oblivion opened.
When the sons of Skyrim would spill their own blood.
But no one wanted to believe. Believe they even existed.
And when the truth finally dawns, it dawns in fire.
But there is one they fear.
In their tongue, he is Dovahkiin - Dragonborn!
The fifth installment of The Elder Scrolls takes place in Skyrim, where peace and stability is threatened by the ongoing civil war between a Nordic separatist faction called the Stormcloaks and the Empire's Imperial Legion, as well as the return of the dragons under the game's main antagonist, the great dragon Alduin.
Skyrim is the northernmost region of Tamriel and its geography consists of mountains, snowy tundras, pine forests, rural countrysides, and arctic plains. Its architecture and atmosphere are very similar to the town of Bruma in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Although it is roughly the same size as Oblivion's Cyrodiil (approximately 41 square kilometers in area or 15.8 square miles), it is the least populated of all regions in Tamriel. Although there are only five cities within the province, they are complemented with smaller townships dotted through the land with huge swathes of wilderness separating them all.
There are over 150 dungeons scattered across Skyrim. Fast-traveling is a returning feature, allowing the player to instantly travel to any marked location that has been previously visited.
New creatures to the series include Giants, Frost Trolls, mammoths, Frostbite Spiders, Ice Wraiths, Hagravens, and Dragons. There are also children present in the game for the first time since Daggerfall, where they made several appearances.
Skyrim retains the traditional open-world gameplay found in the Elder Scrolls series. The landscape can be freely roamed either in first person or third person point of view. Skyrim gives the choice of traveling on horseback, running, or walking. When a new location is discovered, it is added to the map. Thenceforward, the location can be fast-traveled to.
Eighteen different skills are employed to interact with the world. Some skills are used specifically for combat, such as the weapon-based skill One-Handed and the magic-based skill, Destruction. Other, more passive, skills, allow for the crafting of items such as through Smithing or enchanting. Leveling up happens when any of these eighteen skills are used to a certain point. Skills level up as well, and the player's overall level is contingent upon the levels achieved with each skill.
The traditional Role-Playing Game concept of a class system has been abolished in Skyrim; it has been supplanted with a very free-form system that allows the use of perks. Perks unlock special abilities on each of the eighteen skill trees. One perk is awarded for each character level increase.
Perks are skill-specific abilities, organized in a system of branching groups called "skill trees." One of many perks can be chosen from each time a level is gained. Player leveling extends somewhat further than in previous Elder Scrolls games, reaching a maximum level of 81 when all skills have been increased to 100; this limit is due in part to a significant sharpening of the experience curve for leveling after 50.
Weapons and armor may be crafted by players at forges, and all gear may be improved upon using other crafting facilities provided that the player possesses the requisite skill levels and perks; this allows for a wide range of equipment variation and lets those characters with the highest skills outfit themselves with appropriately powerful equipment. The player can also enchant their weapons for extra damage and gain special abilities from them.
Melee combat has been overhauled from Oblivion, with weapon attacks taking a less fluid - and much more realistic - pace. Weapon types such as the previous Blade and Blunt have been condensed into One-Handed and Two-Handed weapon skills, with the war axes, maces, and swords each benefiting differently from perks inside these skill trees; for example, axes can add extra bleeding damage, swords strike quickly and can gain a higher chance of a critical hit, and maces gain armor penetration while striking at a slower rate. Special "finishing moves" have also been added, which show a slow-motion killing blow such as impalement or decapitation being delivered by the player character.
Lockpicking has been changed since Oblivion. It is no longer in a pin and tumbler style, instead it is similar to Fallout 3/New Vegas, another game from Bethesda. On console versions of the game, both analog sticks are used to manipulate the tools and open the lock. The pick is controlled with the left stick and a tension wrench with the right. PC versions of the game employ the mouse and the WSAD keys instead. The pick can be rotated around the top of the lock within 180 degrees.
A spot within the rotation allows the lock to open, the spot being larger with easier locks and becoming much smaller with harder difficulty locks.
Spell mechanics have changed significantly in Skyrim as compared to Oblivion. Fire, frost, and shock spells now have additional effects; fire deals "burn damage per second" when the target catches on fire, shock does an additional 50% of damage to the victim's Magicka, and frost spells deal 100% of their damage to the victim's Stamina. Custom spells can no longer be created, and because the class system has been eradicated, no bonuses spells are given for selecting a particular School of Magicka during character creation. Instead, all spells are learned through the reading of Spell Tomes, the way the Oblivion DLC functioned.
Quests have been implemented to gain Master-level spells in each school. Each spell has a special casting animation and is often more potent than their lesser counterparts. The school of Mysticism has been removed entirely from the magic system, with its spells being redistributed to other magic schools. For example, Soul Trap has been distributed to Conjuration, while detection spells now belong to Alteration. From the school of Alteration, the open lock, burden, and feather have been removed entirely.
Skyrim makes use of the radiant artificial intelligence system created for Oblivion, which has been updated to allow characters to "do what they want under extra parameters." The updated system allows for greater interaction between characters and their environments; characters now perform tasks such as mining, milling, smithing, potion-making, cooking, and other menial labors, and will continue to go about such business if the player speaks to them while they are working.
Followers and spouses
Player marriage has been implemented; through a brief courtship process, the player may marry select characters of either gender, offering a housemate as well as a range of spouse-exclusive benefits. Players can recruit followers in the game, they can be found in taverns or some stores or by gaining a title in a certain hold. When the player becomes the Thane of a certain hold they automatically get a companion to assist them.
Acrobatics and Athletics have been entirely removed from the game. Fall damage scales with distances and players may run more quickly by using the newly implemented sprinting function both in and out of combat.
Leveling up, classes, and customization
The leveling mechanic in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is similar to previous titles, with the player leveling up after enough skills have, themselves, been leveled up through use. Game director Todd Howard stated that the game's "mathematical" level cap is 70; however, the Prima Official Game Guide states the level cap is "around 80." One of the largest differences from previous Elder Scrolls games is that you no longer specify a group of major and minor skills; instead, all skills are treated the same, and all skills contribute towards leveling up. As a result of this change, there is no longer any class selection component to character creation.
A significant new feature to The Elder Scrolls series is the addition of a total of 251 perks, one granted each level, which allow for further specialization. Each skill is presented as a constellation, built up of node stars representing the perk tree, within a firmament. For example, a player using one-handed weapons could specialize in maces with a perk that ignores opponents' armor, select a perk granting swords an increased chance of landing a critical hit or prioritize axes by choosing a perk that makes enemies bleed, causing damage over time.
Character visual customization has been further refined from previous Elder Scrolls games, introducing new customization options such as pre-built beards and faces, war paint and scars, and otherwise enhanced facial construction. Body size is also now an editable feature, along with different presets for nearly all facial features.
Also new to the Elder Scrolls series are the Guardian Stones: large, carved obelisks scattered throughout the game world found singly or in a single group of 3 (near the game start area). By activating the stone of your choice, your character is granted one or more bonuses or powers; a new stone may be selected later, but only one stone can be active at a time. There are thirteen Guardian Stones, corresponding to—and replacing—the thirteen birthsigns of previous games.
Unlike the prior Elder Scrolls games, which featured eight attributes that could be increased through leveling, Skyrim has only three values to increase, one of which can be selected each level: Health, Magicka, or Stamina. This was done for the dual purposes of simplifying the leveling process and reducing unnecessary statistics, as the 8 attributes were considered to be simply a means of increasing the three above values.
Players can craft their character using one of the ten races of Tamriel—Imperials, Nords, Redguards, Bretons, Dunmer, Altmer, Bosmer, Orsimer, Khajiit, and Argonians. Each race is characterized by a specific power and passive bonus, as well as starting with a few skills at slightly higher levels. For example, High Elves begin the game with 50 extra magicka, the ability to drastically increase their magicka regeneration rate for 60 seconds once per day, and five extra points in several of the magic skills.
Playable races include:
- Altmer (High Elves – Summerset Isles)
- Argonian (Reptilians, or Lizards – Black Marsh)
- Breton (Humans – High Rock)
- Bosmer (Wood Elves – Valenwood)
- Dunmer (Dark Elves – Morrowind)
- Imperial (Humans – Cyrodiil)
- Khajiit (Felines – Elsweyr)
- Nord (Humans – Skyrim)
- Redguard (Humans – Hammerfell)
- Orsimer (Orcs – Orsinium)
There are also two unplayable races which are mentioned throughout the game:
- Falmer – The Snow Elves were a race that inhabited Skyrim long before the Nords. The Elves were massacred by the Nords and fled underground. Here they found refuge with the Dwemer, ostensibly on the condition that they eat poisonous fungi causing blindness. The effects of the fungi and their life underground have morphed them into the Falmer seen often in caverns, Dwemer ruins and Falmer hives.
- Dwarves (Dwemer) – A long-lost race that once lived throughout Vvardenfell, Skyrim and Hammerfell. They preferred the use of technology over magic, as is evident in the Dwemer ruins, Animunculi, and technological artifacts encountered throughout Skyrim, as the machines they created are still working to this day doing their duty to protect what is left of the Dwemer (translated as "Deep Elves").
Combat has undergone a significant overhaul from previous installments of the series; damage is proportionally higher than in the past and the pace of melee combat has been significantly slowed from Oblivion. Special spell effects and an increase in the utility of bows through the revised skill of Archery make for often more dangerous—and consequently more tactical—combat.
A major new aspect of combat, as well as significant plot device in the game, is the presence of Dragon Shouts or Thu'um as referred to in-game, which use the language of dragons to manifest the Shout-users' vital power as "Thu'um," which can have various powerful effects—these include fire breath, a sort of "force" push, and a demoralizing roar, among other effects. The shouts can be used intermittently and may be longer or shorter if more than one word of each Shout's three constituent words is known.
Stealth-based combat has also been improved with the presence of a cinematic "assassination" kill move that involves the player silently reaching up and slitting a character's throat if the damage of the sneak attack is sufficiently high. Additionally, stealth detection and sneak attack damage bonuses are governed by perks that can turn a skillful sneak into a fearsome opponent, even giving the ability to turn briefly invisible in the midst of combat by sneaking.
One-handed weapons include swords, war axes, maces, and daggers; while two-handed weapons include greatswords, battle-axes, and warhammers. Bows and Staves feature as the game's only distanced weaponry. Weapons follow a material progression similar to that of Oblivion, starting at iron weapons and ending with Daedric weapons.
Enemy leveling system
Due to the highly criticized leveling system of Oblivion, enemy leveling is handled in Skyrim using a method similar to Fallout 3; some locations are set independently of the player's level and will not be reasonable for the player to attempt to take on at a lower level, whereas other areas will have enemies and loot set according to player level at the time of the player's first entry into the location. In the second case, the enemies will stay at that level determined by the player's first entry, meaning that a player returning to a location visited early in the game will be able to clear the location of foes with greater ease.
Armor has been condensed somewhat further from Oblivion; rather than independently present cuirasses and greaves, the game features "armor," which unifies the two into a single piece of equipment. Helmets, gauntlets, and boots remain unchanged from Oblivion. Equipment weight has generally been re-scaled, making even the heaviest of heavy armors more realistic in weight; this is due in part to the significantly greater limits on the maximum inventory carry weight the player can achieve in Skyrim. Heavy and light armors remain as the two available categories, and each follows a somewhat different material progression, with light armor favoring hides, furs, and leathers until high levels, while heavy armor favors metal throughout its course. Additionally, armor and weaponry no longer degrade with use and thus do not require any manner of upkeep. Instead, weapons and armor can be improved at a grindstone or workbench, respectively.
Skyrim uses a new engine developed in-house by Bethesda, called the Creation Engine. The CE was designed with advanced graphics, long draw distances, and variable environments in mind, and is capable of implementing features such as uneven weather effects, more realistic weather simulation based upon altitude and geographic region, more realistically flowing water, and environmental effects like rain and snow having realistic interaction with obstacles.
The game does not currently support a 4:3 aspect ratio screen. Many menus and text are cut off the screen when this feature is attempted.
The CE allows the use of a new and improved version of Oblivion's Radiant A.I. system to govern character throughout the game world. With the new system, developers may assign characters a wide variety of tasks and characteristics, giving each of them actions that complement his or her unique personality and thus deepening player interaction with the characters of Skyrim. Characters now come in much more interesting varieties, from heavy drinkers to hard workers, layabouts to vigilant adventurers, and serve as a much greater part of the game than in Oblivion.
Skyrim introduces the Radiant Story system, which governs quests and how they function. Radiant Story dynamically alters side quests based on the player's actions, and tailors them to the player's abilities and progress within the game. As an example, the player might be sent off to a dungeon that has not been previously explored and face enemies that are defeated most effectively with the player's preferred combat style. It also randomly generates unique events and encounters, taking influence from Bethesda's previous game Fallout 3; this includes character interaction such as a courier delivering quest missives or letters from significant figures, or hired thugs seeking out and attacking the player.
Heads-up display (HUD)
The new in-game HUD has been redesigned from previous TES titles to be more streamlined and efficient, which is accomplished while also affording greater immersion for the player. Gauges indicating magicka, stamina, and health fade invisible when full, and only come into view when in use; certain elements such as Oblivion's spell timers and breath meter have been completely removed. The compass from Oblivion, featuring quest markers and a cooldown indication feature for Dragon Shouts, has been cleaned up and relocated to the top of the screen.
The menu system has also been altered significantly in Skyrim. Now, activating the character menu in-game takes players to a sort of compass, featuring Inventory, Skills/Level-Up, Magic, and Map. Each of these concisely displays the obvious features, with some significant changes from Oblivion. All items in-game are rendered in full 3D within the inventory screen, allowing the player to more thoroughly examine them without needing to equip them or drop them into the game world. For spells, this is achieved through displays of magical effects when a spell is highlighted. Also, the in-game map is a 3D, topographical representation of Skyrim, with location markers, quest guide arrows, and the ability for players to fast travel and place their own guide arrows that will appear upon the player compass in a fashion similar to the quest guides.
- OS: Windows 7/Vista/XP PC (32 or 64 bit)
- Processor: Dual Core 2.0GHz or equivalent processor
- Memory: 2GB System RAM
- Hard Disk Space: 6GB free HDD Space
- Video Card: Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 512 MB of RAM
- Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
- Processor: Quad-core Intel or AMD CPU
- Memory: 4GB System RAM
- Video Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible NVIDIA or AMD ATI video card with 1GB of RAM (Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 or higher; ATI Radeon 4890 or higher)
On June 12th, 2016, Bethesda announced that a remastered version of the game, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, would be released for the PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on October 28th, 2016. The remastered version will include improved graphics, such as snow shaders and volumetric God rays, and will also include the ability to download mods on the main menu. People who own the game on Steam and have either the Legendary Edition or all three add-ons will be able to download the remastered version for free. Versions for the PlayStation VR and Nintendo Switch were released on November 17th, 2017. and a stand-alone virtual reality (VR) version for Windows was released in April 2018.
On August 19, 2021, Bethesda announced that a new version of the game would be released for its 10th anniversary, called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition. The Anniversary Edition will contain the Special Edition, all DLCs, and 74 Creation Club mods; all 48 currently available mods, plus 26 new unreleased ones, adding to a total of 500+ new gameplay elements to Skyrim.
On 18 July 2018, in an interview with The Guardian, Todd Howard stated about the purpose of the game, "People look at Skyrim and say, 'That's a dragon-killing power fantasy,' but the actual underlying theme was: do you take a nationalistic view of your own country, or look at the whole world? I think that's still pretty topical today. The thing that helps with [genre fiction], whether that's science fiction or fantasy or post-apocalyptic, is that it lets you handle themes like racial stereotypes in ways that you don't notice at first, and then become very obvious."
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. www.elderscrolls.com (December 11, 2010). Retrieved on December 11, 2010.
- Christopher Grant (December 11, 2010). Skyrim: Elder Scrolls 5 coming 11/11/11. www.joystiq.com. Joystiq. Retrieved on December 11, 2010.
- Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Prima Official Game Guide
- Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Prima Official Game Guide
- E3 2016: Skyrim Special Edition Officially Headed to PS4, Xbox One, PC this year
- Post on Twitter by Bethesda
- #BE3 | 2018 Bethesda E3 Showcase - 6/10 at 6:30pm PT
- Join Us on 11/11 for the Skyrim 10th Anniversary Fan Celebration!
- The Guardian: The Elder Scrolls VI, Starfield and the future of video game giant Bethesda
- Shawn Sines (May 15, 2008). Fallout 3 Dev Diary on Conceptual Design. FileFront.